Why We Hostel: Michelle McDade

04 May 2016


I was a late bloomer by many travelers’ standards. At the age of 26, I had enough of my life in Brooklyn and set out on a trip to…somewhere. That trip landed me in Jackson Square, New Orleans. I fell in love with the city, music, food, excitement, and culture. I knew I wanted to stay longer than a traditional trip, and a popular party hostel offered me that opportunity. I worked at the front desk of that hostel during the day and partied on Bourbon Street at night. I met amazing people, both locals and travelers. I went home four months later after becoming hooked on hostel travel. In the following years, I visited hostels around the U.S. and eventually around the world. The low cost of hostelling allowed me to travel on my own terms. I would stay weeks, sometimes months, in a country to learn more about the local culture. The unexpected part of hostel travel was that it gave people around the world a chance to learn more about me. It is a flattering but honest statement to say that I incited a lot of fascination from locals during my travels. Being a biracial (Black/ Puerto Rican) –woman-solo traveler sparked a lot of interest and compelling conversations from locals and fellow travelers. While I was constantly confronted with stereotypes stemming from media, music, and the glamorization of street violence, I was still met with a fascination of my “exotic” culture and appearance. This combination of intrigue and awe contradicted the perception of many American minority travelers’, which is that the world is as racially polarized as it is in the U.S. My travel experience has shown me that while my racial differences were never shied away from, it was never a point of discrimination. In fact, the opposite was true, I was embraced for having wild curly hair, brown skin, and a high pitched American accent. The acceptance that I experienced abroad allowed me to let go of my defensive shroud that was developed from years of past discrimination. I no longer walked the world expecting to be looked at as “less than,” and began to develop a deeper understanding of others and myself. Nowadays, I travel less than I would like and do not have as many opportunities to spend with international travelers. However, I still love to support hostels and to support hostellers on their journey to new understanding. That is why I hostel.