If you’ve decided to avoid the potential loneliness of a hotel or Airbnb stay and are opting for a hostel experience, it’s worth doing some research before your trip. Ask yourself what you’re hoping to get out of your trip – are you looking to connect with new friends, enjoy some alone time, explore the local nightlife or use the hostel as an easy base camp? Whatever you need your trip to be, with a little bit of online digging you can find a hostel for that. Hotels.com and Hostelworld offer a great source of information, and the hostel customer reviews can give you invaluable information. Once you’ve chosen some potential destinations, check out reviews from across a number of sites to discover more about location and safety of the area you’d be staying in, the size of the rooms, the bathroom situation and what facilities are available onsite. For a few pennies more you can book a single sex, 4-bed room in most hostels. Sharing with fewer people might help ease your mind if you’re feeling conscious about sharing a room with a bunch of curious strangers.
If you’re in your 30s, you may well be one of the older people in the hostel – and that’s cool! You may find yourself apologising for being older or hiding your age but you should be proud of it. You have a little more life experience behind you and although you could end up spending your time with those who are younger than you – they aren’t likely to judge you for it – and if they do, they’re not worth hanging out with. When travelling alone, most people are on the look-out for a friendly face and a kind heart to connect with, regardless of age. If you approach your hostel stay with this attitude, age can become just a state-of-mind. You’ll find that younger adventurers will come to you for advice and sometimes it can be nice to take on the big sister role. There will always be a conversation on the go and getting stuck in is the best way to ward off loneliness. Talking to people who are at different points in their life can remind of how far you’ve come while reminding you that there is so much out there to experience.
You may end up sharing a bunk (top tip: if you can always choose the bottom bunk) with a group of existing friends but you’ll be surprised at how many other solo travellers are on a similar journey to you. Respect your roommates by keeping the area around you and the bathroom tidy; don’t let your huge suitcase spill out all over the floor – it’ll instantly aggravate people. If someone messy is making you mad, just stay out of their way. The great thing about sharing a room with someone frustrating is that they’ll almost certainly be gone in a few days. Hostels keep things moving! FaceTime and wifi is a gift when you’re homesick but try not to take long calls when others are in the room – it can make people feel awkward and can come across as rude. Take your call to a public area and use your headphones. If you really don’t like your situation – move. Discuss your options with the hostel reception and be on your way. Keeping this is mind when you’re stressed is always soothing – nothing has to permanent.
As much as a hostel stay is about meeting new people, travelling on a budget and experiencing a new culture, it’s OK to just want to be on your own. It’s easy to get caught up in new conversations and hostel-arranged nights out but it’s a good time to throw off the shackles of your everyday routine. You might decide to commit to a whole new hobby like meditation in the morning, journaling or perhaps you could be on a personal quest to eat a taco from every restaurant in Austin, Texas – whatever your dream, it’s an opportunity for you to grow. If you’re going for an extended period of time, you’re inevitably going to have a bad day – you might even have two. But a bad day doesn’t mean a bad trip so try to take it in your stride and start again tomorrow with a fresh perspective. One thing about staying in a hostel is you’ll never feel completely alone and if you want to, there’ll be someone to talk to. Walk with a smile and don’t be afraid to say hello – even if they’re 10 years younger than you. Connecting with new cultures and people who are of an age that you feel you’ve outgrown will make you richer in mind and perhaps make you see the world in a different way.