In the past years I usually traveled alone, or on a whim with a friend, I discovered much of Ireland this way and am currently finishing a trip to New York, from which I’ll travel on to Seattle for a Business reason.
I prefer staying in Hostels or do Couchsurfing for one main reason:
Meeting different people in a local environment. You get to meet so many interesting people. I met a bunch of French-Canadian sisters working in Las Vegas as dancers; I met a Dutch cyclist who is now running and building up his Internet company ( check out his page here ) I met a Soul singer, I met people from Venezuela, Paraguay, Brazil, France, Uk. I met individuals in all stages of their lives and professions. And a lot of them became my (Facebook) Friends, all of them are liberal souls with their experiences, I was lucky enough to be sharing a few, from whiskey tasting in Ireland, helping a Hungarian figure out where to stay for three months in his semester abroad and a plethora of other things.
I met vegetarians, vegans, party people and people at their lowest in life, but I got to meet all of them.
And this is something you’ll never experience if you stay in a hotel room.
I cooked with these people I discovered cities on my own, from a local view, and I got to spent my money and time on experiences instead. In a hotel room, they would probably charge me extra for the Internet and would charge me more for washing clothes, and probably not have the possibility to cook and dine together with new friends.
I’d never shared self-made popcorn with a Dutch fellow who grew up in the U.K, found a job and quit within a week to search for and start a better one a week later.
So you might say, but there are downsides, your stuff will get stolen, people will be smelly or whatever. And I have to say yes this happens, but you can check out the feedback left on a plethora of pages, you can take care of your stuff that is important and just live with the fact someone might steal your half eaten pack of cheese ( See my tweet here ). And yes this can be annoying, but it is just part of life.
So if you want to discover the heart of a city, meet new and exciting people, and save money to spent it on experiences and gifts, instead of filling some hotel chains pocket, do try out hostels.
Some of my favorites are the Avalon House and the Generator Hostel in Dublin, The Local Hostel in NYC and in Sheila’s Hostel in Cork . The Generator Hostel might have locations in other cities as well.
All of these have Kitchens you can use, free wifi, and were safe places if you identify as LGBT, and if you need it all had female only rooms, some even male only, but all also had mixed rooms. All also were vegan-friendly, and some have outside areas, almost all have a Bar, and The Local in NYC even ahs a rooftop garden with amazing views especially at night.