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Ahh…the youth hostel. A blessing and a curse. A blessing because you will not find a cheaper place to stay. A curse because, well, it’s a hostel. Up until now (when I arrived in Luzern, Switzerland), I’ve stayed in hotels, Airbnb’s, and with family/friends (lucky me). But a few friends suggested I try hostels – they’re cheaper, you’ll meet people, and so on. So as a challenge to myself I decided to do it. As soon as I walked in, that old feeling – a mix of nostalgia and dread – came right back. I was at sleep-away summer camp all over again. 

Do you remember when your parents would drop you off and you were so excited to be away from them for a week doing fun summer stuff? But at the same time feeling that anxiety about how it would be? Will I make friends? Will I fit in? At least that’s how it was for me. I still feel that way when I’m in social situations where I don’t know anyone. 

I arrived at around 7 pm and the emotional memories were immediately followed by the physical senses of what it was actually like being at sleep-away camp: feeling cramped as you picked your tiny bunk and made your bed. The smell of a grimy bathroom shared by so many others where you’re supposed to make yourself clean (thank God I packed shower shoes). The taste of kinda crappy dining hall food that you devour anyway because you’re so hungry. The sight of worn, dingy communal living spaces under fluorescent lights. The sounds of your bunk mates bustling around as you try to fall asleep. 

As I took all this in, I realized it’s also exactly like freshman year college dorms. An identical living situation at three very distinct stages of my life. At summer camp it meant fun and new friends. At college it was the best time ever. But my standards evolved and I’m not 11 or 18 anymore. At the hostel, I’m just a grown-ass woman who wants the peace and privacy of her own bedroom and bathroom. 

I’ll check the box next to “Stayed at a hostel” and keep it filed away. Until the amazing $30/night deals lure me back in…

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