My first hostel experience in many, many years
I returned from Chile last week and the highlight of my trip was four wonderful days in San Pedro de Atacama. I flew to Chile with my wife to visit our daughter who is studying in Valparaiso. After two weeks in Santiago, Valparaiso and Mendoza, Argentina, we parted company. My daughter took a bus back from Santiago to Valparaiso, my wife boarded a plane to return to the states, and I got on an overnight bus heading north. After stopping for a day in Chanaral in order to visit Pan de Azucar National Park, I took another bus to San Pedro. Arriving late on a hot day, I opted to go for budget accommodations and found a bed in a hostel. For some strange, inexplicable reason, I was really excited to stay in a hostel. It had been many years since I had traveled this way and it really seemed appealing to me. The only other person in my two bunk bed room was a retired French lawyer five years my senior. He was traveling solo for two months because his wife doesn't enjoy staying in budget accommodations.
In the four nights that I stayed at the hostel, my other roommates were a young Israeli guy, a young German guy, and a thirty five year old German lady. All were traveling by themselves for various lengths of time with the German lady planning to be on the road for fifteen months. I had great conversations with my roommates, all of whom spoke English very well. I had forgotten that at any given time, there are thousands of people who are travelers, not tourists, finding their way around the world for long periods of time. I had also forgotten the freedom that one has when staying in budget accommodations, the only luggage being my big backpack and a smaller one for day trips.
The hostel was excellent. There were perhaps a dozen rooms clustered around a central courtyard. Some of the rooms had private baths, but the shared baths were immaculate. It seemed that they were cleaned hourly. The small shared kitchen was clean and functional. The staff was helpful and friendly, even though most of the them didn't speak English. It's amazing how we can convey what we mean even with just a rudimentary knowledge of a foreign language and some hand signals. For the bargain price of 7,000 CP ($14) per night, I had a clean bed in a quiet room.
Although I thoroughly enjoy staying in luxury accommodations, there's something to be said for hosteling. It's very easy to strike up conversations with other guests and it's a great way for solo travelers to meet people.