Hostels are not exactly the natural environment for introverts. You’re constantly surrounded by strangers, there’s few places to withdraw to, and the need to make small-talk to new roommates strains our energy reserves. Every time I stay in a hostel I struggle with the stress it puts me under. Still, private rooms are not always a realistic alternative, not least for financial reasons.
So, how do you manage to stay in a hostel as an introvert without losing your mind, or spending your days with your sheet drawn over your head wishing yourself invisible? Here are some tips based on my personal experiences.
Choose your hostel carefully
You may think that one hostel is pretty much like the other, but you’re wrong. There are huge differences between them. I’m not talking only about things like cleanliness and comfort, although that can also be vastly different, but the kind of people they attract.
Some hostels are self-styled party hostels. They’re usually situated near or in the main night-life area of town, and they attract a mostly young crown that likes staying up late and partying the night away. For you that means having your roommates burst into the room in the middle of the night, often drunk and noisy, and depriving you of your well-deserved sleep.
If going out every night is not your idea of a good holiday, you may want to stay away from these kind of hostels and look for something in a quieter part of town.
Think about room size
Picking the right room is just as important as picking the right hostel. In many cases you have a choice between different dorm sizes. It can go from 4 or 6-bed rooms to something as big as 20 beds. In general the prices get cheaper the more people you share with. Keep in mind though that more people also means more strangers you have to deal with, more small-talk you have to get through, more introductions you have to make.
A smaller dorm is often the better choice, especially if you stay in s hostel for longer. Your roommates may also stay for a few nights, and that way you all can really get to know each other and you don’t have to face new people every night. It’s always a strange feeling returning to your hostel after a day out exploring and not knowing who you will find in it.
I usually prefer smaller rooms when I stay longer (think 4 or 5 days at least), but don’t mind bigger dorms so much if it’s only for a night or two. There may be instances where a room with more people is easier, because it gives you more anonymity. With twenty people in the room you’ll get away with not talking to all of them, or only muttering a general hello on entering before turning to your own business.
Find a place where you can recharge
For introverts it’s important to have a place where we can go to if we need to recharge our batteries. We need some quiet corner, somewhere we feel safe and can be alone with our thoughts.
Hostel rooms rarely lend themselves for this, because there’s always people around. On top of that, they’re often not that comfortable, as there’s nothing there except bunk beds.
However, all hostels have some sort of common room or breakfast room that’s open all day. Those can reach from blank and uninviting to comfy and full of quiet corners. If it’s the latter you don’t need to look any further. Come back here whenever you need some alone-time. You can bring a book, or some music, or whatever it is you need to relax.
Some hostels offer several different options, such as TV rooms or gaming rooms. Or there might be a nice outside area, if you stay somewhere warm. Just check out what’s there and see where you feel most comfortable.
If you can’t find any suitable space at the hostel, you have to look somewhere else. I highly recommend coffee shops for this. Unless you’re staying in the middle of nowhere – in which case you might be able to just escape into the countryside – there’s bound to be a nice café or cosy restaurant nearby. Have a look around and find one that you like. Yes, you might have to spend a few bucks for a coffee, but then no one is going to object to you sitting there for hours if necessary.
Alternatively you could also try libraries, parks, or the beach, depending on where you are and what’s available. Just find something, because that quiet corner in the coffee shop can be a life-saver!
Don’t feel under pressure to make conversation
Yes, meeting new people can be frightening. But it can also be wonderful and exciting, once you get over those first few awkward introductions. Try to think of your dorm room as a chance to make friends, rather than a necessary evil. After all, you already have something in common with your roommates: you all travelled to the same place. That can be the perfect opening for a conversation. Small-talk is a lot easier when you have some questions already in store, even if they are as simple as “where are you from?” and “what are you doing in this town?”
If that kind of conversation is already too much for you after a full day of new impressions and challenges (and believe me, I totally get it), it’s also perfectly fine to just say hello and leave it at that. Maybe the other person will start a conversation, or maybe they will be just as happy to have some quiet. Remember, you may not be the only introvert in the dorm.
Either way, keep in mind that you are not in the room for anyone’s entertainment. If you and your roommates get to talk, great. If not, that’s fine too. Maybe you’ll do it the next day. Or maybe you won’t. Don’t feel like your failing as a roommate only because you never get past hello. Sometimes, that’s perfectly enough.
Do you have any tips on making the hostel experience a good one? How do you make sure you get enough alone-time when staying in a dorm? Share in the comments!