Teaches Hostelling 101
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.
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.
a hostel requires strategy and networking. If you
happen to be coming to Oz, “BUG (Backpackers’
Ultimate Guide) Australia” is key for checking
on safety and security as well as bed bug alerts.
A broader resource is Hostelz.com (http://www.hostelz.com),
also anecdotal and highly informative. Backpackers
share anecdotes about hostels they have loved and
hated. Read with a grain of salt as some of the reviews
were probably done by wannabe hospitality managers.
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.
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 the world.
to other backbackers...
backpackers are a wealth of information about both
good and dodgy accommodations. Because of the kindness
of others, I was lucky enough to have side-stepped
a pre-booked accommodation that was offered as part
of a travel package. I will only refer to this accommodation
as “McSkankers.” It offers backpacking
accommodations but is best known as a party bar that
runs audience participation games amusing only to
frat boys and cattlemen who’ve escaped the Outback
for a weekend of freedom and civilization.
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.
hostel has it's own culture...
Every hostel has its own culture.
Any place that declares itself “not a party
hostel” is definitely a frontrunner for consideration.
in Melbourne remains my favourite backpackers’
place. The selling point was location and it had Journeywoman’s
seal of approval! This accommodation is a terrific
introduction to hostel-living, especially for those
who are new to it. Greenhouse is located in historic
Flinder's Lane in the heart of Melbourne, one of Australia's
most vibrant cities. The cheerful and spotless hostel
provides lots of organized activities, free breakfasts,
a pasta night, and numerous discounts to local attractions
such as Australian Football League games as well as
the Neighbours walking tour. And, best of all, it
certainly doesn't hurt to be next door to a police
detachment. Website: http://www.friendlygroup.com.au/greenhouse_home.asp
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.
ingenuity means networking to find the best deals
in internet cafes, pairing up to
share in the cost of coin Laundromats, and
checking on each other’s emotional and physical
well-being. The best part of budget
traveling and hostelling is most certainly the people
you encounter. But as with anything, there are pitfalls
in backpacking circles. Consider yourself lucky if
snoring is the only obstacle that prevents you from
a good sleep. Living in close communal situations
can mean a dorm room becomes a public confessional.
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.
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.