My imagination went rampant when I learned I would be staying in hostels during my 17-day study-abroad trip to Italy and Ireland.
I saw myself huddled up against the stone walls of a damp dungeon. The silence occasionally interrupted by the buzz and zap of a single light bulb as it swayed from the ceiling.
Some of my classmates admitted they had similar fears. “Gonna get murdered,” Maritza Carrillo said, laughing. The sophomore at Oklahoma City Community College was only half joking.
After my summer trip, I have a better perspective.
Hostels offer guests something that is hard to come by: personal connections with real people, and an opportunity to travel in a more affordable way.
Just like its hesitant, but developing, love of soccer, America is slowly coming around to the hostel way of traveling.
“(Hostels) are becoming more and more popular, especially on the West Coast and the East Coast,” said Christian Alyea, Oklahoma Study Abroad program director. “Those hostels are comparable to what you would find in Europe and around the world.”
Alyea has led dozens of study-abroad trips for Oklahoma students, to destinations including Spain, Italy, England and Costa Rica. All included hostel stays. He is aware of the concerns of hostel stays to first-timers.
“Their facial expression is the first response,” he said “They’ve seen movies, ‘Hostel’ or any type of movie like this … they assume it’s going to be the same.”
The reality is much different.
“This is how young people all around the world travel; (they) travel on the cheap,” Alyea said.
This emerging trend in travel offers modern amenities such as free Wi-Fi and communal computers. Most include breakfast.
But the preconceived ideas about hostels are enough to keep some Americans from experiencing one of the best ways to make friends while seeing the world. The advantages of hostel travel can easily be overlooked.
Francesco Restuccia, our Italian program director, said hostel guests don’t just meet locals from the region, but also travelers from all over the world, who happen to be visiting the same place.
In a communal kitchen in Perugia, Italy, OCCC sophomore Katie Axtell met a fellow traveler from Italy. He didn’t speak English, and she didn’t speak Italian. In spite of the language barrier, she was able to teach him the basics of making French toast.
“Some hostels are just as modern and nice as hotels,” Alyea said.
But hostels are often more affordable.
Alyea said prices are always changing, and sometimes specials are offered.
In general, hostels cost $15 to $30 a night. They have become so popular in Europe that some hotels offer competitive prices. However,many hotels still cost hundreds, or sometimes thousands of dollars anight. The lower cost of hostels allowed Oklahoma Study Abroad to offer the 17-day trip for $3,000, airfare included.