Hostel Life in your Thirties

Portugal has a reputation for fantastic hostels

I get it. Staying in hostels isn’t for everyone. But for saving money, traveling solo, and meeting others it can be great. Yes, they are more often than not primarily occupied by younger folks in their twenties. But there are plenty of us in our thirties traveling on a budget – and until I feel either way too old to stay in them or just uncomfortable in any way, and until my budget allows for fancier accommodation – I’m happy staying in hostels.

A nice middle ground, if budget allows, is to stay in private rooms in hostels. So you get to sleep (far more of a priority in your thirties, I’ve found) and still meet others if that’s what you want. Plus, hostels tend to organize day trips or walking tours which I love.

I research hostels via hostelworld.com and booking.com and read many, many reviews before choosing one. I tend to favor quieter hostels instead of party hostels because, again, sleep is a priority.

Here’s a list of a few of my favorite hostels I’ve stayed in (in my thirties):

HOME LISBON HOSTEL in Lisbon, Portugal

View from my room

When researching for my Portugal trip I discovered Portugal has a reputation for fantastic hostels. I stayed in several, all but one were really wonderful, but this one in Lisbon took the cake.

24 hour reception, a common room that is both a bar and extremely cozy, it’s SUPER CLEAN, and the offer family dinners. I’m a sucker for family dinners.

The hostel is run by a family and friends. Mama – head matriarch – cooks dinner many nights and sits and eats with everyone. The food is simple, tasty, and really it’s all about the company. At the end of the meal she gives everyone a splash of moscatel or ginginha, dangerously tasty Portuguese liqueurs, and raises her drink for a toast, often declaring “It’s not a shot!”

One night she made a cake for my new Dutch friend for her birthday. Need I say more?

I stayed in a four bed women’s dorm – very cozy rooms, sturdy beds, thick walls, and clean bathrooms. There are group tours available many days to Sintra, surfing in Nazare, or Obidos. There’s also a daily walking tour of Lisbon, which is always recommended.

METEORA CENTRAL HOSTEL in Kalambaka, Greece

Views of Meteora

I chose this hostel because it was highly rated and had glorious AIR CONDITIONING in the rooms. (Temperatures were in the mid-nineties when I visited in early June. Uffda.)

It’s run by a couple who also own the bar/restaurant downstairs. Small hostel, with a nice women’s dorm sturdy wooden bunk beds instead of squeaky metal ones. There was a curtain over each bed for privacy, outlet and little lamp inside each one, with a tiny shelf, and huge lockers underneath the beds.

This place was not busy when I was there. Meteora seems to be more popular with older folks who bus around the monasteries and stay in hotels and BnBs.

Also there’s a cute back patio to hang out in.

I ate very well there at tavernas and gyro stands recommended by the owners. The smoothie shop across the street is pure heaven after a hot day hiking. The local KTEL bus stop is across the street if you want to take a bus up to the top of the mountains and monasteries. Or hike from Kalambaka to the top via one of the old pilgrim trails. Loved my stay in Meteora!

BEEHIVE HOSTEL in Rome, Italy

Rome in March

The hostel is two blocks from Termini Train station in Rome. I don’t like taking taxis at night alone, so I picked this place because it was highly rated and a quick walk from the train station. I fucking loved this Hostel.

Run by an American couple that moved here twenty plus years ago, it’s located in two buildings a block apart. There’s the traditional hostel dorm rooms and common area in one building, with a terrace garden, and the private rooms on the fifth floor of a building a block away. This is where I stayed. As I get older I’ve come to prioritize SLEEP. It was also mid-March, so lower prices. 50E for a private room and bath.

They host group dinners three times a week. Steve, one of the owners, cooks. The breakfast room is cozy and lovely, they make their own bread and pastries. It’s small so easy to chat to your neighbor if that’s what you want. Also the staff and owners are just really down to earth, good people.

Beehive was one of the nicest hostels I’ve stayed in. They have a great app with recommendations of where to eat in the Termini neighborhood and beyond. They recommended a Napoli restaurant around the corner from the hostel which was the best pasta I’ve ever eaten. They also host a writing/book club night once a month (I was bummed I missed it!). I will 100% stay here next time I’m in Rome.

SAMESUN HOSTEL in Vancouver, BC

Jericho Beach in Vancouver…before the rain hit.

The pod bunk women’s dorm gave me some of the best sleep I’ve ever had in a hostel. I also love tiny spaces—they are comforting to me. If you get claustrophobic…maybe don’t sleep here though. Six bunk beds in a room, lockers too. Each pod has its own little light, curtain, and fan above your head, along with a tiny shelf for charging your phone. Basically a brilliantly designed bunk. Comfortable beds, bedding and towels provided.

Vancouver is expensive and this is why I stayed in a dorm. ($50/night for a dorm bed. Yikes.)

It’s right downtown, a half mile from the Skytrain. Not my ideal location – it’s surrounded by several bro-y Irish bars. But despite that, I slept really well (always bring earplugs for dorm hostels, btw.)

Breakfast is a basic contintental but at least included.

It’s an enormous hostel. The common room and kitchen are pretty big but also cozy for hiding out on a rainy afternoon. I met a lot of folks of all ages staying here.

Also a few blocks around the corner are several really great ramen restaurants which are total comfort food on a rainy Vancouver day.

What other hostels have you stayed in and loved? I’m always on the lookout for recommendations!

Skip Santorini, please. Try Paros instead.

When I first booked my flight to Greece, I decided that I wanted a taste of island life and a taste of mountain life. I knew I would go and spend three days hiking in Meteora. But which island to visit out of them all?

There are a shitload of travel blogs out there. And basically all of them list Santorini or Mykonos as THE islands to visit. Milos is getting a bit more attention for it’s moon-like rocky shores, and Ios is apparently the second popular party island next to Mykonos (but for a younger crowd, so I’ve read.)

I hate parties and crowds and that fact that over-tourism is ruining places like Dubrovnik and Santorini….So I went to Paros, a five hour direct ferry ride from Athens. Yes, it still gets tourists. (Hello, these are the Cyclades!) But in early June there really weren’t that many. Early June is still considered the slow season on Paros, though.

This is what I love about Paros: it’s not a party island. It’s not overrun by Instagrammers elbowing over each other for that perfect sunset shot. Locals live and vacation on this island. One bar owner told me that locals can’t even afford to live on Santorini anymore. They just rent out their homes and live on another island. That is insane to me.

Paros is chill. Though it is extremely windy, which makes the temperatures really pleasant. Maybe don’t wear a super short airy skirt here. It also felt very safe, which is a high priority for a woman traveling solo.

Parikia is a lovely port town. You can wander the cobbled maze of streets with white buildings and round blue tops and pink bougainvillea for hours. A postcard view around every corner. And SO many cats. I highly recommend just wandering the streets and getting lost for a while. Definitely have a coffee or lunch at Distrato cafe under the shade of an enormous tree growing out of the centre of the square. Peek into shops selling olive oil lotions, olive wood cutting boards, and handmade jewelry.

The beaches are chill. The people are warm. There’s a tiny produce market in the center square by the ferry pier with an excellent bakery right next door. How many ways can you eat honey-drenched phyllo for breakfast, snack, or dessert? Also, I’m obsessed with Greek iced coffee – espresso freddo!

Craving mountains one day, a friend and I took a bus to Lefkes, a town in the centre of the island. Lefkes is old, beautiful, more cats, tons of little shops, and it’s surrounded by terraced hillsides and scraggly olive groves. There’s also an amazing footpath on the outskirts of Lefkes called the Byzantine Road.

Views on the Byzantine Road

The Byzantine Road is the oldest road on the island. The path, paved from Parian marble, links Lefkes with Prodromos and is about 3.5 km long, mostly downhill. It rambles through the countryside, showing off the white buildings of Lefkes, myrtle, olive and fig trees dotting the hillside. The whole path smells like oregano. At one point there’s an opening between hills that gives you a view of the ocean. Bring a hat and/or sunscreen, plus water since there’s little shade.

Ink sketch from the Byzantine Road near Lefkes

The bus from Parikia to Lefkes takes about 30 minutes and cost around 3€.

I stayed in Paros Backpackers, a hostel only open a couple of years and constantly renovating. A private room with a bath and balcony cost 25€ when I was there. A steal. The rooftop terrace is perfect for watching the sunset.

Santorini is beautiful, yes, I was there as a child many years ago. But seriously, THIS IS GREECE. There are plenty of other gorgeous islands to be explored for half the price and just as much beauty.