A Hostel Takeover in San Diego
By Natalie Jacobs
I stayed at my first hostel, Hosteling International Austin, two years ago and I fell in love immediately. I often tell friends that the location felt like summer camp, nestled safely off the main road underneath sprawling trees and views of Lady Bird Lake from multiple patios around the exterior of the building. On my first night, after having dinner at a Mexican restaurant with a lovely English nurse, I stayed up talking with two brothers from Sweden, discussing the differences in health care and military defense spending in our respective countries. The brothers were on a journey through the United States down to Panama. One was wearing a knee brace and the other was eagerly awaiting the rendezvous point with his girlfriend in Mexico. They weren’t sure how they were going to get back to Sweden from Panama, but it didn’t matter. In my dorm, a female 10-person that felt surprisingly spacious, I talked with a French waitress who worked only enough so that she could afford to travel. She was beautiful in the way that only the French can be, and she had lovers in more countries than I could even name.
After leaving Austin, I was hooked on hosteling and started making plans for my next trip. It was Philadelphia in January for my birthday. Just one night, not enough time to really get to know anyone in the room, and not too many people visit Philly in January anyway, but the vibrant colors and incredibly friendly staff made me forget that I had just walked a mile through a freezing rain/snow mix, careful not to slip on shoes that were dreadfully treadless.
Washington D.C. with a friend was teeming with people, this time not just young travelers like myself but also more seasoned trekkers and an astonishing handful of family groups. We stayed in a co-ed dorm and discovered an incredible Salvadoran restaurant (at the recommendation of the front desk person) just down the street.
Finally making it out of the United States, my last HI stay was in Toronto, but sadly only for one night. In the shadows of the city’s rich cultural diversity, I lay on my bed talking with a Kiwi about her plans to live in the country for as long as she could manage, and a Japanese girl, who, like me, was just passing through.
I stay in hostels because I’m broke but also because I’m infatuated with the people they attract and the sense of community the good ones create. Since I’m from San Diego, I’ve never had the need to stay in any of our lovely hostels, although I do argue with myself about walking into the one in OB every time I pass by it. This Sunday, though, I and everyone else in town have the opportunity to check out the Hosteling International of Downtown San Diego for an art show and live music event. There will be food and tons of opportunities to chat with travelers about their journeys and, if you’re in the mood, suggest some places in San Diego that they should not miss. It’s a $3 suggested donation and proceeds benefit hostel programming. Musical performers include Chango Rey, Mystery Cave, and The Sensori Collective. I’ll be there, so be sure to say hello if you make it out.