Luxury: Observations from a Cynical Backpacker

Luxury: Observations from a Cynical Backpacker

I know what you’re all expecting, a bashing of luxury holidays; but the truth is, that is not what this is about.  You see, recently I was put up on what would be considered by most a luxury type trip, and I soon came to the realization that there is some good to it.  I have been backpacking since kindergarten, and I love the lifestyle.  And the truth is that I probably will never change, even when I have a family I have the feeling that I’ll be vacationing in a backpacker style.  However, there definitely is some good to the luxury travel world.  Here are my observations:

1. Soap and Shampoo

My usual digs

My usual digs

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left my soap and or shampoo in a hostel bathroom.  I don’t think I’ve ever made it beyond half way through a bottle of Head & Shoulders before I inevitably leave it behind.  In fact, I’d be lying if I told you there weren’t times that I’ve gone into the shower shampoo free and used some “found” shampoo.   Hotels always have shampoo ready for you, free of charge!

2. Carrying my bags

I know I’m a backpacker, but I have a confession to make: I don’t use a big backpack anymore.  I will write a post about my reasons why sometime soon, but I have my reasons, don’t hate.  So when I get to a hostel I’m immediately thrown to the top floor and have to drag my bag up.  In Hotels, the bell boy does it for me (mind you I have to tip him the price of a hostel bed).

Hostels can have luxury too though

Hostels can have luxury too though

3. Silence

If silence could be sold in hostels, it would be bought.  I think they should open little “quiet rooms” for people to get away.  In hotels, I just go into my room and relax.  There is no snoring, no fighting, no scrunching of plastic bags, just silence.

4. Television

I miss television; I’ll be honest about that, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I miss sitting in front of the television and just completely wasting a day.  Some days you just need a TV day, I haven’t had a TV day in a long time.

5. No worries

On luxury holidays everything is taken care of for you.  In fact, when on a luxury trip I often find myself asking the people in charge if there is anything I can help them with.  I am so used to having to be alert and at the ready that it is very nice to simply relax, clear your mind, and let someone else do all the worrying.


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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13 Comments

  1. I know that shampoo situation! I’ve lost many of those.
    But it appeared to me that more and more hostels have a “found soap” section in their bathrooms where you can use the soap others left. So you win some, you lose some…

    When I travel, I try to keep my TV hours to a very minimum. Sometimes I watch a movie in a hostel, but that’s about it.
    But once in a while I also like to check into a private room to have the luxery of silence and a private tv. Then I stay in my room the whole evening to fully enjoy it.

    Two weeks ago I also had to stay in a hotel because it was the best solution to get in time to the airport the day after.
    But I noticed I had to worry more than when I’m in a hostel. First of all I don’t know the rules, I don’t know how to act among the personel and the other guests. Then there was diner, which you have to make sure you get there in time. And then it took me more than half an hour to figure out how to get electricity in my room (it turned out that the key ring had to be put into something in the room).

    What’s obvious for the regular hotel visitor appeard to be very awkward to me, I just feel much more at home when staying in a hostel.

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    • Hahaha… it’s funny you mention the key thing Nicolas. Just the other week I went to reception to tell them that the electricity wasn’t working in my room, only to find that out!

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  2. Hmmm, I’m glad that you pointed out some positive things about luxury travel. I must say though that I strongly believe that just because something has been labeled luxury doesn’t make it any less authentic. I get really upset when backpackers (I’m not saying you at all) think their experience is more authentic because they’re “roughing” it. That’s such BS! In fact I’ve noticed that a lot of backpackers are more interested in getting drunk and partying than having authentic experiences.

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    • Completely agree Andi, backpackers love to claim the authentic experience when the end up spending their time only with other backpackers speaking english/french/whatever their language is and spend all their money drinking in the hostel. It drives me crazy!!!

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  3. Hi Andi, among backpackers there is indeed this endless traveler vs tourist discussion…
    And until a certain degree I think the backpackers are right. If you’ve spent two weeks near the pool of a hotel in Cancun, you can’t say you’ve visited Mexico. You’ve physically been in Mexico, yes, but that’s about it.
    But what people tend to forget is that luxury traveling is not the same as “all-in package deal” traveling.
    It’s not because you like a bit more confort that you can’t have the same experiences.

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  4. I reeeeaallly think that pic of the pool is from a hostel in Granada, Nicaragua. Am I right? If so, I arrived at the exact same place after an exhausting bus ride from Guatemala, overjoyed to find a pool and free internet, and didn’t leave the hostel for a week, except to forage for food. If I’m wrong, well, then somewhere out there is a hostel twin 😉

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    • You got it girl. I did the same sort of thing. I was wiped out, just got some short changed on a money exchange and needed some relaxation. When I got to the street I read the sign outside saying “Oasis” and thought “this place looks like hell.” But when the doors opened I realized that the title was perfectly fitting. It’s funny how people have the same sort of experiences eh?

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  5. I lived in a hotel for around three years when I was a consultant, it was nice to have my bed made for me every day, plus I built up an amazing mini shampoo collection (not to mention the mini JD collection) 🙂

    As for the soap thing, working in a hostel type environment, I can confirm you are not alone in leaving your shampoo behind! Sometimes people somehow manage to forget most of their clothing in the shower, and towels are also remarkably common. We hang onto everything for a while to see if anyone claims it, then it either goes to the staff or the charity shops 🙂

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  6. A little bit of luxury never hurts – splurging on a nicer hotel from time to time also reminds you that you are not the poor traveler you feel like when staying in hostels all the time… Get a nice, fluffy towel, TV in the room, a hot shower… nothing wrong with that 🙂

    By the way – we walked into Oasis hostel this afternoon and when we got to the pool in the back I felt like I had seen this exact picture today already 😉

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    • hahaha that’s amazing! Three people all went to the Oasis that read this post. I was there in 2005 I think!

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  7. I knew it! I love it that we had an identical experience. I was there in 2005 as well……….perhaps we have already met. haha. I was truly in heaven for a week-my only regret was that I didn’t see more of Granada or even Nicaragua in general. I hope to fix that little issue this summer 😉

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    • What month in 2005 were you there Claire???

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  8. To be honest, I haven’t slept in a room with strangers before in a hostel! I guess it’s because I know I’m quite a difficult sleeper, in the sense that, I can’t sleep with the slightest sound or light, and it will be hard to control that if you’re sharing a room with people you don’t know! LOL!

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