The Pros and Cons of Staying in Hostels

As someone who has stayed in plenty of hostels within the U.S and abroad, I can say there are plenty of wonderful features, and um, not so pleasant things. Hostels can be a great way to see the world and meet new people but have the potential to be a disastrous experience if you don’t know what you’re getting into. I hope this list will help you weigh your options and figure out if the hostel life is right for you.

Pro 1: The Price

One of the most obvious benefits of the hostel option is the price.You typically pay by the bed, aka per person, for each night. They are much less expensive than hotels if you’re willing to contend with some of the cons. Hostels are a popular choice for traveling students or for anyone traveling on a budget. If you’re someone who would rather spend your money on activities or simply are looking for more inexpensive travel options, hostels may be a good choice for you. Hostels can also vary in price per bed so it’s a good idea to check out a few different ones in the area to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.

Con 1: Lack of Privacy

 The standard hostel room is a four to six-bed room which usually consists of bunk beds. I have some seen a couple here and there with a few eight or more beds per rooms if you’re up for the experience. I would suggest looking at website photos to get an idea of room layout so you’re able to better judge your comfort level. If you plan on being away from the room all day or are just a generally social person this might not be a problem at all. Sometimes it may be awkward if you’re a solo traveler rooming with another group. Sharing a room with someone during vacation can bring some of the same frustrations you may have experienced during your college years; when to turn the light off, partying, snoring etc. Many hostels do offer private rooms which are much more expensive than dormitory rooms, but often less expensive than your standard hotel room. 

Pro 2: Kitchen

Some of my favorite travel memories take place in hostel kitchens. Besides being a great way to socialize or make interesting memories, they serve many practical uses. Most hostels come with fully equipped kitchens so you’re only in charge of buying the food you will eat. It’s pretty common for them to serve a breakfast so you’ll only need to worry about arranging plans for lunch and dinner. Of course eating local cuisine is one of the best parts of traveling, but we all know that eating out every meal can get expensive very fast. Having a hostel kitchen provides you with a great way to make your own food efficiently and stay on a budget. Prepare to wash your dishes and label your food. Another tip – many times there will be a “free to use” shelves for dry and fresh food. This shelf consists of food that was left by guests who have checked out but is still eatable. You can often find things like eggs, milk and condiments that you will be able to use during your stay.  

Con 2:  Communal Bathrooms

Even if you do manage to snag a private room, many hostels only provide communal bathrooms. While this isn’t a lovely experience for anyone, it isn’t so bad if you come prepared with a bathroom bag and shower shoes. A good way to judge the weight of this con is to read the reviews for the hostel you’re considering. People will be pretty open about cleanliness and when you’re sharing showers; that’s pretty important. 

Pro 3: Meeting People from All Around the World

Because so many aspects of hostel life are communal you naturally get to know the people around you. This is really great way to hear cool stories, make new friends and get cool ideas for things that may not be in your travel book. Many young or solo travelers will often meet people in hostels and then continue their travels with the people they’ve met. I’ve had the chance to go to poetry readings, concerts and amazing restaurants because of my hostel companions. Meeting people from different cultures is an important part of traveling and expanding your world view and hostels only help add to this.

Con 3: Security

Hostels don’t provide you with a lock and key and you’re responsible for your own items. Because you’re sharing a room with potential strangers it’s important to be aware of this risk. You can easily find small padlocks at convenience stores or online that are intended for travel use. Some hostels may rent them out, but don’t count on it. I’ve personally never experienced theft in hostels outside of losing one travel pillow, but I’ve heard stories from people with worse luck. Many hostels do offer lockers to secure your belongings in so you can place the padlock on the locker instead of merely having it on the outside of your suitcase. I don’t find it necessary to put away every single item I own when I leave the room but it’s always a good idea to be careful with your valuables.

Pro 4: Activities 

Many hostels, particularly ones in big cities, host their own tours or have arrangements with the local companies. You can often buy tickets right at the front desk. You find anything from pub crawls to walking tours around the city. The employees are usually very happy to offer suggestions that match your interest and budget. This is a great way to spend your first day in a new place so you can see the sights and get ideas for the rest of your trip. Many hostels often have common areas with pool tables, TVs and even small cafes. This is a great perk and a nice way to relax during your down time. 

Con 4: Noise

Anywhere you stay in a city has the potential to be noisy. However, hostels are often very social environments and that “socializing” can sometimes last late into the night. I’m a night owl and in my early twenties so that’s not always a bad thing.  A good way to avoid this problem is to not stay in youth hostels or “party” hostels.  There are many hostels that are more family friendly and they tend to have quiet hours. If you’re someone who values your beauty rest or doesn’t enjoy the wild nightlife, consider they type of hostel you plan on staying at. If you’re someone who wants to experience the “party” hostel without committing for the whole trip you might want to try staying at a few different hostels throughout your stay. 

Pro 5: Unique Experiences

Overall, you will get a one of a kind experience no matter you go. You will leave with amazing stories and get to participate in things outside of the average “touristy” plans. You may find yourself trying new things with new people you could never even imagined before departing from home. The communal and unique nature of hostel helps all these to happen on a greater scale. If you want something different and adventurous then this is a perfect fit. Fear not, there are plenty of cozy and low-key hostels if you crave the unique with a little less of the adventure.

Con 5: Curfews

This one is sort of a pro and a con. The hostels that do have curfews are often in big cities and have them in your place for your protection and well being. When a hostel has a curfew this means that their front doors will lock at a certain time and you will need your room key to get into the building. One of the advantages of staying in hotels is the ability to go to front desk at any time to get a replacement key if you lose yours. Another important thing to note is that many hostels will fine if you lose a key ( this varies depending on if you have a swipe card or a metal key). They will be pretty upfront about policies when you check-in but it’s always good to know in advance. This is coming from a serial key loser.

Now it’s up to you

Well, there are some of the reasons to stay (or not to stay) in hostels. I really believe that the pros greatly outweigh the cons. I’ve mostly stayed in hostels during my international travels and have found them to be an enriching experience that only added positivity to my trip. If you’re still on the fence, look out for a local hostel to try out the experience before committing to the lifestyle on a longer trip. Happy travels! 

Japan: My Perspective

I have never been to Japan.

I know, I bet you have not been there either. However, there is a reason why that sentence is so important: I am half Japanese and have never been to the country that half of my body, my soul, my literal blood belongs to. Going to Japan is almost like a milestone in my family – if you go, you are a true member of the family. And as of April 10th, I am officially going to Japan this summer from August 17th to September 3rd.

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Facial Mask for Every Skin Type

Like every human being, I had to go through the horrible years of middle school and high school. Those years were hard enough to go through with puberty, friend drama, boy/girl drama, and school. But, I was lucky enough to also have the added problem of acne to add onto my list of teenage torment. When it first hit I had no idea how to handle it and went through countless different routines. Eventually, I went to the dermatologist and they set me up with a routine to follow and calm down my skin. Part of this routine involved using facemask on the regular. I started with store bought masks, but with the rise of organic and whole foods fad I turned to DIY. The weird household objects that I have placed on my face is a bit concerning, but anything for beautiful glowing skin, right?

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Emerson Culture creates a Hectic Enviornment

Second semester at Emerson has started. The dorms are packed with students from all over the country–well mostly from Massachusetts, California, and for some reason New Jersey. There are a couple of new freshmen who wander the halls looking like lost pups, but the other freshmen have a whole semester under their belts and feel upgraded to pro status.

It seems that everyone is rushing from class to squeezing their Einstein bagels so hard that the cream cheese could pop out at any moment. Little do you know that before that class they already have had a club meeting, submitted a piece for a magazine, and had a shift at work. Emerson students are notoriously busy and it seems that an overbooked schedule has become the “norm.”

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Get Ready With Me!

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of beauty and fashion icons on YouTube, specifically GRWM (Get Ready With Me) videos. They’re absolutely addicting and a great way to get tips, product recommendations, and general wellness inspiration! As somebody who may not be an expert but loves makeup and fashion I thought I would share with all of you my typical routine!

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Thinking Before We Pink

We’ve all seen them- those cute little pink ribbons on the the corner of every item you could ever possibly buy, using a guilt tactic of sorts to get consumers to purchase a product because a menial percentage of the product price will be donated to Breast Cancer research: Pinkwashing. It’s defined as a form of cause marketing that uses a range of pink ribbon logos, displayed on various products that has totally taken over the cancer research support and charity, turning Breast Cancer Awareness month into a contest of who can pretend they’re doing the most to help a cause many know so little about. The “Thinking Pink” has become trendy, but unfortunately hurts more than it helps.

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Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle: Ways to Go Green on Your Own

Even when I was younger and global warming and the environment seemed to be a much more distant problem, I was still constantly told by adults to “go green” and “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” As a kid, my idea of using the three R’s was making a guitar out of the tissue box my mom was going to throw away.

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Navigating Your College Career Goals

I’m someone who likes to have everything figured out. I like to know that what I’m doing is ultimately helping me accomplish one of my long term goals, or at least moving me toward something – like a degree. Every class we take at school, every paper we write is moving us toward that little piece of paper that employers love to see.

Lately it seems that everyone knows what they want to do for the rest of their lives, and exactly how they’re going to do it. Lately, I feel as if I’m heading in the exact opposite direction. I write articles, blog posts, poetry, and anything that interests me really. But this past month, I had been questioning the lifestyle and career choices I’ve been making. I let a couple of political arguments on Facebook with family members change how I felt about being a writer. I wanted to put my skills to good use and switch majors and make a bunch of rushed decisions in order to do something I thought was more noble, or useful. I’ve spent the last month throwing myself into things that could’ve permanently locked me into something I didn’t want to do.

Most of us go through phases, when it comes to the big question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 7-year-old me might have said a singing space-bus driver. 15-year-old me might’ve said a lawyer or paralegal. Now, at 19-years-old, I still don’t have it all figured out. But I did figure something out. It’s okay to not have your life plan mapped out! And I figured something else out too! Writing is a skill that every employer likes to see on a resume. Words have power, regardless of profession.

I didn’t reach this conclusion alone, however. I reached out to many trusted friends, family, and even coworkers, having active discussions on what the options were when it came to my career and my major and all of them pretty much said the same thing. If you ultimately don’t know what you want to do – a degree is still a degree, and most employers will still value it even if it doesn’t exactly match the job description. They were right. A degree in X, Y, Z doesn’t bind you to a career in X, Y, or Z. Chances are, most of the alphabet is still up for grabs, as long as you have the necessary skills and experience to land it.  

Do not do what I almost did and make rash decisions to make up for the lack of direction. Do things you enjoy now – make connections with people who share the pleasure of doing those things. Do not build the roof of your house before building the foundation. Direction will come when everything settles. We may not know now where we’ll be in five years, but look around and you can see where you are now. Work hard, love harder and take life one step at a time.

Combatting Cynicism at the Polls

Thus far, 2016 has been a confusing and frustrating time for American politics. For many young voters, this may be the first election that they are able to vote in. However, that does not mean these young voters are necessarily excited or willing to vote. Discussion about the corruption and bigotry backing particular presidential candidates has dominated this election. Of course, these are important conversations to have, but it is unfortunate when such disenchantment ultimately turns voters away from the polls. Already, I have heard many millennial voters insist they are not voting come November and that they are exhausted of establishment politics. I sympathize with these voices. I am a cynic as well, but in order to make the changes we seek, we must learn to fight back against our own cynicism.

Historically, young people have not been a very active voter demographic. There is a multitude of reasons for this, including voting restrictions that keep young people and marginalized groups away from the polls. But, it has also notoriously been difficult to get young people invested in politics. The younger demographic has never been keen on voting and yet, in some ways, they have the most to lose or gain in the political arena.

About a year ago, when I first turned eighteen, I was overcome with a newfound interest and enthusiasm for politics. The presidential campaign season was only just beginning. I was happy to do research on each candidate as they made themselves known in the race and I was happy to seek out political discussion online. I was also interesting in hearing the opinions of other millennial voters, particularly about issues like college debt, that relate more closely to our own generation. While it was easy enough to find compelling young voices online, it was much more difficult to get those closest to me talking.

One friend told me politics just didn’t interest her, and another informed me she avoided political discussion altogether since she wanted to stay clear of debate. Most jarring to me were the peers I came across that simply, did not believe in voting. “There’s just no point,” I remember one classmate telling me. “Our votes don’t matter. They never will.” I can understand not being keen on discussing politics, but not voting or engaging with politics because you’ve become disillusioned with the current state of the government feels counterintuitive. If we don’t even try to be heard, how can we ever expect to see change?

In these times of political uncertainty, it’s important to know that your vote does matter. Voting is not a fool-proof process, sure. With primaries and the electoral college, voting in the United States often feels convoluted and sometimes, frustrating. But voting, or at least making yourself known in the political sphere is important. Your vote still counts for something, regardless if it’s only one vote within a sea of others. As I mentioned earlier, I am cynical in a lot of ways. I am disappointed with the lack of change I have seen about the issues that matter to me. I am disappointed with the politicians that speak over those most affected by their policies. Still, I am proud to call myself a voter.

Please consider making yourself heard this November.

Un Aventure En France

When I landed in the Marseille airport, I had no earthly idea what would be in store for me throughout my first three weeks of travel in the beautiful and mysterious south of France. There was so much I had yet to learn. I didn’t know that there are €1 and €2 coins that replace small bills, nor could I have anticipated still finding them in my purse weeks after returning to The States. I also didn’t know just how challenging it would be to assimilate into French culture.

Many little things added up to produce that low hanging cloud of confusion that followed me around in the beginning: there was no ginger ale in any of the bars or restaurants, nor was there any brewed iced tea (the closest thing, to my disappointment, was peach Lipton in a can). In the little apartment that I stayed in with my host, the toilet and the shower were in separate rooms. Shop keepers expect a prompt bonjour upon entry, and it’s considered rude if you neglect to say so. Upon departing, you kindly wish each other bon journée. 99% of the time when colloquial phrases are forgotten or misused, the French will not fail to remind you. One common misconception in America is that bonjour means hello, even though it actually translates to “good day.” There were countless times that I forgot that small fact and stupidly said bonjour past 5 o’clock–at which point I was answered with a cheeky “bon soir!”and a twinkle of the eye.

Still, not all surprises were uncomfortable. To my endless amusement, the French actually do say “ooh la la” — in varying dialects ranging anywhere from Parisian to Marseillais. Most afternoons they sit for an aperitif, an afternoon nip of alcohol. In Aix-en-Provence where I stayed, this was usually rosé or champagne, accompanied by some bread or crackers and olives. Being so close to Italy, the olives are sublime. The ice cream, too, always gelato, is absolutely magnificent. Sadly, this prevents me from enjoying it in America to the extent that I used to. There were marvelous Provençal flavors like violet, amarena (a delicious blend of cherry jam and creamy, milk ice cream), and of course lavande, the smell of which seems to permeate the entire countryside.

Something I will sorely miss is the ease of communication the French have with strangers. People sitting close to each other in restaurants speak freely–even in the street, it is common to strike up conversation with passers by. Despite my unsophisticated French, I rarely felt nervous to ask questions of people I didn’t know. Not everyone was nice, but a majority were more than happy to speak with a foreigner. Some would even compliment us on our good French, even if there were a few grammatical mistakes mixed in.

If I close my eyes and transport myself back to Aix-en-Provence, I can still smell the roses as I walk down the streets of the La Vieille Ville, the ancient part of town that looked like it hadn’t changed in 400 years. I can hear the sounds of the little city: the mossy fountains bubbling with a steady stream of water, the pitted patter of French puppy paws on their promenade, the slow, mellow ring of the cathedral bell.