lonesome roads

the hostel survival guide for the over-30 neurotic

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Oh hostels. So cheap! So social! So tempting! Until you wake up at 3 am to a bunch of drunk youths stumbling around cackling and remember you are 33 years old with sleep issues and this is hell.

So why stay in hostels at all?

Well, money, mainly. I have planned my year-long trip with a pretty good budget, but in expensive destinations like Geneva or Paris, sometimes I want to spend my money on doing things instead.

Also, as a solo traveler, hostels are social in a way that hotels and Airbnbs will never be. The chance to meet people is too good to pass up once in a while.

How to stay sane and get some sleep

First, you’ll need a few essentials:

  • Earplugs. Can’t stress this one enough. Between street noise and that one girl who has to go through her entire suitcase every night, these cannot be forgotten.
  • Silk eye mask. Keep all the glowing lights of the youths on Snapchat late at night from rousing you. Also makes you feel a little glam in a decidedly unglamorous place.
  • Bathrobe. Trudging down the hall to a coed bathroom is something I didn’t even do in college (I went to a catholic school and not even our dorms were mixed-sex). Throwing an extra layer on, especially one that has pockets for your room key, is a very nice move.
  • Silk sleeping bag liner. Sometimes sheets in hostels are scratchy, or old, or just not warm enough. This is the time to slip into your portable silk sheets! The liner folds up to the size of an apple and weighs almost nothing, so it’s worth the feeling of being cocooned and toasty when you want.

Choose your hostel wisely

The vibe, noise level, and social life varies widely from hostel to hostel. If you’re not looking to stay out until 3 am drinking cheap beer, because at 33 even 2 beers makes you feel it the next day, be sure to check online reviews.

Look for places like the wonderful Youth Hostel Plakias in Crete, with a super laid-back vibe. One of my fellow guests there was 81 years old!

The peaceful Hostel Plakias.

You can also find hostels that have single rooms, so you can get some sleep while staying in budget too. I stayed in the Athens Quinta hostel (pictured at the top!) and they have a mix of spaces. I loved my private room and got great sleep there.

Staying open

The most important thing to remember to being with you is an open mind. It’s easy when you’re traveling solo to get too comfortable with your solitude and having everything your own way.

But sometimes, even when you’re sleepy, it’s good to stay up and drink (one) cheap Greek beer with the people you’ve just met and get to know a little about them, or embark on a road trip through the mountains to a private (and nude!) beach inside a rock cavern.

It’s nerve-wracking, especially when you’re as shy as I am sometimes. But it’s worth opening yourself up to a little vulnerability to have some adventures and make some new friends.

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