By nature, I am an introvert. While on the road, I make it a priority to find some private time and peace and quiet every day. In fact, you are more likely to find me curled up somewhere reading a book than at a bar. Often times, I think I’m allergic to social interaction and tend to avoid it with a passion, but travel is helping me break out of that mold in more ways than one.
Hostels, being one of those ways, aren’t too well-suited for introverts who need their quiet time. After all, you’re staying in a room with strangers and hanging out in a common area with even more strangers where music and chit chat are the constant soundtrack. It is an environment that demands interaction.
In fact, one of the hostels I stayed at in Istanbul was more of a club with a DJ than a hostel because loud music was playing every night until 12am making it difficult to sleep, read, or do anything else that required concentration. The first night, after having just arrived from the airport, all I wanted was quiet to get work done and relax, but my wish was not their command.
So when you need your alone time, where do you find it?
Although it isn’t ideal, take your shower in the middle of the day because chances are that there will be fewer people in the hostel, and the cleaning crew will have just wiped it down leaving you with a fresh, hot shower before the crowds. Plus, you’ll be able to change in your room and get refreshed without much disturbance.
Sleeping mask and ear plugs are a must, if there’s any hope of getting a good night’s sleep in a hostel. If you can’t sleep or are taking a night off from going out, take advantage of the empty common areas to cuddle up with a good book. Late night conversations with one or two other people in the hostel can also make for an intimate and relaxing setting as well, and after a long day of exploring, that may be just what you need. It’s certainly a less stimulating environment than a dance club with strobe lights and hours of music with the same hard techno beat.
Depending on the hostel you stay at, they may have group activities or gatherings like pub crawls, various tours, etc. Take part in a few of those if you can just so you get introduced and acclimated to the new environment, new people, and new city in a group as opposed to on your own. You’ll start to understand the type of people staying at the hostel and whether or not it’s a good fit for you. This will make exploring more enjoyable since you’ll already have a lay of the land, an idea of what to expect, and better knowledge of when you can spend time on your own.
Quiet time comes in many forms whether its working on your computer in bed, yoga, meditation, reading, or watching TV in the lounge. Even a cool, evening stroll can be good to get some fresh air. Whatever kind of quiet time you need, make sure to spend a couple hours each day to yourself so your sanity doesn’t dwindle. Above all, understand your needs and accommodate them.
All of that being said, don’t be a hermit. Take some time off from exploring to relax and rejuvenate, but don’t be anti-social. Part of the experience and joy of traveling comes from making new friends from around the world so don’t let those opportunities pass you by.