Hostels Aren’t So Hostile

Last night I had my first experience at a backpackers’ hostel. Unfortunately I didn’t meet two hot Slovak girls, but then again, I didn’t have my eyeballs gouged out or an arm hacked off. If you have no idea what I’m talking about there’s a very gory series of horror films called Hostel. I just summed up the plot for you in one sentence.

Backpackers’ hostels are popular pretty much everywhere outside of the US and are about the cheapest accommodation you can find without couch surfing (sleeping on a complete stranger’s couch for free… an idea I haven’t yet warmed up to). I stayed at a place called King Street Backpackers in Melbourne and paid $36 for a room that slept four in bunk beds. Female-only rooms are also available. At this particular hostel you can get the price down to the mid-20s but you have to sleep in a room with 15 others for the pleasure. Can you imagine that? Experiential travel is all the rage these days. Maybe they could sell it as an “Army Barrack Getaway”.

The experience is much like a coed college dorm. You get your own room key, there are slightly gross shower facilities on each floor, and most people hang out in a big common area. The common area was actually pretty cool. It had a large kitchen with dishes, flatware, pots and pans, and an eight-burner gas range. Hostels don’t exactly cater to Warren Buffett so the fact that they offer the means to cook your own meals is great for travelers looking to save a few precious bucks. There were two internet-connected computers that were free to use but always booked so I paid $3 for one hour of wifi. I was lucky enough to check out on a day where they offered a big free breakfast of cereal, fruit, sausages, baked beans (wtf?), toast and juice. Just wash your own dishes when you finish!

The coolest aspect of the common area was that it served as a gathering spot for people to hang out, meet, and talk about their travels. People ate dinner, watched soccer on TV, sat around playing guitar, and just goofed off. I glanced over billboards with ads for work, people selling cheap cars, and others looking for travel buddies. I also noticed that I was easily 10 years older than the next youngest person in the place. 🙂

Going into my hostel stay I was primarily concerned about two things: 1) The safety of my stuff and 2) My randomly-assigned roommates. Each room had a large locker (BYO lock) and the desk staff offered to babysit anything of value so #1 was a non-issue. I have to admit that I went into the experience with a bias that hostel guests were all kids who prefer beer over culture and that I would be unceremoniously awakened in the wee hours by clumsy bunk mates. Well, I got lucky and couldn’t have been more wrong. One guy was from Belgium, had recently finished business school, and was in Melbourne looking for work. Another was an Australian citizen staying at the hostel while searching for permanent housing. The third was a kid of about 20 from Tasmania who was in Melbourne to see a rock concert by KISS and Mötley Crüe. He thought it was pretty cool that I used to listen to KISS records (actual vinyl) with my big brother back in the 70s. We were all asleep by midnight.

So there you have it. Of course each hostel is going to be different and the guests can make or break any experience but I think I’ll do it again. If you try it make sure to bring a lock, your own towel, and some flip flops for the shower.

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7 thoughts on “Hostels Aren’t So Hostile

  1. Uncle Bob says:

    I always want to say “Good Morning” but by the time I’m up I don’t know if its night or day where you are. Your experience with the hostel is very much like the barracks accommodations I had on Okinawa. In San Antonio, Texas basic training we had stacked bunks one on top. I’m from the deep deep south and my bunk mate is a black kid. He’s as scarred of me as I am of him but we learn quickly to depend on each other. It was a lesson learned that I have shared with many of my black friends over the years.
    Slovak Girls?? I would have liked to hear more about them but will wait until you get home!!

  2. klheavrin says:

    “I also noticed that I was easily 10 years older than the next youngest person in the place.” – Yeah, cause most of the folks your age are doing the “work” thing, and there are elder hostels for the ones who are my age.

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying it, and experiencing everything. Life in a hotel would be totally isolated and touristy. Can’t wait to hear about New Zealand!

  3. Judy says:

    Scott, sounds like you had what was offered to us everyday in England..a full English breakfast.We had eggs, bacon (really more like ham), broiled tomatoes, warm pork&beans, and toast. Additionally we had fruit, a hot cereal, tea/coffee. I had to keep declining food or I would have had to pay a baggage rate for me. You were certainly powered for the rest of the day! We are having snow and you are likely in shorts. Have you found an a residence at your next location?

    • kyfried says:

      Hi Judy! Yes, I am staying with an Airbnb host just east of downtown Auckland. I’ll be here through Friday and then plan on a seven day bus tour around the north island which will land me in Wellington.

      • Boone says:

        Bus tour? Hmmm, I hope this doesn’t resemble the 8-hour “bus tour” I took in Haiti, mostly on dirt roads, or the 18 hour Greyhound “bus tour” I took from Albuquerque to San Diego when I was 22. Although, looking back now, they were both great experiences I would never purposefully duplicate but also never take back.

        I think Sugar Man has been touring in your neck of the woods btw.

  4. David says:

    Wonderful to hear about your hostel experience. Glad it went well for you. Can’t wait until we get to hear about everything you have done, or are doing. A seven day bus tour sounds like an amazing way to get an “educated” tour of the area. With your time-extension, are you going to be able to get to the Barrier Reef? Seems like it would be such a cool place to spend a little time. But it also seems like you already been overrun by “cool”. Have fun, be safe, and rip your arm out of socket and beat someone with it only as a last resort. Peace Unc

  5. Uncle Bob says:

    I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life..’ I believe you are making a life. Wherever your travels take you, look around, don’t miss a thing.

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