Why I’m 30 and Still Stay at Hostels

$85. Eighty-five dollars is all it cost me for my 2-night stay at the super-swanky Society Hotel in downtown Portland, Oregon last month.
The Society Hotel isn’t your average hotel. It’s in the heart of a prominent nightlife area. It’s in a historic building, and – most importantly – it’s stumbling distance from the original Voodoo Donuts.

How in the world is a place like this under $50 per night, or $100 for that matter?

Rooftop view from Portland’s Society Hotel. © Chris Luecke

I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s also a hostel. And whether we’re talking about Portland, Denver, London, or Bangkok, there’s a good chance I’m going to be picking a hostel over most other lodging options.

When most people think of hostels, they think of 20-somethings fresh-out-of-college backpacking around Europe. Or worse, they might think of that unfortunate Eli Roth movie “Hostel” that has forever tainted Americans’ perceptions of hosteling. #facepalm

As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I get a lot of weird looks or even mild ridicule when I tell people that I’m 30 and still stay in hostels all the time. But, here’s another secret: I have zero shame when it comes to staying in hostels, and I’m going to give you 5 reasons why you shouldn’t either!

Related: New Zealand Working Holiday Visa Over 30 Years Old

Views from Montara Light House Hostel in California. © Chris Luecke

1. The Ambiance is Dope

Hostels like The Society Hotel aren’t just dime-a-dozen. You’ll find that many hostels around the world boast a ton of unique character and contain a lot more personality than a run-of-the-mill hotel.

Interested in staying in an old jail? Clink78 in London has you covered. Want to sleep in a treehouse? There’s a hostel in Nicaragua for that. I’ve also stayed in an old school in Thailand and a castle in Germany, among many others.

While these are examples of some of the more unique hostels out there, a good hostel is bound to have some badass murals, stylish-yet-chill common areas, and an overall vibe that makes you say “This place is cool!”

Beyond a hostel’s theme and appearance, the ambiance extends into its amenities as well. Since many hostels are centrally-located in their respective cities, rooftop patios with some of the best skyline views are not uncommon. Nearly every hostel these days has a kitchen for guest use, and some go above and beyond and serve elaborate breakfasts or dinners as well, usually for cheap.

Many even operate their own in-house bars & pubs, host events, or can hook you up with a pub crawl. All of these provide great opportunities to meet other travelers and make friends.

Trivia night at a hostel in Myanmar 2015. © Chris Luecke

2. The Community Created in Hostels is Unmatched, and Age Doesn’t Matter

While a cool space and amenities are great, one thing that you definitely won’t find in a hotel is the sense of a global community that a hostel brings. With guests from around the world bunking up at hostels, the communal atmosphere that naturally comes with a shared lodging situation is totally unique to hostelling.

Travelers of all ages from Australia, France, Canada, Argentina, and everywhere in between congregate in the hostel bar, common spaces, and kitchen, and build connections of all types. Maybe you’ll get to know someone from a country you’ve never visited before. Maybe you’ll meet some fellow party animals that you go on a bar crawl with later that night. Or, you may even find friends and future travel companions that you’ll know for years to come.

This is especially beneficial for solo travelers looking to meet people on the road. With hostels, you don’t have to be alone if you don’t want to be.

As a 30-year-old, I’m just as excited to meet young travelers as I am to connect with older ones, whether they are on their first international trips or are already seasoned globetrotters. We all have plenty to learn from each other, and it’s easy to start up a conversation when people congregate in common areas.

Hostels do a great job of facilitating these type of interactions, whether it’s informally in common areas, or through the many activities that hostels host themselves or are affiliated with. Most hostels have active calendars of events that can range from historic walking tours to trivia nights to pub crawls and beyond.

One thing is certain: hostels encourage some of the best, most serendipitous interactions you’ll have with fellow travelers.

Related: How to Stick to Your Budget When Traveling with Friends

Mural at a hostel in Banff, Canada 2014. © Chris Luecke

3. Hostels ARE Safe

One of the most common misconceptions about hostels is that they’re dingy, dodgy, and even dangerous. Excuse me while I call bullsh*t on that.

Sure, like hotels and motels, there are some hostels you probably want to avoid. However, just like Airbnb, Amazon, or TripAdvisor, transparency is the name of the game in the 21st century. Checking official booking sites with user-generated reviews is the best way to find out if a hostel meets your personal preferences.

Two of my go-to hostel booking sites are HostelWorld.com and Booking.com, both of which use honest user reviews to rate each property.

In addition to providing an overall review, sites like these also break the rating down by category – including security, cleanliness, location, atmosphere, and more – so that you can make a decision if a particular hostel is right for you. Usually, these reviews make it pretty obvious if a hostel has a chill vibe for the solitude-seeker or a high-energy atmosphere for a party animal.

I don’t know about you, but despite my old age, I still love a good party…

Classy bunks at Portland’s Society Hotel. © Chris Luecke

4. You Can Get a Private Room

If you do want to be alone, you CAN be. Yes, staying at a hostel does not necessarily mean staying in a shared dorm! This is a big one for the 30+ crowd.

I can pretty much sleep through an earthquake, and the ambient noise and sacrifice of some privacy by staying in a shared dorm isn’t a deterrent for me. But if you find yourself craving a little extra comfort and personal space, staying in a private room is a great option.
You still get the energy and social element of staying in a hostel, you just have an escape from the action and a place to snooze should you want it.

Related: 21 Budget Travel Tips That WILL Save You Money On the Road

Montara Light House Hostel in California. © Chris Luecke

5. Hostels Are an Incredible Value

I’ve always felt that nice hotels are a bit of a ripoff… I mean, I can get a whole load of laundry done at a hostel for the same price as having one piece of underwear washed at a nice hotel. #facepalm

Sure, you feel like a king or queen when you get your own posh suite and room service, but at the end of the day (literally), it’s just a different (and much cheaper) bed in the exact same city.

Most hostels are centrally located to a city’s most interesting places, and often times a good hotel at a good price won’t get you as close as a hostel. While the sharing economy has created other affordable travel options like Airbnb and Couchsurfing, hostel beds still usually clock-in as the cheapest lodging option. Don’t rule them out!

Related: Save up to $55 on your next Airbnb

By Chris Luecke

Chris Luecke is the host of the alcohol-fueled interview podcast Pubcast Worldwide, and is a self-proclaimed “Adventurer in Business, Travel, and Media.” On Pubcast Worldwide, Chris travels around the globe, chatting with influencers, creatives, and other travelers over drinks at the best pubs, bars, and breweries on the planet.

To date, he’s traveled to 25 countries and interviewed everyone from James Beard Award-winning chefs to entrepreneurs in tech and travel. And that’s just his side-hustle!

Chris is based in the Bay Area where he spends his time working as a marketer and content creator for a manufacturing technology company, while still finding time for snowboarding, punk rock, and of course, craft beer.