It makes us feel old to say it but we were traveling before almost anyone knew what the internet was.
Before you went somewhere you had no opportunity to exhaustively research your destination beyond rereading that same paragraph in the guide book you flipped through in the book store. The only opinions you could gather were from friends who had actually been there. And though you could phone up a hostel in advance to book a bed you never did because you had no idea if it was the kind of place you would want to stay. Besides, who could afford the phone call?
The internet has changed travel in many ways, some for the better, some incalculably worse. But like with all technology it’s how you use it that counts.
Take hostels – if you want to be sure of having a place to stay when arriving late in some big city you can now just book ahead and you’re saved the prospect of walking around dodgy neighbourhoods with your brightly coloured backpack calling the attention of every mugger in the area.
Yes, hostels can suck. They can make you feel like a teenager again with all the warning signs to clean up after yourself and the eternal fixation of other backpackers to get drunk and compare guidebooks.
But they’re also great places to find people to travel with, get clean after a week of sleeping on a beach and maybe even get laid. And there are some hostels that are an experience in themselves – fancy staying on a river, in an old jail or in the jungle?
Just don’t get stuck in them forever.
If you’re looking for a hostel, the cheapest bet is usually with Hostel Bookers