While backpacking I've made friends for life, met lovers, and learned about far corners of the world by staying in hostels. They're amazing, particularly when you’re making your way across Europe or Asia alone -- you can be sure you'll connect and find new fellow travelers this way.
But as in just about everything, there's always a catch. Hostels drive up the risk of putting you in close quarters with sociopaths, narcissists, dullards, or brats who have no concept of communal spaces. A friend who used to work in a hostel in Canada has told me stories that go to even darker places still. "We all hated the people who pooped in the ice machines," she started. Take heed, people, don't ever use the ice machine. There are other terrible types waiting in the weeds at a hostel -- or hopefully not.
Really Old Couples
I love the idea. Two people who fell in love, traveling the world and reliving past romance. In practice, it just reminds the rest of us that we're infants who are going to die one day.
Speaking of infants, it's perpetually the first week of freshman year for these tykes. Wet-faced, puzzled by everything, loving the bar.
The Bunk Humpers
Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. No one really likes to hear strange people boinking, especially when they're lying underneath you in a dorm.
There's no reason for a family of four to crash the party and force the rest of us degenerates to turn ourselves down to a PG rating. Get an Airbnb before I accidentally buy your 11-year-old an IPA.
The Guy With the Guitar
No matter how many people you ask, however far you travel, the answer is resoundingly unanimous: everyone cringes when they hear this guy tuning. Morning, noon, or night, no one wants to hear "Redemption Song."
When staying in a dorm with a dozen other people, the first rules of common decency are be quiet and keep it dark. During a recent stay in Šibenik, Croatia, I had the good fortune to stay with a British chap who after a night out, turned the lights on at 2am so he could read his book. What a guy.
The Spiritually Awakened Chatterbox
Whether they've just done ayahuasca, or discovered some deeper meaning of life, you will always come to find someone who will want to share their amazing realization with you.
No matter how many people you ask, Australians often come up. "I've met some particularly shit Australians during an ill-advised stay in a hostel," a fellow music journalist told me when asked. (Note: Brits and Canadians just barely escaped their own categories.)
The Kid Who Never Leaves the Hostel
Traveling in South America you often bump into the type of unfortunate introvert who watches films in the common room all day, and drinks all night in the bar. (For those who've been to the Flying Dog hostels, you'll know exactly the type.) Get out into the world already -- it's right outside.
Here's another gem from a fellow traveler: "In Australia I stayed in a hostel somewhere on the Gold Coast with a Japanese trust-fund kid called Koji. He had no plans for his life because he didn't need any. He was also a faith healer, and kept the dorm awake all night by standing in the middle of the room, arms outstretched, making these snorting and hawking noises, then chanting at the back of his throat. This was because his friend in Japan had the flu and Koji was healing her from Byron Bay.”
Bro. BRO. Just, look, turn down the bro-ing. No one likes that much bro. Not even in hostels.
The people who go to sleep gazing into their phones. Wake up to their phones. Have breakfast with their phones. Hover silently in the common room, on their phones. Go to the bathroom, phones. I hope you had a good holiday. Phones.
There has to be a line between feeling good about your own body, and feeling good letting other people know how good you feel about your body. I've seen too many schlongs while on the road. Schlongs I definitely didn't need to see. Schlongs that could've been cured by a common towel.
The Really Sick Guy
Sadly, I've been this guy far too often. A random bug gets in your blood and you need to use that communal bathroom every 15 minutes. For two whole days your bowels precede you.
The Girl Way Too Hot to Sleep in a Mixed Dorm
I take it back, she's not the worst. I'm grateful she was here these past couple of days. Remember when she was here? Sigh.
"There were these Swedish kids in Townsville, Australia who tried to make me drink meths," a fellow journalist named Simon Sylvester wrote. "'You wanna try this, dude? It totally burns,' they said." Technically these guys aren't in every hostel, nor are they necessarily the worst. But, you know. Avoid.
The Guy Reading Dan Brown
No matter where you go, the hostel's shared-book library will always have books by Dan Brown and Tom Clancy, and someone will decide that's exactly the amount of stimulation their brain needs after a long, taxing day.
Yeah, you're probably American. You're probably in Amsterdam. You're probably unaware that tickets to Denver these days are much cheaper. You're probably going to score a fat spliff, bring it back to everyone else's home for the night, and hot-box the rest of us nerds who just want to breath air. Guess what? You're not edgy, nor are you more hardcore than people who know how to handle their intake politely.
Mr. "I've Been Everywhere"
Traveling to new places can be exciting, until you meet the guy who has not only been there, but has also been everywhere else. Apparently it was far better.
The Lonely Old Guy
This is going to be me soon. Isn't it.
The volunteer-lifers, who have happily given up years of their time to travel abroad and help others. They're in strapping shape and even if there's a hell, they're not going there. Ugh, seriously, the worst.
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