Youth hostels are changing. If you don't think that's true then you haven't set foot in one for a while.
Hostels look a lot different to the way they used to: they're fancier, with better design, better facilities. They have to keep up with the constant pressure of online reviews.
The people who stay in hostels are changing too, according to a new report from Hostelworld. The hostel booking site says modern-day hostel-goers are drinking less and volunteering more; they're planning ahead; they're slowing down. You can get rid of the "youth" bit too: there are travellers of all ages staying in hostels.
That might mean these classic dorm-room stereotypes – the people you'll find in pretty much every hostel in the world – will one day be a thing of the past. Right now though, you'll find them everywhere.
The Permanent Resident
Hostel-goers are supposed to be in perpetual motion, always heading to the next hot spot, always keen to try somewhere new. And yet every hostel seems to host at least one semi-permanent resident, the bloke who's set up camp in one corner of the dorm room and doesn't look like he ever plans to leave.
This guy (because, come on, it's always a guy) is travelling for one reason and one reason only: to pick up. He wants to pick up fellow travellers, he wants to pick up locals. He has a million war stories of hook-ups gone right and wrong. He eyes up the new arrivals at the check-in desk like a cruise passenger wandering past the buffet. He thinks this behaviour is fine, but it's really creepy.
The Old Guy
Hi! I'm the old guy. Every hostel has one, though according to Hostelworld, they probably now have several. The old guy (or girl) has a good 10 or 20 years on everyone else in the dorm but is unperturbed by their advancing years, and unable to let their backpacking glory years go. These people are usually worth talking to though: if they're still happy to stay in a hostel, they're probably pretty good fun.
It's not enough for some people to merely save money on accommodation by sharing a bedroom. They're also cooking up packet noodles every night in the kitchen. They're drinking at happy hour only. They're asking fellow travellers who are checking out if they're planning to take their food with them. It's fine to be budget-conscious – but weird when it's taken to extremes.
Students aren't here to party – they're here to learn. They've got their iPad out every night studying blogs and guides. They're hitting all the cultural hotspots while everyone else is sleeping off hangovers. They're learning phrases in the local language. They're also just quietly going about their business, taking everything in.
The Party Animal
The party animal in your hostel is probably Australian, though maybe English or American. He or she has come here with a mission, and that's to drink as much as possible, to hit as many pubs and bars as possible, to dance and sing and make out and fall over as much as possible. It might not be the most cultural pursuit in the world, but you can bet this person is having fun (and is not afraid to tell you about it).
This guy (and again, this does tend to often be a guy) has been everywhere before you, back when no one knew about it. He's seen every obscure landmark; he's been to every far-flung destination. He's tried all the food. He's met all the locals. He's done things "properly". Groan.
Watch out for the Thai fishermen pants and the Native American dreamcatcher tattoo. Strap in for some chat about the power of crystals and the need for energy healing. Be prepared for environmental protection lectures from someone who flew here on a large jet airliner. And, of course, get ready to seek out the local vegan restaurants.
We've all been the rookie at some point in our travelling careers – the person with almost laughable naivety who's experiencing everything for the first time. This is the traveller who trusts everyone, but at the same time covers their backpack in wire mesh and chains it to the bed post. It's the person with the big lump at their waistband where they're storing all their valuables. It's the person who's shocked at how clean or dirty, how expensive or cheap, how friendly or rude everyone and everything here seems to be. We've all been there.
The Bag Rustler
The bag rustler could be any of the above-mentioned people. They also, however, have the extremely annoying habit of rustling through plastic bags at all hours of the night. That sound might be inoffensive during the day, but at night in a small room a plastic bag sounds like someone is using a leaf-blower in the en suite. Dear fellow hostel-goers: stop putting things in plastic bags.
What do you think are the hostel stereotypes? Have you met any of these people on your travels? Which one are you?
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