I could not wait to visit Jackson, Wyoming. From what I had learned, I expected a vibrant, authentic western town skirted by the Grand Tetons. The good news is that it was all of these things and it was not overbuilt. The bad news is the affordable lodging options for families this time of year are as rare as striking gold.
I booked two nights in The Hostel which was a new territory for us. The next lodging option I could find was $1,000 more per night! I have to admit feeling a bit sorry for myself as we lugged our things up four flights of stairs into a dark, plywood paneled closet with four bunk beds. My dreams of a rustic lodge with soaring windows and a cowboy breakfast were fading fast AND we were paying more per night than we did for a villa in Tuscany.
One of the things I have learned in the hundreds of places we have arrived over the past two years is to quietly observe without judgment. The reason I try to keep any initial negative opinions to myself is that often my children see value where I don’t and if I speak too soon, they are less likely to share their findings.
We left our bunk room as quickly as possible and headed into the shared garden. Within minutes the boys discovered free hot chocolate and cookies, and Bianca watched birds from the hammock. I was feverishly checking all possible booking websites for last minutes details in Jackson when my husband beckoned me into the game room.
Our boys were playing table tennis with a Chinese woman who was teaching them a new way to hold the paddle. Over in the corner of the same room, our daughter was watching a Russian woman chopping cabbage and crushing caraway seed as her Borscht bubbled away on the overworked hotplate. As I stood back and listened to the many languages and cultures represented, I understood what makes hostels work. It is not because they are cheap, it is because they facilitate community.
We have stayed in so many places that I can’t even remember anymore. I will never forget Jackson because it gave us an experience I didn’t even know we were missing. We have talked about the people we met in that short period of time more than many places we have stayed for weeks. Why? Because it was all about the common room which is something many adults never experience after college.
Youth hostels are not just for “youths” anymore but beware, you may just find yourself sleep deprived doing hula hoop fitness on the front lawn and feeling younger than ever!