Thursday 9th March
Hotel versus hostel……what’s the difference apart from the letter “S” you may ask? Well that’s the theme for this post and if you bear with me I’ll get to them in an oblique way shortly.
Many travelers these day never consider leaving “the beaten track.” It’s seems few want to venture somewhere different. It’s disappointing to see so many sticking to the same places. Popular places are popular for a reason, and there is nothing wrong with going to them, we have been to them too but when you have the time you should head to the lesser known destinations for that unique experience.
The majority of young travelers want to stay in the popular places. They just want to follow everyone else because “that’s where everyone else is.”
There have always been travelers who stick to the beaten path. Some people just don’t want to make the effort to find something new – they just want to go meet other travelers and have a good time. If you only came away to drink heavily in another country, what’s the point of going away? Stay at home and get drunk…it’s way cheaper.
Backpacking is an “industry”, geared towards doing everything for the “traveler”. There are backpacker buses, hostels, special activities, special dinners, and tours. Hostels even have their own bars to keep you in one place. Overall, it seems to always be about taking the work out of travel and making it more like a long holiday (remember there is a difference)
Backpacking has always been about being independent, you have to figure it all out for yourself. You find your way and in the process, you find out about yourself. You figure out trains, languages, and moving from place to place There’s a journey involved, but travel is more than just going somewhere. Travel is about going to destinations to experience new things, people, and places. It’s about gaining insights into new cultures, trying local food, and you can still drink at the bar with the locals if you desire.
During our younger years (b.k – before kids) we spent many days or weeks backpacking. We would often join the masses at the popular places then head off to find solitude and experience what was on offer on the fringes. We might end up staying in a shack in a rice paddy, camping on a beach, a train station or a cheap hotel in an outlying suburb away from the crowds. We have been lucky that our earlier life (b.k) afforded us a lifestyle where we could choose what sort of roof we wanted over our heads for the night (except for the Queens birthday in Amsterdam where there was no accommodation to be had). We have stayed in some great hotels and some equally marginal accommodation over these times but in later years we have leaned towards hostels rather than hotels where possible for the simple reason that in hotels you are isolated from others.
One of the joys of traveling is meeting new people whilst sharing information and stories. Hostels are the perfect environment to do just that. Sure they may have a bar, restaurant and want to keep you there to drive some revenue but more often than not they are a social hub where you can discuss where to eat, sleep and learn the best places to visit, not to mention they are also easier on the funds.
You may not have in-house movies, a gym or a swimming pool but we have played table tennis with assorted nationalities on an open rooftop in downtown Xian with the city going about it’s life around us. It’s each to their own but personally it’s this interaction and learning that makes it the most enjoyable option for us….that’s not to say we don’t enjoy spoiling ourselves occasionally, especially if we have been off the beaten path for a while.
Do what your comfortable with but remember there is a difference between holidaying and traveling (well that’s our opinion)