I recently read an article online that claimed that you don’t have to be rich in your twenties. It also proceeded to claim how much money you should actually be making. These strongly opinionated articles have been circulating widely across the internet recently, so you can probably imagine the type of article that I’m referring to. In no way am I in support of its claims, or against them, but a few of the points struck me, because they are related to my experiences abroad.
“You should be making enough to be able to travel the world but never see the inside of a hotel.” This is almost true for me. Out of the five overnight trips that I’ve been on so far, I’ve only stayed in a hotel once, which was not by choice; the program that I travelled through chose the lodging. Other than that, my lodging has been quite interesting and fun!
I traveled with five other girls to Venice in February. About two weeks before our trip, we all sat in my living room and researched lodgings for a couple of hours. It’s amazing how time-consuming travel planning can be! Expedia led us to find a “hotel” that was right in between the train station and the major attractions of the city. It was also affordable, so we booked it. When we arrived in Venice and realized how difficult it is to find anything in particular, we called the contact of the hotel and chose a meeting point so that he could show us to the hotel. We came to find out that the hotel was actually a simple two bedroom apartment that the owner rents out to families who are travelling. As many hotels have, breakfast was included with our stay; it turned out to be delicious mini plum cakes, crostatine, milk, and coffee fresh from the supermarket. Not a bad deal!
Budapest was a great start to spring break, because I got to see familiar faces from Stevens. I stayed with two friends who are studying abroad there. This made my entire experience there far from touristy, because I got to see the city from the perspective of students living there. Staying with them was the best choice that I could have made, because I had no knowledge about Budapest before my visit!
My first time experiencing a hostel happened in Prague. I’ll admit that I was very hesitant about the idea of a hostel before this experience. The idea of sleeping in the same room as complete strangers did not sound particular safe to me! It turned out to be a very interesting experience though. We met people from around the world, and even went on tours together throughout the city. I don’t think that I would’ve had the same experience in Prague itself if it wasn’t for our stay in the hostel. The employees were incredibly hospitable, and gave us suggestions for things to do around the city. They helped us make reservations for tours, called taxis when we needed them, and even gave us discounts on the tours that we arranged with them. Yes, it sounds like a marketing scheme, but we did our research and it was really a convenient option!
Our hostel in Paris was a bit of a different experience. The employees were hospitable, yes, but the environment itself was entirely different. This was the first time that I didn’t have access to wifi in my room; which sounds incredibly shallow, but when you don’t have an international phone or data plan, it’s your fastest means of getting information! We got a private room in the hostel, so we didn’t have to share it with strangers, but we were in for a surprise when we arrived. Our room consisted of a bunk bed, a shower, a sink, a desk, and an armoire. Yes, the shower was in the bedroom itself. And the toilet was a stall out in the hallway, which everyone on the floor shared. An interesting experience for sure! Needless to say, I’m glad that we didn’t spend much time there and were more focused on exploring the city with our limited amount of time there.
I would encourage everyone, regardless of age, to travel without staying in a hotel. Stay at a friend or family’s residence, try out a hostel, or find a cozy apartment that a local rents out. Any of these options puts you more in touch with the culture of the place in which you travel. You interact with more locals, and people are generally just friendlier in these types of environments. As long as your research is sufficient, you can’t go wrong!