What It's Really Like Living In A Hostel Long-Term

Life & Travel

Could you imagine living in a shared environment for the sake of saving money?

Would you be able to live in a hostel?

There are pros and cons to sharing such close quarters, but the reward of saving more of your paycheck might be worth the sacrifice if only for just a small period of time. I currently have taken the bullet as a last survival resort, and have found that there are most certainly downsides to living the "hostel life," but on the flip side, the "carefree" millennial Black girl warrior in me is making it work!


You Save Money in Rent and Utilities:

Living as a long term hostel tenant will save you coins! With real estate prices soaring through the roof in most major gentrified cities in the country, paying significantly less a month for a bed in a shared dormitory could be worth it! You get to save on utilities, as most hostels include basic amenities, including WIFI. Not even gonna lie - not receiving three bill statements from Con-ed, Optimum, and National Grid a month has been liberating!

Photo by Charles Lyles @lifebylyles

You Meet all Kinds of New People:

When you live in a hostel, you get an opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Folks have fascinating stories and life experiences that are fun to learn about. Fostering new connections with people in a hostel has been a highlight of my experience thus far. You would be surprised how many similar life experiences bring people together in a hostel. The solidarity and potential for life-long friendships you gain with people in the same situation as you is very rewarding!

You Really Learn How to Be Considerate of Others:

When living in such close quarters, there are a lot of liberties that you would normally take in your own space that you would not be able to do in a communal environment. Hostel life will teach you quickly to be mindful of any behaviors and patterns that would cross the boundaries of your other roommates. There is humility in these lessons that can be taken with you wherever you go.

You Learn How to Adapt to Foreign Environments:

Living a totally different lifestyle to what you are used to is no small feat. Living in a communal environment catalyzes your natural Instincts of adapting to your surroundings. It gives you certain skills that you would have never attained so quickly otherwise. You would be surprised with what you are able to teach yourself when it comes to organization, time management, and eliminating excess.

Photo by Charles Lyles @lifebylyles

You Find Inspiration in Change and Humility:

No matter what your reasoning is for living in a hostel, I doubt that this life would be anyone's first choice. Humbling yourself to be able to downsize in this extreme way gives you a feeling of pride and respect for the extent you would go to better yourself in the long run. It teaches you gratitude for all that you do have. In my case, I have been able to take this initially unwanted situation and be inspired to write a TV pilot entitled, "Finding Fontaine: Hollywood Hostel," that I will one day pitch to Netflix. To me, this is the definition of "When life gives you Lemons, you make Lemonade."

Freedom to Travel:

If you can live in a hostel in one part of the world, you can live in one in another. Living in downsized communal housing allows you to be able to freely travel from place to place on a budget. Imagine living in a hostel in Thailand or Cairo for only $10 a night in a place where our currency is worth significantly more? You could explore different cultures and expand your horizons whilst you save your money investing in yourself.

Photo by Charles Lyles @lifebylyles


What Privacy?!:

When sharing a room with 3 to 10 bunk beds, you can kiss your privacy goodbye! People are constantly coming and going, alone time in the room is often very rare. If you ever had a bad day, and all you want to do is come home and relax in your bed alone, you will be constantly reminded that you are living in a room with 5 other strangers. I often have to find a spot that is quiet to do tarot readings for client and the constant presence of other people is problematic! If someone is a big snorer, heavy walker, or loud talker, you better grab some ear plugs!

Photo by Charles Lyles @lifebylyles

Co-ed Living:

Most hostels are co-ed, so expect to be sharing a room with the opposite sex. This means being subject to always having to be clothed and mindful that the big burly straight dude sleeping across from you might be checking out your goodies any chance he gets. I got lucky enough to get a smaller 3 bunk bed all-girls room, but others may not always be as lucky! If you're someone who likes to walk around your house butt ass naked, or are self-conscious around the opposite sex, this is something you'll have to get used to.

Photo by Charles Lyles @lifebylyles

No Hanky Panky:

While living in a hostel, there is little chance for you to "get it in." You most likely wouldn't want to obviously, but there are times, naturally, when you will wish you had privacy for intimacy... even if it is with yourself. Your best bet is to take a temporary vow of celibacy, or find somewhere else to endulge in sexy time.

You Run on Hostel Time:

Every hostel has their own quiet hours, cleaning hours, and communal space hours. If you like to stay up late and watch Netflix, chances are there are people trying to sleep next to you. Don't get caught sleeping either when the kitchen closes…or you might find yourself taking a late night walk to the nearest 7-11. Are you a late sleeper? There are some long-term residents or tourists who will get up at the crack of dawn for work or to prepare for their day. If you are a light sleeper, prepare to be woken up.

Annoying Hostel Mates:

Living in a hostel comes with one, or two, bad apples! Let's just face it, there is bound to be an altercation at one point or another with someone you just can't stand, even if you tried. Every hostel has that one or two energy vampires that you learn to stand clear of by day two! Also, depending on where you stay, the hostel could be reminiscent of an episode of "Big Brother," or "The Bad Girl's Club" and equally as annoying! To combat this, stay to yourself!

Photo by Charles Lyles @lifebylyles


Not every hostel will be the same when it comes to cleanliness. Depending on the price point of your stay, cleaning could be an ongoing problem. There are so many people using the common areas that it might be difficult for the hostel hosts to keep up with the cleaning in a timely fashion on top of not everyone having the same level of cleaning needs. If you are a germaphobe, this will be the hardest part of living in a hostel for you.

Bed Bugs:

For me, this is worse than any con on this list. Living in a hostel is definitely risking being subject to bedbugs. There are so many people coming and going who are backpackers traveling from place to place. You will never know if someone is carrying a little sneaky bed bug in their luggage. It is often hard to prove that you've been bitten, unless you find an actual bed bug. Unfortunately, this potential risk comes with the territory. Make sure you read all the reviews to see if anyone has reported bed bugs. Also monitor and inquire about pest control.

Even though the cons outweigh the pros, I still have made the "hostel life" work for me. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and everything happens for you - not to you.

My best advice for someone looking to live the hostel life is to meditate often, cleanse and ground your energy, and get out as much as you can. I know that this is only temporary, and a new dawn for me will soon come. It's not perfect, but it's a roof over my head…

So with all that being said, could you live in a hostel?

Photo by Charles Lyles @lifebylyles

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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