The backpacker hostel bubble is Part 8 of the traveling realism’s series.
How does the backpacker hostel bubble form?
Backpacker hostels can become an integral part of your journey and overall backpacking experience.
Sounds a bit far fetched right? A lot of first time backpackers underestimate the importance backpacker hostels can play on their journeys. Due to a lot of them not really understanding how hostel dynamics work they’re underprepared and get sucked into the backpacker hostel bubble. I was one of them once upon a time.
Here’s the thing, backpacker hostel environments can get quite intense, for a lot of backpackers, hostels can turn from just being a place to sleep and dump bags to being an anchor.
In this backpacker hostel bubble post we’re going to dive into the bubble and explain what it is, the reasons it can form around you, and how it can in fact turn into a trap if you’re not aware or careful of it. If you’re looking to stay in a backpacker hostel for the first time, by the end of this post you will be armed and prepared for the backpacker hostel bubble if it starts forming around you.
Before we dive into the the post though, are you looking at booking your hostel still? Have you seen what choices you have through the two most recognisable and popular hostel booking sites: HostelWorld and Booking.com? if not, the banners below will take you directly to their site.
Backpacker hostels can provide…
Hostels can provide home comforts, a familiarity in foreign places, a chance to meet other backpackers, and provide social platforms. They can give backpackers a sense home, they can become a nest and a place to forge friendships. When us long-term backpackers are away from ‘home’, these components can make or break a trip and in turn the backpacker hostel bubble can form.
I’ve met people over years who’ve had better times in their backpacker hostels than the actual place they’re in because of the friends they’ve made and the environment around the hostel. I’ve been one of those people in the past.
The backpacker hostel bubble sucks you in…
However backpacker hostels can also suck people in, especially when you become part of a group. It’s like being sucked into a vacuum, time gets distorted, everything is magnified. A week in a hostel can feel like a month, but at the same time a month can feel like a week. It’s just weird how it works out, you just loose concept of time. When that starts happening the backpacker hostel bubble has started to form.
This isn’t the case in all hostels, different hostels provide different experiences, but hostels with a social feel or small homey ones where you feel most comfortable is where the backpacker hostel bubble forms.
When did I first fall into the backpacker hostel bubble?
Shit, my first experience of the backpacker hostel bubble was right from the get-go. My very first hostel the Funkhouse, Sydney back in 2010. I sank so far into the bubble without even realising at first, and that’s it trick.
As it was my first ever trip, I had done extensive research into which backpacker hostel to stay in and settled on this one due to it’s reputation for being very social. I had no idea what a party hostel was at the time, my thinking was since I’d be in a new country on the other side of the world, without knowing a single soul I wanted to make friends straight away.
What I wasn’t aware of was the backpacker hostel bubble was waiting to pounce and trap me in. The backpacker hostel bubble had its sights on me straight away. I was a naïve newbie backpacker who liked to party and It’s not like I have the strongest will power in the world. Once I find something I like to do, I just keep doing it, and back then I was a champion partier. Those first few days, I made friends, partied every night and felt very comfortable in my new environment. And that was all the encouragement the backpacker hostel bubble needed to trap me in. The bait was laid, and I bit, hook, line and sinker.
What’s going on?
Without realising it, I had jumped headfirst into the backpacker hostel bubble without knowing it was a trap. Like so many young first-time backpackers I was loving this new freedom I found, maybe a bit too much and I was gobbled up deep. It took months to realise how far down it had trapped me.
Ever since that first experience of the backpacker hostel bubble, I’ve been aware of it, there have been times over the years where I’ve let it trap me by choice, times I’ve dived headfirst into it, other times stayed well away from it, but recently I’ve learnt to be in control of it. Due to my experience I can see it forming, entrapping unsuspecting backpackers and before they know it they’re sucked deep into the trap.
How is the backpacker hostel bubble a trap?
The backpacker hostel bubble is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,; it seems innocent. It lures you in. It makes you feel welcome, makes you feel at home, gives you exactly what you’re looking for at the time: comfort, a sense of home, friends, parties, alcohol, drugs, or whatever you need. While it provides you with that, an invisible bubble forms, getting thicker by the day, soon enough you stop thinking of anything outside the hostel walls.
You start to forget about the outside world, it’s just not important to you at the time, the only things that matter are what’s in-front of you. While at first you may think it’s just a bit of fun, days can turn into weeks and even months because silently the backpacker hostel bubble has been stripping away your motivation, your aspirations, you become lazy, you put things off saying you’ll do it the next day, but that day never comes. It gets to a point where you forget why you’re even there in the first place; to travel!.
As you become a long termer in the hostel, you stop thinking of yourself as a backpacker, the trap tricks you into believing that you’ve become a local. So much so there are times you even turn your nose at backpackers who are passing through, staying for a few days before moving on. How dare they come here to actually travel…bloody tourists! – If you think like that, then you’ve sank deep within the bowels of the trap.
The backpacker hostel bubble turns into a trap by laying bait
The backpacker hostel bubble will lay whatever bait you’re looking for at the time:
We’re human, and there will be times, especially if you’re backpacking long term when you start missing home comforts. You’ll start yearning for familiarity and there are hostels that can provide it. Sometimes without even realising the trap will be in the form of a comfort zone, it will wrap it’s snuggly arms around you and not let go. And, you wanting some comfort will let it sink you deeper into the trap. It can come in the form of your hostel feeling more like a cosy house, it could be food, a great bed, something familiar from back home. You will just feel so comfortable you just don’t want to leave.
The backpacker hostel bubble’s favourite weapon, partying too much is a sure fire way to dive deep into the trap, especially if you’re like me and have shit will power and love to party.
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, and that’s it, once that alcohol touches your lips, without even knowing it you’re getting sucked into the trap. 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.
The backpacker hostel bubble, while acting innocent at first has actually been stripping away your motivation to do anything. As the bubble gets thicker you loose sight, you do stop being motivated to carry on traveling, you’re having too much fun in the hostel or with the friends you’ve made. You keep thinking to yourself ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’, the only thing is tomorrow doesn’t come and before you know it, the trap has stripped it all away.
On the other hand, you may even arrive in the hostel with your motivation already dwindling. You may be tired from moving one place to another, packing, unpacking, packing. You might just be fed up of excursion and activity one after the other and want to stop. So when you arrive the bubble welcomes you in, again you dive headfirst, feeling so good at the prospect of having to do nothing and just be lazy for a while.
Running out of money
The trap loves It when backpackers run out of money. Why? Well you’ve basically done it’s job for it. You don’t have a choice but to stay until you’ve somehow replenished your funds. When you don’t have the money to carry on traveling, you’re already trapped.
How do you escape the trap and leave the backpacker hostel bubble?
Like all bubbles, at some point it just bursts, the realisation hits you hard that you’ve wasted so much time and money doing nothing. When that bubble bursts though, it’s like braking out of a trance, out of that comotized state you’ve been in. There will be a sense of urgency, you’ll make plans again and find the best way to get out.
If the bubbles doesn’t burst for you, there are different triggers that can wake you up out of the trance. It could be somebody you’ve grown close to deciding to leave, it could be a shift in the hostel dynamics, a new rush of backpackers coming through, the winds change, you could even be forced to leave. There are some hostels around the world that have time limits on how long you can stay for.
That first time I fell deep into it, it took months, and it just hit me. I literally jumped out of bed and announced that I have to leave. My roommate wasn’t impressed and told me to go back to sleep. There have been other times when the bubble burst and when I’ve said I’m leaving people haven’t believed me. But that’s what you have to do, wrench yourself away before it forms again.
That does happen, while one bursts, another starts to form, and you have to get out quick.
Experience of the bubble and the trap
Once you’ve had experience of the bubble you’ll have the experience, and be wary of how it wants to trap you. It up to you if you want it to trap you in or not.
With the experience I’ve gained since 2010, the numerous hostels I’ve been in, I can see it straight away if it’s present, and like I’ve mentioned before I don’t have the strongest of will powers so there have been times I’ve just let it take me.
Learning to control the backpacker hostel bubble and not letting it trap you
However, it was during my travels through Portugal in the summer of 2019, I realised I’ve learnt to control it. I have the power of how far I let it drag me in.
As an older backpacker now, I prefer staying in smaller, more cosy and smaller hostels but as I got to Lisbon I wanted more social interaction and chose Sant Jordi Hostels. It was by no means a full-blown party hostel in the middle of backpacker central, more a semi party hostel and away from the main tourist zone but it had It’s own bar.
It didn’t take long to make some friends, and as I usually do, I got acquainted with the staff, volunteers and bar staff very quickly. There are a lot of things I’ve learnt over the years but still to this day, arriving in a new hostel and getting drunk is pretty much part of my remit now.
I can see it
As the days rolled on though, I could feel it, I saw it forming around the group I had become friends with. All of them were younger than me, and on their first trips. While they sank unknowingly into the bubble and fell into the trap I kept myself on the periphery. I was with them everyday but fully aware of the bubble, I didn’t let it form so thick around me, and didn’t let the trap doors open beneath me. When the time came, when I was ready, I happily said my goodbyes and left without having to wrench myself out of the trap.
I was only able to do that because of the experience I’ve had with it.
Missing and wanting the backpacker hostel bubble
As stupid as this sounds there are times when you’ll miss being in the bubble. You can be in a destination or hostel you want to just rest up for a while, but the bubble doesn’t form. Or places where there is zero atmosphere, or times you yearn for some comfort.
Being a long-term backpacker weather that’s solo, in a group or with a partner backpacking takes it toll on you at times. And while there will always be backpackers who just come and go, there will those that just want to stop for a while. For one reason or another, they might just need a rest, maybe they’ve finished their travels and want to chill, maybe ran out of money and need to replenish their funds. What ever the reason is, it’s those times you want and miss the bubble and want to get stuck in that hostel, let the bubble trap you in.
So is the bubble a good or bad thing?
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 the backpacker hostel bubble knows that, there will be times when you welcome it and It’s not a bad thing if you let it. There will be times though it sucks you too far in and it will be a struggle to get out. It all boils down to how you’re feeling, what emotional state you’re in at the time and if you’re anything like me, how strong or weak your will power is. It’s up to you if It’s a bad or good thing but at least now you’re aware of it, and know how it can form and will be able to see it when it starts to form on your hostel stay.
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