Going on a long term journey means you may find yourself living in a hostel for an extended period of time. This thought - living in a dorm room, on a bunk bed, with random people, and no privacy - is unimaginable for some. For others, its one of the best experiences of their travels!
You might be asking "Why would you ever want to live in a hostel?" Well, backpackers on a Working Holiday Visa (typically in Australia, New Zealand, or Canada) usually find backpacker-type work (fruit picking, hospitality, etc.), and stick with their job anywhere from 1-6 months. Then, they move on with the money they've saved up. It is often easier, and sometimes cheaper, to live in a hostel, rather than to find a place to rent and sign a lease, for such a short period of time.
I shot the above video, Hostelife, while I was living in Cairns, Australia, at Woodduck Backpackers (which, unfortunately, is now closed down). At the time I was working at the infamous Woolshed Bar, one of the most fun jobs I've ever held. Later that year, I moved to Darwin and lived in a hostel while working at a different local bar.
Every time you pick a hostel to stay at, you're going to consider things such as amenities, cleanliness, price, etc. When picking a hostel to live in long term, here are a few extra considerations I would recommend:
1. Small Size
In my experience, smaller hostels are less cliquey, and thus filled with less drama, and more fun.
2. Other Long Termers
Before you check in, ask if there are other long term backpackers living there. Long termers like other long termers because asking answering the same what's-your-name-where-you-from-type questions to people just passing through for a few days gets annoying.
3. Cool Staff
If the staff are the type of people that chill with everyone else, they'll most likely become your friends, and you'll be able to get some perks along the way (free laundry, room upgrade, forgiveness when you forget to pay 'rent', etc.)
This is something I did not take into account, and almost paid for in a horrible way. One morning I had come home to realize my entire bag, containing my laptop, camera, and passport, had been stolen (thankfully the police recovered it a few days later!) Moral of the story is, make sure your hostel has a safe and/or lockers, and use them! A lock on your bag isn't enough to deter a thief.
5. Try it Out!
Check in for a few days and get a feel for the people and the vibe. Ignore all reviews you read online because no matter how good a hostel is 'on paper', the people are going to have the most impact on your stay. At the Woodduck we lived with bed bugs and cockroaches for a few months. Thinking back, this was pretty stupid, as there were many other hostels to choose from, but I like to think it was the people that kept us all there.
Here's what you can expect when you decide to call a hostel your temporary home:
Never a Dull Moment
You will definitely never be lonely while living in a hostel. There will always be someone else making food in the kitchen, a group playing cards, people chilling by the pool, or those drinking their faces off.
There would be times I would come home from work at 5am and people would still be partying (which is sometimes awesome, sometimes not). Nonetheless, if you are the type of person that likes having company around, you will enjoy 'hostelife'.
Closest Travel Friends You'll Ever Make
When you live within such close proximity of strangers, you become tight very fast, especially if you are living in a working hostel (a hostel where everyone living there works on an affiliated farm, typically doing fruit-picking). You might be spending 24 hours a day with some of these people. You will make friends and feel like you've known them for years. They will become your family!
After a certain amount of time, the novelty of living in a hostel will wear off. You'll get into the routine of going to work and coming home. You'll have made your crew of other long-term friends, and rarely speak to newbies. You'll leave your belongings everywhere because you think you own the place. You'll get bored of getting drunk and going to the same few bars near the hostel every other night. But nonetheless, it still beats living at home, and you will still have the time of your life!