Backpacker hostels can be more than a place to sleep, they can become an integral part of your journey and overall backpacking experience.
Ever heard that about hostels?
Sounds a bit farfetched right? After all a hostel is just affordable budget accommodation. That’s where many people make a mistake. Before we stay in one that is what we think. However once we experience hostel life for the first time, we see the dynamics within the walls and see how people interact it becomes clear they’re more than just a place to sleep.
In this post, we are going to look into the backpacker hostel bubble, how it can form, and how it can turn into a trap.
For many first time and even experienced travelers, hostels can become integral to our traveling experience. It’s easy to brush them off as cheap places to sleep but open your eyes and you will see micro society within the walls.
Hostels are communal, they mostly encourage social interaction and what happens when people are encouraged to interact – they create bonds, friendships and through that an atmosphere grows. All of a sudden It’s like a mini community.
But It’s not just the interaction, hostels can provide:
- Home comforts
- A familiarity in foreign places
- A chance to meet other backpackers
- A community feel
- A feel of family
- A sense of security
- A sense home
- A nest and a place to forge friendships
- For us long term travelers, they can be the closest thing to home
You cannot underestimate the power somebody’s hostel experience has on their entire trip. For some it can break a trip and for others a hostel bubble can form.
Forming of the backpacker hostel bubble
There are people who arrive in hostels sometimes not expecting anything, others arrive looking for some comfort, or friends and even a sense of belonging. In the hostel you are more than likely going to be around like minded people. Others of similar age, on the same wavelength as each other.
You start getting to know people, and become friends, before you know it you’ve gone from strangers to best friends in what may seem minutes.
There is a reason for that. Hostel environments can get quite intense, once you start becoming friends you start to feel more comfortable. The enviroment around you can suck you into a vacuum, time starts to get distorted, and everything is magnified. So that person you’ve become friends with in 2 minutes feels like you’ve known each other for 2 years.
A week in a hostel can feel like a month. Once you start feeling comfortable with your surroundings, the people and enviroment – the hostel bubble is starting to form.
It won’t be like this in every hostel you stay in, just the ones you feel super relaxed and comfortable in.
It’s not a hostel anymore
You know the backpacker hostel bubble is forming when you don’t feel like you’re in a hostel anymore. When it feels like home, when you know most the people in it, and when you stop thinking about the outside world.
I’ve sank into many backpacker hostel bubbles over the years. Some I’ve needed, some I’ve welcomed and others were it wasn’t my intention but it was just so comfortable. There have been plenty of hostels that have become my home while I’ve been traveling. And honestly, sometimes that’s exactly what was needed to prolong my travels.
But when you sink too far in, the bubble gets too thick, and instead of floating around in it, a trap door opens up and you find yourself freefalling into the hostel trap.
How is the backpacker hostel bubble a trap? – start of reasons
Ok, Let’s dive right in, lets see how the nice backpacker hostel bubble turns into a trap. We’re going to look at the four main reasons which are:
- Comfort zones
- Excessive partying
- Lack of funds
- The bubble bursting
- Controlling the bubble
- Is it a bad or good thing?
There is that famous saying ‘nothing good comes from comfort zones’- and it is true. Many start traveling to get out of the comfort zone to push the boundaries. May are out of the comfort zone trying to figure things out for themselves, learning, adapting, discovering while traveling.
The backpacker hostel though offers you the comfort zone. Some have bright neon lights flashing calling and tempting you into the comfort zone (metaphorically). We as humans are creatures of comfort. We may like discovering and being out of the comfort zone for a while, but we latch onto familiarity and comfort once we see it.
Hostels give us that. Sometimes without even realising the backpacker hostel bubble forms, wrapping itself around you like big snuggly arms and will not let go. It starts forming thicker layers by providing you with whatever you want at the time.
It could be:
- A sense of belonging
- A comfortable bed
- Familiarities from back home
It will make you feel so comfortable you just don’t want to leave. And you won’t.
Find the right hostel with the right people and the right atmosphere for you and the hostel bubble will read you. It will find out what you like the most, provide it for you and will find out what your mentality is. Not everybody is strong enough to discourage it, some want and welcome it, your will power will be tested.
If your will power is not so strong it already has you. Once the backpacker hostel bubble feels it has you the trap doors open.
It provides everything you need in arm’s length so there is no need to even venture outside. The bubble becomes so thick after a while you stop thinking of the outside world.
Your motivation slips away, even your desire to keep moving or traveling. Sometimes you can even forget that you’re in a different country.
Ways it can happen:
- You’re in too much of a comfort zone
- You’re having too much fun to care about anything else
- You’ve made amazing friends
- You keep thinking ‘I’ll do it tomorrow – but tomorrow there is even less motivation
- No desire to do anything other than what you normally do in the hostel
- The hostel becomes home
- You forget you’re there as a traveler to travel
The hostels favourite weapon to strip motivation, to form thick bubbles, and the easiest way to fall into the trap is by partying too much, especially If you have weak will power.
It knows, many backpackers love to party, especially in party hostels. The backpacker hostel bubble will latch onto that, offer up wild parties, form the party bubble around you and It’s got you again.
This is how it usually goes:
- You arrive in the hostel
- You see there is a party going on, or a few backpackers are drinking away in the hostel bar or in a common area
- You want to get involved
- That’s it, once that alcohol touches your lips It’s got you
- You start partying relentlessly
Without even knowing it you’re getting sucked into the backpacker hostel bubble and the trap doors are opening. You party the night away, you’ve made new friends, had the night of your life.
You then wake up with a hangover, it takes you the day to recover but by night you’re back to partying, and the cycle just keeps going. Before you know it, days, weeks even months have passed in a blur. By the time you realise, it’s too late you’re so far into the trap.
You might read this and shake your head saying no way it will happen to you but let me tell you from personal experience – It happens a lot. Even to those you refute it completely. Somewhere down the line in the right place and the right time it will more than likely get you.
Running out of money
The backpacker hostel bubbles greatest trick is to form such a thick bubble that you do not even realise what it’s doing. While It provides you with what you need, strips away your motivation and desire to travel, throws you into the party life It’s been making sure you do something; spend money without realising and without having anything come back in.
There are many reasons you will run out of money while long term traveling the hostel trap will contribute to it. But it knows when you have no money, you can’t leave. Once you realise you’re running out of money you have to find ways to make some.
That usually means:
- Working in the hostel to pay for rent
- Finding a job, or ways to replenish
- Saving enough money to leave
It starts to become a cycle, you earn money, you pay for rent, food, and living costs and you’re out of money again. For backpackers money comes and it goes and returns again so you can keep moving. However when you’re already in the trap, you’re stuck in the mud.
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Under the backpacker hostel bubble spell
While you’re reading this post, you may think how is any of this possible, surely nobody is stupid enough to get stuck, fall into silly traps party too much or run out of money. But it does happen. You will not find influencers and many bloggers show you this side of the coin – because It’s the ugly side, the traveling reality.
It happens to a lot of travelers strong minded ones as well as weak. The thing is, as the backpacker hostel bubble forms, because you’ve never been exposed to it before you are not aware of it. And once you’re in it, It’s like being hypnotised or under a spell if you like.
There is a part of you that knows it’s happening but you’re powerless and sometimes don’t have the motivation to stop yourself from sinking deeper for a while.
However, like with most bubbles and spells there comes a time when the bubble pops.
How do you escape the trap and leave the backpacker hostel bubble?
Once the bubble bursts, It’s like you’ve broken out the spell, or like you been drowning and you’ve just broken free of the water – gasping for air, wandering what just happened.
If you’re deep in the trap, you figure out how to start climbing out.
How difficult it is will depend on how far you’ve sunk into the trap, or how thick the backpacker hostel bubble has formed. But, only you will be able to break free.
You need to grow the strength back, the will power, build that motivation back to break free of the trap.
To help motivate you, remind yourself of why you started traveling in the first place, fill you mind with the things you want to experience. While you’re fighting the backpacker hostel bubble will try charm you once more, it will temp you with everything you like but ignore it. It’s a trap.
Once you break free, once you get to the point where you’re ready to leave or even already left it can feel liberating. Or it can feel lonely and cold. You’ve been in it for so long everything in the outside world feels new again. Don’t be scared of it, embrace it.
Learning to control the backpacker hostel bubble and not letting it trap you
There is no need to stop staying in hostels in fear of the trap getting you again. What you want to do though, is learn from it, learn to control it.
It does take practice and you may fall into it a few more times before you master it. But over time you will. You can determine and control how far in you want to go.
Over the years, that’s exactly what I’ve done. I enjoy sinking in to a certain extent but I don’t let it take me as much as I did in my formative traveling years.
I’m an experienced traveler now but I still enjoy having periods of time where I do nothing, I let the bubble form and strip away motivation. I like to party still but I’m in control of how far down I go.
Once you learn to control it, the backpacker hostel bubble can be a great reprieve away from the noise and chaos. It can be your friend when you want to disappear and don’t want anything to do with the outside world.
So is the backpacker hostel a good or bad thing?
Both – Many backpackers have had their best experiences within the hostel walls while sunk deep into the hostel trap. I have some of my fondest memories from them. However as aforementioned It’s important to learn to control it. Once you master it, it can be bliss.
The longer you travel the more you will realise, there will be those times when you just don’t give a shit about doing anything. You want to be lazy, you don’t want any motivation, you couldn’t care less about the outside world. Until you experience it yourself, it’s very inconceivable seeing yourself wanting or feeling like this.
And there you have it. Those are the main reasons the backpacker hostel bubble can turn into the trap.
How thick will you let the backpacker hostel bubble form around you in the future?
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Eric Gamble · April 30, 2020 at 11:44 pm
SO I guess I never got sucked into the Backpacker Hostel bubble but I definitely have seen it suck so many others. For me, I am nomadic and cant stay anywhere forever. Don’t get me wrong, when I was younger I definitely loved to party and often got way too polluted with tons of young traveling girls to keep me around. But, I was lucky, my a.d.d always luckily kicked it and called me to leave. I remember staying at a hostel in Cusco, some young “backpacker” girl from Nebraska was there and after 4 days, I was ready to go explore elsewhere, see new things, or just get ploughed with some new chick. I remember she couldn’t believe I wanted to leave and called me a pretentious dick for leaving. I remember laughing right at her and literally turning around and walking out with my pack on. I wonder if she is still there…that was like 7 years ago!
I agree the hostel world LOVES it when these young naïve travelers run out of cash…why? cause they can then trap them in the bubble longer by offering them a bartending job or some other bizarre gig in the hostel for free room & board and perhaps tip money to restock on cash. Accept, that never works. I have generally Brits and Aussie guys and girls working at the hostel who have been there for months hoping to earn enough cash to keep traveling. But they never do!
I am glad you got out or at least realized that there is a bubble. It’s easy to get stuck in the hostel bubble, or in the frat house, or in the corporate job or wherever. I guess the answer is to always keep moving!
foreverroamingtheworld · May 1, 2020 at 10:51 am
It was funny, it was the trip through Portugal recently where I felt it went full circle, Newbie backpackers getting sucked into the trap and into the young backpacking life we all once started from and I could see them get sucked in just like I did once upon a time. We live, we learn we evolve – So many times recently I laugh at the naivety of myself when I started backpacking way back in 2010