If you tell someone that you are going to stay in a hostel, most of the reactions will be negative.
“Those are so gross and dirty.”
“Sharing a room with strangers? No.”
Or my favorite:
“OHMYGOD YOU’RE GOING TO DIE! YOU’RE GOING TO BE BRUTALLY MURDERED AND I’M GOING TO BE SO SAD!”
The first hostel I stayed in was in Bratislava, Slovakia. I have never feared that I would be attacked, and I’ve also never encountered gross accommodations. Goodness, I have stayed in worse hotels than hostels!
The idea of community living always appealed to me. I’ve stayed in rooms with as few as six bunks and as many as forty. Noise never bothered me – I was usually too worn out from travel to stay awake anyway. Linens were usually handed out at check in, so I could tell they’d been laundered. And in my observations, the traveler community looks out for its own. From Croatia to New Zealand, I’ve stayed in some incredibly fascinating places.
The one thing I haven’t done in my travels is stay in a hostel in the United States. I’ve only this year gotten into car camping (one of the few reasons why I miss my minivan) and only this summer started properly camping. So when the Chaser and I would travel, we would stay wherever we would get the most bang for our buck.
To my disappointment, most of the time hotels were cheaper than hostels. Between that factor, and being content with each other’s company, we would explore domestically driving overnight and picking the cheapest hotel within a 45 minute drive of our destination.
We finally lucked out though. While wandering through Telluride during their film festival, we’d intended on camping. But when the rains wouldn’t cease and the temperatures kept dropping, we ceded to the idea of paying for lodging. As luck would have it, the only open room in a two hour radius was a hostel.
The Mine Shaft Motel and Hostel was a gem hidden in the middle of nowhere. For $55 (plus the 1% lodging tax), we got to stay in a house built in the 1800s which was converted into a hotel, then a bed and breakfast, then a motel and hostel. Pancho, the owner, was delighted that Terrence and I actually showed up after calling for a reservation.
“Even people who give me their credit cards don’t show up!” He bemoaned. We thanked him for holding the room for us even without a card. “Oh, it’s fine,” he waved us away. “I just didn’t want to get up to go take it down and hoped for the best.”
The hostel had fifteen foot ceilings, parlors, and a modern kitchen. The shower was a converted tub with the copper tubing holding up a curtain – I felt like I’d gone back in time a good seventy years. It was warm, the bed was comfortable with lots of blankets, and we got to experience the point of a hostel: meeting other people in the common rooms and swapping stories and tips.
We were thrilled, and after a solid night’s rest turned in our keys, planning once again to camp in the evening. But, Nomad Rule #1, plans change. A phone call later, we’d reserved the dorm with Pancho.
Upon arrival, and a text message to the owner, he rushed back from his radio show to check us in.
“They hear me all the way down to Four Corners,” he replied when Terrence commented on the great stations in the corridor. “There aren’t many of them, but they can hear me. Say, want to stay in a nicer room? I’ll give it to you for the same price as your little one last night. It’s the nicest room we have.”
People are incredibly awesome, and sometimes a touch of luck can bring the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in.