Hi my name is Sam Tate and two summers ago, after my junior year of college, I took a month-long solo trip to Europe. I hit many of the hotspots, Paris, Barcelona, Rome and Amsterdam to name a few. The trip was an amazing experience and I would highly recommend backpacking around Europe if you have the chance. The two things that made this trip different than any other I had ever taken was that this was my first solo trip, and the first trip I paid for entirely by myself (thanks Mom)!
As a broke college student (and proud bargain hunter) I did a ton of research on how to travel on the cheap. This meant, for the first time in my life, staying in hostels. And to put it bluntly, my experience with hostels was well…hostile. Below are a few of the reasons why my hostel experience was so poor and the solution I came up with to fix it.
Most of the hostels I stayed in were incredibly messy. The common areas were usually kept pretty tidy, but the bedrooms were a different story. Hostel staff seldomly ventured into the bedrooms, and I can’t say I blame them. When 6 to 10 people share a room the size of large closet it’s bound to get messy. And don’t even get me started about the bathroom and the shower. All I’ll say is bring a pair of flip flops.
Besides being cheap, the big draw of staying in a hostel is the chance of meeting other travelers. As a solo traveler, I was genuinely looking forward to meeting other like-minded travelers who I could explore Europe with. Unfortunately this “fairy tale” hostel experience you sometimes read about didn’t happen for me. I’ll admit that I’m not the most outgoing person, but I often found myself staying in rooms with random people of all different ages, and I mean ALL different ages. I remember multiple times sharing a room with people who must have been pushing 60. These weren’t exactly the type of people I was looking to go out in Barcelona with.
Another issue with staying with a bunch of randos is that most of them didn’t speak much English. I’m all for meeting people from different countries and learning about new cultures, but not being able to communicate made it tough to be friends. So, instead of making lots of friends, I basically used the hostel as just a place to “try” and get some sleep, spending as little time as I could there.
It’s getting hot in here
Humans give off heat, it’s a fact of life. Lots humans confined in a small space give off lots of heat. Hostels, with very few exceptions, are not very well ventilated. They’re often old buildings without AC. And let me tell you, Rome in mid-June without AC is not fun!
Another temperature related issue is that everyone likes to sleep in a different temperature. There were always arguments whether or not we should risk the bugs coming in and open up the window.
Crunch, Crunch, Crunch
Imagine this, it’s 3 AM and maybe you’re lucky enough to have finally fallen asleep. One of your roommates strolls in, perhaps a bit drunk. You hear the crackle of plastic. Then a crunch, and another crunch, and then about 1000 more crunches. There always seemed to be someone eating, no matter what time of day or night. And it always seemed to be something super noisy like potato chips. Most hostels have rules against eating in the bedroom, however from my experience this is rarely enforced.
Maybe this was just me, but I was very afraid of my stuff getting stolen. I had read the stories about people’s wallets getting snatched, passports vanishing, and jewelry going missing. While I was probably overly uptight, I was carrying my passport, cash, and electronics, all which were prime theft candidates.
Most hostels have lockers for this reason, but it was always awkward trying to hide your things from people. Plus, it’s really annoying to have to go to your locker, remember and enter the lock combination, and try to hide your valuables from sight every time you need to change your clothes or grab your toiletries. While I was lucky that nothing of mine was stolen, I was definitely paranoid which made for a stressful experience.
I admit that reading it may seem like I’m picky and entitled. This is definitely not the reaction I mean to evoke. I think hostels are great for many things, but I can only speak from my experience. The ironic thing about my hostel experience was that I did a TON of research before picking which ones to stay in. I essentially planned out my whole trip to Europe (not something I would recommend) and tried to find the absolute best, newest, and most highly rated hostels I could.
Several nights throughout my trip I did splurge on hotel rooms. Obviously they were MUCH nicer, but I just couldn’t afford to do it more than a few times. When I would stay in a hotel I would often look over at a perfectly good empty bed next to mine. This seemed like a waste. I started thinking that if I could share my room with another person we could split the cost and each only pay what would essentially be a hostel rate for a much better hotel experience (private bathroom, big bed, TV, gym, pool, etc.). Even better, if I could pick my roommate beforehand (see ratings, read reviews, and learn about what they were like), we’d be very likely to get along and become travel buddies, the experience I was looking for.
This was actually the idea behind the company I started after graduation called Roost. Roost is a hotel booking platform that helps travelers safely find compatible roommates to share hotel rooms and split the cost. Travelers save 50% on hotel costs and get to make genuine connections while away from home.
Roost is live in cities and at events like music festivals and conventions across the US and we have plans to expand internationally soon. Check it out the next time your traveling and thinking of staying in a hostel.
Thanks so much for reading and head on over to Roost to save 50% on your hotel and make a travel buddy. Use the discount code ‘WELCOME50’ for an extra $50 off your first booking.