After months of travelling around hostels and changing beds every few days, we were looking forward to settling down in Brisbane and getting our own apartment.
We spent five weeks (four weeks too many) living in a central hostel with a party atmosphere before moving to a laid-back “sharehouse”-type hostel closer to my work.
Cut to three months later, and we’re still here.
Well, I’m glad you asked. While there are certainly downsides to living in a hostel (like saying goodbye to most of our friends this week), we have had an absolutely fantastic time here meeting lots of people, sharing dinners, beers and goon, having fun movie nights, and making friends for life.
Here are just some of the good and bad things about living in a hostel instead of your own space.
You are constantly meeting people
For me, travel is about two things: seeing places and meeting people. The latter is what creates your fondest memories, and I have made a LOT of fond memories here.
Whether it’s a crazy Australian guy who looks like Heisenberg and claims he was involved in the mafia (yes, seriously!! I almost believe him too) or your new gay best friend from Canada, you never know who you’ll meet, and the people are what I will remember about this place.
Not only this, but it means you have friends you can visit all over the world, or even plan your onward travel with them. (Or bump into them in random camping sites and towns – this happened more than once!)
There is always something going on
We’re in a small hostel, and it’s not always the most “exciting” atmosphere. However most nights there are people outside playing beer pong, or a couple of people are fighting each other on Soul Calibur on the PS3, or a whole group of us are gathered around watching a good movie. The best thing is, most of this is either free or far cheaper than going out. If we were in our own apartment, we’d probably have many, many much more dull evenings if we stayed in. And if I DO want a dull night in, we have a bookshelf full of books and DVDs.
(P.S. thank you so much to the two sexy ladies in bow ties in the above picture, who organised this amazing engagement party for me and Ash!! We loved it!)
We share food
Someone is leaving and has a half-full bag of food. Generally it will be put on the free food shelf for people to claim, and I’ve had many free meals from this!
Working in a bakery, I also bring home some free bread and pies that would have been thrown out anyway, and everyone is welcome to help themselves (trust me, living with French backpackers, they LOVED getting free, quality bread!). Apart from this, people often cook mass dinners together which is a great way to save money.
It also means if, say, I run out of milk, I don’t have to go straight to the store – it’s easy to ask someone else if I can borrow theirs, and the favour will always be returned. We are like family!
You learn about different cultures
I know this is the same for any type of travelling, but having spent the past three months living with French people, I’ve learned a lot about their country and culture, and a little of the language (mostly swear words while we’re playing beer pong, let’s face it).
I’ve also made lots of friends here from Finland, Germany, Italy, Sweden… and I’m not just spending one day with them; as we live together we make comparisons on our daily lives at home, and it’s one of the most interesting aspects of travelling.
For example, one French girl thinks it’s great that I drink cider because at home it is not something they would drink on its own – only with a meal. In the UK, there’s nothing better than sitting with a chilled cider! We also discovered that French humour is very similar to British – they have shows along the same lines as Monty Python and Blackadder.
You can come and go as you please
One of the best things about living in a hostel is the flexibility it gives you.
While we are limited on setting up a “home” (then again, we are travelling – we don’t want a home anyway) so that we can pack up everything we have quickly, it means that we can leave for a few days without paying any rent. You pay nightly or weekly, and there are no commitments or bonds/deposits.
Everything is included
Apart from laundry, which we have to pay a whole $3 for, all our bills and living costs are included. Electricity, gas, water, and we are fortunate that we get free, virtually unlimited wifi. Plus our lovely manager changes our sheets for us and there is a cleaner for all the communal areas.
At the moment, Ash does all the general cleaning in exchange for free accommodation. That’s right – you could actually stay for free! By staying in a hostel we are SAVING money!
The downsides, however…
Food goes missing
Unfortunately in the backpacker world this is inevitable. We are lucky in our hostel because it rarely happens, but my friend went to cook some eggs last week and his full pack now only had two eggs in there. Someone else’s milk disappeared. And the best one was when I brought a pie home from work and found someone had eaten HALF of it. Who eats half a pie and then puts the rest back?!?
We did catch one culprit, but I feel he’s probably not responsible for stealing a huge bowl of salad from the fridge.
Backpackers aren’t always very clean
Another inevitable fact – particularly in Australia, where many European backpackers are on their gap year after school and haven’t had many real-life responsibilities yet. That washing up doesn’t do itself!
Except it does, because Ash has to do it in the morning if it hasn’t been done! Or even if it has, like in the picture above, it doesn’t always get put away… (and then our friends take pictures to warn Ash of his impending doom!)
The lack of privacy
We have our own private room now, but for a few weeks we were living in a dorm room with up to five other people. I barely spent any time in the room but if I fancied a lazy day being a couch potato, even in the living room, there always seemed to be someone judging (“oh, you’re on your laptop!? You should be out exploring!”). Because a backpacker life must be exciting! Every single day!
It made it very hard to have any real “me time” because people are always all up in yo’ grill – plus for a while we had two people in our room with completely alternating sleeping patterns, which meant we felt we always had to be quiet and could never put the light on! It’s the little things that start getting to you when you’re in other people’s space for a while.
This is by far the worst part of living in a hostel. It’s ever-changing, people move on and you never know if you’ll see them again. Every time we had an “end of an era” I felt really sad about it – but the worst one was saying goodbye to everyone ourselves. I MISS YOU ALL ALREADY!! 😦
What to consider about living in a hostel
• Definitely the number one thing to consider is the type of hostel you want. There’s absolutely no way that we could have spent more than a month, let alone six, staying in the backpacker party hostel in the centre of Brisbane. Look out for more chilled out places.
• Not only that, but party hostels will generally attract a younger crowd, whereas the hostel we lived in was a huge mix, although mostly the 25-30 age bracket which was awesome.
• Consider what facilities you want – another downside of the first hostel we stayed in was that it didn’t have an oven or a freezer (only hobs and microwaves). This becomes really restrictive when you’re staying somewhere long-term – and it’s actually quite common for hostels not to have these!
• Although we stayed in a dorm room for a couple of months, I would highly recommend getting a private room, especially if there’s more than one of you. If you’re travelling with a friend, there will often be an option for a bunk bed or a twin room, rather than a double bed.
• Check out the options for cleaning or working on reception in exchange for board, especially if you don’t have the option to work a paid job. Most hostels have this option so it’s worth checking if you don’t mind giving up a couple of hours of your day!
• Most of all, keep open-minded! You’ll meet crazy people, but you’ll also find some of the best people you’ll ever meet in your life. Don’t be afraid to say no, but equally don’t be afraid to say yes.
Could you ever live in a hostel?
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