Last year I stayed at a hostel for the first time while backpacking Europe alone for three months. I had no idea what to expect, but if you take one or two really crappy hostels I stayed at, I fell in love with the hostel experience. I loved how I could stay in these amazing places for as little as 5€ and I would even wake up to breakfast right at the common area without having to take off my pajamas. I loved how it didn’t feel awkward to share a room with ten other people. I loved how I could just make a new friend by saying hello or good morning from my own bed.
Still, this year something has changed. I traveled for a month to Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Hungary, and just writing this post makes me feel confused and with no clue of what the hell happened to me that I just can’t seem to enjoy the hostel life anymore.
Solo travel is hard. It’s harder than most people realize. Doing it is not a matter of courage, it’s not because we are brave, it’s because we got tired of waiting, and we know that if we keep waiting we will never really do it. Sometimes it’s a choice, but it usually starts because you really want to travel but have no one who shares the same desire.
We pack our bags and explore the world on our own. We are scared most of the time, we mess up, we forget important things, we screw up big time, and if there’s one thing that is sacred to me is going back to my accommodation where I feel safe and comfortable. Comfort for me is not just a great mattress and pillow, it is all about the quiet, it’s being able to write and rest without loosing my mind with everyone around me. I like to be alone. I like it maybe way too much, but it’s who I am, and there’s nothing I appreciate more than being in my own little world after exploring a new city the entire day.
Before this trip I worked at a hostel in Lisbon for nine months and maybe that has something to do with it. Let me explain! You see, the best part about hostels is getting to know new people, but after a while, if you notice, all the conversations are pretty much the same. Every single hostel conversation is about where you are from, where have you been, oh I’ve been there, oh I really want to go there, and then I feel like it all gets down to drinking and partying, hangovers and it’s like you actually measure how much you enjoyed one city by how much you drank, how much you partied and how many people you met.
I know I feel harsh saying this, but if you keep on reading you will understand me a little better without judging me! You see, I come from Portugal. In my country the wage goes around 500€, which means saving money to travel is almost impossible and I really have to say no to everything in order to do it. Meaning? When I’m traveling I know how hard it was for me to get there. I realize that I’ve worked my ass off to be there! Some people say that they travel for the people, that if it was just for the place they would stay home because there are many beautiful places at home. Well, I say the opposite! I do it 100% for the places!! And if I want to meet people, those would be the locals. The conversations I want to have are about the history of the country I’m at, about their lives, where to get the best local food and stuff like that. Those are pretty much the only conversations I want to have!
You see, when I’m at home pushing my body to go to work every morning, the one thing that gets me out of bed is knowing that by the end of the day I am a couple of euros closer to getting to the country I’ve been dreaming about. I’m not dreaming about the people I’m going to meet, I’m not dreaming about how much I’m going to party in Prague or Budapest! The one thing that gets me out of bed is the place! Honestly, if you are saving money for 9 months and you quit your job to travel for only 1 month, do you really think the best way to enjoy a city is by partying, getting drunk, hangover the next day and pretty much having a fuzzy memory of your entire trip? I just don’t get it. Maybe I have an old person mentality but DAMN it makes me mad and I just don’t want to be a part of it anymore.
Please, understand that this is not me ranting about hostels and young travelers, it’s me showing how fed up I am about the entire thing, how I am sick and tired of having people look at me like I’m an Alien when they ask me what are my plans for the evening and I say ‘work on my blog and sleep!”
So this is how my life in hostels has been for the past month:
- Pisa, Italy – If there’s one thing that PISSES me off is when the wifi doesn’t work in the room. I’m starting to believe they do it on purpose so that you can go to the only place with wifi in the entire hostel: the common room! Coincidence? I don’t think so! When I took my computer to edit photos and write on the blog I was faced with a common area turned into a night club. The music was so loud I felt it was inside me. People were screaming at each other and in two seconds of looking at that I took my stuff back to the room, frustrated I would not be able to do anything!
- Florence, Italy – wifi didn’t work in the room and pretty much in the entire hostel most of the time! There was a fight with the AC between me and the Korean girl in my room. If I had the room to myself the AC would’ve been off because the temperature inside the room was already ridiculously hot compared to the rest of the hostel. But, since I had to share and compromise, it was an all night long fight as she would turn the AC at 30ºC and I would turn it off. I got horribly sick because of her, had to cancel plans to Milan because I could barely make it out of bed AND I lost 100€ with this.
- Ljubljana, Slovenia – I arrived at my hostel at night after 8h on a bus. I was still sick and exhausted. ALL I wanted to do was sleep, but there was a group of 5 people in my room drinking bottles of wine and partying in the dorm. The next morning I woke up and someone had vomited in the sink. Great, just great!
- Bled, Slovenia – No wifi in the room again. Common area with about 30 people with the music so loud I might as well try to work in the street! Then it was about 7pm when a new guy walks in my dorm. I’m nice, we talk for two minutes. He says he will take a nap. That ‘nap’ turned into my nightmare. By the time I went to bed the guy was snoring like a wild animal. I had never heard anything like that. By 3am I was still wandering the halls of the hostel dying for some sleep but not being able to even be in my room. I had about 3h of sleep that night and I considered sleeping on the sofa or kill the guy. I’m sorry, but snoring in dorms has no become unbearable to me!
- Ljubljana, Slovenia – I was told I would be alone in my dorm. I was more than happy about this. I thought ‘finally I’m going to sleep!!’ – not so fast! At 1am a giant, weird, old guy walks into my room. He chooses the bed half a meter from mine. He made weird noises and also snored like crazy. I did not want to stay in the room alone with a man, so I slept on the hostel’s sofa by the entrance. Yes, really!
- Split, Croatia – Wouldn’t have anything to complain if I hadn’t left the hostel with bedbugs!
- Mostar, Croatia – ALONE IN THE ROOM (happy dance!) for four nights! Then, this couple came in and stayed in my room. At 7pm they were already with the lights out and giggling in the same bed. Yes, they were for sure doing it. Because of this I stayed out in the patio until 3am. It was cold, but I would rather catch a cold than be in a room where people are having sex, period!
- Sarajevo, Bosnia – Three nights with a room all to myself. Best stay I had, no complains what so ever. Just perfect nights of sleep!
- Belgrade, Serbia – wifi in my room is zero to none. There are about twenty people in the common room. I want to call my boyfriend and parents and say that I arrived in Belgrade safe and sound. Can’t get the call done. Can’t work on the blog either. I do the only thing I have left which is go to bed at 6pm. I just arrived and I’m now the weird girl. In order to get some writing done I have to wake up at 7am every morning, take the laptop to the kitchen and work while everyone is still sleeping.
- Budapest, Hungary – If I could have stayed longer at this hostel I wouldn’t think twice! The hostel smelled brand new, it was big, not that many people (and those there were very quiet and respectful) and I got a dorm all to myself for two nights. It was perfect!
So, as you can see, I think my problems are not hostel related, it’s something inside me that just doesn’t seem to feel empathy for the hostel life anymore. I got to a point where all I want is to wake up early, explore, work on the blog at night in piece and quiet, go to bed, repeat. Well, this life I want to take while I travel doesn’t seem to mix with other people who stay in hostels. Most people can wake up late, explore and then party at night. It’s like a vacation. Well, my travels are far from being a vacation and I can’t seem to make this work anymore. During this entire month I wished nothing more than to have a private room by the end of the day. A room where I can lay in bed in my pajamas and work on the blog until I fall asleep. Trying to lead the travel life I want while staying in hostels has given me countless nights of no sleep, which led me to exhaustion and not that much writing. For all this, I think that on my next travels I won’t be planning to stay in hostels. Maybe I’ll still stay in hostels, but dorms are officially killing my soul and giving me a much harder time than I’m suppose to have. Solo travel is already hard on its own, so the least I can ask is to be able to write in peace when the night comes, with no more partying and screaming, and that I can have a good night sleep, in which I don’t get people going in and out every five minutes during the night.