Have you ever played a game of beer pong with people from Switzerland, Australia, Holland and the UK? Yeah, it’s pretty difficult. We each have our own country-specific rules, but hey, who’s complaining whilst playing a drinking game with people from around the world?! There’s only one place you’re going to find yourself playing an international game of beer pong…and that’s in a hostel! Or maybe an exclusive house party of United Nations diplomats – but um – where’s our invite to that?
Your hostel is your playing field, your home base. And the people in your dorm are your teammates. You respect each other for who you are – fellow travellers on a mission to explore the world! Here’s how hostels can help you break out of your shell and discover a newfound travel confidence.
You Meet People From All Over The World
📷 Dan Pessoâ
“Where are you from?” – that’s usually how it starts. Sometimes you won’t even learn the name of the person you’re talking to until hours later, which is why a big part of improving your travel confidence is about putting on a brave face. “I’m Marina, by the way.” By the end of the conversation, you’re making plans to go surfing in the morning with your new friend from Sweden. If you’re thinking, I’m not very good at meeting people; do I just go up and start talking to them? Uhmm, yeah you do! That’s pretty standard when you stay in a hostel.
It’s not weird; it’s human nature to be a social being! Isolating yourself won’t get you anywhere. What’s the worst that can happen?!
What makes hostels great as a home base is that you meet so may random people. You end up having conversations with travellers whom you might not have met if it weren’t for the hostel. You’re bound to meet someone from a faraway land – like Antarctica (ha, kidding. But how cool would that be?!) – who you can visit on that side of the world. So don’t hold back. Go up to the dude at the hostel bar who’s in a full on Eskimo parka. He might actually be from Antarctica.
You Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
You’re going to be out of your comfort zone when you stay in a hostel. It’s only natural. You’re bunking down in a foreign environment and sharing a room with people you’ve never met before. It’s intimidating – but in a good way! In a hostel, you’re interacting with people from all over the world. There might be language barriers, foreign customs and exotic habits that you haven’t encountered before. Challenge yourself to deal with unfamiliarity because how you deal with those interactions will leave you more mature and respectful in the long run. Or not, if you choose to be an a**hole.
But seriously, stepping out of your comfort zone is one of the most liberating feelings. You come out of whatever situation (whether it’s sharing a room with a snorer, or sharing a bathroom with someone who clearly doesn’t understand the word ‘clean’) with a renewed sense of who you are and how you deal with the curveballs of life. Just like playing in a competitive sports game, you never know how the other team is going to react or what they’ll throw at you. Such is the same with staying in a hostel, but you learn to deal with it and continue playing the game.
You Get To Be Part Of A Community, Even If It’s Only For A Night
Let’s be real, no one is forcing you to make friends. The opportunity is just there in case you feel like possibly meeting the love of your life (we’re not promising anything). The hostel you’re staying in is your new community – your new sports team. You might be pleasantly surprised by the kindness of strangers, but always keep in mind that it goes both ways! You have responsibilities toward this community as well, such as cleaning up your mess in the kitchen or being respectful during quiet hours – it’s mutual.
Staying in a hostel opens up the opportunity to form bonds with people over shared experiences or common interests. I’ve noticed that when I meet other travellers in hostels, we all seem to be in the same boat (more or less). Talking to other travellers gives you this reassurance that you’re not alone – most of us are just looking for a break from reality. Because of this communal atmosphere, the hostel becomes comforting, rather than unfamiliar. It becomes a place where you want to keep going back to because it’s your community, it’s your team. And that’s something that no hotel can provide.
It’s A Chance To Learn Something New
Have you ever wanted to learn how to surf? Or learn how to cook Thai style spring rolls (*drool*)? Or maybe you’re actually a really good singer in the shower and it’s time to take your talents to the stage. A hostel can help you with that (seriously, it’s called karaoke night at the bar). Hostel activities allow you to explore your talents and curiosities, and to test your potential. You never know, you could be the next Adele (probably not, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know, right? ;)).
It’s easy to get caught up in a routine back home, so while you’re staying in a hostel take advantage of the opportunity to learn something new. It can be as simple as talking to a stranger about their country’s government, to getting behind the bar and learning how to make an exotic cocktail. Hostel activities vary depending on where you stay, but some include rooftop yoga, free walking tours, or surf lessons with a local. And if the hostel doesn’t offer what you’re looking for, I’m sure the resident hostel worker can point you in the right direction. It opens a world of possibilities to discover things about yourself and the place you’re visiting. Bonus: most hostels will find you the best price or deal for activities.
You Get To Be Yourself
Let it all go. Every little thing about yourself that you’ve been holding back – let it go. Are you goofy? Are you nerdy? Are you creative? Do you like to put peanut butter on Oreos? Be that person. Travellers are the most open-minded people you will ever meet. And that open spirit makes it easy for you to be yourself when you’re staying in a hostel. Chances are, these other travellers have more in common with you than you think. They, too, might like to put peanut butter on Oreos. Just me? Okay…
It Will Help You Understand The World A Little Bit Better
Let’s be honest, the media can make the world seem like a scary place. Unfortunately, it might even form a negative perspective of what’s out there, or even hold us back from travelling. While drinking at a hostel bar in Bali, I got into a conversation with a guy about what makes hostels so unique. He said, “I was sitting in the common area next to a guy from Nigeria and a guy from South America, and here I am from the UK. I thought to myself: imagine if everyone in the world stayed at a hostel and got to know each other like this. Think about how much more peaceful the world would be.” And that stuck with me.
When you stay in a hostel, you meet people from all walks of life. Skin colour, ethnicity, religion or socioeconomic status doesn’t matter. And that kind of positive atmosphere will allow you see how similar human beings really are. Obviously, there are a few a**holes here and there, but you can learn from their pain too. Staying in a hostel is definitely a different way of travelling, but it teaches you to be open-minded, which will help you understand the world a little bit better.
Part of staying in a hostel is sharing your way of life with a complete stranger and vice versa. It’s sharing those moments over great conversation (or beer pong) when you actually feel like you’re learning something more than you could ever learn in a classroom. And whether you notice it or not, those moments of spontaneous conversation at the hostel bar are breaking you out of your shell. You’re out of your comfort zone, you’re learning something new and you’re embracing who you are, and it’s such a rewarding feeling. When you go back home to your daily routine, you’ll remember that feeling of being part of such a unique experience. It’s those stomping grounds at the hostel in Bali where you learned that we’re all on the same team. And if you didn’t learn anything, at least you learned how to play beer pong.
About the Author
Marina Nazario is a food and travel writer from America, currently living in the land Down Under. She’s passionate about meeting people, immersing herself in different cultures, and eating her way around the world. You can follow her misadventures on Twitter and her blog Marina’s Milestones.
Have you learnt anything from staying in hostels? Let us know in the comments!
Feature image: 📷@emmalucey