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

“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

Globetrotting with a Bootleg Phone Plan and No Data: A Solo Travel Guide

Happy Friday the 13th y’all! I’m in Berlin at the moment…I arrived yesterday evening and spent about 13 hours sleeping. 😂

As I eat currywurst (the national fast food of Berlin) for the first time in my life in a spot called KreuzBurger, I figured I’d also take the time to let y’all know how to survive solo travel in lands far, far away.

Pro tip: Don’t stress, plan less, and learn to wing it!

Easier said than done for most, I know, but don’t get caught up in all the little things when traveling abroad! As long as you have your plane ticket, a phone, cash/credit, and your passport, you’ll be just fine!

What about an international phone plan, Jackie?

Take it from someone who has an $80 LG phone that runs on Virgin Mobile and has been to 12 foreign countries…you don’t need an international phone plan. Once I leave American soil, I turn data off and solely rely on WiFi.

Of course, if you’re traveling to more remote places, etc., then investing in an international plan may be smart.

The great thing about most foreign countries… especially big cities in Europe…is that they have free public WiFi all around! Outside, inside, in the metro stations, on the buses, and essentially anywhere else you’d need it!

Also, did you know Google Maps works without WiFi?! As long as you know where you’re going, the locator dot will continue to tell you where YOU are on the map! So, as you move along, you can see if you’re heading in the right direction or not.

If you’re traveling alone, I recommend getting flights, trains, etc. that arrive during the day… especially if you plan on walking to your hostel, etc. once you arrive.

Berlin is the first foreign city I’ve ever traveled to alone where the main language isn’t English (save for Iceland, but I had been there before), so I booked a flight that got in at 5pm. This gave me allowance to get a bit lost in the streets as I made my way to my hostel (and I totally did 😂), knowing I’d have plenty of daylight to work with. Plus, I’m always sure to keep to main streets and, if Google maps isn’t helping me, I pop into a nearby cafe or shop to grab some WiFi. 😅

It may sound stressful but it really isn’t. I tell myself that if worst comes to currywurst, I can always hail a cab! (Hopefully… 😅)

Coming from NYC, I feel confident getting around any major city…even without relying on my phone!

Pro tip: Look up and actually READ the street signs and don’t fear getting lost!

I’ve found that folks who rely on their cell data and mapped out routes in foreign cities often miss out on little things because they’re so fixated on not missing a turn. I actually just met a girl from Australia who also said she doesn’t have an international plan because she doesn’t want to be staring at her phone during her travels!

This is the time to get out of your comfort zone and force yourself to talk to folks and SEE what’s around you! We’ve become so dependent on our phones but we don’t need them!

What do you do when you go abroad? Let me know in the comments!

Also…if y’all have any tips for Berlin, let me know! I’m here till Monday and have done zero research…whoops! 🤦

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie