When you go traveling abroad for long periods of time, you find yourself tightening your fanny pack and signing up for the top bunk in a less than stellar hostel. Staying at a hostel might not be ideal, but the hostel experience abroad is all a part of the backpacking experience. Sometimes you'll treat yourself and stay in places that have billowing curtains, terrace balconies, and garden tea parties trapped inside gold-framed portraits on white walls... and other times you'll feel blessed to score a place with an air conditioner and a toilet seat.
The experience of backpacking is sometimes synonymous with roughing it, and while there may be some dark moments here and there where you wish feverishly for your clean bathroom and secret stuffed animal back home, it's all a part of your grand adventure. And it lets you bring back a whole lot of fun, sometimes cringe-worthy stories.
Below are the seven things you can expect to go through while living in a hostel abroad — some tolerable, others downright painful. Fellow travelers can nod their heads knowingly and relate, and those just beginning to collect stamps in their passports... take notes. You're in for a fun ride.
1. Shared Bathrooms
It's going to be a rare thing if you find a hostel with your own private bathroom, that is unless you're feeling bougie. So put on your flip flops, grab your towel, and be prepared to revert back to your college dorm room days. There will be girls in their underwear brushing their teeth, forgotten shampoo bottles in the stalls, and most probably a lack of toilet paper everywhere. Just a day in the life of an adventurer.
2. The Fight For The Mirror
This ain't Versailles: If your room has only one plywood-for-a-mattress cot and windows that don't open, don't expect there to be more than one modest sized mirror. Which means you either need to wake up before everyone else to get a reasonable amount of time to fuss with your hair, or you'll have to enter something akin to a battle to the death to get some space with your reflection. Seeing how we're not ones that like to wake up before the sun, grab that war paint.
3. The Free And Unasked For Music
You know how you like to play some RiRi before you go out? It gets you all dancey as you're curling your hair and, if the right song plays, it gets you in the mood for cake. (Yeah, I went there, I made a Rihanna pun.)
Well, you're in luck sister friend, because if you're staying in a backpacker cove, chances are your hostel room is riiiight above a bar. A bar that starts playing Pitbull at 4 p.m. and doesn't stop till your brain breaks from the looping playlist at 5 a.m. There will be silent tears, and there will be a small hate for J. Lo circa 2007.
So yup, if you like music while getting dressed, you're in luck.
4. Your Flip Flops Are Always Wet
Unless you're doing a treat yo' self moment, chances are you're counting your Euros and Baht when traveling for a long period of time. Which means you'll probably be sharing a room and bathroom with at least six other fellow vagabonds. So unless you're completely cool with sharing a spot on True Life: I Caught An Exotic Floor Virus, you'll be wearing your flip flops like slippers, inside and outside the shower. Just be prepared to be slightly damp at all times.
5. You'll Be A Sweaty Beast At All Times
I know, you packed your hair straightener. And I know, you hoped for Shakira like hair all through your tour through the most humid, jungle-like countries. And I don't know who you talked with to give you such false hope, but chances are that won't be happening. Either you'll look like your hair morphed into a Chia Pet or it'll slowly start winding itself into its own version of dreads, but the bottom line is you won't always look perfectly put together. The plus side is, no one really does. Embrace your crazy, frizzy self. Focus on the adventures of the day rather than the stubborn fly-aways.
6. Your Neighbors Will Be Well Acquainted With Your Granny Panties
You know those bloomers you have that can double as a survival tent if need be? Those ridiculously comfy/ridiculously shameful ones? Yeah, the cute guy across the alley saw you hanging out in them. While you think you're safe in your little room, a $5 hostel above a restaurant in Thailand doesn't give you much in terms of privacy, which means chances are a handful of your neighbors have become well acquainted with your granny panties and changing habits.
But whatever, long hair don't care. It's not like anyone else's undergarments are any better. At this point, the bigger the better. So bring on the Aunt Gertrude-like styles, we're ready for them.
7. You Can Never Find Anything, And You Don't Care
Since you're usually throwing down between $5-10 a night for a room, you're usually getting the bare minimum. Just a stiff bed and a lock — no more, no less. There's maaaybe a locker involved in the room if you're lucky. Which means you never really ever unpack.
Which means you either leave a whirlwind of a mess on your bed that you sleepily shove to the floor at the end of the day, or you just pick and choose whatever makes it to the top of your backpack that day. Either way, you won't find a thing you specifically want.
But that doesn't much bother you. And honestly, more days than not you'll just wear that same shirt you wore yesterday. Because when you're in the middle of an adventure, things like dresses and clean shirts don't slow you down!
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