Have you read the article “20 Priceless Travel Moments Every Twenty-Something Should Experience At Least Once” from Huffington Post? Words cannot describe how much I love, and relate to this. Over the past decade I have experienced so many things as a traveler, first as a backpacker and single female traveler, as a student living abroad, and then as a couple. Travel keeps getting better and better, but there is something about those first few years when I started traveling, when I was raw to the way of the world and wandering about both literally and figuratively, as I was trying to figure out which direction my life would take.
As I read through these 20 priceless things, it made me think back to first experiences with these things, and how these moments have one by one added up to a vast collection of travel stories and treasured moments. I thought I would add my thoughts to the article and share my experiences. So today marks the first day in my 20 Priceless Travel Moments in my 20s series.
#1: Sleep 8 to 10 deep in a hostel
The summer after I graduated high school I spent 3 weeks backpacking in Europe. I hopped around from various friends’ houses in a few countries, and started staying in hostels, which would become my go-to sleep location for the next 4 years. If you haven’t stayed in one, it is hard to imagine the rows upon rows of bunk beds, sleeping with any prized possessions attached to your body, and trying to block out the sounds of everyone else, not to mention the all -night party that was likely going on downstairs in the hostel lounge. There’s always the snorer, the person who comes crashing in in the early hours before dawn, and of course the person who has had a little too much to drink and thinks everyone is their new best friend.
Thinking back on my hostel days, I remember times where I paid as little as $8 for a night’s stay, and places where I was both pleasantly surprised and absolutely mortified at what that price got me. I think of incredible conversations that I struck up with fellow travelers from around the globe, and awesome hidden gems in cities thanks to the recommendations of the same. Of course to be fair I also have to remember lugging my over-packed backpack (before I learned the art of packing light!) up the endless flights of stairs that always accompany hostels, and the time when my friend got his camera stolen while at a hostel in Rome. Lots of good memories, some not so great, but overall hostels allowed me the opportunity to visit many incredible places when I could hardly afford the train ticket to get there.
When I first started dating and therefore traveling with my husband, I remember suggesting to him that we stay in a hostel when abroad. He refused, preferring a hotel, and I remember not understanding why he didn’t see the appeal of a crowded, often messy and sometimes sketchy hostel (I even offered him a single room!). This past summer I went to Scotland and stayed with my sister-in-law in a hostel in Edinburgh. It brought me back to that time and was fun, but at the same time made me feel extremely old, as I realized I was in a different time of my life than the college students who were discussing their “Gap Year” plans or how to manage after graduation.
I may enjoy hotels more now, but I am glad I had the experience of staying in sketchy, strange and wonderful hostels in my late teens and early 20s.