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How to Survive Your First Hostel

Here, we are looking at your first hostel…

Typical Hostel Room with 4 Beds

It’s not as bad as you think. I remember talking to my friend Alexis laughing at her because I couldn’t believe she was staying in a hostel. I felt so scared for her! and I had so many questions. So i decided to re-visit this conversation and share my knowledge with you all. I also decided this would bring me to starting my “Hostel Series” which I review hostels and share photos. I am telling you all, that you’d be surprised at some of the places I stayed.

I think every traveler should try staying at a hostel at least once in their lifetime. Even if you have a luxury-hotel budget, hostels are a cool and unique experience that can result in some amazing memories. I for one have made, memories that will last a lifetime. I’ve met loads of backers that were not on a tight budget, but actually chose to stay in hostels because they prefer it and honestly, you end up having more fun in my opinion. And you read that right, they prefer hostels to luxury hotels and apartments.

No- hostels are not glamorous. And yes, you may have to say goodbye to privacy. But hostels truly are of one of a kind experience and are absolutely worth a try. **That being said, many people have had awful experiences so just be sure to do your double checking.

There are a few things any first-timer should know before staying in a hostel. Here is a basic guide to staying in a hostel for the first time:

WHY STAY IN A HOSTEL?

The hostel experience is one that is completely different from any other type of accommodation. I will say again and again, hostels are the best way to meet people while traveling. This is ideal for solo travellers- as a hostel is a space where other solo travellers congregate, so you will meet like-minded people from all over the world. Hostels are definitely the most social form of accommodation. You are literally living with other travellers, sharing showers, essentially a university lifestyle on the go.

Anna and Nicky – Ayutthaya, Thailand

BENEFITS OF STAYING IN A HOSTEL:

  • It’s cheap. Obviously, hostels are much cheaper than hotels and most other forms of accommodation. This makes your travel reduce in overall fee, keep in mind sometimes you pay for what you get for. This makes hostels the perfect place for budget and/or long-term travellers. Depending on the location, a hostel bed will cost anywhere from $10-$80 a night, give or take.
  • Travel Longer. You can easily travel for longer periods of time when you stay in hostels. You know those people that just seem to be traveling constantly, and you wonder how the hell they can afford that lifestyle? Well, unless they are rolling in cash or are a travel influencer collaborating with hotels and tourism boards, they are most likely staying in a bunch of hostels (AKA MEEEEE). But, I just love hostels and its not only for singles you can bring families to there is many kinds of options in terms of ‘bed setting’.
  • You can wait until last minute to book.  I remember being in Cinque Terre, and moving onto Venice I had no clue where to stay. I decided I would use Hostelworld, as a way to find a quick overnight place. If your super last minute (not me) you can book in the morning for the afternoon. The only problem is, sometimes if you’re going to a popular city the option for ‘girls only’ may be booked quick. That being said, there will always be room.
    • NOTE: hostels in major tourist cities do sometimes book up during peak season. Try to book at least a few days in advanced if you are visiting during this time.
  • Activities. Most hostels offer activities to bring the guests together and create a sense of community. Hostels may offer free walking tours of the city, day trips to nearby areas, pub crawls, etc. Usually, these activities are either free or super cheap, so it is a great way to see the area and make friends who are also staying in the same hostel.
  • Meeting People: It is way easier to make friends in a hostel than any other type of accommodation. This is my all time favourite part! You end up meeting people who become your family for the short time your there together (see below) the photo on me and two girls who adventured around Zadar, Croatia.
Luanna & Sheelagh I met in Zadar, they biked through Croatia and we met in different cities after first meeting in the hostel in Zadar.

HOW TO CHOOSE A HOSTEL:

Most major tourist destinations will have tons of hostels to choose from. That being said, it can be overwhelming to choose which hostel to stay at. Below you will find my top tips for choosing a hostel.

  • Read the reviews. This is the first thing I do when choosing a hostel. I will usually check out the reviews on Hostel World, Google Maps, and Booking. My biggest thing when it comes to a hostel is cleanliness, security, and location. One review I look for in particular is those from Black women/ Women of colour.  If those factors got low ratings, I will avoid that hostel all together. Even, if I wasn’t Black I wouldn’t want to stay somewhere where people are treated based on their race/ethnicity.
  • Location, location, baby. Location is always one of the first things I look at when booking a hostel. I prefer to be as centrally located as possible, especially when I am traveling solo. Make sure you have a general sense of the area you’re staying in. It’s best for first timers to pick a place that is within walking distance or close to transportation.
  • What type of room do you want to stay in? Do you want a female only dorm? Bed curtains for privacy? Single beds? A private room? How many other people are you comfortable sharing your room with? Knowing what type of sleeping situation you want is a major part of choosing a hostel. I typically went with 6 Mixed-Bed or 6 all Female, depending on what my mood was at the time of booking.
  • What type of experience are you looking for?  Do you want a social party or one that is quiet? Mad Monkey hostels are known for parties, that being said I stayed in one Hostel in Pai that was super small (10 beds) and it was the best partying experience I ever got.
My make-shift, privacy curtains I typically do for hostels without the curtain.

WHERE TO BOOK A HOSTEL

  • The hostel website:  Third-party apps get a percentage, so I strongly recommend booking your hostel directly through the hostel’s website, if one exists. *Travel Tip* It is usually cheaper on the website of the hostel to book with.
  • Hostel World: Although I think it’s best to book directly through the hostel’s website, I always look at Hostel World first just to see an overview of my options. I also use this app to read reviews right away which has been very helpful for me. Hostel world is a great tool to use to compare reviews, location, and pricing among the hostels in the area. I typically used this form on my first backpacking journey.
  • Hostel Bookers: An alternative to Hostel World. Check out both websites to compare prices, and check out different hostel options.
  • Booking.com: Booking isn’t just for hotels – you can also find hostels here!
  • Airbnb: Yes, you can find hostels on Airbnb! Sometimes it may be someone’s apartment that they have converted into a small hostel. You can use my code to receive up to 75$ CAD off your first stay and $20 CAD to use towards an experience worth 75$ or more!

GETTING SLEEP IN A HOSTEL

Lol….

Well, you CAN get sleep. But, if you are a light sleeper I recommend booking a private room. OR investing in some really good head phones. Shop my Amazon store for all your back-packing needs.

Top Bunk vs Bottom

This really depends, I’ve done both. Typically, I like the bottom and when there is no curtains available I hang my towel/ the hostel towel up and create this barricade which allows me to have privacy to change/ read or journal at night.

If sleep is a priority for you, do not, I repeat, DO NOT book a party hostel. Party hostels are usually easy to point out, based on reviews, pictures (if there are a ton of pictures with giant groups of people, wearing pub crawl t-shirts, and shot gunning beers or doing shots, then yeah, odds are it is a party hostel.) A lot of party hostels will have written on their website, “If you a good night’s sleep is your priority, then this is not the hostel for you.” Etc. Here is a perfect example of a party hostel-it is pretty obvious.

Bring earplugs. These are a life saver for light sleepers.

It’s also a good idea to wear an eye mask if you are sensitive to light. Lights can commonly go off in some dorms so this keeps you sound asleep.

Friends I met in Hvar, Croatia (Pub Crawl)

MEETING PEOPLE IN A HOSTEL

Making friends is super easy in a hostel. However, you do have to put yourself out there a little bit. For all my shy/introverted readers, this may mean getting out of your shell a little. The common room in a hostel is the best place to meet fellow travelers. If there is a group of people talking, just go up to them and say “Hey what’s up, my name is _____.”. Eventually, you end up meeting friends that you can go and travel with.

Another great way to meet people in a hostel is to go on a pub crawl or event the hostel is hosting. This way you meet people who are staying in your dorm/ the hostel.

IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW:

  • Shower shoes are a must. You will be sharing a bathroom with a bunch of strangers. Always have a shower shoe to avoid foot fungus and other things.
  • Search reviews: For my sisters, try to search for reviews from Black women/ women of colour. This will help you gauge the environment.
  • Laundry: Almost all hostels offer laundry services or you can find a nearby place that can do it for it and some places even deliver.
  • Some hostels require a small rental fee for towels. Research this on the hostel website before you arrive, just so you won’t have any surprises.
  • Many hostels will accept cash-only payment. Make sure to have cash on you when you arrive (most will accept payment at various times)
  • Peak seasons will always be more expensive. Try avoid visiting certain places during their peak seasons (Google search)

HAVE FUN

Hostels can be the most amazing experience! Just remember to try and have the most fun while staying there.

Thank you so much for reading, don’t forget to like/ leave a comment. It means so much to me and I’ll see you in my next post.

Island hopping in Croatia, with friends.
2020

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8 THINGS BLACK WOMEN TRAVELLERS WANT YOU TO KNOW

I want to express that my experiences shouldn’t be symbolic of the entire demographic of black women, but that as a black woman, these are various things I’ve experienced, noticed, and would like to bring attention to by sharing my experiences and what I’ve learned. Please note: I am not an expert, but I learned the ways by self- teaching.

I WANT TO BE VERY FRANK: I’M DISAPPOINTED THAT IN 2020, THIS TOPIC IS STILL RELEVANT. It’s a shame to see that women of color like myself aren’t traveling more often, so much so that when looking at the landscape of travel bloggers and bloggers, I’m one of a handful. That being said: traveling is a privilege, one that women of colour often do not always have.

1. We Barley Exist

I am not kidding, going through my travels there was always excitement when I saw another female black traveller. Especially, one that is back-packing. Of course, there are black women traveling the world every single day, but the ratio to everyone else traveling is minuscule.

2. We Experience More than Cat-Calling.

Of course, all women have to deal with the annoying and entitled action of rude men catcalling as we casually walk around, even in our own cities. There is so many videos of men harassing women as women are simply walking or minding their own business.

Often times, on trips fellow Black travellers had told me experiences of being cat-called and men blowing loud kisses or getting extremely touchy. However, this kind of treatment isn’t only limited to foreign travel but also extends to our Home countries.

I once read “There’s a sense of respect that white women receive without knowing it” which is very much true for travelling women of colour. That being said: Black female travels have far more anxieties than the average cat-calling.

3. We surprise people.

Because of all of these preconceived notions about black women/people around the world, when we travel, we’re helping soothe the worlds’ ignorance about us. The more we become present in the travel space, the more we’ll change “ugly black women” stereotypes. I’ve had several conversations with men and women who are genuinely surprised at my ability to not only travel but to step into countries where Black people are not often seen. Now, this is not easy but I truly believe inserting ourselves in places where we have not been seen before can allow for exposure and representation.

4. We carry more weight than the average traveler.

This is just a fact, because there are so few of us out there traveling, when we come back from a life-changing trip, we swallow the moral duty to share our experience with the world, and more importantly, to other black women. Whether I’ve come back with stories of racism, praise, ignorance, or friendships in uncommon places, I always want to share my journey. As it’s in most women’s nature to help causes, and people, I feel personally responsible to bring up our kind.

I started this blog with the hopes of encouraging others to travel and learn what this beautiful world has to offer.

As a travel blogger, I feel this burden more with each new subscriber or reader. We carry the weight and responsibility of speaking on behalf of our entire kind. But let me correct myself, this is defiantly not a burden because I love writing about my experiences with you all.

5. We are seen as ugly in most countries.

Despite the high level of harassment we receive, we’re not seen as beautiful by most of the world, mostly because societies simply aren’t used to our thick hair, brown skin, and curvy bodies. The stereotypes that societies hold on to about black women never have the words: beautiful, graceful, or intelligent, attached; something that I’ve learned through microagressions.

Now: among my travels I have only received one comment which made me feel uncomfortable however, I’ve heard this statement a lot in my home country of Canada. I was traveling between countries one time and at the border the Agent advised “Wow you’re gorgeous for a Black women”. Now… I did not like that, but this statement wasn’t surprising to me because of the normative storylines society has created about Black women/People. That being said: I smiled and proceeded to walk away, I think if I wasn’t in a foreign country I would of directed that. But these are comments that Black women are often faced with. Indicating that Black women are commonly ‘ugly’ which also aligns with comments “You cant be full Black”. These microagressions Black women carry through travels and their daily lives.

6. We’re Scared

To up and travel is just not a luxury: We have so many things to think about. Such as: Are they praised in Cuba? Are they honoured in Portugal? Are they shunned in Denmark? Can we go to Germany? We have questions on what being a black woman means globally and we empathize with our sisters.

7. We’re Role Models

Breaking stereotypes and stepping outside our comfort zone. We ultimately become role models and story-tellers for fellow black female travellers. We inspire others to step outside their comfort zone and experience this beautiful world. It’s about changing the reputation of black women everywhere

8. We Can Do it

Despite, the barriers we CAN DO IT. We can travel, we can backpack, we can create communities, we can build friendships and most importantly we can be unapologetically beautiful and free.

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you in my next post. Please leave me a like/comment xoxo

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How to Start a Solo Adventure?

This was my very first inquiry, when I decided I was going to travel solo. There were so many question’s and so many thoughts in mind. Here are a few things, that quick-jumped my solo planning.

I decided I would start a series through a few posts breaking down each of these things. However, for suggestion number one, see here how to ‘cheat your vacation time’.

Here is how I started my solo adventure:

  1. I had to decide how much time I had.

Now, not everyone has the same amount of time off. But, I was graduating and I wasn’t going to start working until September so I had months. I decided two months was going to be good enough for me.

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2. Research Countries

This is really important. Especially, being a black female I had to research other Black female travellers experiences in different countries. This is a sad reality for many Black people travelling as we don’t have the privilege to just go ANYWHERE! That being said, Everywhere has racism, the question is how much of it am I willing to tolerate in order to explore a country?

I joined a few travel groups and searched a few hashtags. Overall, I found it comes down to personal experience however, here are places I found where Black/Women felt uncomfortable:

Countries where BW felt uncomfortable: (just a few)

Barcelona, Spain
Morocco
South Africa
Southern, Ireland
Naples, Italy
Cambodia
Parts of Vietnam

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With that information (which there was many more places) and people are very willing to share their experience, I decided to search for the SAFEST countries to visit. Here’s what I found:

Portugal
Denmark
Thailand
Veitnam
Slovenia
Indonesia

I know you’re probably reading this list like, huuuh?! But, this is what I mean- research is the biggest part of starting your back-packing journey because honestly, you can spend hours watching Videos of peoples experiences or blog posts about it and learn a lot so while, it may take you away. In the end it’s really helpful, and I highly recommend it.

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3. Budget

This is BIG, I can’t emphasize this enough. Budgeting is what will help you make this a smooth process. I recommend if you’re from Canada. SEARCH OUR DOLLAR CONVERSION. GOLLY, this was depressing! our dollar doesn’t go far in some places. That being said, I was broke graduating from my undergrad but, I had this trip in mind for over a year so I’ve been saving. **Don’t worry I’ll post how I budgeted for a year for this trip.

Budgeting for a solo adventure, is much like doing a monthly budget if you ever done one. You input your daily costs (activities, hostels, food) and you calculate how much you’ll be spending daily and then you go from there. Keep in mind, this also takes research to see how much it costs daily as a back packer or solo traveller. There is a lot of information out there, and I’ll share how to find the best info.

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4. Growth Mindset

I learned this concept in my B.Ed and while we mainly use it for our students, I think its important to use it for other areas in our lives. It basically means, being open to learning and growing, and with that comes the possibility to reframe your previous understandings.

Going into solo travelling I had to get rid of certain thoughts and messages being sent when I shared my news:

“WHAT?!: You can’t go alone you’re a female”
“Maybe, you should just wait until your friends can go”
“I don’t think it’s safe”
“You wont like [insert country]”
“Go with a boyfriend, and enjoy life together”

The list goes on.. Don’t let it discourage you, continue your plan to travel and to make memories that can last a lifetime. I once had a cousin who told me, in life to “Make Memories to Last a lifetime” and if there’s anything I want my travel journey to do, is to inspire you to do, just that.

Source: Drew Doodles (2020)


Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you in my next post