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The Dangerous Business of Going Out Your Door I am often tired of myself and I have a notion that by travel I can add to my personality and so change myself a little. I do not bring back from the journey quite the same self that I took. - W. Somerset Maugham

Hostel Life After 30

SPAIN | Sunday, 31 January 2016 | Views [436]

After staying in about 10 different hostels in my early 20s, I had not seen one in 15+ years. If you're in a similar boat, or have never stayed in a hostel, here's the experience I've had so far with staying in three different hostels in my late 30s. Overall, I think hostels have improved since the 90s. All of mine have had wifi throughout, were clean, pretty comfortable, and in good locations. The hostels I remember from the 90s were all in less convenient locations. There are more private rooms available now and some even have ensuite private bathrooms, but of course those are double or triple the price of a dorm-style bed. There's also a really convenient Hostelworld app to research hostels, read reviews, and book your stay on the go. There are a lot of solo travelers around, and there's definitely a nice hostel culture where travelers look out for one another, readily offer pointers on places you're going where they've already been, and are willing to give you either company or space, depending on your mood or travel style. 


Lisbon: Private room with shared bathroom, breakfast and towel included, $28.91/night

I decided to ease my way back into the hostel world for my first stay in Lisbon with a private room and shared bathroom. I was relieved to find that each bathroom had a single toilet, shower, and sink - not multiple stalls - and there were three or four bathrooms on the floor for about eight or ten private rooms with one or two people in each room. It was not a problem at all to share the bathrooms. The hostel staff and the other guests kept them clean and there was plenty of hot water. The hostel provided a towel, but no toiletries, except for hand soap at the sink, but I expected that and had packed a travel-size bottle of body wash. I also had flip flops to wear in the shower and a PackTowl robe which was wonderful because I hate having to dress in the humid bathroom immediately after showering. (I'll write another post soon on what I packed for this trip.) All of the hostel staff spoke English, and I was made to feel welcome when I arrived. I was given a tour of the place, and personally taken to my room. The reception was open 24 hours. The kitchen and common living space were big and comfortable, and you could always find someone to talk to if you were so inclined, or you could watch TV, or curl up in a chair with a book. There were a couple of computers with Internet. I met fellow travelers from France, Norway, Chile, Finland, Germany, Australia, Denmark, and the Netherlands, mostly during breakfast or when having tea in the evening. Some people were staying only a night or two while others were staying weeks or months. There were people younger than me and people older than me, so I didn't feel out of place at all. A simple breakfast of cereal, toast, cheese, jam, deli meat, and fresh fruit was included, and coffee/tea was available all day at no charge. Hostel employees made a very nice dinner every night which you could have for €10, or about $11, and included an appetizer, soup, salad, entree, dessert, and unlimited sangria. You could also buy groceries and use the kitchen any time you wanted with refrigerator, stove, pots/pans, and basic oil/seasoning supplies. I unfortunately did not take advantage of the kitchen like I should have because I was a little intimidated by grocery shopping in Portuguese and I kept wanting to try restaurants. I think I only tried cooking in there once, but I did bring leftovers back and reheat them for other meals. Hostel staff were happy to give any recommendations or advice about budget sightseeing, and also offered daily free walking tours, based on tips, and occassional nightly activities such as a pub crawl for an extra €10 fee. The hostel was not loud, thankfully not a "party hostel," but the walls were fairly thin, so sounds in the hallway or from the street could be heard easily, but anticipating that, I brought earplugs and it was not a problem. The hostel also had a laundry service of €5 for washing only or €10 to wash and dry, and they could arrange a shuttle back to the airport for €10 (in contrast to €25-30 for a taxi). The location of the hostel was perfect, very central, very convenient to everything. My room was small, but comfortable and safe, on the 4th floor, and even had a private balcony. The building had an elevator, and the room had a heater over the door that I could control by climbing up on my chair. It was by far the best hostel of the four on this trip. 


Granada: 4-bed female dorm with shared bathroom, breakfast and towel NOT included, $22.23/night

After such a nice hostel in Lisbon, I was not looking forward to moving, especially to a shared room. On one wall were the four beds, two on the bottom and two on the top. I had one of the top bunks. On the other wall were four tall, horizontal lockers. There was only one chair and not a lot of floor space. When I got to the room, there were three girls already there with their bags open on the floor, so even though they tried to make room for me, there just was not much space. That was the biggest challenge for me - not having even just a small surface of my own. I had my bed, but it was too high to be useful as a surface, and I had my locker which was thankfully big enough for both my backpack and my bag, but it was also not useful as a surface. I was paranoid about leaving anything outside of my locker, even just to use the bathroom. There were personal lights for each bed, but no electric outlets for the top bunks. Fortunately, I had a charging cable (supplied by hubby) that was long enough to reach down to the multi-plug device on the floor. I felt disoriented and exposed there for about the first 24 hours. Until the very last day, I only saw other guests that were about 10 years younger than me, so I suspected that I was already too old to be hunching into my locker or clattering up into my top bunk. However, on the last day, I saw a couple there who must have been in their 60s, though I think they had one of the private double rooms. There were two bathrooms for about four rooms with about 10 people. One bathroom had a single toilet, shower, and sink, while the other bathroom had one toilet stall, two shower stalls, one sink, and a long bench with a mirror running the length of it. I happily managed to do all of my showering in the bathroom with the single shower. The bathrooms and rooms were very clean, and were cleaned daily by hostel staff, but hot water was a bit limited, so showers had to be quick. I still used my robe, but there was not much of a point because I didn't want to change clothes in the room with other people, so I had to change in the bathroom anyway. A towel had to be rented for €2 ($2.16) for the stay, and a simple breakfast could be purchased for €3. I decided that if I had to buy breakfast, I would rather go out, and I could always find a coffee and some kind of bread or pastry for about €2. Coffee was only available at breakfast, but tea was available for free all day. The hostel staff spoke English, but didn't give a tour or take me personally to my room or arrange any group activities, and the reception closed from midnight until 8 am. The kitchen and dining areas were similar to the previous hostel, smaller, but clean and comfortable. I still didn't use the kitchen much except to heat up leftovers. I met travelers there from Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Texas, Italy, England, and Chile. Most people were only staying one or two nights. This was also not a loud, party hostel, but with four people in a room, it was inevitable that people would sleep and wake up at different hours. Earplugs and an eyemask were a must-have to get rest. They offered the same laundry service as the previous hostel and the location was convenient. The room was on the 3rd floor and there was no elevator. There was a small heater in the room with only an on/off switch, but it worked pretty well. With no private room to hide in, I found myself spending more time in the common areas and socializing more, which turned out to be a great advantage. I met an Italian girl who had been in Seville for five weeks and gave me good recommendations for it. I gave her some tips for Lisbon where she was going soon. And we discovered that we were both going to Córdoba on the same day and both staying for two nights, so we were able to meet for tapas or dinner or coffee a few times and it was nice to have her as a companion for a few days. 


Córdoba: 4-bed female dorm with shared bathroom, breakfast and towel included, $20.20/night

Having already gotten my bearings on how to manage a shared room, I didn't have much difficulty adjusting here. It also helped that this room had a better layout, and I had taken the advice of a guest in the Granada hostel to email ahead and ask for a bottom bunk, which was successful. There was one bottom bunk and one top bunk on each side of the room. At the head of each set of bunks were two stacked lockers, so the top bunk could use the top of the locker as a surface. There were personal lights and outlets for each bed, two chairs in the room, and more floor space. The locker wasn't quite big enough for both of my bags, but I was less paranoid now and felt comfortable with leaving one bag with no valuables under the bed. Most other guests here were also younger than me, but I didn't feel it as much. The bathroom ratios were similar to the Lisbon hostel and all had just one toilet, one shower, and one sink. Everything was very clean again, with plenty of hot water. I gave up on my robe and just left it packed while here. A towel and breakfast were both included. Breakfast was only cereal, toast, jam, and fresh oranges, and coffee/tea was available all day at no charge. The hostel staff spoke English and were more like the Lisbon hostel in welcoming, giving a tour, and taking me personally to my room. The reception was open 24 hours. They organized a few group activities, but less than the Lisbon hostel. The kitchen and common areas were similar to the other two, but on the 4th floor and with no elevators. Luckily, my room was on the 2nd floor. I didn't use the kitchen at all because it didn't feel worth it to buy groceries for only 2 nights, and tapas were cheap. In my room and at breakfast, I met travelers from Slovakia, Germany, Columbia, Canada, and Argentina. Earplugs and an eyemask were great again. The laundry service was only €5 for washing and drying. Location was convenient. We couldn't control our heating, so it was a little cold, but we had warm blankets. I again met a companion, a German girl who was going to Seville the day before me. We met again in Seville, had tapas, and saw flamenco together, which was really nice because I probably would not have gone alone. 



Hostels are not just for 20-year olds, but you might start feeling more out of place the further away you get from 30. Still, people of all ages can be found in hostels and you are only limited by how self-conscious you feel. One of the lessons travel tries to teach is to feel less self-conscious and more confident, so the hostel environment can help with that. Shared rooms were nice for meeting people, but as an introvert, they left me feeling drained and really needing alone time, so I definitely prefer a private room. Having said that, I probably would not have met my two new friends if I had been in a private room the whole time, and they both made my travels happier and less lonely. So, maybe the best plan is to alternate private and shared rooms in order to be able to appreciate the advantages of both. 

Tags: budget, hostel, over 30, sabbatical, travel


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