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

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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