I’ve just recently come back from a trip to California (see my Coachella post here) and since I was travelling alone for most of it, I opted to once again stay in hostels. Obviously, when I went backpacking in Europe I also stayed in hostels, as it is a much cheaper option but also more conducive to travelling alone. I have met some of the best people at hostels and had some of my favourite stories come out of those nights. My trips in the last few years have been with my boyfriend and so we’ve been staying in hotels or AirBNB’s since that is often cheaper than hostels for couples. As such, it’s been about 6 years since I have stayed in a hostel and now approaching my mid-thirties I wondered if I’d feel the same as I did in my 20’s. The verdict? It was just as I remembered it and just as memorable and fun. I also got some great stories out of it and a few new friends! Here are my tips to navigating hostels.
1. Do your research.
Don’t just pick any old hostel off of any old site. There are a few platforms that offer loads of reviews, photographs, ratings and pricing options. My favourite is Hostelworld as I find it the most user-friendly. Nowadays you can also book with the peace of mind knowing you can change or cancel your reservation with ease due to their improved cancellation policies. Some hostels include this in their prices and others charge a small fee for the service but it is a useful addition, especially if you aren’t sure of your dates. They also offer many details in the description of the hostels for getting to and from the airport, parking, lockers, public transportation, wifi and amenities. These sites are also useful for comparing hostels to see which might be the right fit for you. Finally, be aware of check-in and check-out times, especially if you are depending on changing in your room upon arrival. All hostels should store your luggage in a secure place if you’re not able to check-in or if you have time between check-out and your flight. But it can be annoying to change, organize your luggage and re-pack if you are just arriving and want to change before heading out. Being aware just allows you to pack accordingly and anticipate not being able to get into your room right away.
2. Choose your dorm wisely.
Yes, the cost is usually a factor in picking a hostel in the first place, so choosing the cheapest dorm might be the best option for you, but it’s not always. Depending on the hostel rooms can vary from 4 person dorms up to 16 persons or more. Obviously, with more people, it can be much noisier, so if you are a light sleeper this can be an issue. That said, it often depends just on who your roommates are and even 4 person dorms can be noisy if you get people that snore or just are inconsiderate. As a female travelling alone, I often choose female only dorms when given the opportunity because of safety concerns and overall comfort. My best tip for choosing your dorm is to look at the bathroom facilities, private on-suites seem like a good idea but upwards of 4 people can be very difficult for everyone to use when getting ready in the morning or for bed. It’s also more difficult if you have a nervous bladder or issues with IBS, etc. because of the close proximity. I actually prefer floor washrooms, as long as you choose a place that is clean and well maintained. I also prefer beds that have curtains to block light from your eyes when sleeping. Not everyone arrives during daylight hours or goes to bed early and lights can often be more disturbing than noise. If unavailable definitely get yourself a sleep mask!
3. Choose a hostel with a bar or restaurant.
Firstly, this is helpful for travelling alone if you don’t feel like eating out or making something. Often you can take-out something to your room or common area and just relax a bit while eating. Why I always try to choose a place that has a bar though is for the friend factor. It is the absolute easiest thing to simply ask your roommates “Hey, you want to go get a drink?”. Boom, instant ice-breaker! On top of that, if you’re like me and you don’t want to be out by yourself too late, then it also gives you a place to be social but close to your room, so you’re not trying to get home in a strange city all alone.
4. Make sure there are lockers and bring two locks.
Lockers are your best friend. This is where any personal belongings you want to keep safe are locked up. Obviously, passports and bank cards, etc. should not be left out of your possession, keep these things with you in a safe place. But things like, shoes, bags, jackets, jewellery can all go in the locker and be kept safer. Some hostels have large spacious lockers while others can be very tiny and only for essentials. Decide what’s important to you and try to plan accordingly. Some photos can be deceiving so if you need clarification, email the hostel and they should be very helpful at giving you dimensions or size comparisons. Make sure to bring 2 locks with you as your luggage will often not fit in the locker and need to be left out, so one luggage lock and one for the locker. If you forget or don’t have a second, the hostel will usually have some for sale at the reception desk.
5. Be open to the experience.
It’s not just for the broke backpackers. Hostels are the perfect place for solo travellers to meet new people and feel safer when alone in a new place. Be open to meeting people, ask them questions, make friends and go with the flow. Obviously, it is your trip and you should do all the things you want to do but some of my best times have been going to a tourist site with my new friends. Not everyone will be a lifelong friend and some people can be weird for sure (trust your gut on that), but it can be very worth it to talk to someone new and make connections. We are all different but have so many similarities and it’s in meeting new people from different cultures, that you really start to experience the joys of travelling.
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Arizona is a magical place. You can feel the energy from the earth, mountains and wind. It is breathtakingly beautiful and unlike any place I have ever been, and I’ve been around. For my 30th birthday, my friend and I went to Las Vegas and on that trip we also visited the Grand Canyon. That was spectacular! This time around I visited Gold Canyon (near Phoenix), specifically we stayed at the base of Superstition Mountain. If that name doesn’t tell you about the beliefs of the land in Arizona, I don’t know what will. To be honest, we saw so many things in my short trip it is now blending into one lovely memory. We visited the Mesa Market, Tortilla Flats, Salt River, Saguaro Lake, Queen Creek Olive Mill, and Goldfield Ghost Town. I’ve probably forgotten a place but we drove through many little towns as well, stopping for lunch and taking in the winding mountain roads.
The main thing I noticed was that the attractions were generally free; they want you to see what they have and if you want to buy souvenirs, food, etc., then that is where they are making money. I thought it refreshing, to go to a landmark and not even pay for parking! That is how it should be and the places were busy.
The scenery was beyond stunning, yet the only words I could seem to find- “it’s so pretty”. Pretty does not do it justice and everywhere I looked was a picturesque landscape. Thankfully my uncle understood this more than most and stopped at many lookouts for me to snap away!
I stayed with my great-aunt and uncle in their RV. It was cozy and comfortable (I’d never stayed in one before) and their hospitality is next to none! They even got me vegetarian food and ate some themselves for dinner! I was very touched by the gesture and by the effort they put into giving me a great vacation.
Every evening starting at about 3-4pm we had Happy Hour, sometimes at the pool (where we also went every afternoon) and sometimes back at the RV in time for sunset. At the pool the drinks included popcorn and if you know my love of popcorn, then you know this was like heaven for me. A pool, sun, popcorn and wine= my idea of happiness!
The sunsets were just as stunning as the views and apparently I got lucky with some gorgeous ones. That is the problem, no clouds means no sunsets; we had little clouds a couple of nights that gave us picture worthy views.
Overall, I highly recommend Arizona to visit. My third time to the state will be to visit Sedona as I’m told it is spectacular and has even more energy to it. Given what I’ve seen already, I can’t wait!
Can you believe this time last year I was in Dubai? This whole year has flown by, almost too quickly. I’m not one for new year resolutions, mostly because I try to continuously better myself year round (and I believe your new year begins on your birthday). I’m well aware of what I want to improve on in myself but I think change is ever evolving. This year was one of soul searching and deciding what makes me happy. It was a very memorable year as I said good-bye to my 20’s and embarked on a new career path. I am blessed to have found my passion and to be officially starting that new chapter in 2015. I still have more career goals to accomplish in the new year, including becoming certified and taking additional classes but learning is a life long endeavour. Of course I have some travel goals for the new year as well!
It was also a year of learning to trust myself. Often I second guess my decisions or wonder if I made the right choice; what I’ve learned is to have no regrets, mistakes are what make us human. Things might not happen how I thought they would but they happen how they are suppose to, my new career is proof of that.
Your never going to be ready; even if your unhappy, there is comfort in that familiarity.
Be positive; I know some incredible people and for 2015 I want to surround myself with that positive energy.
I’ve spent too long being unhappy and I took this year to make some much needed changes. I wasn’t always sure it was right and rarely was it easy but I didn’t give up. When my dad passed, I lost the most stable and secure element of my whole life. I was lost and I’ve spent the last three years trying to find my way back. Europe helped to put me back together; I finally felt a joy for life again. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. The holidays are hardest time of the year; Christmas was his favourite and every new year, right at midnight, he always called me. It still makes me sad when I think of him, but I know he would be so proud of how far I’ve come. I spent so long being sad. So, for the first time that I can remember, I am making a new year resolution; to be more happy and bring more positivity into my life. This is true for all areas of my life from work to friends to family. My dad always had a positive outlook on life and he found joy in his pets, family, friends and hobbies. I think sometimes we forget the little things.
Time flies and life is too short to be unhappy; take a moment to be grateful for all the good in your life.
Here’s to a very happy 2015!
Below are the pictures of some of the people who made 2014 a memorable year and a couple of those who aren’t with us anymore, but who I cherish in my memory and who shaped me into the person that I am.
This picture was chosen strictly for it’s ability to make me smile. Today I looked through hundreds of pictures trying to find inspiration for this weeks post, but my brain just couldn’t focus. Work and schooling are becoming more stressful and are taking up all my time. Scrolling past this photo made me crack a smile and when I passed it for a second time I smiled just the same. Then I began remembering how happy I was in Barcelona. It was such a milestone visit on my trip and a huge reason I even went back to Europe. Yes, I miss it terribly; I’m also blessed to have experienced such a journey. This picture brought me happiness today, just as Barcelona brought me happiness then. That’s why pictures are so important, because even when your brain forgets, they are with you forever. And, if your really lucky, those photos will bring a smile to your face too.
September 9-12, 2013
Some weeks are more difficult to choose my blog topic than others; this was one such week. Looking through my pictures often helps me when I’m feeling particularly stuck. Today my inspiration came from a video I stumbled upon from a boat tour I took in Montreux, Switzerland. Avid readers of my blog will know I’ve already done a post on this city, but I couldn’t help myself again. This is truly one of the most stunningly beautiful places I have ever been! These photos are all taken at dawn, which is when I both arrived and departed Montreux. It’s so peaceful that early, with just the odd person out jogging or walking their dog. The colours of the scenery beginning to come to life as the sun rises into the sky is utterly breathtaking. I’ve included the quintessential Freddie Mercury statue photography in this post as well (how could I not?). Below is also the aforementioned boat tour video, which clearly shows the twinkling turquoise waters of Lake Geneva. That particular shade of water, I have yet to see anywhere else. Montreux has an unparalleled beauty that must be seen to be understood.
June 20-22, 2013
This week was filled with friends, family, sun and fun; as a result, I wanted to keep the energy high for this post too. Probably the coolest moment this year was in Dubai at their record breaking fireworks display. In a previous post there is a detailed account of the entire trip, but I thought it would be fun to see the video I shot of the fireworks! This was taken at the Hilton hotel’s beach which faces the Palm and had a prime view of the whole display. This was an incredible way to ring in the new year and I’m so grateful to have gotten to witness it in person. I hope you like the video! Please follow the link below to view my Facebook video of the fireworks!
January 1, 2014