Friday, January 13, 2012

The Hostelling Experience in Europe

Staying in hostels is a really good option if you are traveling alone. I loved the freedom of solo travel at day. After everything, it is good to have a chat with a fellow travel enthusiast at night. Hostels are also reasonably priced and they have the basic facilities necessary for travel survival.

It was quite an adjustment for me at first. I have my own room so I am used to having my own territory. From that, to sharing a room with a bunch of strangers for three weeks. I know it is a crazy idea for some people - sharing a room with strangers - but since I decided to do Europe alone on a budget, this is a practical option for me.

Bunk beds

Manners were taught since kindergarten but sometimes, some people forget the basic manners when they travel. There is an unspoken and unwritten (or sometimes written) rule about hosteling etiquette but don't expect that your roommates with adhere to them.

The Problem
The Fix
Snoring roommates
Mp3 player
Farting roommates/ stinky roommates/stinky clothes/ stinky shoes/ stinky food
Sleep under the covers
Noisy roommates
Mp3 player
Pack until midnight (guilty of this)
Mp3 player
Packing and moving your stuff with rustling plastic and paper
Mp3 player
Turns the lights on at 3am
Eye shade
Roommates who come in at 3am
Mp3 player and eyeshades

 See how useful your mp3 player is? I have no other idea how to deal with the stinky smell though.

 Now here's some of the things you have to watch out for so you won't piss off your roommates:

Playing snoozefest with your alarm clock for one hour.
You set your alarm at 6:00am and hit snooze every five minutes for one hour. You have roommates. Your roommates are waking up every 5 minutes as well. If you set an alarm, wake up.
Do not touch the food in the fridge if it is not yours.
Simple right? We learned in kindergarten that you should not take anything without the owner’s permission. I left my leftover dinner in my hostel in Paris. The next night, it was gone. And I was craving for some good beef and broccoli.

Bathroom Breaks
Don’t use the bathroom too long. I admit that I am guilty with this in some mornings. I make an extra effort to wake up extra early so I can do all of my bathroom business before all my roommates wake up. Still, don’t hog the private bathroom. Remember, other people also paid to use that bathroom. It is also an advantage if the hostel has a common bathroom that you can use in case someone decides to

Share the Socket
In some hostels, there are a limited amount of electrical sockets in the room. In my hostel in Amsterdam, there were only two sockets shared by 16 people. Just imagine how many cellphones and laptops needs to be charged and it the socket has to be shared. You have limited amount of sockets in your hostel room and everyone has to charge their Iphone in a jiffy. Don’t keep the socket to yourself.
Share Everything Else
Some hostels have one desk and one desktop computer – to be shared by all those occupying the room. If the hostel has one clothes rack with hangers, don’t occupy the whole rack and use all the hangers.

However, chatting with your roommates can also be tiring. There’s always the usual hostel spiel. I had to answer a bunch of questions every night. Note that it is a hostel, your roommates come and go - you may get a new on every night and you have to do the introductions spiel and the usual answers:

Roommate: Hey! I’m _____ from ______. How about you?
Me: Hey _____! I’m Loraine from the Philippines!
R: Oh cool! So what’s the plan?
Me: (change as necessary) I flew in Amsterdam, took a train to Cologne, flew into Venice, took a train to Florence, took a train to Rome, then flew to Paris. I am taking the train back to Amsterdam. How about you?
R:  (replies with her itinerary). So what have you done here (in the current city) so far?

This conversation is necessary but it kinda gets old. Especially when you hear the same questions and repeat the same answers five time a day – for your roommate, for a stranger who took your picture, for the person next to you at the ticket line, etc. 

Irritating and funny: I had to explain WHERE the Philippines is located with a roommate that I had. Apparently, she isn’t very well-versed with Asia.

Overall, I had a really good hostelling experience. The drawbacks are minor compared to the upside of the whole experience. Met some cool people who gave me loads of travel tips. Swapped anecdotes from one city to another. Some of them have been in the Philippines – mostly Boracay and Cebu. It is very heartwarming to hear nice things about your country. :) I wouldn’t mind staying in hostels again for a Europe Part 2. :)

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