The word “hostel” comes from a Latin word hospitale meaning “inn, large house”. After the 16th century, the word hospitale develops into a M.E word hostelrie. By 1931, the word gains the definition of a “youth hostel”.
According to OED, a hostel provides “lodging and entertainment for strangers and travellers” at an economical rate for short term stays. Whereas a hotel offers a private room, a hostel refers to a shared dormitory between multiple people. A guest is not assigned an entire room but a bed in a dormitory. Therefore, privacy is compromised for cheap accommodation. Hostel functions as a communal establishment with lounges, cafes, bars and even sleeping rooms that are shared between multiple guests. With a cafe or a bar, the hostel becomes a social hub, not just within the travellers staying in the hostel, but for the local community. In contrast to a hotel that emphasizes the practice of privacy, a hostel emphasizes the social aspect of travelling. The communal spaces offer the opportunity for guests to interact with each other. The lack of privacy displeases those who are concerned about their privacy but attracts backpackers who seek “adventure” in their travels. These people are generally the common users of hostels more than leisure vacationers as they look for the cheapest and the easiest temporary lodging. It requires an open mind and the willingness to give up your private space in order to share a room with multiple strangers.
The openness of the spaces in a hostel challenges the society that values privacy and criminalizes the invasion of privacy. All spaces are shared and the only private territory is the bed that you’re given. Yet, even then the bed turns into a space where people can socialize.
The idea of sharing a sleeping space with strangers is hard to accept for the society that fears unfamiliarity. This results in a misconception of hostels in the media as a dangerous and an unsanitary place. However, the reality for some hostels, definitely not all, offers a hospitable space that provides generous lodging for backpackers who are willing to interact with strangers.
1.Online Etymology Dictionary. Online Etymology Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=hostel (accessed November 21, 2012).
2.Hostel. Oxford English Dictionary. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/88755?rskey=SYT6Gu&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid (accessed November 21, 2012).