Hostels: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
I’ve been staying in private AirBnB’s in Central/South America because the cost is similar to hostels and I have the peace, quiet and solitude to work on my own schedule.
But last week as the sun was setting and I had no accommodations I booked a room at the Loki Hostel in La Paz.
Here’s what I’d forgotten about staying in hostels: the good, the bad and the ugly.
The clearest benefit of being in a hostel is the opportunity to socialize. With friendly people everywhere social situations arise naturally and this is probably healthy if you’d otherwise work non-stop for weeks by default.
Especially as I try to learn new languages, it’s so fun to have French, German, and a multitude of Spanish-speaking travelers at every table.
Surprisingly, I can still work efficiently! I’m able to focus on my computer in the restaurant with dependably flowing WiFi, electricity, and coffee. I don’t even need to leave the building (or stand up) to get 3 meals per day. In an AirBnB I either buy in advance, cook, otherwise disrupt my flow by leaving to go eat out. There are quieter places to go work away from the crowds if necessary.
The best part of living in a hostel is also the worst. You’re sharing space all the time.
Late-night partiers show up and walk around the bedroom with headlamps searching for their cigs. The bathroom is sometimes occupied or worse, smelly. Nobody in my room snores loudly, but sometimes at night I remember how nice it is to socialize and then return to a totally private space.
During the day, the positive social environment can be detrimental if you just want to hustle!
The Ugly "Work For Accommodation"
I’m talking about working at a hostel.
Backpackers who want to make their travel funds last longer will work at a hostel in exchange for room, board, and discounts on local activities.
At Loki La Paz, you work 7 hours per day 4 days per week, and get a bed, 1 meal per day and 40% off everything on the menu.
Rooms are $10/night and probably cost the hostel $6.
Meals cost $5 and at most cost the hostel $4.
$10 per day = $70 per week || 7 Hours x 4 Days = 28 Hours per week
$2.5 per hour
There are a lot of reasons other than money to work at a hostel. It’s social, you’re in charge, the girls notice you’re cute and maybe you’re looking for a career in hospitality. Those are reasons why it might be a good idea.
But for the young backpacker planning for a bright future the opportunity cost is too high.
You’re paid way less than minimum wage and only with in-kind services. You’re trading hours for almost nothing.
There’s no continuity. Save for those ‘gaining hospitality experience’, you’re not learning or growing. As soon as your tourist visa is up you’ll leave and have nothing to show for it.
Rather than attempting to spread your travel fund thinner and thinner, increase it by earning location independent dollars while you travel.
There is so much easy ‘work’ to do on the Internet, just earn $15 and pay for your own room and a meal. Visit Upwork.com. Even with their horrendous 20% commission on your first $500 you’ll earn more in 30 minutes than in a day working at the hostel. (Shh… you can avoid the fees anyway if you’re sneaky.)
With no experience I earned $600 during my first week as a freelancer on Odesk/Upwork and was earning $45/hour a few months later. When I traveled somewhere new, my high hourly rate followed me!
Even if you’re starting a business and coasting on savings from home the money you save vs. the time you lose is difficult to justify. The difference in progress between ‘moonlighting’ and working full-time on your business is huge! Once again, better to freelance for 2 hours/day for a much higher hourly rate, pay to stay in the hostel, and work on your biz all day.
It may seem cold to simplify a fun, social and laidback job like working in a hostel to just dollars and cents but if you went on a trip you can’t afford and are now working for $2.5/hour so that you can delay going home then a little dollars and sense may be good for you!