A very long time ago when I was a newbie traveler I stayed at hostels. This was in Cambodia and Thailand and even then, at 34, I felt weird staying at hostels. Yeah, I was in a lot better shape than I am now but my experience consisted of perfect butts in bikinis, chiseled abs, and lots and lots of booze.
Or they were shit holes with plywood walls and bedbug ridden mattresses with a putrid air of suspiciousness about them. I had read “The Beach” before that trip. I knew shady when I saw it.
But mostly these hostels were filled with friendly people who were so enthusiastic about travel that it was palpable. They were invincible.
Fast forward many years and things are very different. Will is pretty emphatic about comfort over cost and I tend to agree. However, when a response to a Facebook post drew us to a hostel in Mazatlan I had to reconsider. They offered a parking space outside, electricity, internet, use of the bathrooms and showers, and access to the pool.
Too good to be true?
As soon as we got off the ferry from La Paz we had to go check it out. We were met by Zac, one of the managers, who showed us around. Ample common areas. Bathrooms, Showers. Pool. Classic Mexican style house with high ceilings and tile floors. Everything one might expect from a well kept hostel.
Including the other manager in a bikini.
Ah jeez, do I sound horrible here? I know what hostels are like and hanging out in a bikini whether you’re a guest or scrubbing toilets is the norm. So there I sat, handing over my passport and paying for a week wondering if I’d ever have anything in common with these girls with flat abs and butts to die for.
Or would I simply let my insecurities get to me and spend the week in a tent dress with a bag over my head?
It turns out that the Funky Monkey Hostel in Mazatlan is staffed by beautiful people, many of which come via Work Away, but the owner, Salem, is the jewel on this beauty pageant crown. Good looking, friendly, funny, and interesting, he’s that guy who came into a bit of money and decided to turn that into a permanent vacation in the form of a hostel.
He’s the guy who plans the nights out, the guy who decides shots at 2pm are an order, and insists on dance parties on the roof. He’s spontaneous and really seems to care about the experiences of his guests and his staff. One gets the impression that as long as the work is done everyone is free to do what they like.
So we spent a week there and while I didn’t miss a deadline it was hard to focus on work. The pool, the beer, the hanging around the backyard table and dragging out the box of costumes just for kicks were all huge distractions. It was really hard not to want to dive headfirst into the pool, the booze, and the costumes, and that feeling of complete and utter freedom and joy that I had all those years ago in Thailand .
So I did. It may not have been my most responsible week but it was damn fun.
I talked with Salem a bit about the fact that hostels are usually the domain of the young travelers, the backpackers, the ones who are counting every last dollar just to make the trip last a little longer. Salem told me that he actually likes hosting older travelers, as they bring a different perspective to the group. He also told me that he knows another hostel owner who won’t accept guests over 35. Not because they don’t fit the young and beautiful hostel type but because he’s found that they complain too much about the noise, the booze, the costumes, the shenanigans.
I don’t really agree with that policy but I get it.
So we stayed our work week at the Funky Monkey, then we stayed another day because Salem offered us one of the private rooms in exchange for some drone footage of the property. We all jumped into the pool to add to the effect and then headed to the roof for a staged dance party. It was fun and the footage turned out great.
So the question remains; are we too old to stay at a hostel?
If it’s a hostel like the Funky Money then no, absolutely not. We met some great people and had a great time. And I think that, as we continue down the road we might consider hostels as options that are just as good if not better than campgrounds.
So thanks to Salem, Zac, Sami, Tomek and everyone else for a great week. And a thank you as well for reminding me how fun travel can be.