My First Not-So-Hostile Hostel Experience 1

My First Not-So-Hostile Hostel Experience

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When a few friends of mine and I purchased tickets to see Future Islands (one of my favorite bands) in Asheville, NC, single me was in a pickle. Erin and Ken wanted to book a room at the new Aloft (and presumably do what married people do), and my pal Dan was staying with friends.

I just needed a place to crash. That was it. I knew I’d be out late and would barely even see the hotel or Airbnb I booked. That extra couple hundred bucks could be spent in far more fun ways.

That’s when I decided to book my very first ever hostel stay at Sweet Peas Hostel.

My First Not-So-Hostile Hostel Experience 2
Well this just looks adorbs.

I could’ve opted for a $30 spot on a bunk bed surrounded by other people, but decided to be fancy and splurge for a $40 pod where I would be surrounded by other people instead. The difference between the two was a curtain and a locker (the pods had ’em, the bunks did not).

My First Not-So-Hostile Hostel Experience 3
It’s all mod in the pod!

It wasn’t just about saving $200 (I mean…it wasn’t not about it either, but I digress…). I had never stayed in a hostel before and really wanted to be able to say I’d experienced it before I was way to old to. Plus, what if I’d been missing out on a brilliantly inexpensive way to save money to travel more all this time? Even if it ended up being a totally dodgy experience, I was in the mood to give it a go.

When I told my friends about my accommodation plans, they snickered.

Why are you doing this? You can afford a hotel. And haven’t you seen those Hostel movies? You’re probably going to die.”

My First Not-So-Hostile Hostel Experience 4
I’d imagine his TripAdvisor rating isn’t terribly high…

I hadn’t.

All I knew was Sweet Peas was walking distance to everything downtown including The Orange Peel (the concert venue), I was saving a ton of cash, and I was about to have a new experience.

Would that experience be unsanitary and terrifying? Or would it be amazing? Or would it be a third thing?

When I arrived at the hostel, I was buzzed in by a friendly tatted hipster who showed me to my pod, which was a top pod. I paused to contemplate how post-libations me would handle climbing a ladder at 2am, but not for very long. I shimmied into a pair of leggings under my dress (it’s colder in Asheville than Columbia), tossed by bag in my locker and rushed out the door to meet my friends for a preshow snack.

Because so many people are crammed into such a small space, there were a few rules:

  • Lights had to be out at 12am (you could still come and go, but just in the dark)
  • Quiet hours are from 12am-8am.
  • No one from outside is allowed inside unless they’ve booked a bed/bunk/room there.
  • I think that’s about it.

When I got back after the show and post-show shenanigans, I took my shoes off and tiptoed across the the creaky floor, and carefully climbed the ladder to…the wrong pod. :/

Luckily, no one seemed to notice, so I quietly went back down the ladder and tiptoed to the next room over and managed to make it into my own pod. Whew.

Sleeping was a little weird. The bed was comfy enough and the linens were nice and fresh, but I couldn’t get over the fact that I could hear the breathing of 40+ strangers around me. It was really really weird. Eventually I fell asleep, and woke up early the next morning, ready to get started with my day.

My First Not-So-Hostile Hostel Experience 5
Am I ready to leave the comforts of my pod?
My First Not-So-Hostile Hostel Experience 6
Yes. Yes I am.

I ambled over to the kitchen area (which was nice and clean), and prepared to quietly make a pot of coffee. Until I saw a sign that said coffee making wasn’t allowed until quiet hours were over (8am). I returned to my pod where I just sort of laid there awkwardly among the breathers until 8.

My fellow hostelers started to wake up. Most of them were younger/far cooler than I, and were from all over the world, which was pretty freakin’ awesome. I chatted with a few students in the surprisingly spacious bohemian living room area before venturing to the showers.

The showers weren’t great, but they were fine. Each one had its own changing area and a small stall…about what you would see at a gym I guess (I don’t go to gyms, but this seems like what it would be like)?

After primping among the younglings in front of the communal mirror, I checked out and went about my day.

So, what’s my verdict?

I’m probably too old be hosteling on the reg, but for exactly this sort of travel (where I knew I’d be spending just about zero time there), it did the trick, and I’d totally recommend both hosteling and Sweet Peas to other 30-somethings traveling alone. 🙂

Oh…and here are a few pics from my time in Asheville!

My First Not-So-Hostile Hostel Experience 7
Future Islands!
My First Not-So-Hostile Hostel Experience 8
Hi Erin and Ken!
My First Not-So-Hostile Hostel Experience 9
Hello flaming Painkiller!
My First Not-So-Hostile Hostel Experience 10
The next day: Adventures in Chicken Alley!
My First Not-So-Hostile Hostel Experience 11
Death by mural snake. You’ll be missed, Dan.
My First Not-So-Hostile Hostel Experience 12
Just a little parting DIY inspiration!



  • Laura Smith

    I am now 47 and I’ve been hosteling all over the world in the past 16+ years. Check out “Hostelbookers” and “Hostelworld”. They have a rating sytem that let’s you pick what mattrs to you. Hosteling, as you discovered, is a great way to meet people from all over the world and it opens conversations you just wouldn’t have by keeping yourself segregated in a hotel or AirBnB. I am currently hosteling in Kathmandu, Nepal! Woot!!! Keep hosteling, keep meeting people. It will definitley let you stretch your budget (many places include breakfast and sometimes dinner…. depending where you’re at.)

    BTW, I just joined your blog and I think I’m hooked. I’ve been a thriftstore FANactic for sooooo long, now I have new eyes and inspiration. THANKYOU!

    Laura @midlifemischief on FB

  • Ann Briggs

    Thanks for sharing the experience it has increased my interest in staying in a Hostel. Like you said there are better things to do with the money!

  • Rachel

    I love Asheville to pieces, and have seen this hostel many times, and wondered about staying there. We often park in the garage across the street from Sweet Pea, and I’ve thought it looks like the most charming little place. Pretty sure I’m going to have to try it now.

  • Adventures of Making

    Awesome that you decided to step outside your comfort zone!
    Being slightly poor and slightly adventurous during my student years, I used to travel through Europe on my own during summers, and usually stayed at (sometimes shoddy) hostels.
    And I think it’s save to say that the hostel-experience is at east much more intense than staying at a hotel. I mean: impromptu bbq’s on a hostel roof in Berlin with roommates I didn’t know, running with hostel mates from the london riots when they hit near our hostel, exploring cities together, but of course also occasionally having to deal with snoring, snogging or completely hammered roommates.
    It’s not always easy but hey: comfortable hotel rooms just don’t really make for a good story, do they? 😉

  • Kristina Fukuda

    At 40-something, I still don’t feel too old to stay in a hostel. I love travelling alone and love the opportunity it gives me to meet new people who I sometimes end up hanging out with for a day or so. I also love AirBnB for the same reason 🙂

  • Kris

    You are a breath of fresh air Jillian!!! Thanks for the hostel experience report, you had me laughing out loud-wrong pod!!

  • Lisa A

    I loved hosteling, it’s how I met my husband. Our days have since finished (seriously who wants a family staying in a hostel? Ruins the party atmosphere). I will however allow my kids to stay in hostels when they are old enough. It’s great and inexpensive for single person travelers who want to meet new people. I like you also heard a lot about the “haven’t you watched the hostel movie”. I’m like “nah, it looked like crap”.

  • TEMA

    Loved your story and your great adventure… How old is too old, btw to do this kind of thing? I’m thinking there really is no age limit unless we put one on ourselves. It’s amazing what you can learn from all generations… 🙂

  • Carol

    Never done a hostel but just finished staying in university dorms, shared bathroom and I am 68 in a few months. Would do a hostel but in a private room. Jillian, great to hear from you!

  • titch

    Glad to see you back in the blogging business.
    So jelly of you seeing the Future Islands, Samuel Herring is a God!

  • Jenifer Simpson

    Love reading about your pod experience but I really wanted to know which of your refashions you wore during your trip! (with llinks to the blog story about when you made the outfit)…

  • Lisa

    AIrBNB, hostels and Uber scare the heck out of me, yet its nothing to my 20 something daughters.
    Every generation and new things, I guess. Love your dress in the Chicken Alley photo!

  • Ann Bartleson

    So, I don’t get it! Why does everyone think you have to be “young” to stay in a hostel? I’m going to Alaska this month and I’m going to spend a few nights in a hostel and I’m 52. I’ve never stayed in one before, but the one I booked looks clean and nice enough. I don’t plan on spending time hanging out there. I just need an inexpensive place to sleep. I’m totally excited about the experience and assuming this experience is a good one, I would totally stay in one in other places. It would open up a lot more budget travel opportunities for me for future traveling. I love to travel, but I’m cheap…er, I mean frugal. 🙂

    • Reen

      What’s with the “I’m too old” thing? In Europe people of all ages stay in Hostels. Sleeping should be the least thing you do on vacation anyway, so the cheaper the better. You can often bump into interesting people and obviously you already have a few things in common with fellow “hostelers”: thrifty people, who are gregarious, and are strangers willing to congregate. I love this piece Jillian, you are in top form again. I have missed you and was a bit worried.

  • elsa

    HI, I am 40 and I travel as much as possible (working in Europe helps!!) and I stay in hostels most of the time (I camp also) and I have to say to all of you , really all, that I met people from all around the world and from the age of 5 (my youngest daughter, but check because children are not always allowed) to the age or 70+. I would just avoid hostels where kids are forbidden, because 1) I travel often with my kids and 2) I don’t like the subtle idea that I get from such a regulation. But try it. Fellow travelers are usually very nice. If you travel alone, you’ll meet plenty of people (just get ready for the idea that you’ll hear poor or creative English language;-) ) and worst, case you will enjoy it. There are also more and more hostels with all-female dorms. I would recommend them as women tend to come back in a quieter way during he night… even if some may choose the wrong bed/pod 🙂

  • Ann Blackwell

    Hi! I haven’t heard from you in a dog’s age. So very glad to get this missive. I was afraid I had been dropped from your list. I have never stayed in a Hostel, and at 73 not sure I would fit in. But I have heard of Senior Hostels. I don’t have a car and have a hard time finding a sitter for my dog. But it could happen!

  • Kathryn Roskow

    My husband and I stayed in Hostels Northern England and Scotland a few years back; some were very nice and some were truly minimal (as in, bring your own sheets and towels,) but Sweet Pea’s looks like the nicest Hostel I can imagine. BTW… Who says 60 somethings don’t do adventures??? My husband decided to go to Ayres Rock last year on his own. He stayed in a very nice Hostel in Sydney and one in the outback near the rock. He was 74!

  • Sarah

    Thanks for the peek into a hostel! As a 42-yr-old lady I’ve asked friends what they’re like but those friends were so adventurous that they couldn’t be trusted! It probably helps if you can sleep through snoring, etc. I love your refashioned creations!

  • Rachel

    I worked for a hostel in my early twenties and we had people of all ages check in (everything from kids with their parents to seniors)! We’re in our mid thirties and have a young kiddo – we still stay at hostels whenever we can (although with a kiddo under 12 you have to stay in private rooms – which many do have now and for still cheaper than a standard hotel). It’s a great way to travel and you get to meet so many amazing people from all over the place!

  • Tina

    I find it funny you said you were too old to stay in a hostel. I took my daughter to New York for her 18th bday and we stayed in hostel in midtown Manhattan. I have at least 15 years on you. It was SO worth it and saved me well over a thousand dollars. My sister also called me the first two nights to make sure I was safe. LOL
    Glad it worked for you.

  • nikkiphilton

    As a soon-to-be 63, we won’t be staying in a hostel, but I’ve always wondered. Our nephew and his wife spent 6 mos. in Europe a few years ago, and that’s where they stayed. They loved it. Adventures are so fun!

    • Marta Gerrity

      Nikkiphilton. There is Elder Hostel, for people our age. I’m 61. They also offer Elder Hostel tours which is a group of seniors all traveling together. What an experience. I was a travel agent my whole life but now that I am a senior I love Elder Hostel

  • aprilblake

    Nice! We saw that in AVL last month when we walked by and I wondered what it was like. So if people snore and you just stuck listening to it?? I think that would be my only hesitation.

    • SuzyDQ

      I was wondering the same thing. And if Jillian was being polite using the term “breathers” when they were really snoring. Why else be awake so early after a late night?

  • Meg Miller

    I’m glad you had a good time in my fair city. As you already know, there are tons of other things to explore in Asheville, including the best non-kept secret, the Goodwill outlet. Y’all come back!

  • Lynn

    Thks. For sharing. Have heard stories of European hostels– have never done one. Very interesting, but I’m too old now and am a big ole’ scaredy cat !!!

  • Murielle

    At 62, I very much doubt I will be hosteling myself, but it was wonderful to read about your experience. Always great to hear from you!

    • Marta Gerrity

      Murielle, I am 61 years old. There is something called Elder Hostel for people our age. In fact Elder Hostel also organizes Elder Hostel tours all over the world. You may want to look them up, they really are quite fun

  • Jeanette Czalbowski

    Thank you So Much for sharing! I’m 64 and will never get the chance, but have Always wondered about them!! Thank you!! In my 20’s I was in a YWCA in New York City, and it was inky-dinky, but we were all friends and had the Best Fun! I’m all for saving money. Any idiot can pay retail, yes??!!

    • Buzz

      I’m 63 and we stay at Sweat Peas all the time! If we plan in advance, we can usually get one of the 2 private rooms (can’t hear any of that “breathing” thing. 🙂 ). The convenience of the Rankin St. Parking garage right across the street is hard to beat as well.

What do you think?

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