I started traveling solo at 26, which is a bit older than the “average” backpacker age, but hey, better late than never, right? Right? I mentally repeated that phrase, better late than never, to myself whenever I encountered eighteen year-old kids who’ve already visited 30 countries. (No hate, I promise! I just wish I started my own travels sooner!)
In the summer of 2013, when I took my incredible Haggis tour around Scotland, I felt like I could stay in hostel dorms forever, as long as it meant my budget would stretch further and as a result, take me around the world for longer periods of time. Sharing rooms wasn’t a big deal at all.
However, at the ripe old age of 28, hostel dorms have lost some of their novelty and shine. Actually it’d be safe to say that I’m too old for hostel dorms, period.
What on earth happened to me? Is this a bad change? Good change? I still don’t know. I’ve had some time to think about it, however, and narrowed down why I’m too old for hostel dorms to five reasons.
1. I like having time to decompress in private.
I’m super sociable in hostels. Unlike a lot of solo travel bloggers, I’m an extrovert at heart. One of the main reasons I travel is for the people. Heck, I travel solo mainly because I meet more people on the road when I’m alone than I do traveling with family or friends.
However, in order for me to stay pleasant, I need time to decompress in private or else I turn into a raging brat. Think a 28 year-old Angelica from Rugrats. Scary, huh?
For instance, taking short afternoon naps boosts my mood and energy; however, I can’t enjoy a sweet doze much in dorms due to other people coming into the room at all hours. I don’t blame travelers waking me from a nap, I think between 10 am. and 11 pm./midnight the room is fair game for normal noise, but still, another reason why I’m just too old for hostel dorms.
Leading into my next point…
2. I value my sleep.
This is a big reason why I’m completely over hostel dorms. Even at the height of my dorm days, I usually booked all female dorms (less chance of a snorer) and refused to stay in a room with more than six beds. I never even attempted those huge 18+ bed dorms. Yikes. For me, four to six beds were ideal; I didn’t mind shelling out an extra $5 per night for the “luxury” of not sharing space with a small classroom. I took other precautions too, such as bringing an eye mask and earplugs, and never raised a stink about quiet noises.
But now I value my rest too much to put up with other people’s nonsense.
Early morning packers especially grind my gears. Do not pack at 3 in the morning. Ever. But these plastic bag crinkling jerks aren’t the only offenders. We have people who need to have a conversation in the middle of the night while half of their roommates are trying to sleep (go to the common room, please). And the people who slam the door late at night. And flip on the lights.
No, no, no. Give me a private room and sleep.
3. I can be quite selfish.
Alas, I’m not the perfect traveler and sometimes forget my manners too. Sorry, but at least I can admit it and am self-aware enough not to want to subject other backpackers to my annoying quirks and habits. As I get older, I want to be selfish on my trips and not always worry about disturbing someone else.
I like spreading my stuff everywhere. I like talking to myself as I plan my adventures for the day. I like to flip on the lights in the middle of the night so I can read a book. I like hanging my dirty clothes to dry. I like loudly laughing and commenting on television shows I watch on my iPhone.
I don’t act this way in shared accommodation, especially the flipping-on-the-light part, but boy, do I miss having my own space to indulge all of my whims and wants! Now that I have a bit more money to burn, I think I’m sticking with private rooms, so I can be as selfish as I want in my accommodation.
And hey, isn’t part of the reason we travel solo is because it’s all about us anyway?
4. I’m over sharing an ensuite bathroom.
Booking all female dorms has its perks. Like running into fewer snorers.
But there is a huge drawback.
And I bet you guessed it even if you didn’t reader the header. It’s sharing a camped, single ensuite bathroom inside a fully booked dorm room. Oh god, the humanity. Six women sharing the same bathroom is a nightmare. I’m not fighting for a shower, a chance to brush my teeth, or a space to apply my make up. Just no.
To be honest, I’d rather put up using shared bathrooms at the end of the hallway, because I’ve never had to wait to use them and can deal bringing along a cheap pair of flip-flops to protect my feet in the shower.
Plus if someone is sick in your dorm? Yikes. Pretty much a guarantee that you’ll smell and see some puke. Which, sorry, not interested.
Of course a private room that has its own ensuite bathroom is the loveliest option for me. Obviously. But I can deal using a shared bathroom if it means the private room is cheaper than it would be otherwise. I’m not that old yet.
5. I have less patience in my “old age.”
I’ve noticed that I’ve lost some patience over the past two years. At 26, the newness of the dorm rooms excited me. However, I’m less than impressed now, especially after dealing with the following cast of fools: early packers, snorers, drunken idiots, frisky couples (never okay in a shared room), chronic farters, and loud Skype talkers.
Yup, a lot of rude people mixed in with the cool ones. Yet, I’m all about honesty. My crankiness directs itself at innocent bystanders, too, and that just ain’t part of the spirit of travel.
For example, at my hostel in Reykjavik, I met another solo traveler and we hit it off. I was happy to have a friend who was staying about the same length of time as me, so you can imagine my excitement when the dorm was empty except for us. Like a slumber party, right? Alas, my happiness didn’t last. At roughly seven in the evening, four other girls took the remaining beds and proceeded to unpack. They were nice enough and I felt bad about my crankiness, but I couldn’t help feeling irrationally annoyed at them for taking over the room. Which is unfair. They were entitled to those beds, obviously.
Yup, it’s best for me to take a private room.
So now what?
I’m still conscientious of my budget. I’m making more money than I did two years ago, but I’m not rolling around in cash. I won’t book any rooms at the Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton anytime soon.
Honestly I don’t think I’m too old for hostels themselves. Sure, some hostels are marketed as party dens for 18 year olds, but not all of them. Not by a long shot.
I’m never the oldest person at all the hostels I’ve stayed at (thanks, reviews for being my guide and steering me toward true travel hang outs rather than frat houses). Plenty of people in their mid-late twenties and early thirties stay at hostels, especially boutique and independent hostels aimed at flashpackers rather than school groups or gap year kids. For example, I met a woman in her forties at my hostel in Porto and shared a dorm with a woman in her fifties in Paris. Like hotels, hostels are all different and don’t have much of an age limit.
Plus I like meeting people. Hotels would bore me. Extrovert, remember?
However, despite still being a hostel goer, I’m opting for private hostel rooms for future trips to save my sanity. And there’s always AirBnB if I need to try something fresher. Stay tuned.
Can you relate to feeling too old for hostel dorms? Are you still a dorm dweller and feel fabulous about it? What are some good alternative accommodations for solo travelers who feel too old for hostel dorms? Share in the comments!