In my 20s I tackled the same question many of today’s undeterred travelers also face: What am I willing to sacrifice to see the world? The answer, as I watched my budget disappear into the coffers of innkeepers, was privacy.
My budget wasn’t the only thing that drove me into the dorm-like, semi-harried arrangements of youth hostels. I also wanted to meet other travelers and live by the hostel credo-of-the-day to “travel simply and live simply in a spirit of fun and friendship.” By day, I became friends with travelers from all corners of the globe. By night, exhausted after a day of exploring, I lay my head on my pillow and was lulled to sleep by the sound of … snoring … gurgling … and worse. So much for a spirit of fun and friendship.
You might think that hosteling remains the domain of the young, newbie traveler. In some cases, you’d be right. But there are hostels the world over that are getting wise to the fact that the demographic that made them so popular (over-run, even) in the 70s and 80s is all grown up. We’re as eager today to find a bargain as we were 20 and 30 years ago. And there are a lot of us.
So hostels are getting an extreme makeover, at least in the form of a marketing campaign. Today many hostels offer a more pleasant, clean, and comfortable décor, along with breakfast, free WiFi, and (this one’s important) private rooms — and family-sized rooms — with private bathrooms.
If you’re heading to Maui, check out these listings on www.hostelworld.com, an index of more than 20,000 hostels in 170 countries. Each clearly indicates what type of accommodations are available, and there’s even a built-in rating system that grades properties for character, security, location, staff, fun, and cleanliness. Ratings are then averaged for an overall score. Happy hosteling!