Meeting attractive, available, age-appropriate, mentally-stable, no-felonies-on-your-record potential mates can be a challenge in post-school life. And Hallmark holidays like Valentine’s Day make this injustice even more palpable. But there is one place where adventure-seeking young people swarm together, where being single is the norm, and where social status, employment status, and ego are pushed aside, allowing your true self to come out and play. I’m talking about hostels.
If you’ve ever lived in a college dorm, it’s kind of like that. If you’ve ever rented a house with a big group of friends, it’s kind of like that, too. The big difference is that you’re surrounded by people you’ve never met before from all over the world, but everyone has one thing in common: they hostel because they love travel and want to meet new people.
The defining characteristic of a hostel is its communal spaces. Game rooms, self-serve kitchens, and lounges all serve to foster interaction amongst guests. Although not designed to be a dating chamber, that’s inevitably what happens. That’s because the majority of guests are single, under age 30, and have a free-spirited independence that makes them approachable, fun, and attractive.
In today’s world where everything can be done online, hostelling – and dating – proves your mouse can only do so much. Just as reading about exotic places isn’t the same as visiting them, reading dating profiles isn’t the same is meeting someone in person. Body language expert Linda Clemons says, “Building relationships online is like dancing in the dark…you may claim to have the best moves yet no one sees them, including you.”
In a hostel, you learn a lot about someone in a short amount of time. Are they fun to be around? Do unfamiliar surroundings make them stressed or energized? How do they cope when things don’t go as planned? Are they crude, rude, or otherwise socially unacceptable? Between visiting a museum, going on a pub crawl, and chatting in the hostel lounge, you can get a pretty good idea of someone’s character and determine your own compatibility.
But the challenge, whether you’re in a hostel, bar, or friend’s house, is how do you know if the person you’re interested in shares your intentions? It’s all about the non-verbal cues. Linda says, “Is he or she looking at you as if you are the only person in the room and every word out of your mouth is gold, while respecting your space? Or is there an intense gaze as if you are lunch?” Both men and women lean forward when they’re interested, and women have a tendency to tilt their head when they like someone – which are also good ways to let someone know you’re interested in them, without coming across desperate.
Once you’ve found this totally fun, compatible, and genuinely interested suitor, what do you do when you find out they live 10,000 miles away? This is when the online world has a place in relationships. While 10-15 years ago love-struck hostellers only had expensive phone calls and snail mail to keep their ties strong, you are now blessed with Facebook, email, and Skype. Think it’s still a lofty idea that a relationship can succeed from across the globe? These people don’t think so. This growing list of happy couples found their significant other at a hostel and either moved, got married, or are still in contact today.
The worst thing that can happen by heading to a hostel in search of love is that you instead make a new friend, while seeing a cool town. There are more than 25,000 hostels worldwide, and I bet you won’t make it through them all before you find the one.