Life on the road as a backpacker is often glamourised – especially when it comes to reading travel blogs (except of course the ever down the line and blunt Will Peach!).
Backpackers are perceived as people living the dream, spending our days on picturesque beaches or visiting the wonders of the world and our nights kicking back with cocktails, buckets and good company.
And to a large extent that’s pretty true. I can’t really complain about life at the moment!
But there’s one niggling things about backpacking that makes the experience but is also one of biggest downfalls of life on the road, on a budget
Backbone of Backpacking
Like it or loathe it hostel life is a key ingredient to backpacking – its the best situation to meet new people in and unless your loaded it’s also the best value for money (apart from couch surfing of course!) so there’s no doubt you’ll have to jump in two feet first at some point.
For the most part it’s a pretty sweet experience – there’s some amazing hostels out there. But as with everything there’s a downside, a darkside, a lesser spoken of part of hostel life that people tend to glass over when talking about their experiences on the road, especially when chatting to people who haven’t travelled before.
Welcome to the not so fun side of living in a hostel…
If you’ve hit the backpacker trail you’ll immediately roll your eyes at the thought of hostel dorm sex.
We’ve all been there.
You’re slowly drifting off to sleep and suddenly the bed starts slowly rocking beneath you. If you have it really bad it’ll start squeaking…and then there’s the groans, awkward moments and walks of shame in the morning.
Yup – hostel dorm sex does happen.
I was put through that ordeal last week.
Full blown, noisy drunken sex about 10 foot from where I lay. They’d obviously overlooked the fact that they were sharing a small contained space with 8 other backpackers.
That horrible moment when you’re woken up by people stumbling through the door, kissing and giggling.
You know exactly where it’s going and you can do nothing but plug in your iPod and try to ignore it.
Despite moaning about it (no pun intended!) I also have to admit that I’ve been on the flip side of the coin too though! I guess it’s one of those things you just have to accept – sometimes you’re the one being woken up, sometimes you’re the one doing the waking!
Circle of life/karma and all that!
Still if you want to keep karma on side there’s a whole heap of other places to get down and dirty as a backpacker – the shower, the beach, a hammock, the other persons room, a balcony… have some originality people!
The one thing I can’t pass over and write off as a “well at least someones getting laid” moment though is snoring.
Damn I hate snorers!
I checked into a dorm last week and out of 8 people in the room there was 3 snorers.
Not just light noises but full blown, deep lunged rumblings that vibrated throughout the whole room.
What is up with these people?! At what point did they decide being in a shared room is a logical step?! Surely people have warned them before.
Where is the courtesy?!
I’d rather deal with the dorm sex to be honest – at least that doesn’t go on all night!
…oh and on top of the 3 snorers there was also a sleep talker in the room – perfect!
And I’ve witnessed people snap at it – shaking people awake, smacking them with pillows, screaming at them, sometimes people just hit breaking point and are simply in need of a good nights kip for a change.
The first hostel to have a snorer only room will rake it in – watch this space!
Bed Bugs, Bad Ratings, Room Parties and Chaos
And there’s the dreaded bed bugs. If one thing is going to completely ruin a few days of backpacking it’s those little buggers.
Never mind the bite marks and scratching it’s time to hot wash EVERYTHING you own to make sure you don’t spread them!
Just the thought of being stuck in that situation makes me shudder!
Of course there are other pitfalls of hostel living – straight up bad hostels can ruin your perception of a place or your time in a country as a whole. Not just bed bugs though, there’s quite a few things that can ruin a hostel.
Do your homework!
Hostels will have beautiful websites showcasing it when it was new, full of beautiful people and clean, new facilities – but the chances are they don’t look like that now!
Check out things like trip advisor and reviews on hostel booking engines – but always take them with a pinch of salt.
The best recommendation is always from a backpacker though. Respect that view highly, especially if they’ve stayed there recently.
Even if you’ve done your homework though the people you end up sharing with can also make or break it. And to be honest it’s like playing Russian roulette!
If you’re lucky you’ll find like minded, considerate people who you want to hang out with. If you’re unlucky you could find yourself in a room full of idots who decide to start an impromptu room party at 5am.
I’m all game for some hostel chaos – but you’ve got to make sure everyone in the room is game too, at the end of the day people don’t pay to stay in a hostel to party, they pay for a nights sleep (wise words passed onto me by the owner of a hostel I worked in whilst in Montanita, Ecuador.)
Even though you’ve just listened to me rant about hostels please don’t let this put you off!
You can now go into it knowing what to expect, what you may encounter and hopefully what to avoid doing yourself!
I’ve been on the road for a few years now living in hostel dorms…I guess I just needed a bit of a vent!
Enjoy your time on the road, enjoy hostel living and enjoy meeting more amazing people than you could comprehend existed in the world!