A home away from home
We arrive with nothing but a backpack, and we leave with happy hearts, full of new friends and with beautiful memories. Is it the ambience? Are the owners so kind that we become their friends? Are people more relaxed while traveling?
No matter the question, the answer is easy: In hostels we find ourselves, we find friends, we collect memories and experiences.
Hostels are the best option when traveling
Hostels are better than home. With spaces to work and rest, to chat and socialize, hostels play an important role in our lives when travelling. Some hostels achieve the goal of being a home away from home. What is the mystery of hostels? In this article I will try to answer that question.
Hostels are co-living spaces. And I’m not speaking about the recent turn of some hostels that have turned into co-living spaces. I speak of the sense of community and belonging we derive from hostels.
Some hostels are better than others
I remember staying in a hostel with a super small kitchen, with one or two tall tables, near the reception. It was built as a place of transience, without spaces for sitting and chatting, without a patio to go outside and dwell in conversations about the world and life.
There are hostels that are built to have social interaction. They have big kitchens with plenty of spaces to sit, tables to work with the computers, couches and terraces or gardens to sit for a drink and talk to the other travellers. They are built with the traveller in mind. Those hostels KNOW that after a long, tiring day, there is nothing better than to sit and tell stories, and learn more about the city and different people. Great conversations to have.
Some of them even offer free drinks at certain hours. Socialization is a main part of those hostels that have the traveller in mind. They could have built more rooms in order to fit more travellers and earn more money, but they chose to give the travellers a dwelling place, a place to sit comfortably, a place to work together with others, a place to meet people.
In those places, anything can happen. Maybe you meet a fellow traveler with great advice about the city, maybe you meet someone with whom to visit landmark with. Maybe you can meet a business partner, or a friend, or someone with a lot of insights into life.
So, when booking your next trip, make sure that it has the correct ingredients to make it unforgettable. And if you are dreaming of creating your own hostel, make sure to add some of those details that differentiate your hostel from the rest.
Experiences in Hostels
It was late one night. It was June, so the weather was warm and tranquil. In the street, instead of being sleeping, there was a group of people playing sports, like children on holiday. Where they crazy? Where they lost? No, they were travelers in a hostel, and they had found the perks of sharing a space of living.
It was the beginning of June. I had just come back from a volunteering trip from Cyprus, and was back in the country to prepare for some exams. I chose a cheap hostel to spend a week before going to another appointment. I met an Indian student that was there to do an internship, and we were speaking about badminton.
We decided it would be super cool to play badminton, and began our meandering around the city to find badminton rackets. We were unsuccessful, but the next day he found some. That night, there wasn’t study time for me. A group of people congregated to play the best match of badminton that has ever been played. Soon our game brought attention, and a group of about 10 people were taking turns to beat any of us to the game.
The ball was sometimes getting through the window into the hostel. The pilgrimage was, entering the hostel and knocking on doors to politely ask for the ball. It was a warm night, it was a fine summer night. There weren’t any cars passing in the street. We owned the street for our game, and between the warmth and the exercise, we were feeling tired, yet full of life.
I don’t remember reading anything about having fun in a hostel. I was there for other purposes. But that place soon became a second home. I had my family there, and we have become a community. A fluid community, if you wish, since there is a constant coming and going of people.
But some of us stayed, and the rest is history.
Belonging and sense of community
Among the basic human needs we find belonging and sense of community. There is shelter, that was covered, food and nourishment, done. Social interaction and the friendships that emerged were the best of it all. I never in my life would have imagined playing badminton in a hostel, or that it would be so fun. Mind you, I’m not even good at sports. But finding that friend reconnected me with a sport I like. Turns out is very famous in India.
I love connecting with people, and I have found that hostels have a lot of the ingredients needed in order for people to develop meaningful connections. We are usually alone in a foreign country or city. We have some free time. We are relaxed. We are there to discover. And discover we do.
But what is there to say about belonging? And what makes hostels such great places to belong, share, and connect? Why did I find that so encouraging for my studies? It all revolves around one simple idea: community and the need to belong.
What is belonging?
Belonging is the feeling of being part of a community, of being part of a group. Belonging is a psychological need, and one that we are wired evolutionarily to achieve. Cooperation, group membership, and others play a role in how the world works today. Belonging is related to life and job satisfaction, and it helps reduce stress and overall happiness in life. But belonging is not only membership. Belonging comes from feeling a member of a group, a place from which to develop and act on strengths. Feeling a member of a group is what brings belonginness, not merely being surrounded by humans. ‘’ Belonging actually has to do with identification as a member of a group and the higher quality interactions which come from that. It’s the interactions over time which are supportive of us as full, authentic human beings. All of these are important to fulfillment and to the success of the organization as a whole.’’
Belonging is also important in other areas of life, such as work
Moreover, belonging is related to job performance and life satisfaction. A good sense of belonging in any atmosphere is important for overall wellbeing, self and group identity and happiness. Group membership encourages self-esteem, and belonging to multiple groups is the main driver of self-esteem. ‘’ “Groups often have rich values and belief systems, and when we identify with groups, these can provide a lens through which we see the world. One of the reasons work is such a powerful source of belonging is because we typically share identity and goals with our team.’’ Lack of belonging is a big predictor of depression.
When workers feel cohesion with the group, they perform better and the desire to connect to the group is a bigger motivation than money.
‘’Having a sense of belonging is so important, considering the groups and labels we give ourselves and others. We are members of families, sporting teams, hobbyists, spiritual groups, charities, political parties, cities, countries and nationalities, to name a few. Nearly every aspect of our lives is organized around belonging to something.’’
‘’ We cannot separate the importance of a sense of belonging from our physical and mental health. The social ties that accompany a sense of belonging are a protective factor helping manage stress. When we feel we have support and are not alone, we often cope more effectively with difficult times in our lives. Coping well with hardships decreases the physical and mental impact of these situations.’’
Hostels and belonging
Hostels are our home away from home. They foster relationships and belonging. From hostels that give free drinks, to organized dinners, to workers that organize city tours, the hostel is a very important thing to consider on any trip. It can make all the difference from being isolated to feeling at home. And it doesn’t need to cost a ton of money to be an unforgettable experience.
Whether you travel alone or in company, the hostel is part of the experience. From sharing breakfast to meeting people from ther cultures and sharing a meal, hostel stays can have a big impact on people, and enrich the experience of travel. Moreover, it is an experience you can do on a budget.For this is recommended to not travel in a hurry. Take your time to experience the city, its landmarks, its people and surroundings. Immerse yourself in livfe at the hostel. You will find there is people with the same questions you have, with whom you can share incredible experiences (and overcome any possible troubles you may encounter)
The importance of having people who share your experience
From losing your keys, to not being able to enter at night, to not having a spot for a night, knowing people who are experiencing the same is a great advantage. I know it because when I was in Ireland, when I had just turned 18, there was a certain weekend where there was a weekend when there was some kind of event that made prices skyrocket and accommodation impossible to find. I stayed in a nice hostel and I had met a few people. But saturday night promised some trouble. I didn’t have a place to stay, and not knowing what to do, I turned to the lobby to ask the receptionist. He advised me to sit in the couch at the entrance, where there was someone sleeping. I wasn’t alone in my quest for that night, and we survived just fine until 6 a.m., when the nearest coffee shop opened.For more on hsotels and cultural exchange, read this ethnography on hostel and cultural exchange.
Hostels that we remember
During the pandemic, there is no question that travel has decreased. But revisiting some writings about travelling adventures, I realized the little-spoken nature of hostels, and that a lot of my fondest memories had a hostel setting as a background. In a hostel you can meet fellow travellers and friends for life, meet other cultures and live things you will be fond of for a long time.
I have been lucky to meet nice people while travelling, and thought I would pen down some stories about it. I know they are not incredible, but are part of a story of bigger things in life, and I believe I have learned a lot in hostels. The sociological aspect of hostels is not yet well researched,. However, I have tried to link it here to theories about belonging and community.
Finally, a good hostel has elements that make it community-based. It is a business, but it is also a place where people meet and chat, have a shower and rest after a long day of sightseeing. For this reason and many more, hostels are central in our travels, and they make us feel that sense of belonging, the feeling of being at home away from home.
It is perhaps little discussed, but I am sure we all have great memories from the hostels we stayed at. They have something that makes meeting people far easier than in any other place. Perhaps it’s their structure as places for socializing, as we have discussed. Perhaps they tap into our evolutionary need for belonging. In any case, hostels are at our centre when travelling. If you have any fond memories of travelling and hostels, please, make sure to write it in the comments. I would love to hear about it.