Gone are the days when going on vacation meant staying at luxury hotels, spending tons of money, and, having done all that, still coming back disappointed because you didn’t get the comfort and peace of mind you had hoped for. Of course, the main reason for this discomfort was also the fact that, till a few years back, there weren’t too many options available to travellers.
Today however, things are a lot more different. Thanks to digitization and exposure, people are familiar with the concept of staying at a hostel, as opposed to a hotel. More and more people now want more than just going to a clichéd place, taking a few photos, eating some local cuisine, and coming back home. They’ve started looking for wholesome experiences – like going to offbeat places, and interacting with people they ordinarily wouldn’t have had they stayed in a hotel.
And hostels give youngsters precisely that – a perfect balance between privacy and a sense of comfort. The environment is always safe, and lets the young travelers be as they like, however they are. Most hostels have plenty of common spaces where travelers from all over the world interact with each other, exchanging stories from around the world. And at night, even when it’s quiet outside, inside the hostel things are bright, jubilant and cheerful. And all of this at pocket-friendly prices.
At a time when most of us are losing our cultural identities, staying in a hostel is perhaps the best way to get a first hand experience of the local culture of a place. Because hostels have tour guides who will be happy to take you exploring to the lesser-known, non-commercialized areas of a city.
Because most young travelers have a limited budget, hostels offer up a variety of add-on services for a tiny fee – from tours, to laundry, to great home-styled food, a hostel truly takes care of you. There are all sorts of dormitories available at hostels too, from mixed to only female. The women’s dorm is serviced by an all-female staff, and the bathroom has sanitary napkins should anyone want them. At a time where there are more women travelers than ever before, a hostel is a prime example of how safe a living environment can be.
This hostel culture has also promoted community living or co-living. Something which was very common in ancient times. People in a co-living space are complete strangers, but a collective who help one another in various things. Most travelers in these hostels are usually around the same age, experience, and mindset, who simply want to live in harmony. Which is great, because once they come back from a day full of adventure they can just kick back and unwind with strangers who quickly go on to become friends. Hostels organize a bunch of fun activities like game nights, karaoke nights, and food nights that help break the ice.
Hostels also serve as a fertile hub for social networking. People meet, share, connect, and sometimes even collaborate. You could say hostel travelers are like social butterflies – they fly from one place to another, collecting experiences and memories, and then fly off to another place to pick up more. And that’s the beauty of hostel living. It lures you to step out of your comfort zone and, yet, lets you be.
Pallavi Aggarwal is the co-founder of Delhi-based goStops, a chain of premium youth hostels with outlets in 13 Indian cities.