The youth hostel… but not as we know it

Allison Tait blog
Posted on February 26, 2012

When I was in my twenties, I spent a fair bit of time in one youth hostel or another. The silk sleepsheet. The sleeping bag that never, ever rolled back into its bag. The communal everything. The telephone cards. The crowd of tanned, long-legged backpackers who always looked cooler and more street-smart than I did.

The dorm room with 20 bunks, which always featured one group who went to bed early and woke everyone up as they left at the crack of dawn. And one group who woke everyone up as they came to bed reaaaallly late, and then threw shoes at the people who rustled around in the backpacks at the crack of dawn.

I remember eating countless permutations of Bread and Cheese. Cheese and Bread. Bread without cheese. Cheese without bread. I vaguely remember communal television rooms but don’t remember ever watching television in a hostel – really, who had time?

On Saturday night, Fam Fibro stayed at the YHA Hostel in the Big Smoke. The one with the archaeological dig in the basement and the roof garden with an extraordinary view of the lights on Sydney Harbour. The one with the cafe and the ‘internet station’. The one with, good grief, a lift!

We had a family room all to ourselves – queen-sized beds, double bunk – with linen provided and an en suite. Even a television.

My how times change.

And yet, they do not. On our way in at around 8.30pm there was a tour group in the foyer being told in no uncertain terms that if they were not ready to leave at 9am – on the dot – the bus would go without them. At reception, there was a young woman, almost in tears, insisting that she did have a booking. And the crowd was mostly tanned, long-legged backpackers, probably the children of those ones who always looked cooler and more street-smart than I did.

Oh, and that group who woke everyone up as they came to bed reaaaallly late? Yep, they’re still there too. Only this time I was on the other side, ready to wreak my revenge when my children awoke at the crack of dawn.

How long has it been since you visited a Youth Hostel? Were they a big part of your life at any stage?


  1. Laura D

    Hee-hee – 20 bunk dorms. DH and I ‘lived’ in a 20 bunk mixed dorm in Dublin for 3 months!!! Before we had jobs and could afford our own room in a gaff. Dublin is a popular venue for drunken stag weekends… ahh, such vivid memories, including the time some silly drunk lads thought it would be funny to flip their sleeping mate (in the bunk beside us) off his top bunk mattress to the floor! The a/c in our room was broken and their was very little ventilation so it was terribly hot & stuffy in there. One group you forgot to include is those partaking in sneaky (or not so) ‘relations’ 😉 Ha!.. thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  2. rebekah @ justfordaisy

    Wow! They have changed a lot! I think we might look into this one next time we stay in the City! 🙂 Just found your delightful blog and am your newest follower! 🙂 Please come say hi at Just For Daisy! 🙂 I love finding great Aussie blogs x

  3. Johanna

    Ahh I remember them well. I remember the ones with separate dorms for the boys and girls, with lots of nocturnal scurrying. Rain spiders on my pillow near Cape Tribulation, and noisy neighbours in The Drakensberg, South Africa. I enjoyed your post … it brought back a flood of memories, and reminded me that I am still (surely) of strong stock and not compelled to seek out fluffy towels and goose down duvets.

  4. Rhonda

    We do not have them in the states….and now I feel like I’m too old. I fear that I wouldn’t enjoy the experience.

  5. Kirsty

    Sigh. Happy memories. Beautiful one in Florence. Stunning ones in Ireland. Dodgy as one in London. And oops… that time in Nice when I went to the toilet and got into the wrong bed when I got back? Luckily the American guy who belonged to it was still out on the town and I discovered my error in time…

  6. Marion Williams-Bennett

    My first youth hostel experience was in Paris, where I met the most wonderful Australian man, of course! We sat up all night in the communal room talking and talking and talking. I was 18 but I still remember it as one of my most favorite nights of my life.

    Reading your post made me miss this time – the discovery, the travel, the bread and cheese – so much!

    Sounds like your stay was wonderful!

  7. Ms Styling You

    Hen’s weekend in Byron Bay 2 years ago! I snuck in and tucked myself in just after midnight. PS. In my younger years in Europe, chocolate was our third food group after bread and cheese. Especially in Switzerland!

  8. House of Dust and Fur

    Oh yes, gotta love the hostels. Each one with it’s own set of rules. Single sex rooms, having to say goodnight to hubby in the communal lounge. In Berlin, hubby and I splashed out on a “double-room” after too many nights apart – only to find ourselves separated by a steel box that ran the whole length of the bed, making it 2 beds!
    Although waking up in a hostel in Rome to find a very fit young Swedish guy doing push-ups on the floor beside me in his underwear wasn’t a bad thing 😉 B.

  9. another donkey design by kate

    So many great Memories come back from reading your post. Oh for the care free days when you just rocked up to a city and didn’t know where you would sleep that night! Good times

  10. ally

    loads…all those fights over whether the windows should be shut or open with strident Germans!!

  11. Jo @Country life experiment

    Stayed in every dive/hostel in Europe. My favourite was the time when a drunk couple came in late and got overly amorous on the top bunk, whilst I was on the bottom… those were the days. These days we have stayed at hostels in family rooms with ensuite, and we love them!

  12. Maxabella

    So many, so very very many. Sweden as the best ones. Boring(ish) countries have to make up for it somehow. x

  13. Diminishing Lucy

    Ahhhhh. Takes me back to the late ’80’s.

    And the mid nineties on the other side of the world.

    I stayed in a tops YH in Tassie. It was run by the most sensational hippie couple. We stayed for weeks.

    And what do you know? Ten years later, I was breastfeeding Lexie in my local library here is Adelaide, whilst Olivia and Charlie picked out picture books, and that same lovely lady that ran the Tassie YHA? She was there, heavily pregnant with her #3, living around the corner from me. We were happily re-united!

    She is still sensational, and now a close close friend.


  14. cathy@home

    When i used to backpack in my teenage years.

  15. Madmother

    Hmmm, big part of my life? How about a year of it? ’92 & ’93: Britain, Ireland, Europe, USA, Canada, Mexico, Hawaii… home.

    Ah, the stories I could tell. *Sigh*

  16. Looking for Blue Sky

    I used to stay in them too with groups of teenage friends back in the *gulp* 70s. Last year I stayed a couple of nights in a so-called 5* hostel here in in Co Wicklow Ireland with a friends and all our boys. It had views, it had internet, it had en-suite bathrooms, it had sculptures (in italics!). Better than any hotels 🙂

  17. Megan Blandford

    I stayed there about 18 months ago – how amazing is that view! I sat up there with my laptop and wrote and wrote 🙂

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