If you are traveling on a budget, hostels really are the best deal going for accommodations. Hostels are almost universally less expensive than traditional hotels and B&Bs and are a great way to meet fellow travelers to network and share tips. Many have already gone to that sight you are planning to see the next day and can offer inside information on what to expect. It’s a great way to meet people from all over the world and really isn’t one of the main reasons many of us travel in the first place?
The problem is as we get older we feel we might have ‘outgrown’ the hostel. What would we have in common with a bunch of rowdy twentysomethings? And who wants to sleep in a dorm room at 50? Maybe it really is something we outgrow. But if I’m being honest I still miss those times. Back in the 80’s when I first traveled abroad, hostels were my mainstay. I slept in hostels from London to Jerusalem and universally enjoyed the experience. I never traveled abroad again until my thirties and by then I felt too old for the callow hostels and opted for the more staid B&Bs. While I did enjoy the solace of my own room I missed the camaraderie and homeyness of the hostel.
But can you really go home again? Surprisingly and for me gloriously the answer is yes. Hostels are evolving with graying population. Many offer private rooms with en suite bathrooms that can offer the perfect balance solitude and sociability. More and more seniors and soon to be seniors are re-discovering the joys of hosteling. In fact, many hostels a discount off their already low rate for those over fifty. So yes you can hostel, but should you? For that I offer the 5 Yups and 4 Nopes of hosteling after age 50.
Yup Number 1 You’ll save beaucoup bucks
Hostels are always your best bet in savings (aside from maybe couch surfing and Air B&B) and your savings extends beyond having a bed for the night. Most hostels have kitchens where you can cook your own food or even better have a communal meals with your other hostel-mates. The grapevine at the hostels can save you money by recommending a lesser priced restaurant or souvenir shop. You and your new found friends can even opt to go as a group to that city’s attractions get a group discount.
Yup Number 2 You can have the best of both worlds
By staying in a private room you can have a place to go to be alone, but still have the option of interacting with others. Most hostels have big comfy TV rooms, so look at it as being at home. You have your living room and when you had enough socializing you can retreat to your own room and read Facebook or for that matter, a real book. (I think they still have those)
Yup Number 3 Esprit de Corps
Alright, so that’s just a fancy word for the energy that comes with being in a (mostly) younger crowd. I may be getting older but I’m still not at the “You kids get off my lawn” stage. I truly enjoy younger people’s company. It’s important that we interact. I’d like to think we both get something positive from it. Their passion is pretty contagious. But as with most things there can be a tipping point and if that happens you have Yup number 2 to fall back on.
Yup number 4 The Network
As mentioned in the amount of networking that goes on in the hostels is immense. You are meeting people who have been where you are going and can tell you the good and the not so good on the upcoming stop on your itinerary. Where you can eat cheaply or what neighborhoods to avoid. Perhaps some out of the way gem the guidebooks overlooked. Many hostels double as a tour bureau and can offer guides to show you the local angle.And since many of the proprietors of the hostels are nationals of the country you’re visiting they can offer invaluable help with translation with the locals.
Yup Number 5 The International Panoply
Hosteling is a great way to meet people from all over the world. Europeans of all ages have been staying there for decades. Many Aussies and Kiwis (Australians and New Zealanders) do as well. I think many Americans have been a little late to the party but are fast catching up. You get a nice international mix. You might even make a friend and have someone to visit on your next trip.
And finally, The 4 Nopes
I have several , but for brevity’s sake I am rolling them all in to one big paragraph. One, the noise. Even with your own room you may still hear the revelers coming home after the pub closes. Hostels can be raucous sometimes that’s not such a good thing. Two, walking distances. Some hostels are a ways away from the nearest local transport. Walking a few blocks with your bags is a lot easier to do when your 25. Three, Theft. Not so much of a problem with your own locked room but definitely a possibility in the lesser priced dorm rooms. Keeping a money belt on your person usually remedy’s the issue. And maybe the biggest drawback: Four, Occasional ageism. While the vast majority of the younger travelers will get along with you, or at least tolerate your presence, you may hear an occasional comment. And some of us who are older maybe just don’t want to be around people who we are so vastly separated from age wise. It is definitely not for everyone. Some people like the quiet and comfort of a hotel. Both viewpoints are equally valid.
So should you or shouldn’t you hostel? i will let you be the jury. But for me, hostels are a big reason why I travel, to meet people, to learn a different culture and to find a way to do it inexpensively enough to make it last as long as possible.