The hostel life was never really one I experienced. They are not the realm of only the young, but they they are certainly the sort of digs you pick when you’re a young college student trying to travel Europe on the cheap. Some people aren’t willing to share a room with anyone they don’t know, which I understand. But if that isn’t a hurdle for you, you really can’t argue when the price is 20-25% of a hotel room.
However, after a recent trip, I’m not sure I ever want to give one another try. But first, some backstory.
It’s Been Over A Decade Since My Last Hostel Stay
Traveling through Scotland back in 2008 is the only time I ever experienced staying in hostels. Hotels were simply too far outside the budget for a couple of college students. I was lucky enough to accompany my friend’s family during their stint in London where his grandma rented a flat for the lot of us, but then we were on our own for the remainder of the trip.
Looking to maximize our time, we embarked on a trek up to Scotland, enjoying hiking the Great Glen Way from Fort William to Inverness before finishing our time in Edinburgh. Money was tight, so we either camped or stayed in hostels for the entire 9 nights. Well, the final night was spent on the floor of London Heathrow Airport.
Our experiences ranged from good to excellent. During the time in Fort William, we had a room mostly to ourselves, and everyone was quiet and interested in getting as much rest as possible. Exactly what we wanted, especially after hiking Ben Nevis. The hostel in Inverness was a bit more lively and loud, but still manageable.
With those two (very limited) experiences in mind, I thought I’d save some money and book the Airhostel near Barecelona Airport during a recent trip. Spending $35 sounded a whole lot better than $135.
What Starts Well…
When you arrive at a hotel late for an overnight stay near an airport, there is typically one thing on your mind: getting to sleep. With a name like Airhostel, I figured that most of the patrons would either be arriving from a flight or headed out on one the next morning. You’d think everyone would want some sleep. At just $35 for a night, it well under all nearby hotel prices.
When I’d booked the stay one day prior, the Hostelworld site told me that there were still 4 of 4 beds available in the room. Maybe I’d be the only one in the room that night? That’d be awesome.
No such luck. After checking in, I realized I’d been given a room with three other people. Two other guys, and a third person who I never saw on the bottom of the opposite bunk.
After the initial disappointment over the full house, the next thing that struck me was the TV. It was on, it was bright, it was loud, and it was playing Despicable Me 3. The 25-year-old dude who apparently had been watching it was now passed out. I mean, it’s not a bad film. I’ve watched it with my kids. But it’s not the sort of thing I expected anyone to be watching at 10:30 at night.
Anyway. He woke up as I stowed my bag, which I did try to do as quietly as possible. After getting situated, I sat on the bunk and wrote for a while. The dude across from me split his time watching both the movie and his phone. I would have gotten to bed right away, but I needed to charge my phone with the adapter I’d borrowed from the front desk.
As soon as that was completed, I managed to turn the TV off when I thought everyone else was asleep and settle in for the night. I thought all was well. Maybe I’d get a solid 4 hours of rest before I headed back to BCN.
…Does Not End Well
Not five minutes after I’d laid down the guy across from me wakes up and starts pounding the buck of the person below him, calling their name. They have a brief conversation in Spanish. I start to get frustrated. What can be so important to discuss at midnight?!
But it doesn’t end there. From that point on, the dude splits his time between watching videos on his phone at volume without headphones and responding to texts/emails/somethings that provide the classic iPhone ding every few minutes (or less). Phone. Full volume. No headphones. This is interspersed every half hour with him rapping on the bunk and bothering his companion on the below him.
After an hour of this, I’m about to lose my mind. I was annoyed after the first video played, livid after he continued for another half an hour, and ready to blow my top by the third time he woke up his companion. If I was his companion, I’d be ready to murder him. Why would you bother someone so often when they’re trying to rest?!?!!?
Instead of yell at the guy myself, all I did was lay there. Yes, there was screaming, but it was all internal. I thought about confronting him over the complete lack of consideration for the other three people in the room, but few things kept me from it. First, I hate confronting strangers about anything. Second, I didn’t want to escalate anything into an argument at 1:00 AM. Third, he was obviously fluent in Spanish, and while I can manage reasonably well in the language, if we had anything more than a quick back and forth, I might be up a creek.
What I couldn’t believe was how completely oblivious he was to everyone around him. By all means watch videos on your phone at full volume in your own home. It’s your house. Just don’t do it out in public, especially on a plane! And especially at midnight in a shared room at a hostel!
Around 2:30 AM, the pair finally departed. Why? I have no idea. At this point, I had about 90 minutes until my own “wake up”, although I was still wide awake. Maybe I dozed some more. I don’t know. By that point, it was pretty much useless. I’d have to bank on sleeping in Alitalia business class on my flight.
I was admittedly a bit of an old man at 20. Now, a decade later, it’s really true. I don’t sleep nearly as well as I used to, and after this stay, I don’t think I’m ever going to be willing to share a room with strangers again. Maybe I had the worst hostel patrons ever. Or maybe this is par for the course?
I should have just camped out in Terminal 1 at Barcelona Airport overnight, which was the original plan. I would have likely gotten more sleep this way. Luckily, I did get a solid 5 hours of shuteye during the business class flight. It’s the only thing that saved me.
Have you ever stayed in a hostel and had an extremely bad stay? I’m sure there are stories way worse than mine.