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Have You Considered Hosteling?

Mention hosteling, and most people conjur visions of grungy students boozing into the wee hours, bunking in a room full of disheveled backpackers in desperate need of showers. While that was indeed the norm circa 1975, today's hostel experience is vastly different...most of the time.

The modern hostel is more like a discount bed & breakfast than the transient frat house of years gone by. Most have strict rules concerning noise, behavior, and arrival times; many have individual rooms. Some even offer suites with private baths. All of these cost a fraction of the average hotel. The modern hostel tends to be cleaner than a discount motel, and at a significantly lower price.

One thing that hasn't changed since 1975 is that straggly-haired student smelling vaguely of weed: He's back at the hostel. Only now he's in his early sixties and balding, neat as a pin, on a bicycle foliage tour with his second wife. And rather than drinking until dawn, they're quietly sipping pinot grigio and dispatching postcards to grandchildren before turning in by 8:30. Drugs, if any, are prescribed and lined up in a carefully labeled medminder.

That's the average scene at today's hostel.

The younger generation is still around, but it seems that dorms and "couch surfing" have taken a lot of that business away from hostels...and the void is being filled by families and frugal travelers of all ages.

Thus the art of hosteling provides an affordable alternative for the slackpacker who prefers not to sleep under the stars, and can't justify the expense of a three star hotel. And in many cases, the people you'll meet and the conversations you'll share can create memories that last a lifetime. It's infinitely more stimulating than a sterile hotel room with a flatscreen TV, cranked up to drown out the thrum of the air conditioner.

The important thing is to sort out the suitable hostels from the pseudo frat houses. Besides making an endless list of links to the places I've visited, a good resource for finding a decent hostel is Hostel World, which uses interactive maps to make things as easy as possible. This takes you into specific listings for a given region or city, for example, if you zone in on the Czech Republic searching for Prague, you land on this page. Then the site gives you quite a bit of detail about the various hostels available, so you can avoid listening to energetic 19-year-olds jamming on electric guitars until 3:00 AM.

Of course, if that's what you're looking for, is good for finding that as well.

Appalachian Trail Hostels

These can be all over the lot, with pricing to match. As I stay at them -- and only if I like them -- I'll list 'em here.

My all-time favorite is Pine Ellis Lodging in Andover, Maine. Dave runs a comfortable house and is a friendly, personable host. Next in line is the Maine Roadhouse near Stratton, Maine. I say "near" because, in northern Maine, that's a relative term.

We'll continue to add links as appropriate.


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There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps, for the rest of our lives, we will be unwilling to settle for less.

-- Kurt Hahn