Why I Continue to Choose Hostels over Hotels

Because clean sheets are overrated and bed bugs need lovin’ too!

I’m kidding, jeeeeez. The common misconception is that hostels are dirty, dingy, and dangerous butttttt that couldn’t be further from the truth! I mean, sure, sometimes you check in to a hostel in San Diego to find that your new roommates have locked you out in an effort to finish cleaning up vomit on the floor so that you don’t get a “bad impression” of them. And then *click* the door unlocks and you’re greeted by the strong smell of limes, an extremely intoxicated 20-something, and a teen cleaning up the mess. You spot the empty bottle of tequila, a condom wrapper, and Flaming Hot Cheetos on the nightstand. All this and it’s ONLY 7 FUCKING POST MERIDIEM.

Ah, hostel life, you sigh, before muttering, I’M TOO OLD FOR THIS! and you hop back down to reception where you inform Bradley that I’M TOO OLD FOR THIS! and he skeptically asks, how old are you, and you say, 27, and he failingly tries to disguise his surprise as he agrees that, yes, maybe you are too old for this, before assigning you a new room.

TRUE STORY.

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Never has there been a more appropriate gif.

And, yet, I continue to choose to stay in hostels because that’s where all the hella cool people are. Minus the vomming folks but I’ve been there too so, like, whatever.

From the 61-year-old man from the South Bronx who stayed at Hostel Fish and kept calling me ‘sista’ after learning that I too am from New York to the 30-something working there who once walked ACROSS AFRICA in the name of clean water, hostels are filled with the stories of incredible travelers, wanderers, and curious characters. 

My most recent stay at Hostel Fish in Denver took me back to my first time staying at a hostel four years ago. Remember that time I met the coolest people who crammed me in a car and invited me to venture to Canada with them? On that same trip, I ended up ziplining img_12303and hitchhiking. The great thing about staying in a dorm-style hostel is that it serves as an endless revolving door of awesome people. Most recently in Denver, one of my roommates was 23-year-old Michelle from Reno, NV. It was her first time staying in a hostel and she reminded me so much of myself– I too was 23 when I embarked on my first solo adventure and stayed at a hostel for the first time.

Upon meeting me, Michelle asked if I was going on the hostel’s pub crawl and if I was “old enough to drink.” I literally cackled. When I told her I was 27, she was like, “I THOUGHT YOU WERE, LIKE, 19.” Ah, jeez. 

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This is my face when people think I’m 19. Also, my face when old men “accidentally” moon me. Also, my face 98% of the time.

She seemed a little nervous and unsure– all feelings I had when traveling alone for the first time. Meeting her was like meeting myself all over again and being able to observe how much I’ve grown as a traveler over the years.

Then, there was the old man also staying in our room who “accidentally” mooned me as he was getting dressed one morning. There was the charming 30-something fella with the “#1 Dad” necklace, worn proudly around his neck. We bonded at the bar over our mistakes in marriage and our mutual desire to travel and explore as much as we can.

Staying at a hostel gives you the opportunity to meet folks from ALL walks of life. Back in Denver, I also met Max from Ukraine. He’s a smiley dude working at Hostel Fish and his general excitement about life is magnetic. He told me he feels like he’s exactly where he needs to be at the moment and it was hard not to believe him. Another incredible human working at Hostel Fish is Diego. An extremely talented artist, yoga teacher, and wanderer, this Colombian native is so inspiring. We talked for a while and he was kind enough to show me a bunch of his sketches, complete with stories to go along with each. Check out his work here! He also has the most unique handwriting of anyone I’ve ever met and keeps journals just to practice his penmanship.

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If you’ve never stayed in a hostel, I cannot recommend it enough– especially if you’re traveling solo! In fact, I still keep in touch with plenty of folks I’ve met in hostels throughout the years. From Laura (we met in Berlin) who lives in the UK to Shelbie, Dalton, and Alan…all of whom I met when in Seattle, I have a growing network of fellow adventurers around the world now!

Here’s a list of all the hostels I’ve been to in my travels– feel free to message me if you want more info about the hostel life!

States:

  • HI Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco
  • Green Tortoise Hostel, Seattle
  • Samesun, Vancouver
  • HI Downtown Hostel, Vancouver
  • Hostel Fish, Denver
  • Lucky D’s Hostel, San Diego

Overseas:

  • Kabul Party Hostel, Barcelona
  • Singer109 Hostel, Berlin*
  • The Circus Hostel, Berlin
  • Copenhagen Downtown Hostel, Denmark
  • Budget Backpackers, Edinburgh
  • Makuto Hostel, Granada
  • Kex Hostel, Reykjavik
  • The Yellow Hostel, Rome

*I would NOT recommend staying here if you’re looking for a fun hostel where it’s easy to make friends. I stayed here for one night in Berlin before switching to The Circus Hostel where I had a MUCH better experience. That being said, Singer109 was really clean and well-maintained…just had ZERO atmosphere and felt more like a hotel.

And that’s all for now folks! Time to explore more of Sunny D before reluctantly heading back to Michigan.

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

Dear Denver…

Ah jeez. Just when I had my heart set on moving to Montana, I had to go and venture to Colorado. Another beautiful state with an abundance of snow-capped mountains. 😍

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Sure, folks come here for the good ol’ cannabis…in fact, one of my hostel roommates who introduced himself as “Ty Ty” said:

“I just travel to the weed states. I’m going to Seattle next.”

God, I love hostels.

Anyways, I’ll pass on the pot. Not my thing. Luckily, Denver is so much more than dispensaries…though Hostel Fish is conveniently located NEXT DOOR to one if that’s your thing. No smoking IN the rooms though unless you feel like handing over $150. Think of all the edibles you could buy with that! I actually have no idea. Anyways…

I decided to jet to Denver because it’s a hella cheap flight from Detroit.

Like, just 50 smackaroonies. Wooooooo!

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If you’re traveling solo, you should ABSOLUTELY stay at Hostel Fish.
Weird name, right? Denver’s not known for fish…wait, what about rocky mountain oysters?

NO, THOSE ARE TESTICLES. DON’T LET THEM TRICK YOU.

Okay, okay, the owner’s last name is Fish. The hostel is NOT fish-themed or anything. Nothing fishy about it.

If you’re looking to come to the Mile High City (named for its elevation not the pot stuff jeeeez you guys!), you may come across the 11th Avenue Hostel. DO NOT STAY THERE. I’ve heard that it allegedly smells and there may or may not have been a thrash of bed bugs. I can’t say for sure, but, like, why take a chance?!

I’ve stayed at tons of hostels both in the states and in Europe– Hostel Fish has BY FAR the friendliest staff I’ve ever encountered. Like, they actually hang out with the guests and every single one of ’em has an interesting tale to tell. Plus, the rooms are themed, clean, and – holy heck! – the beds are legitimately COMFY.

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There’s a fun bar area (guests get a free drink each night!) and a kitchen too. Every Thursday, the hostel hosts a pub crawl – all the main bars are literally around the corner from Hostel Fish. I went on the pub crawl and tbh the highlight was spotting this WOLF at one of the bars:

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Her name was Aspen and she was SUCH a mush and I spent a solid 25 minutes sitting on the floor petting her.

The hostel is also located above a super cool restaurant/bar/dance joint called Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox. Even the locals recommend this spot, so you know it’s good. We actually ended our pub crawl at Ophelia’s and had a super fun time on the dance floor.

Much more to say about Denver but this gal needs to get her butt up for an early flight to CA tomorrow! 

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

Cheers to 2019!

HI, IT’S JACKIE HERE. I’m currently listening to the 80s pop channel on Pandora (sidenote: apparently I’m a grandma for still using Pandora?!?? whatever), sitting in my new, cozy room in Michigan (yes, MICHIGAN), and reflecting on what the hell has happened in 2018. It’s been a fucking journey. I went back to read the blog post I wrote this time last year and realized I DIDN’T EVEN W4407.CR2RITE ONE. Like, I wrote a “Cheers to 2016!” and “Cheers to 2017!” but I was in such a crappy place this time last year that I couldn’t even properly ‘CHEERS!’ to the New Year. In fact, I was DREADING 2018. This time last year I was four months into a marriage that I knew I shouldn’t be in. I eloped for all the wrong reasons and felt young, dumb, lonely, and lost. And it makes me sad for my 26-year-old self. But, GUESS WHAT!? I’m 27 now (weird) and things are great (fab, in fact) and I’m SO EXCITED for 2019.

I learned so much about myself in 2018. For starters, I let go of a relationship that was sucking the life out of me. It wasn’t an easy thing to do but I’m so much happier for doing it.

thank u, next.

I reflected A LOT on my own self and what brings me happiness and why I am the way that I am and all of that good stuff and I wrote THIS piece and so many of you responded with such kind words and I can’t thank y’all enough for that. I wrote another piece for a writing competition (which I hope to do more of in 2019) that was more of a reflection on my past relationship and, though it didn’t win, I’m thinking I’ll share it on here soon. It’s 5,000 words though, so…grab a cup of coffee first. Writing is extremely cathartic for me but sharing my words is a bit more difficult and I haven’t mustered up the courage to publish that piece yet but I’m working on it…

Earlier this year, I moved to Astoria and then, after six months, I realized it wasn’t for me. I was raised to be a city girl and I have plenty of close friends who live in and around NYC but I craved something a bit simpler, yet more grand and awe-inspiring. I’ve always loved lakes and mountains and I felt like I was forcing myself to be Carrie Bradshaw. Although, we all know she wouldn’t have EVER lived in Astoria. Anyway. I moved back home to Northern Westchester and gave myself some time to figure things out…

…But not before attending a gala, because duh that’s what everyone does in NYC, did you not watch Gossip Girl? JK we kinda snuck in but shhhhhh it’s fine it’s fine. 😂😂

29792962_10155308396201196_4992215602547392512_o.jpg20180323_215744.jpgThen, in July, I booked a one-way ticket to Europe because, let’s face it, all my best stories start with a one-way ticket to somewhere. See: “Why I Quit My Job in Broadcast and Booked a One Way Ticket to California.”

It was my first time back in Europe since Sept. 2017 when I went to Spain with Shanna and her family. This time around I went back to Iceland for a quick 20-hour stint before hopping along to Scotland, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and England! I traveled by myself, with my best friend, and with friends both new and old…and it was splendid.

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Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 4.41.00 PMimg_20180710_064558_821806280922.jpgscreenshot_2018-07-14-14-13-00385184914.pngDSC06522.jpg^Monica captured a real ‘Jackie’ face there. 😂

Read more about my time in Europe here, here, and here!DSC06470Screenshot_2018-07-14-19-22-27.pngIMG_20180803_143030_908.jpgfullsizeoutput_b25I did A LOT of cool things in Europe. From eating danish danishes in Denmark and searching for Nessie in Loch Ness to partying in Edinburgh and taking a dip in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, it was an adventure. But, the true highlight may have been nerding out at the Michael Jackson On the Wall Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. OH – and when I was in Berlin I saw the balcony where he dangled baby Blanket from that one time and that was great too. 😂😂😂😂😂

IMG_20180803_153622_469.jpgAnd then there was my GOLDEN BIRTHDAY. I turned 27 on the 27th of September and on that day I found myself on a flight to Kalispell, Montana. By myself, with my Man of the Woods album in hand (of course), I was ready for another adventure. And I’ll save the ravings because I already wrote about how freakin’ awesome it was HERE.

But here are some pics to prove just how PRETTY MONTANA IS:

fullsizeoutput_c0afullsizeoutput_c2420181004_175800.jpg20180928_135128fullsizeoutput_c1cfullsizeoutput_c39From Montana, I flew to LA where I reconnected with some of my FAVORITE people who reminded me to listen to my heart and soul and that making big moves and changing things up can be scary but super duper fulfilling. ❤

20181006_231601.jpg20181008_18204720181008_19595320181008_200306Back in NY, I celebrated Spencer’s 30th (he doesn’t look a day over 25) and I was even a bridesmaid at Shanna’s wedding! So much good stuff to be happy about — I love you guys! ❤

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Holy bananas, 2018 was a good one. I mean, I even witnessed a dog WALK ON WATER earlier this year, like, COME ON ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?! LOOK AT THAT MAJESTIC CREATURE.

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My goal for 2019 was to finally move out of NY but woohoo I hit that goal earlier than expected! I’m in Michigan for now but it’s more of a stepping stone (though I’m enjoying it so far!)…I’m getting my feet wet before making the bigger move to MONTANA. I can’t wait! I’ve let go of a lot of things this year (both material and emotional) but it’s allowed for really exciting, incredible things in my life.

Also, this has been my first full year working completely freelance with no in-office jobs and it’s been a hustle but sooooo worth it!!!!

Anyways, thanks for being a part of the adventure!
And thank you to all of my new and old friends who’ve made 2018 super kick-ass.

Cheers to 2019!

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

“This Is the Best Cheesecake Ever,” Said a New Yorker in Berlin

Ah, New York. Home to the best of the best. From pizza and pastrami to bagels and bodegas, if you want it, NY has it. And it is the best.

Also, apparently home to the “best fly fishing east of the Rockies,” according to the New York State Conservationist MagazineWho knew? 

Of course, the Empire State is also known for its infamous New York-style cheesecake. From Junior’s to Eileen’s Special Cheesecake and S&S, it’s hard to argue with the feeling of your arteries closing as you take ‘just one more bite’ of the creamy cake made of fromage.

I mean, it’s hard to argue with a New Yorker in general. Colin Heinrich offers a guide “how to win an argument with somebody from New York” …but he’s not a native New Yorker so I wouldn’t trust him.

Anyway. 

Back to Berlin. Remember that time I was in Berlin and it was awful? Ok, it wasn’t that bad…just, like, weird and grungy with a real sex, drugs, and rock & roll house music type vibe. Sounds like my kind of place, right?

*Taps ruby slippers off-white BOBS Skechers together, desperately trying to get back to NY*

BUT WAIT.

The cake made of cheese, guys. The cheesecake. 

I was led to a little place called Five Elephant by Loic, the photographer I booked for an Airbnb Experience. More on that in another post…but here’s a sneak peek:

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Dammmnnn, nice photo skills, Loic! Ok, back to the cake.

Loic asked if I’d like to stop somewhere for a drink (beer) or a coffee.

Me: ‘Oh, yeah! Cawwwfeee for sure!’

Loic: ‘Er…’

Me: ‘Great!’

On we went. Loic insisted that the place we were going not only had great cawwfee but the *best* cheesecake as well.

*New Yorker skepticism sets in*

 ewis1.gifWho does this guy think he is? He’s not even from Berlin and now he thinks some random cawwfee shop has the ‘best’ cheesecake. We’ll see about that. Has he ever been to NY? Nope, he hasn’t. WHAT DOES HE EVEN KNOW?!

But…GUYS.

Five Elephant is on an unassuming street in Berlin’s more artsy fartsy district, Kreuzberg. And, well, I’ll try to describe the cheesecake…but first, a photo:

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Do you see that thin layer on the top? Yeah, I don’t know what that is either. But cheesecake will never be the same without it.

And that crust? Yeah, again, I don’t know but it was THE BEST.

And the actual cheesecake? ‘Holy bananas’ is all I can say.

It was as if the cheesecake was whipped for days on end by little elves. Magical, delightful, cheesecake-making elves. (Sidenote: I am ready for snowy weather and Christmas. Can you tell?)

GUYS. I know I can be dramatic, but LOOK at Jonathan’s review. He is a “LOCAL GUIDE.” The internet doesn’t lie! 

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Yo, that guy Jonathan that reviewed this place WAS RIGHT. 😂

The comments go on and on…I’ve noticed folks have knocked off stars for the cafe’s lack of WiFi, but seriously. You will not need to connect to anything except your inner soul once you take a bite of that cheesecake.

I almost don’t want to ‘publish’ this blog post for fear that this place will really catch on and turn into a chain and then it’ll be awful.

But I’m not that popular, so publish I shall! 

Alas, it was a cake made of cheese that left me beguiled by Berlin.

You win, Berlin.

You win.

Spread kindness and cheer (and cheese and cake), xo
Jackie

Geneva: A Beautifully Boring City but a Hilarious Airbnb Story You Need to Hear

Isn’t it a drag when you expect so much from a place only to realize it’s rather quite dull? It’s like meeting a really pretty/handsome person and then realizing he or she has zero personality. Bienvenue à Genève! 😂

Ok, Geneva wasn’t all bad and I’ll even give y’all some tips if you decide to venture to this Swiss city…but don’t expect any nightlife or culture or affordable food or, well, anything.

😂

The lower your expectations, the better time you’ll have!

But First…Our Airbnb Host

Alright, this is too good not to share with y’all. Mon got to our Airbnb in Geneva before I did and she recounted the following exchange with our host:

Anna: Just so you know, none of my neighbors know that I run an Airbnb. So, if you see anyone and they ask anything just say you’re visiting.

Mon: Ok, will do.

Anna: Great. My kids and their father are on holiday right now and they don’t know either.

Mon: 🤔😅😂😂😂😂

I DIED WHEN SHE TOLD ME THAT. Mind you, we stayed in HER CHILDREN’S ROOMS!! And her Airbnb has over 100 reviews!! This woman has been conning her family for A WHILE NOW. 😂😂😂 What if her family returned early? What if they arrived in the middle of the night to find us sleeping in their beds!? SO many questions!!!

Plus, while we were there she had another Airbnb guest staying in her other child’s room! 😂

We opted for an Airbnb over a hostel in Geneva because they were essentially the same price and the hostels didn’t look particularly lively.

What to do in Geneva?

If you love the outdoors, great. Head over to the lake and take in the views. For just two francs (cash only), you can access a dock area called Baines des Pâquis.

Mon and I went to a grocery store called Coop and grabbed a bottle of wine (Geneva is open container), some food, and spent the day by Lake Geneva.

There was a cool structure that folks were jumping off of into the lake…Mon did it twice and got a huge bruise on her ass after landing the wrong way…both times. 😂 Whoopsie!

What else is there to do?

You can venture across the bridge to St. Pierre Cathedral. For just five francs you can climb to the top and take in the panoramic views. The staircase up is narrow and not ideal if you’re claustrophobic like me, but having my best friend with me helped. I probably wouldn’t have done it by myself. 😂 It was worth the initial stomach pains though! (I was literally that nervous about getting trapped in the staircase.)

If you’re looking for another cool view in Geneva, don’t miss La Jonction! This stunning spot isn’t too far from the main city center…it’s where the River Rhone and the River Arve meet. The Rhone is the pretty side, while the Arve is rather murky (and smelly! 😮).

See that little viewing platform above? That’s where the walk will take you initially… but see that tree? It perfectly blocks the view of the divide! So, Mon and I saw this bridge (from where these pics are taken) and were determined to get up there…we found a path and made our way up! It was a fun adventure and I definitely recommend it!

Other Tips for Geneva

When most people think of Switzerland, they think of fondue, etc. Well, that’s not really a thing for locals here. In fact, I couldn’t get a good read on what their go-to cuisine was other than expensive. Even fast food will cost you a good $15-20 francs! Stick with grocery store food to save money!

The public transportation is easy to use…there are plenty of trams and buses. It’s similar to Berlin in that it runs on the honor system. Apparently, there are random checks for tickets but Mon and I never had ours checked.

If you take the bus/tram to a stop called ‘Nations’ you can see the UN building, as well as the famous ‘broken chair’ art installation. It’s literally across the street from the UN.

While there are cool sights to be seen in Geneva, there is zero nightlife! I’m glad I was with Monica because it would’ve been less fun venturing around alone during the day as there’s not tons to do.

So, I probably wouldn’t recommend Geneva for a solo trip. 🙅 Have you been? Let me know!

Will you runaway with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie