The sneaky backpacker hostel bubble can…
Turn into a trap!
The backpacker hostel bubble is Part 8 of the traveling realism’s series.
How does the backpacker hostel bubble form?
Backpacker hostel environments can get quite intense, for a lot of backpackers hostels can become an integral part of journeys and experiences. They can turn from just being a place to sleep and dump bags to being an anchor.
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 inturn the backpacker hostel bubble can form.
I’ve met people over years who’ve had better times in their 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 hostels can also suck people in, especially whenyou become part of a group. It’s like being sucked into a vacuum, time getsdistorted, 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 worksout, you just loose concept of time.
This isn’t the case in all hostels, different hostelsprovide different experiences, but hostels with a social feel or small homeyones where you feel most comfortable is where the bubble forms. The backpackerhostel bubble doesn’t just form but can turn into a trap.
When did I first fall into it?
Shit, my first experience was right from the get-go, myvery first hostel the Funkhouse, Sydney back in 2010. I sank so far into thebubble without even realising at first.
As it was my first ever trip, I had done extensiveresearch into which backpacker hostel to stay in and settled on this one due toit’s reputation for being very social. I had no idea what a party hostel was atthe time, my thinking was since I’d be in a new country on the other side ofthe world, without knowing a single soul I wanted to make friends straightaway.
What I wasn’t aware of was the backpacker hostel bubble was waiting to pounce and trap me in. It 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.
What is the backpacker hostel bubble and how is it a trap?
The backpacker hostel bubble is a wolf in sheep’sclothing, at first you think It’s innocent. It lures you in. It makes you feelwelcome, makes you feel at home, gives you exactly what you’re looking for atthe time: comfort, a sense of home, friends, parties, alcohol, drugs, orwhatever you need. While it provides you with that, an invisible bubble forms,getting thicker by the day, soon enough you stop thinking of anything outsidethe hostel walls.
You start to forget about the outside world, it’s justnot important to you at the time, the only things that matter are what’sin-front of you. While at first you may think it’s just a bit of fun, days canturn into weeks and even months because silently it’s been stripping away yourmotivation, your aspirations, you become lazy, you put things off saying you’lldo it the next day, but that day never comes. It gets to a point where youforget why you’re even there in the first place; to travel!.
As you become a long-termer in the hostel, you stopthinking of yourself as a backpacker, the trap tricks you into believing thatyou’ve become a local. So much so there are times you even turn your nose atbackpackers 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 likethat, then you’ve sank deep within the bowels of the trap.
What type of bait the backpacker hostel bubble may lay for you
There are different reasons you may fall into the bubble, here are a few exampples to give you an idea:
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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 traps favourite weapon, partying too much is a surefire way to dive deep into the trap, especially if you’re like me and have shitwill power.
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 atfirst has actually been stripping away your motivation to do anything. As thebubble gets thicker you loose sight, you do stop being motivated to carry ontraveling, you’re having too much fun in the hostel or with the friends you’vemade. You keep thinking to yourself ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’, the only thing istomorrow doesn’t come and before you know it, the trap has stripped it allaway.
On the other hand, you may even arrive in the hostel withyour motivation already dwindling. You may be tired from moving one place toanother, packing, unpacking, packing. You might just be fed up of excursion andactivity one after the other and want to stop. So when you arrive the bubblewelcomes you in, again you dive headfirst, feeling so good at the prospect ofhaving to do nothing and just be lazy for a while.
Running out of money
The trap loves I 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, therealisation hits you hard that you’ve wasted so much time and money doingnothing. When that bubble bursts though, it’s like braking out of a trance, outof 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 differenttriggers that can wake you up out of the trance. It could be somebody you’vegrown close to deciding to leave, it could be a shift in the hostel dynamics, anew rush of backpackers coming through, the winds change, you could even beforced to leave. There are some hostels around the world that have time limitson how long you can stay for.
That first time I fell deep into it, it took months, andit just hit me. I literally jumped out of bed and announced that I have toleave. My roommate wasn’t impressed and told me to go back to sleep. There havebeen other times when the bubble burst and when I’ve said I’m leaving peoplehaven’t believed me. But that’s what you have to do, wrench yourself awaybefore 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 theexperience, and be wary of how it wants to trap you. It up to you if you wantit to trap you in or not.
With the experience I’ve gained since 2010, the numeroushostels I’ve been in, I can see it straight away if it’s present, and like I’vementioned before I don’t have the strongest of will powers so there have beentimes I’ve just let it take me.
Learning to control the bubble and trap
However, it was during my travels through Portugal in thesummer of 2019, I realised I’ve learnt to control it. I have the power of howfar 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.
It didn’t take long to make some friends, and as Iusually do, I got acquainted with the staff and volunteers very quickly. Thereare a lot of things I’ve learnt over the years but still to this day, arrivingin 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 itforming around the group I had become friends with. All of them were younger thanme, and on their first trips. While they sank unknowingly into the bubble andfell into the trap I kept myself on the periphery. I was with them everyday butfully aware of the bubble, I didn’t let it form so thick around me, and didn’tlet the trap doors open beneath me. When the time came, when I was ready, Ihappily said my goodbyes and left without having to wrench myself out of thetrap.
I was only able to do that because of the experience I’vehad with it.
Missing and wanting the backpacker hostel bubble
As stupid as this sounds there are times when you’ll missbeing in the bubble. You can be in a destination or hostel you want to justrest up for a while, but the bubble doesn’t form. Or places where there is zeroatmosphere, or times you yearn for some comfort.
Being a long-term backpacker weather that’s solo, in agroup or with a partner backpacking takes it toll on you at times. And whilethere will always be backpackers who just come and go, there will those thatjust want to stop for a while. For one reason or another, they might just needa rest, maybe they’ve finished their travels and want to chill, maybe ran outof money and need to replenish their funds. What ever the reason is, it’s thosetimes you want and miss the bubble and want to get stuck in that hostel, letthe bubble trap you in.
So is the bubble a good or bad thing?
The longer you travel the more you will realise, therewill be those times when you just don’t give a shit about doing anything. Youwant to be lazy, you don’t want any motivation, you couldn’t care less aboutthe outside world. Until you experience it yourself, it’s very inconceivableseeing yourself wanting or feeling like this.
In conclusion, It may sound like falling into this trapis awful and you never want that to happen to you, but it all boils down to howyou’re feeling, what emotional state you’re in at the time and if you’reanything like me, how strong or weak your will power is.
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