Hostels VS Hotels. Backpacking VS Flashpacking. The traveller VS the tourist.
To anyone who has ever backpacked, the apparently obvious selection between each of these pairs is the prior. Hotels are for people with too much money, flashpacking is cheating and there is no worse insult than ‘the tourist’. But travel is travel whether it’s in style in five star hotels or roughing it with your thumb out on the road and a sleeping bag strapped to your back: the point is that you are doing it.
I have also been guilty of being a travel snobs that deems holiday makers and tourists in a different league to the traveler. I wouldn’t of dreamed of staying in a hotel whilst traveling… not only for the price and my ridiculously tight budgets, but just for the stigma among others. Even a private room in a hostel would feel like I was slacking on the highs and lows of backpacking. But after months of being on the road with questionable showers, dirty everything and quiet nothing, why the hell wouldn’t you stay in a hotel if the opportunity arose?!
Of course there are huge pros to hostels, especially if you’re travelling solo. 9 times out of 10 you’re welcomed into a great atmosphere which makes it very easy to meet others – all of whom are also travelling. Not only do you get to make friends and meet interesting people from all over the world, you often also get tips on the things that are outside Lonely Planet’s destination bibles. Undeniably, hostels are also the cheapest way to travel the world (obviously not counting couch surfing or… camping or whatever)
A lot of places give you free food (!?), cheap beer and awesome locations. Some of my best memories traveling have been made in hostels. On the first night of my RTW trip in 2012, I stumbled across Hostel Bazaar. Hot, frustrated, and with 2 hours walking around the city with my 70l rucksack strapped to my back, I practically fell out of the sun and into the reception. It was cheap, central and available. I took it straight away, grateful just to get my regrettably big rucksack disconnected from my body. I stayed in the same place for the whole week – I met two Dutch guys who are to this day two of my best friends, and the small hostel owner took me on an amazing day trip around the squats of Budapest when my laptop got stolen.
Speaking of stolen laptops, I guess now is a good time for the cons. Although most people staying in hostels are great and of a similar mindset to you… there are always going to be those horrible people who want to screw everything up for everyone – by stealing their things. Then of course there is the distinct lack of that nice, hot, clean shower, big, soft bed and QUIETNESS, and the distinct presence of that drunkard snoring throughout the night, giggling gap yah girls deciding what they’re going to wear at 7am, broken conversations when all you want to do is get in bed.
Hotels can definitely give you that little boost that you need to pick up your 20kg of doom on your back and keep on going. A Hong Kong hotel at the end of my trip in Australia did exactly this. Rejuvenation at its best. We booked it before we left, knowing that we would have no money left towards the end. After a disgusting experience in Sydney, the absolute grandeur of a HOTEL room brought more joy to our lives than you would think is possible – or right, at least.
I’m still on the fence about travelling solely in hotels. My experience of China was almost ruined by swanky hotel after swanky hotel… so maybe a mix of grime and glamour is the way forward. Allow yourself that luxury, that rest. That break from the backpacker bubble and back into the slightly less fun but much more comfortable world for a night or two. And there is no shame in it – time to shake off these tired old ‘I’m a better traveler than youuuu nerr!’ attitudes and just do what makes you happy!