Monday, February 12, 2007

Who Needs Privacy?

I’m lucky enough to have the resources to take this time to travel, but not rich enough to travel in style. For the first time in many years, I am staying at hostels and sharing rooms with complete strangers. I don’t do this every night, but when the choice is between paying around $20 for a bed or $50-$100 for a bed, I will choose to pay $20. Once in a while, I need my space and will splash out for a private room.

But what I’ve found very surprising in Australia is the range of people I encounter in places I’ve staying. When I was 21 and traveling through Europe, it seemed like everyone in the hostels was young.

Perhaps because I was young, that’s what I chose to see. What I see now are people of all ages, from around the world, staying in hostels. In just a week, I’ve shared rooms with an American retiree, an Argentinean farmer (a gaucho!), and graduate from California and Israel. I’ve met locals looking for accommodation and college students on holiday looking to get drunk. It’s ironic that you can play less, and in a way get more. There’s a lot of camaraderie in hostels – they are places to sleep and shower, but they also provide a social outlet. Like wildebeests at a watering hole, travelers congregate at hostels socialize. You won’t get that paying for privacy and room service.

Still, when I reach Southeast Asia, prices will plummet and I may change my tune. For the time being, consider me part of the pack.

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