She Teaches Hostelling 101
Canadian Journeywoman Jse-Che Lam planned a five-week trip to Australia that turned into a three-month journey that reacquainted her with 80+ members of her Chinese-Australian family. Between visits with family, she fell in love with the Outback, rediscovered the art of cheap travel, and learned about life from some incredible travellers on the backpacking routes of Oz and New Zealand.
As a short-term backpacker,
I have come to admire the strength and resolve demonstrated by the many
budget travelers I have met and befriended during my time in Australia.
Many of these travelers have been away from home for several months to
a year. Hostelling was their most economically viable way to do this.
It was mine as well.
Picking your hostel...
A picture might be worth a thousand words but don’t fully trust the photographs that you see on websites. Several years ago, I was in charge of choosing accommodations in Seattle, WA and ended up choosing a hotel that could have been used as a set for a David Lynch film. Next door was a detox centre for intravenous drug users. None of this was mentioned on the gorgeous website that mentioned its proximity to the market and to various local sights.
I was taken
in by the reasonably priced rates and a gorgeous looking art deco lobby
with its pristine white marble floors. The actual room contained a mysterious
hole right below a painting that could have only come from an art therapy
class for trauma victims. I've found that If you want something that
is gimmick free and offers good quality and standards, you cannot go
wrong with Youth Hostel Associations around
Listen to other backbackers...
I later found out it was also a favourite drinking hole for the local chapter of a motorcycle club and the preferred bar for army recruits. But hey, this might actually be a selling point for some. A German whom I met early on in Oz declared it to be a hellhole (language modified). If he couldn’t stand it I knew that I certainly wouldn’t be able to get any rest. Another journeywoman, at least a couple of thousand kilometers away, also had to stay there as part of her tour package. She too declared it a public health war zone with toilets rivaling any third-world latrine and no shower curtains for any sort of privacy. Asking questions and listening to others certainly paid off for me.
Every hostel has it's own culture...
Of course, if you are intent on finding an instant party, there are plenty of hostels that attract free-spirited souls who will happily accompany you to the pubs for a pint, or several. Regardless of the character of the hostel, every hostel has to be an environment that is conducive to social interaction.
While I always considered backpackers to be solid and self-sufficient, not everyone who presents herself to be low-maintenance and easy going is such. There are always some exceptions who will test your mettle and extract your energy. But hey, if you can hack it, you’ll come away with lots of material for your next cocktail party.
Unless you happen to be traveling in groups, the loneliness of hostel living can really be worse than any challenge on 'Survivor'. You really need to know how to set boundaries, develop a thick skin, recognize the need for alone time, and know how to unplug from the world. Floating these cues out to the world at large isn’t always successful and this is where pure determination and clear communication has to take over.
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