Where the surface of the sea seems the defining between a world that binds and one that frees. – Lana Petelle
There’s a reason hostel life is sought out over hotels by many travelers, and it’s not just limited to budget travelers, but often I have met the two-week vacationer that has experienced the vibrant social setting that is absent within the cold-detached environments of hotels. Hostels are not just for the young budget travelers, but, I have met people from all ages and all walks of life with varying budgets during their travels, and, while some hostels can appear to be a vagabonders’ Disney Land, there is still a degree of hostel etiquette to abide by, especially within the dorms. Typically I have had incredibly positive experiences living in hostels, volunteering at them, even managing a few, but most recently there were situations that brought this topic to my mind, because I feel that these individuals were newbies to dorm life and the unspoken rules that are to be followed if you wish not to become the outcast in your dorm or entire hostel. So, believe it or not, these things actually happened all at the same hostel over a period of a few days, and some of the situations almost caused girls to go blow-for-blow knockdown drag out fights. Ok, maybe not exactly that extreme, but, some very heated words were exchanged and there was a clear division between most of us in the dorm and the outcasts. I’ve also learned that through extended travel there are times that you need a break from dorm life–even hostel life, because it can be tiring having the same repetitive conversations or obtaining a full night’s sleep without the constant party revelers’ showing up at dawn or those packing up early to depart in the morning, which is why I have chosen to take advantage of taking a few days at a hotel, since the price for a private room at the nearby hostels wanted double the amount because I would be required to pay for double occupancy even though I want the room for just myself. Again, it’s often not just about being a so-called “true backpacker” foregoing hotels, but being a true savvy budget traveler that is also backpacking. Don’t many of us search out ways to continue to extend our travels? And, most of the time it’s the financial aspect that sends many back home for replenishing depleted bank accounts, so, utilize all of your resources and follow these helpful suggestions for acclimating to hostel life within the dorms.
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VOLUME CONTROL: Late night or early conversations in the dorm when everyone else is sleeping–really? C’mon man. Same for Skyping and the dreadful snoring monsters, which I understand you can’t necessarily help, God just decided you don’t need friends after dark, so if you are a big-time snorer and thief of sleep to the rest of us, do us all a favor and let everyone know about this or get a private room. Photo: iStockphoto.com©Stock Shop Photography LLC
GIVE RESPECT TO GET RESPECT: Tossing someone’s things aside to make room for yours and spreading your belongs all over the room as if you’re Oscar the Grouch moving in is a sure fire way to be dubbed a grade A douchebag.
SWITCH IT OFF: Bursting into the room late at night when the majority of people are sleeping and flipping on the lights without apologizing or having any concern for other people–again, thievery of precious sleep–you, madam, will receive revenge in some way, shape, or form, and I’ll just give you a hint (whisper) you’re not going to like it, because as Will Ferrell might say, “You better not go to sleep. As soon as your eyes, shut I’m going to punch you square in the face.” Or, taking it a step further from John C. Reilly, “I hope you stay still when you sleep. Because, I’m putting a rat trap between your legs.” Photo: Shutterstock
PETS: You’re not Paris Hilton so why would you travel with a purse-sized dog and let it roam free in the dorm? I love pets, seriously c’mon–Ich bin ein einhorn! (Germans will love that) But, again be considerate and ask people if they have allergies and at the least keep it contained from urinating or chewing on other people’s things.
HITTING THE SNOOZE BUTTON: Are, you, kidding, me? Yeeeeah, so you’re not at home–reality check–but sharing sleeping quarters with a handful of other people and setting your alarm is one thing–fine, necessary for scheduled pre-paid activities, in this case diving–but doing it to the point that the alarm is set and you just keep selecting snooze to the tune of a minimum of three different times in the early morning might just get you shanked, or at the very least your dorm mates might just hold you down, and fill their pillow cases with bars of soap, swarming you like a fat kid at a cake buffet, and beating you without mercy. This is a simple solution. Set the alarm. When it goes off, you get out of bed, the first time.
I don’t what it is that is so calming about the sea. At times I still have to remind myself that I’m standing here in Bali. Incredible. Fortunate. Blessed. These are just a few of the adjectives I can use to describe this moment. I think Albert Schweitzer who was a German—and later French—theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary in Africa said it best, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” For me, being labeled as a “backpacker” is a cognitive choice and a lifestyle that allows for true interaction with the world around me–a curiosity for adventure and foreign lands by experiencing them first hand on every level. Yes, there tends to be the typical areas that many other backpackers travel, such as the “Gringo Trail” in Latin America, but beyond this it is living the excitement of never knowing what each day may bring or who I may meet, because I am is living outside of any type of a structured routine. Absolute freedom with my time, and how I choose to spend it, is an incredible freeing feeling. Not to say that I haven’t had bouts of structure or schedules, such as when I was taking daily Spanish lessons in Guatemala, managing hostels in Nicaragua or Thailand, or volunteering with organizations or schools, but it was a different type of routine I suppose, because I was still interacting daily with both travelers and locals alike, immersing myself in my surroundings. Just because this is where life has taken me, I don’t want people to think that there should be judgment or remorse for not doing this as well, I hope that the inspiration to find your courage to take a leap of faith by dreaming big, and not just dreaming, but acting out and living that dream is something you know you can achieve, because I feel that it is one of the greatest adventures in life. Take a risk and do something, however big or small it may be–learn a new language, go back to college, move to a new area of the city, start a business–regardless of what it may be there will be sacrifices, change isn’t always easy, and there will be risks. But, when you do achieve the realization that you have moved past the point of dreaming and begin taking steps towards a new chapter in your life, even if you fail, you will have learned from that, hopefully, and you will know in your heart, later in life that you were a risk taker and not just a dreamer. I feel that even months prior to leaving Colorado many people thought I was foolish in abandoning my career and cushy lifestyle and that I would return months later penniless with regrets. It wasn’t until about my six-month mark that I feel several friends started to realize what I said at the beginning, which was I have no idea where I may end up or if I’m ever coming back to the States to live, but I am going to follow the dream in my heart and even if I were to come back, again I would know deep in my soul that I had given it my best and could be at peace with acting upon this dream. So, finally I just hope that you find encouragement, peace, and happiness in your life, and if you aren’t finding that fulfillment, do something about it and make a change.
In order to negotiate accommodation costs with more confidence, there are three helpful things:
1. Know the exchange rate or download the free app and have it updated prior to negotiating. When I say updated it can be within 24 to 48 hours, since typically rates don’t drastically change over just a few days.
2. After you’ve personally taken a look at the room and facilities (an absolute must for any type of accommodation, because often the photos they may try and pass off as the room may not be what you end up with and your room may have no windows, smell like a sewer, be facing a noisy nightclub, insect infestation, etcetera etcetera) ask what their nightly rate is for that particular room and if they have a cheaper option. Once you know the nightly price, ask if you were to stay a few nights if the price can be adjusted.
3. This is not always possible as it helps with the negotiating powers, but if you can use this for leverage on either side. Either, offer to pay in advance upfront in cash for say all three nights for a slightly lower rate, or on the opposite side, if they come down to the price that you are happy with, ask if it will be ok to pay for part of your stay now.
Lastly, if you have any concerns, after you’ve negotiated, pay for the first night and use the excuse that you need to find an ATM and stay for the night in order to insure that there is no miscommunication on the type of accommodation you are in search of and willing to pay for, because unfortunately whether people are flat out deceitful and dishonest or because of the language barrier, this tends to be a relatively decent middle ground. You have paid for your time there, but if the place is not as what was poorly understood, then you aren’t fighting to recoup your losses, but can simply find another accommodation for the next night.
I will also mention that as a budget traveler, when I am paying for a higher standard of accommodation, I take advantage of the amenities offered that may be more difficult in hostels, such as; hand washing clothing (at the hotel my ensuite bathroom had a tub as well as a shower, so I threw all my stuff in there and later used the complimentary drying rack to hang everything in the security of my room to dry, when I went to the beach), charging various electronics at once since sometimes hostels or dorms are limited and everyone is fighting for an outlet, and when I have my larger backpacker pulling out everything and reorganizing it, mainly to see what I can ditch, because again trying to do this in a dorm room or on a bunk can be a challenge depending upon the size of the room and how many guests are currently staying there. Also, to adjust for cost inflation (wow I sound like a banker, ok now say that again in Will Ferrell’s voice emphasizing ‘bank-err’, the ways I find to amuse myself) ok, cost inflation, is that I will deduct things out that are included such the free breakfast and since I have a private room I may even offset my costs by purchasing food from a grocery store instead of purchasing meals at restaurants, since it won’t be consumed in secret by the hostel garbage disposal that tends to lurk at each place with kitchens and I am almost 100% certain is best friends with the Hamburglar. Those devious beings…curse you! Tricks of an extended traveler slash being a vagabonding hobo, I’ll tell you what.