For my first post of 2016, I thought I would share a first experience: hosteling. Up until 2012 I had never stayed in a hostel before, and quite frankly never really knew what it involved, the etiquette, prices, room/sleeping arrangements etc. All I knew (or thought I knew) was that I was going to share a bedroom with some strangers and possibly get mugged or worse, murdered in my sleep. I can confirm it was far from that.
I was in the middle of my third year at university and my boyfriend, who worked full-time, asked if I wanted to go to Singapore and Malaysia for a week to visit his friend who was studying in Singapore and to attend the Malaysian Grand Prix. How could I turn down that offer? The furthest I had ever been was Spain (I live in Scotland). So I did the natural thing: took on more hours at my part-time supermarket job and saved saved saved.
It wasn’t until a few weeks before leaving that I was told we would be staying in hostels as it was cheaper and more flexible. My initial thoughts were just dread and fear. It was something I had never done before, in a country and continent I had never been to before, with cultures and customs I was ignorant to.
So the time had come, I had booked a my Saturday off work and ditched university for a week (still don’t regret it). Arriving in Singapore, our friend that was studying there took us to our hostel: River City Inn.
We arrived quite late and we were asked to leave our shoes at the front door – I was falling in love already. Staff at the front desk were polite and kind, and showed us to our shared dorm room (I was travelling with three guys so a mixed dorm was the best option). We dumped our bags down and rested a little on our beds, just chatting away to our neighbours, sharing travelling stories (I had none) and generally just getting to know each other. I couldn’t believe the relaxed and open nature of a hostel, and how there were just unwritten rules that you just don’t do when in a dorm with others. We met people from America, Germany, South Korea and Australia, and just talking to people who had lived and experienced a whole different lifestyle to mines really gave me a sudden urge to visit these places and do it all for myself; It was only day 1 of our trip in Singapore and Malaysia and I was already planning my next trip, with a thought about the people I could meet there.
As it was around 11pm when we arrived, we spent our night relaxing, playing the Wii console (although I think River City have an Xbox now!), reading, watching TV and socialising. I was in heaven, there was no way you could get this feeling and atmosphere staying in a hotel – we would be holed up in our rooms with the door locked. Instead we were in a homely hostel, swapping stories and playing games together in a communal living room area.
Before travelling I never knew what to look out for when booking a hostel, but River City Inn were perfect; they had everything from no curfew, free breakfast, free lockers with locks to free wi-fi and free linen. These might seem like basic amenities, but after travelling around the world and experiencing different hostels, I’ve realised not everyone provides these for free, let alone at all!
Not everyone can look back and remember where the exact moment they knew they wanted to travel, but I can. Staying in a hostel opened my eyes to a new world, experiences and people out there. And from now on, when I’m speaking to anyone that is visiting another country, I always tell them: you NEED to stay in a hostel at least once in your life, you won’t regret it!
Have you ever stayed in a hostel before? Did you enjoy it? What was you favourite part?