Booking and Finding a Hostel / Maddy is trying to start writing again

I miss travelling so much so this is (hopefully) going to become my outlet so I don’t go crazy.

Since my trip I’ve had a few people asking me questions about travelling! Which I love and encourage if you havea  question I’ll of course do my best to answer it. And I’m going to talk about my tips on one of the things I’ve been asked about in this post but I am going to say before I write this whole thing that all of this is my own experiance and my advice and I know plenty of other people have more experiance with this stuff. This is just what I’ve learned and what I want to share with anyone who wants my advice. I hope to write more of these too so if you have anything you want to hear about please let me know!

My topic for the first of this series (Or whatever it is) is about hostels. I was asked what I look for when I’d book one. So this is my advice. And I’m going kinda in depth here so… here I go.

http://generatorhostels.com/en/destinations/venice/ This photo isn't mine! It's from the website of the Generator hostel in Venice! I repeat not my picture

http://generatorhostels.com/en/destinations/venice/
This photo isn’t mine! It’s from the website of the Generator hostel in Venice! I repeat not my picture. Also this is one of my favorite hostels I stayed at. Super nice and the beds were comfortable! The photo above is from their website as well. 

WHAT I LOOK FOR

First off I booked all of my hostels through http://hostelworld.com/  which is super easy to use and I highly reccomend it. Their app is great too. Every time I booked a hostel I’d pay an extra Euro so that if I had to change my plans I could get my deposit back, which something like 15% of the total cost so usually about 15 Euros for me and if I didn’t pay that extra euro and my plans changed I’d have lost that money. Usually it has to be within 48 hours or something like that but it usually worked out.

When I’d look at hostels just for me I’d look at a few things in the reviews. First I’d narrow down my price to whatever I was willing to pay and sorted them from highest rated. Simple makes sense. Right?

Then I’d click on the ones that looked nicest to me. Generally I’d go by appearance here. I’d look at their facilities. Do they have anything special? Do they have a kitchen and a lounge? Air Conditioning and Wifi were almost always a necessity for me. They were usually my only requirements.

Then I’d look at the reviews. I ignore a few things in the little ratings breakdown. Staff, Cleanliness, Atmospehere. They seem like important things! I know. But this the advice someone at one of Rick Steve’s seminars about hostels gave me. The people that are reviewing these hostels might be used to 5 star hotels or they might be used to camping. So really the cleanliness isn’t that important. That being said if the hostel has a really low rating on that look at the reviews to see the exact problems. With Staff you don’t know if one guy had a bad day or if the guy even still works there. So don’t worry too much. Mostly they’re young people who just want to show you a city you like. There may be a rotten egg or two but they’re probably having a bad day. And atmosphere I just ignore unless I’m somewhere where I’m looking for something in particular. You never know what the people rating them were looking for. Genereally speaking i do look at the Location, Value for money, security, and facilities ratings but I hold them with a grain of sand until I’ve read what real people have written.

When I look at the actual reviews I only look at 2 things. I sort them first from newest to oldest. See what people who were there the other day say. Then I look at worst to best. Sometimes because they’re hilarious, and they are, but also because sometimes they will say something like “Everything here was amazing except that I saw a roach and the internet never worked” and if those are the two things I’m concerned about they’re good to know. One thing though. ALWAYS look at the dates on reviews. The guy who went to the free breakfast and it wasn’t free at all and there wasn’t any food… that might’ve been 5 years ago on the off season. Another good idea is to look at their social media to see what people have posted from there or about them you can easily get a good vibe about the people there or at least the area around the hostel.

When it comes to price I’m someone who is willing to pay an extra 5-10$/Euros a night in order to get a slightly nicer accomidation. I never splurged and got a private room because I was alone, however I did stay in 2 hotels, one because after a month I needed a night alone and the other because I was sick and had an awful day and I have the best moms in the world. I don’t really think the number of beds in a room matters that much. Yes you’re more likely to get woken up by strangers in the middle of the night but in a smaller room you’ve got a pretty good chance of that happening anyways. I stayed in rooms ranging from 4-16 beds and I think the only times I really got woken up were in 8 bed rooms. When it comes to single gender or mixed dorms I prefered the mixed dorms. This is all personal preferance of course but for me it just didn’t matter and generally an all female dorm is a few Euros more or the same price and I just never minded that much. Was I ever the only girl? Yes. Did I care? No. Did I feel safe? Yes. And if you’re put in a room where you feel unsafe tell the people that work in the hostel! They will help you to the best of their abilities!!!

Quick run down

  1. Look online
  2. check out reviews
  3. pick a hostel that you like!

My last bits of advice:

  • No one is to old to stay at a hostel. Anyone can. I mean that.
  • If you want to party and the hostel online is decribed as chill, quiet, or laid back maybe look somewhere else
  • If you don’t want to party and they advertise booze, clubbing and general debauchery maybe look for the chill place?
  • And look until you find somewhere you like.
  • oh and it always is a good idea to look at the hostel on a map before you book it and before you arrive/on your way there

I want to post more on here about this and general life stuff. If you want to know about anything please contact me!

Still working on getting pictures up! I’m awful about it I know.

Maddy

Advertisements

My Thing

I talked to a few people while I was on my trip who had weird things that they did in each place. Or something they looked for in each place.

I had two of those. The first was pretty normal. Whenever I had time to look around for a market I would. Often it ended up being where I would eat almost every day, or that was the case in both Florence and Lisbon. I didn’t do this in every city but in many I did, and part of that was that I wouldn’t look it up on the internet. I wanted to just find them. The two I found both had food courts where you could get a quick meal or ice cream, also air conditioning!

IMG_4363 IMG_4631

The other thing I did was that I looked for the best Chinese food. I tried chinese food in nearly every country and in most cities. Some had amazing food. Others… Not so much.

The winners: Paris and Budapest
The loser: Madrid

I’ve been asked over and over “Didn’t you eat the local food?” Yes. I did. But it was something, like pringles, that just seemed like a comfort thing. When I was missing home of just felt like I needed a touch of something familliar.

I think it’s good when you’re away from home to have something comforting. For me it was going out for chinese food, although in a pinch Pringles did work. I don’t really even like Pringles. They hurt my mouth. But I think my point is that even though what I picked to be something to make me feel better when I missed home, which I did of course, I think everyone needs that. If you’re at College across the state or travelling around the world something to remind you of home is always good.

So I’m thinking about posting things about what I packed and stuff like that. Let me know if you’re interested or if you want to know about anything else.

Maddy

A reflection 2 weeks later

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say to really wrap up my trip. I posted on facebook asking for questions so as I wait for some, meaning hope I get some, I’m going to take some pictures of things that I’ve taped into my journal and just talk about what they are/stories about them.

First off. About my journal! So my journal is this leatherbound dark blue/green hand made journal that I got for christmas last year from my cousins. I orignally used it for some planning, meaning there are SO many lists in here, things like places and hostels that looked cool, packing lists, prices of rail passes. I never actually wrote about the trip in it. But I did have tape with me and put so much random stuff in here. So this is some of it!

These are a variety of tickets! This page specifically has a Paris Metro ticket, My Ticket to Versaille, My ticket to the Louve, and my London pass which let me get into things like the Tower of London and Hampton Court along with a few other places!

I really loved going to the Louvre and seeing all the sculptures. The paintings were cool but not as interesting to me, it was really cool seeing the vermeer that they have there! Unfortunately… I accidentally deleted all my pictures from the Louve. So that was really unfortunate. I believe there is a picture of me and the Venus di milo on my instagram… here. That is (VERY SADLY) my only picture from the Louvre. I heard a lot of people who didn’t like it or thought it was so big. I just think you just had to figure out what you actually wanted to see.

Versaille was a little er… disappointing for me. I did enjoy it. But I found that the outside was so gorgeous that the inside could’ve been so cool but it just felt like it was a ton of not too cool paintings shoved into rooms. I wanted to hear the history and see more of that. On top of that we had 4 hours (I think) to go look around and about an hour of that was spent waiting in line to get in and we had our tickets already. That frustrated me quite a bit. We didn’t make it to the gardens because we only had about 10 minutes until our bus left.

Overall that day that we went to Versaille was great. We saw the Eiffel tower, Got an amazing burger from a little stand, oh and saw a ton of pickpockets get arrested which was really cool to watch. A bunch of cops ran after them and the whole time I was picturing some of them being regulars and being like “Oh joe. Again? C’mon dude. Lets go”

As for London, I basically loved everything I saw and did in london so I don’t have many specifics to say about that…

IMG_5373

These are tickets to St. Pauls Cathedral which I’ve already talked about how much I loved that. It was so amazing to go to. I cried. It was beauiful. Go if you find yourself in London. Worth it. A ticket to Parque E Palacio Da Pena in Sintra, Portugal. And to Westminster Abbey. Also the map of The Tower of London.

Pena was incredible. My phone was dead and I forgot my camera so I couldn’t take pictures but It was this really cool palace on a mountain. It’s colorful and all tiled and was just super cool. If you’re in Lisbon for even just a day you should go! It’s about 20 minutes outside of Lisbon.

Wesminster was cool but seemed like they just kept shoving things into the Abbey but seeing Poet’s Corner was super cool!

IMG_5377IMG_5376

These were mostly all transit cards. Green is Lisbon, White is Venice, White and green is Barcelona, and blue is London. The little white one is Paris again. The blue pamphlet is El Duomo in Florence and The tan is Sagrada Famillia in Barcelona.

I’ll talk about the transit in a few minutes because someone did message me about that!

El Duomo. I went there on the last day that I was in Florence and while the day overall was kinda shitty, That church is amazing. It’s really old and really cool looking! I climbed up all the stairs and looked out over Florence. When I was there I actually got my only injury, besides the countless mystery bruises, I hit my shoulder on a big cast iron hook… and bruised the bone in my shoulder. It hurt for 2 weeks and now just feels weird with some serious lack of range of motion right now. For an overall bad day seeing that church was definately a high point!

Sagrada Familia… I kinda have no words. It was so incredible to see in person. The church wont be finished for at least 10 more years but seeing it in its unfinished state just makes me more excited to see it in 30 years which is my prediction for when it will be finished. If there’s a pool on when it’ll be done I want in on it!

Also in my journal are tickets for trains and boats, a few other maps, pamphlets, postcards, and more tickets.

ON TO THE QUESTIONS!

  1.  Was it worth going on the trip (Not just cost wise but time wise too)
    • YES! 100% yes. I did feel like I missed some stuff and some people from back home but mainly I’m so glad that I went. I did for sure catch the “Travel bug” But the best thing was that I got to see and learn about places that I don’t know that I would’ve ever seen otherwise. Also I learned about myself. I learned a lot about growing up and how to take care of myself and that alone made it so worth it. That’s not even mentioning the friends that I’ve made that I hope are going to be a part of my life forever, even if they do live far away.
  2. What did I learn?
    • I learned that it’s okay to be on my own. That no matter where you are there are always people around. I met some people just asking what time it was and others just because I heard english being spoken. I learned that things that don’t go according to plan often lead to the best experiances. I learned to loosen up a little. Most of what I learned I can’t really describe.
  3. What was your favorite part?
    • Croatia and Budapest were incredible. Barcelona the first time was also just amazing! I don’t think I have one favorite memory but the Baths in Budapest and the beaches in Croatia were both really high up there. Also the Ferry from italy to Croatia was so much fun! Really picking a favorite part is impossible because it all was so great. I wouldn’t change anything!
  4. What was your favorite place?
    • In no particular order
      • Dubrovnik, Croatia
      • Hvar, Croatia
      • Budapest, Hungary
      • Middle of nowhere, Hungary (JOKES it wasn’t fun)
      • Barcelona, Spain
      • Madrid, Spain
      • Sintra/Lisbon, Portugal
      • London
      • Florence, Italy
      • Venice, Italy
    • One thing about the Cinque Terre, it was great however I feel like I would’ve enjoyed it way more with a friend or something.
    • One thing about Paris, Both Suzanne and I were sick in Paris so that kinda ruined that… also there were concerts going all night while we were sick that kinda dampened that…
  5. Most Beautiful Place
    • Again in no particular order
      • Dubrovnik, Croatia
      • the islands just around Hvar, Croatia
      • Cinque Terre, Italy
      • Sintra/Lisbon, Portugal
  6. Favorite thing I did
    • I can’t do it! I can’t! I don’t have a favorite thing. I loved just spending time on the water in Croatia and Italy. I loved going to churches. But what I did a lot of my free time was just walk around the cities. Sometimes I got lost but it was amazing to see the places that weren’t neccessarily in the touristy areas.
  7. How was the transportation?
    • Getting between cities was pretty easy. I mostly took trains. I took 3 flights (Madrid-Lisbon, Lisbon-Madrid, and Budapest-Rome) within Europe. The trains varied a lot in comfort and age by country and by type. The highspeed trains were generally pretty nice and they go between the big cities and between countries. The local trains or the ones that go shorter distances tended to be a little more run down and less comfortable. The worst was the one that took me from Zagreb, Croatia, to Budapest. That one broke down twice which led to me and my friends being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no food for about an hour and a half. By the time we got to Budapest we were starving but it worked out! We got there! The other way that I travelled was by boat which I did 3 times as well. Bari, Italy to Dubrovnik, Croatia which was a 10 hour overnight ferry and was a TON of fun! We all hung out and played cards. Had some drinks. And piled 8 people into my tiny 4 bed cabin. It was a blast. The next was SUPPOSED to be from Dubrovnik to Split… But we got off at the wrong stop and ended up in Hvar… which is an islanded. The next evening we took another ferry (the worst) from Hvar to Split which I felt super sea sick on and it wasn’t fun.
    • Within cities there are 4 options.
      • Metros, not everywhere has them. But when they do they’re amazing and quick and once you’ve figured them out once they’re basically all exactly the same.
      • Busses, I hate them. Sometimes they work sometimes they take forever. I did take them if Metros weren’t available or didn’t go where I wanted but mostly I just went with Metros.
      • Taxis, I only took these when I was going back to the hostel from a night out or going to and from airports/trainstations. Occasionally if I got really lost I took one but that might’ve only happened once and it was in Croatia so it was super cheap.
      • And last. Walking. I did this alot because I never realized how far places were from eachother… also I like walking and the cities I went to generally were really good for this. For the record the most I walked in one day was 10miles and that was in Barcelona! Go me!
  8. How was communication?
    1. It wasn’t too bad. Sometimes doing things like getting train tickets was hard but generally if they didn’t speak english I could point or use google translate. I did learn how to say thank you in every language EXCEPT Hungarian.
      • English – Thanks (Obviously)
      • French – Merci (Already knew this too)
      • Spanish – Gracias
        • Sorta funny story about this one. I knew how to say it because of Mexican resturants but when I was in Madrid I picked up their accent so now I say Gra-th-ias. The guy that worked in the conveniance store next to my hostel in Barcelona (who hated me to begin with) looked at me so weird because the first time I was there I said it how I always have. 2 weeks later I’m saying it differently.
      • Portugese – Obrigado or Obrigada
        • I think it has to do with gender but I never figured it out… oops…
      • Italian – Grazie
      • Croatian- Havala or Fala
        • For a while I thought it was K-vala. Like Koala but with a v… I was wrong. Its Fah-la.
  9. Cultural Differences?
    • The things I did notice were things like Italians and Hungarian drivers are crazy, being able to buy ONE bottle of water and just sit in a cafe for as long as you want is cool. Drinking wasn’t as big of a deal for people because they can do it quite a bit younger. Some stores close in the middle of the day for the siesta which freaked me out. Dinner is later and bars never seem to close. People somehow always seemed to know I spoke english even if I wasn’t talking. But after a while everything felt so normal that I barely noticed. Oh but I always noticed the speedos and tiny shorts that guys wore. I never got used to that.
  10. How were the hostels?
    • Surprisingly good! Some were better but all felt pretty safe and secure. Most were clean. The people were all nice! I prefered ones with AC, Wifi, and an elevator. but most weren’t that nice.
  11. Scary things?
    • Being out at night in Rome was freaky. I was staying right near Termini station which is known for being a bit sketch. Same in Portugal. Besides that I always felt really safe. There was one instance that wasn’t scary but there was an old guy in portugal who heard me say excuse me or something and he asked where I was from. I said america. We had a little conversation and I turned to leave. This is the day that I was flying back to Madrid, and I was all “I have to go…” He proceeded to try and get me to go to the beach with him. I politely said no and started walking away. He then yelled at me “Oh. You don’t like sex?!” And at that point I ran. Took a few random turnes and kept looking back to make sure he didn’t follow. He didn’t and now it’s a kinda funny story.
  12. Worst and best moments?
    • The worst was when I missed a train that was taking me to a boat. That sucked. I cried and called my parents waking them up at 3am their time. The best. Everything. It was amazing.
  13. Worst moments that turned out for the better
    • See previous question! Because I missed that train and boat I ended up on the next one and ended up meeting 4 guys from England who invited me to Budapest and I ended up getting really close with them. If I hadn’t missed that boat we never would’ve met and I can’t even picture that! That was one of the best segments of my trip was that week and a half with them!!!
  14. What to expect if you take a trip out of the country?
    • I think you should expect to not know anything that’s going on and take it day by day. Planning ahead is good in some cases but always make sure you remember that you can change those plans. I think the best euro I ever spent was when I’d reserve a hostel I paid that extra euro so if those plans changed I got my deposit back (minus the dollar) and now I have amount of hostel reservervation credit so next time I don’t have to pay that first 16% or whatever out of pocket.
  15. How did I change?
    • I don’t know. I feel more independant and more confident but I think that because I was there I can’t really see how I changed so I guess I don’t know.
  16. Which Culture surprised me the most?
    • Probably Croatia because I didn’t know much to begin with so I didn’t have any preconceived notions. Croatians were so nice and open.
  17. What do I miss the most?
    1. The people
    2. The freedom
    3. The endless NEW things to see and experiance
    4. Going out at night. I said it. I miss it.
    5. Just all of Europe in general. I miss the vibe.
  18. Most importantly: Favorite Foods
    • Patatas bravas from Tapas Victor which is a tiny hole in the wall across from Sant Jordi Rock Palace
    • Pizza. specifically this one IMG_4881
    • Pasta. Just all the pasta.
    • Kababs were good. WHY IS THIS NOT A THING HERE?! Is it? Am I nuts and I didn’t know it was? So good.

Thats it on here for now I guess. If you read all of that go you!

I’ll be posting pictures soon I hope. And I need to figure out what to do with this now that I’m home. If I go anywhere I’ll post and I’m planning on having a tourist day here soon so I’ll post about that when it happens. But what else? As I’m planning trips I can keep updated on that. But if you have any other questions let me know and I can do another post or something!  Again thank you for your support while I was gone and I hope to see you soon if I haven’t wether you’re here or there.

Maddy

I guess this means it’s nearly done.

In the last 61 days I’ve been to 8 different countries. I’ve seen museums and churches. I’ve danced in clubs on the beach. I’ve gotten off of ferries on the wrong stop. Swam in the Mediterranean. Through all of that I think my favorite memories that I’ve made are of the people that I’ve spent time with. I’ve met so many people and a lot of them are people that I know I’m going to keep in touch with for the rest of my life.

I leave tomorrow morning to head back home. I have a 15 hour flight from Rome to Chicago and then from Chicago to Seattle. I’ll be home 10:30pm Seattle time.

I’m not sure what to think about heading home. Don’t get me wrong I miss my family, my friends, and real life. Yet at the same time I’ve been having such a good time here and there are so many things, so many people, that I’m going to miss.

After 2 months of being on my own being a real adult it feels weird getting ready to head back to a more… regular life.

There have been things that I meant to do but didn’t. Places I wanted to go but didn’t. But at the same time I did things I never imagined, went places I didn’t expect. I really want to say a huge thanks to everyone who’s supported me in any way.

I’ve heard so many people say that they couldn’t possibly do what I did. And to be blunt, that’s crap. Admittedly I didn’t think I could do it. You can ask Taylor how many times I freaked out and said that exact thing. But within a week I’d figured it out. I’m not claiming to know everything about this trip and I’ve certainly screwed up quite a few times. But everything that I did I learned from. I believe that anyone who wants to can travel and even if it’s as simple as going to a place you’ve always wanted to go you should do it and tell me all about it!

I don’t know what I’ve really learned from this trip other than how to take care of myself and deal with those mistakes that I did make. But I do know that I feel more like an adult.

I left home for this trip before I really got a chance to really think about what I’m going to do in the next year or so. I guess when I get home I really do have to think about it. I do know that as soon as I can I want to come back and see the people I’ve met, do the things I didn’t do.

I never expected that after two months I’d want to stay so much. Before I left I was so scared about the little things. I was convinced that by now I’d be so ready to come home and now I’m actually leaving. It’s like I’ve been gone forever but at the same time I just got here.

I’ll be posting some pictures soon and maybe I’ll post again soon. I’ll try and keep posting on here!

Hopefully I’ll be headed on another trip soon!

To everyone back home I’m excited to see you!

To everyone I’ve met here, I’m going to miss you guys and thank you for making this trip amazing. I hope to see you soon and if you’re ever in Seattle (Or on the western half of America) please let me know!

To everyone thank you for supporting me in this whole thing. It’s been the trip of a lifetime although hopefully it’s really just the beginning.

Maddy

Unfortunately no Wifi!

Currently I’m in the Cinque Terre staying in Riogammoire (the town farthest south). Unfortunately my hostel here doesn’t have Wifi so I’m writing a quick post on my phone (also no AC but I’ll talk about that later). I’m heading to Florence tomorrow so I’ll hopefully have wifi there so I can post something substantial. 

A very sunburned Maddy

Halfway through!!!

Soon I’ll be posting some pictures and a full runthrough of what I’ve been up to on the first half of this trip! But I wanted to do a quick post thanking everyone who’s been reading this and everyone who’s supporting me in every way! I’m missing home a lot but this has really been the most incredible time of my life!

Tomorrow morning (8:30ish ugh) I’m heading towards Nice for the night where I’m staying in a REAL hotel so I’ll have a bit of privacy, which I’m excited for after nearly 3 weeks of sharing rooms… really it’s 5 weeks though because even at first I shared with Suzanne! (Love you).

The other change that’s been made is that instead of going to Greece I’m going to be going to Croatia! While I’m sad that I wont be able to see Athens and Santorini I’m also very excited to be going to the place where they have been filming Game of Thrones!!! They also might actually be filming while I’m there which just makes me Giddy. I should start getting ready for dinner or something. Heading to bed early today which everyone knows is weird for me. But I’ve got to head out early tomorrow.

Maddy

Barcelona!!!

Barcelona has been so amazing this far. I’m staying at one of the Sant Jordi hostels and it’s so amazing. It’s clean the beds are comfortable. Oh and it’s fun. Every night they do a communal meal for something like 5 euros. Last night was Sangria night and tonight is burrito night.

  And every night at 11 the hostel leads a bar crawl where they go to a bar and then a club. I’ve yet to go to a club but it’s a ton of fun. There are 5 (I think) sant Jordi hostels and we all meet up and you get to know people at other hostels as well. 
  Last night I went out with two girls I met who are from England and we walked down La Rambla to the beach we stopped for food and saw people dancing in a square. I’ve yet to see the beach in day time or really go out. Instead in spending most of my days by the pool with my feet dipped in. It’s so relaxed here. 
 
I think im going to go have a snack before we go do a bit of shopping. More later!!! 

Maddy