"Upscale" and "hostel" don't usually land together in a sentence so I was thrilled to read the story in today's Washington Post about the "new breed" of hostels opening in this country.
They are "very high-end, clean, design-focused," according to the owner of a hostel soon to open in Pittsburgh.
The story describes the Firehouse Hostel in Austin, the Cleveland Hostel and the Freehand Miami, along with the 20-year-old Green Tortoise hostel in San Francisco that offers many free amenities, including massage chairs, computers, sauna and sangria.
Where were these all the years I was staying in "youth" hostels?!
Speaking of youth, the demographics of hostels have changed also, to include families, the elderly and even business travelers.
Hostels are for travelers "for whom meeting kindred spirits trumps having the (TV) remote and a pillow-top mattress all to themselves," as the writer Melanie Kaplan puts it.
I admit to enjoying both my luxuries and the chance to meet kindred spirits. But as a solo traveler, there's something special about hostels, a warmth that can make them more inviting than a luxury hotel. And usually, you can't beat the price.
In hotels, the unspoken rules for common areas are: keep to yourself and your group; speak with strangers mainly to ask them to push the button for your floor or say "excuse me;" if you have questions about what to see and do, ask the concierge or front desk person.
The rules at hostels are the opposite. Engage. Offer your travel tips, food, finished books to others. Join conversations. Ask others about what they've seen in the area and what they recommend.
As with any travel, do your research. My most recent experience was not great. A hostel in Tel Aviv seemed nice from what I read online. It overlooked the Mediterranean and got good reviews from many visitors.
This hostel turned out to be dirty, noisy and impersonal. Ah well. These are the chances I'm willing to take. Sometimes.
I've never liked to spend a lot on lodgings when I don't plan to hang around my room. I'd rather spend money on good food, gifts for family or friends and the next trip I'm dreaming about.
(I wrote previously about my experience at the hostel in West Virginia where I met a couple who gave me tips on my upcoming trip to Israel)
Photo: By Kimberly Gavin. The Bivouac "Bivvie" in Breckenridge, Colorado.