Tag Archives: hostel

Travel Journal: Austin, TX – Day 1

Over the next few posts, I’m going to catch you up on how I recently spent 4 days in Austin, TX (okay, 3 days + 1 in San Antonio, and actually… the total trip was really only 72 hours due to flight schedules, so this theoretically could all be done in one very busy 3-day weekend):

Day 1 – Saturday – Austin, TX

My plane lands at 5:30pm, and my friend B. picks me up at the airport. I check into the hostel (Drifter Jack’s) and even in the few minutes I’m there before we leave, I’m impressed with how friendly and welcoming everyone is. Plus, they have very cool art painted directly on the walls by local artists, giving the hostel a very Austin feeling.

Next, we check out the South Congress neighborhood, known for its unique shops and delicious food. I definitely recommend coming here, especially if you like exploring different neighborhoods within the same city like I do.

It’s very fun to see the Big Top Candy Shop, a store with a giant selection of bulk and packaged candies, an old-fashioned soda fountain, ice cream, and hand-made desserts. I buy a Lollihops candy for my brother (lollipop with hops in it, made by Yakima Hop Candy, which as it turns out, is located in the state I live in, so it’s a bit weird to buy as an Austin souvenir, but I buy it anyway, opting for their chile lime flavor which seems very Texas to me). I also have to get some of their random bulk candies for myself (like a gummy chicken foot! It looks weird and tastes about the same).

Among the other places we explore:

  • Monkey See Monkey Do (a novelty gift shop that seemed like they were low on inventory today, so I can’t really say if this is normally worth a visit)
  • Uncommon Objects (an antique marketplace with a very random and sometimes freaky collection – I see a doll missing part of its head and all of one arm, a taxidermied zebra head, and other strange things, but there are some nicer/more expected things as well – see picture below. Everything is fairly expensive.)

Despite the wonderful smells coming from the nearby restaurants, we decide to go elsewhere for dinner (perhaps motivated by the questionable legality of our chosen parking space). The Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill is supposed to be very good, so we go there, and since they don’t take reservations, we put our name in the list and wait for 2 hours (!) before getting a table. (For part of that time, we walk around Palm Park, attracted by what looks like the ruins of a small castle, but then we stay for a bit when we find a playground with very unique twisty swing-type rides. I’m glad we did that before we ate!) The food ends up being pretty good, but I’m not sure it was worth the wait.

After dinner, we continue our journey by heading toward the Capitol building. The Texas Capitol grounds are beautiful at night. The building is lit up, and so are the trees (not with wrap-around strung lights, but with big spot lights, so you can see the shapes of the branches against the night sky). There are many statues honoring people significant to the history of Texas, and while we’ll have to revisit during daylight to read the signs for some, we’re able to see most of them tonight.

CapitolBuilding-3354.jpgTexas Capitol at night – Photo Credit: nateClicks via Flickr – Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

Finally, we take a walk down to the 6th Street district. I’m not into the party scene, but I want to see what 6th street is all about since people were making such a big deal about it online when I was planning my trip. It was described to me as similar to Fremont Street in Vegas (which I thought felt really scuzzy), but thankfully, 6th Street is less unpleasant. It reminds me of the street full of bars near the campus where I went to school, and is filled with as many people drinking way more than they can handle. It’s not a pleasant experience to end the night with, and I can’t help but feel bad for the people having an even worse night – one person was sick with her head in a very dirty trash can. Like on Fremont Street in Vegas, there are a few people in costumes requesting tips so you can take photos with them, however, unlike on Vegas’ Fremont Street, the guy on 6th Street dressed as Batman is fully clothed. Despite feeling not as uncomfortable as I expected, it still isn’t a place I want to be, and we leave within a few minutes of arriving.

I think we made the most of the first day. It’s very late when I return to the hostel, and I’m exhausted, but I can’t wait to find out what else I’m able to see while in Austin!

Click here to read Day 2.

Stay in a hostel (2014)

My bed at the HI Boston hostel - Photo Credit 2014 Shelly Najjar at The Goal List

My bed at the HI Boston hostel

I just stayed in a hostel for the first time and I had a great experience. It was like being in a college dorm, no one was murdered, my stuff stayed locked up and didn’t get stolen, I slept well, and it was located near everything I wanted to see and near major transportation centers.

The hostel was part of the Hostelling International chain (HI-Boston location), and it was newly renovated to be one of the greenest/eco-friendly hostels. Everything was clean and working. It was a quarter of the price of hotels in the same area. There was also free breakfast.

The two major drawbacks were 1) the general lack of socialization – you had to work extra hard to meet people because everyone was on their smartphones or laptops; and 2) the area was a little sketchy at night, but nothing unexpected from nighttime in a city. Be smart, at night go places with people, listen to the little voice that tells you something’s not right, etc. Despite these things I’d stay there again.

After the first night, I met someone to hang out with by getting to know the people in my dorm room, so the socialization part was taken care of. But other than that, I found it much less social than I expected. I think it would have been better if people didn’t use their smartphones and laptops so much that they were ignoring everyone. But I know the free WiFi was one of the features the hostel was marketing pretty well, so maybe it was partly because of that. And maybe a little jealousy on my part because I don’t have a smartphone and didn’t travel with my super-heavy laptop. And as an introvert, I do understand wanting to be alone, but it was surprising because it was really difficult to start conversations or find people to go to eat a meal with.

There were events planned, and maybe I didn’t make friends because I didn’t want to go to any of those offered during the 3 days I was there, but had I been there on other days (or for longer) I would have participated in the events (but there was just so much to see/do in Boston that I didn’t have time to do it all!)

Huge lockers at the HI Boston hostel, with electronics charging station area - Photo Credit 2014 Shelly Najjar at The Goal List

Lockers at the HI Boston hostel are huge. They even have an electronics charging area/nightstand you can access when you’re in bed.

This particular hostel had large lockers (big enough to fit a carry on luggage) with holes for the lock that were big enough for most small locker locks. I was using a flexible cable lock (I get commissions for purchases made through that link*) because I wasn’t sure how big the hole was going to be and I knew that some U-loop locks can’t fit in certain lockers because the hole is too small.

In general the hostel was really comfortable, with an industrial, Ikea vibe to it. They provided sheets and a blanket, a towel, breakfast (as mentioned earlier), and liquid shower soap (that never seemed to be refilled, so bring your own to be safe, or use the liquid hand soap from the sink). The shower curtain was a map of the Boston subway station, which was pretty cool, and if you really like it, you can buy one at the front desk to take home as a souvenir. The front desk also has earplugs, pocket-sized maps, and cookies available for free.

All in all, I enjoyed my stay at this hostel and would consider staying in other hostels in the future.

Have you ever stayed in a hostel? What was your experience?

Resources: Hostel FAQ by Hostelling International USA, and How to Pick a Good Hostel by Nomadic Matt

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