I’ve always professed that your twenties are the time where you are meant to travel on the cheap: backpack around, eat street food, hitch-hike, stay in hostels–be a gypsy. Conveniently, I had literally never done ANY of these things before now, so leave it to me to spout these grand ideas of wild “roughin’ it” adventures that I had only lived daydreaming in the shower (in between my showerhead acoustic sessions).
So with this romanticized, young/wild/free travel lifestyle vividly cemented in my brain, this was, of course, the stencil I used when planning my current euro trip. With a week to kill in Europe before moving into my apartment and starting school in Germany, all I knew was that I was flying into Frankfurt. So I thought, hey, why not spend one night in the city to check it out/get a cool install pic/practice my German (the three words I know: beer, bread, and men). Going back to my romanticized gypsy travel stencil, I was like “hey, I’m gonna stay in a hostel because its $11 a night and it will be an adventure.” Despite my generally being a very “off-the-cuff” type of person, I honestly thought I did my research because the last thing I wanted was to end up in a hell-hole in a place where I didn’t speak the language and didn’t know anyone. I looked at all my options, scoured online reviews and Tripadvisor, looked at pictures–the whole kit and caboodle. So I picked a hostel that I thought, for the most part, looked pretty good. From what I gauged, the place was relatively clean, had good security, and a laid back and social atmosphere–perfect. Granted, there were a few less than inviting reviews, but I just brushed them aside thinking some negative reviews are kind of a given.
With everything booked, my trip rolled around, and next thing I know I’m stepping off a plane in Frankfurt, Germany. Holy F&*%. The thing is, I don’t function well when sleep deprived. I literally go into a mild state of psychosis (just ask my mom.) So having been up for about 30 hours by the time we had landed in Frankfurt, I was not in the mood to share a bedroom/bathroom with 10 other people. Not to mention figure out the train system so I could actually get there. So I was like, screw this I’m checking into the airport Hilton. True grit right there.
BUT as I was hangrily tromping around the airport trying to find the hotel, I started having flashbacks to a few years ago when I took a solo trip to Philly for my Grandma’s birthday. It was a similar situation where I was a complete zombie, insanely grumpy, and didn’t want to leave the airport–even tho I had several hours to kill–because I was so tired. But for some reason, I was able to give myself a little kick in the butt, get myself on the train and into downtown where I got to explore the old part of the city, go to an art gallery, AND try a Philly cheesesteak IN PHILLY (that was a big life milestone for me tbh.) It was one of the best trips of my life.
With Philly on my mind, I realized I may never get the opportunity to check out Frankfurt again since I was only staying there one night, and I knew if I wussed out at stayed at the airport I would hate myself for it later. So I got myself a cappuccino and a pretzel and hopped on the first train that took me to the city center. Stepping out of the train station into city center Frankfurt was a truly surreal moment where it all really hit me. I was in Europe. The buildings, the streets, the people; everything was different than anything I’d ever known.
I dragged my huge suitcase about 4 blocks from the train station to the hostel. HERE’S WHERE IT GETS GOOD. When I opened the doors to step inside I was immediately engulfed in a heavy cloud of BODY ODOR. WTF. Not just like a whiff of someone walking by, it was like they had a ” Spicy Hockey Lockerroom” scented Glade plugin. Putrid. Except this was way worse (unimaginable, I know) because it was like a muggy/heavy scent that lingered in your mouth. I sincerely wanted to puke. If that wasn’t enough, the atmosphere was completely bizarre and unsettling. The room was dark, with colored neon lights adorning the walls, techno music blaring, and about fifteen men all definitely over 25 just sitting there staring at me. No other women in sight. The first thought that went through my mind as I looked around was “this place looks like a strip club without strippers” (although, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were some in the back).
At that point, I was just kinda frozen in the entryway. I knew I couldn’t just b-line it out of there because they had all already seen me walk in, but there was no way in the hell of fire I would be spending the night in this place–I’ve seen how this movie ends but my dad is NOT Liam Neeson (sorry Dad, you’re not). The guy at the reception desk kinda waved me over, so I sheepishly dragged by stupidly huge suitcase to the desk. “Do you have any availability tonight?” I lied, already having had a reservation for two months. Then I asked if they had any private rooms (knowing they didn’t) and politely thanked the guy but said I was looking for a place with a private room. GOOD ONE, MOLL!!!!!! And you can bet I was out of there and back to the train station faster than you can say “strip club”.
I took the train back to the airport, and you know what I did? I dropped $150 on a room at the airport Hilton without blinking an eye. I’m happy that I went to the hostel because I definitely would have regretted not even giving it a try. Frankfurt is a very cool city so it was awesome to get a chance walk around a bit, as well as get a feel for what the German train system is like. But I guess the moral of this story is: trust your gut. If any part of you is telling you that you are in the wrong place, you most likely are. And especially when you’re in a place where you have to solely depend on yourself, the best and safest thing you can do for yourself is to listen to your intuition. So that’s what I did. I stayed at the airport, took a bath in my PRIVATE room, ordered room service, and rested up for my flight the next day…… (only to realize that I was at the completely wrong airport anyways, but that’s a whole different story).
So, while I’m sure not all hostels are like this one, I can safely say that my first hostel experience was horrifying. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed…. because I’m supposed to stay in hostels for the next 8 days LOL