The University of Iowa

The Hostel Experience

April 24th, 2015

My two weeks on the road

By Madison Voss*

Just a casual view while on the road.

I have just gotten back from my two-week journey down the east coast of Australia. Despite the extreme lack of sleep, fast-food diet, and lighter wallet, it was truly the best experience of my life. I am a true believer that some of the greatest lessons take place outside of the classroom, and even more so on a long road trip in a foreign country. In order to accurately give some advice to young travels about to partake on a similar venture, I’m going to give my lessons some structure by ordering them as a list.

Lesson #1: With hostels, you get what you pay for

The average cost for a one-night stay in most of the hostels we were at was about $25 U.S. dollars. Compared to hotels, and even cringe-worthy motels, this is incredibly cheap. But, like many things in life, the cost is reflected in the quality. While we were lucky to stay in a few that were actually fairly nice, the sleep itself is never going to leave you wide-eyed and energetic the next morning. For those who have not yet experienced a hostel, it is generally a hotel-sized room filled with bunk beds, one sink and mirror, one toilet, and one shower.

This is where the no sleep really comes into play- you are staying in a bunk bed with sometimes up to 30 other people in the same room. When they come in from a night out at 2 am, you are sure to wake up; or perhaps when you come in that late yourself and are looking to sleep in the next morning, it is likely that won’t happen. There were also a few beds that felt like I was sleeping on just straight springs, bad enough to where some slept on the floor. Although the conditions were not ideal, I continuously reminded myself that it was a huge part of being on the road, and ultimately a once in a lifetime experience.

Lesson #2: Wi-Fi is not free, and it barely connects

One of the questions you will most frequently ask as an exchange student is “what is your Wi-Fi password?”  It came as a huge disappointment to me when I asked this at our first hostel on the trip and found out they would give it to me for $2 a day. After being on a plane all day with no service, I reluctantly paid for three days worth and got in touch with my family and friends (and of course refreshed my Instagram feed).

The outside of our first hostel.

I decided it was well worth it until I got up into our room, and found out it only connected in the lobby.  I was sure that this was likely only the case at this hostel, and I was definitely wrong. It was in fact $4 a day on the rest of the trip, and also only connected in the main lobby. Ugh. Thank goodness for the kind coffee shops we stumbled upon, and the always-free Wi-Fi at McDonalds. Here is a word of advice regarding this issue- be sure to tell your mom you will be in less contact with her, and assure her that you really are okay.

Loving life on Whitehaven beach!

Lesson #3: Enjoy every second

As you can see, there were some inconveniences that were an inevitable part of the hostel experience. But what truly can’t be put into words are the memories that were made in spite of them. Those sleepless nights also happened to be some of the best nights of my life. Hostels are ultimately one of the single best ways to meet people. They are full of young backpackers, all with a contagious spirit for adventure and some of the craziest stories I have ever heard. It also turned out to be a valuable learning experience in how to simplify my life. I could no longer take 10-minute showers, or spend more than 30 seconds in front of the mirror applying makeup. And while the Wi-Fi situation was aggravating, it prevented me from being tied up in my phone, and instead allowed me to be fully immersed into the present moment.  The hostel experience was an incremental aspect of my incredible two-week journey, and one I would do all over again in a second. 

*Madison Voss is a junior from Ankeny, Iowa, majoring in communication studies with an entrepreneurial certificate at the University of Iowa. She is currently studying abroad on the Regents Exchange Program in Newcastle, Australia.