I remember the first time I travelled solo. I was 19 and an Au Pair in Grenoble for Summer. I had the weekends free and wanted to explore nearby cities. However, the thought of travelling by myself even if it was just for weekends seemed so daunting. But I took the plunge and packed my backpack for a weekend in Lyon.
It’s pretty scary travelling by yourself for the first time. You can’t rely on anyone but yourself. You have to make sure you do your research so you know how to find the hostel or have things to do in case you’re on your own.
A few nights before arriving in Lyon, I had done a bit of research and found a hostel company called HI Hostels in Lyon. Ever since my trip to Lyon, Hi Hostels have been a life saver. I have used this company in Europe, in the USA and in Canada. The best thing about Hi Hostels is that you are always guaranteed a certain standard of cleanliness, service and friendliness in all its hostels.
During my stay in Lyon, I booked a 6 bunk female dorm. Depending on the hostel, you can sometimes be in a room with up to 24 people. Usually, you have a choice whether you want to stay in a female, male or mixed room. I’ve stayed in mixed rooms before, however, I do tend to search for female dorms mainly to avoid the heavy snoring! People tend to be really respectful in mixed rooms so you usually have nothing to worry about.
When I arrived at the desk in the hostel, I felt really self conscious that I was travelling by myself and explained to the woman that I’d never stayed in a hostel before. I wasn’t really sure if this is what many people did! Wow… How I was wrong!
I’m not going to lie, my first day travelling by myself felt pretty lonely. I had arrived at the hostel before we could put our luggage in our room and at a time where most people in the hostel were already out exploring. Therefore, I hadn’t met anyone yet. So I spent my first day climbing up the fouvière and exploring the city centre. Seeing all the families and friends doing activities around the city together, I really wished I had my family with me. Despite having many maps in my bag, I managed to get lost (story of my life!) Luckily I found the woman who had been working on the desk at the hostel who gave me directions back to the hostel. Even then, it took me HOURS to find my way back. I honestly didn’t know if my day could get any worse. Luckily, it only got better.
I arrived back to the hostel in a bit a flap worrying about who I’d meet in my dorm and what it would be like. I put my bag into my room and made my way into the bar. I remember speaking to a group of people from all over Europe and a big group of people from Quebec. I was so in awe of these people from all around the world particularly of those from Quebec. I had started learning French at university and was fascinated by their French dialect. The next thing, we were eating dinner together, going to bars in Lyon and organising the following day’s activities.
I realised how easy it was meeting people in Hostels. The best thing about hostels is that you never know who you’re going to meet. You just have to be open minded and friendly.
When I travelled to Marseille, I met two lovely German girls who asked me out of kindness if I wanted to cruise along the coast with them since they had a car. The next thing, we were cruising along the coast jumping in Lagoons and having an absolute ball!
Many hostels offer various activities so you are guaranteed to meet other people. In Banff, bar crawls and hikes were organised while in Vancouver, the hostel offered activities such as beach yoga classes and cycling tours.
So the next day in Lyon, I spent my day cycling around Lyon with a girl from Quebec while learning all about her culture.
That was it. I was hooked. I well and truly had that travel bug that people had talked to me about. I’ve stayed in hostels ever since my trip to Lyon as I have travelled to different countries around the world. Thanks to hostels, I have met people from all over the world, some of whom I still speak to today.
Hostels are never uneventful. You really never know what’s going to happen. In San Francisco, I witnessed a man snore so much he fell out of his bed!
Of course, there are horror stories about the insanitary conditions of hostels. But if you do your research and book in advance, you should be able to find a hostel with decent ratings.
For those you have never stayed in hostels, there are certain things I would recommend packing in your suitcase.
- Flip flops – Even though many hostel’s bathrooms are routinely cleaned, when you are sharing a bathroom with a dorm or a floor, it sometimes make you feel that little better.
- Ear plugs – Snoring is one downside to staying in a dorm. Ear plugs will be your new best friend.
- Dry shampoo
- Nibbles – Some hostel offer breakfast and have a bar. However, not all do. Bring some essentials such as pasta, bread and some nibbles. There are usually kitchens in the hostel free for everyone to use. Plus it will save you $$$.
Anything I’ve missed? Let me know of your experience in hostels!