I arrived at Podstel, located a short walk from Old Town, which I'd booked for my two nights' stay in Bucharest. It was a relatively new hostel (around 10 months old), which school friends who'd backpacked together decided to start up - a culmination of several years of travelling around the world and years of planning. I loved the story behind the hostel and was looking forward to seeing the place.
The journey from the airport was very straightforward - the hostel sent detailed instructions on travelling by bus a few days before the trip.
As I entered through the metal gates leading into the courtyard, I felt a certain familiar atmosphere that instantly put me at ease. I had been nervous about the upcoming solo travel, which I'd never really done before. I was worried that in travelling alone I'd experience loneliness, lack of motivation and "wasted time".
Jason, who from the accent I could tell was American, greeted me warmly and showed me around the place. The dorm itself (a shoe-free zone - yay!) was clean and very spacious, with a split level put in instead of the usual bunk-bed (which I assume is the norm anyway - I wouldn't know for sure as this was my first time in a hostel). There was a giant blackboard with activities going on during the week and very cool decorations around the place that reminded me strongly of Escape the City.
The outside space was one of the other things that grabbed my attention when I booked the place on Hostelworld. There is a big gabezo with colourful drapes hanging off the ceiling and comfortable cushions all around, a very inviting space to come and mingle with people. Next to it is a "tea house", which I was told was also open to locals, serving 50+ types of tea, coffee and drinks. Finally there was a small stage for holding music events, open mic nights and other sessions.
The outdoor area of Podstel. You can see the stage in the background where they often have musicians, magicians, yoga teachers etc in for performances and lessons. This turns into an outdoor dorm when the hostel is full.
(I was a bit taken aback though by a bathroom with two showers and a toilet. were you supposed to leave the door open? This being my first time in a hostel, I wasn't sure of the rules of the game...!)
I spent the rest of evening soaking up the atmosphere, enjoying the home-cooked Greek vegetarian meal and sharing our stories over beers with the guests and volunteers (who had applied through workaway.com, which Iris and I are using for our travels in August). Some of the people I met were long-term travellers, others on a trip for a few months, and others just on a short holiday, but we were able to share a connection facilitated by the welcoming environment. We talked late into the night about our lives, our travels and what we hoped to get out of both.
In those conversations, it felt like I had found kindred spirits. Those that hated small talk. When it came to sharing my story about why I was travelling, they created that special space that allowed me to be open. We felt heard and seen - a spiritual moment. It deepened my resolve to create a space like this following my return from travels, as I believe so many people are crying out for something like this inside (although they may not be aware of it).
The outdoor bar / tea room, with the lovely Daniela from Romania
Some of the guests liked the place so much that they extended their stay at the hostel, choosing to sleep in the outdoor space in sleeping bags, as the hostel was fully booked up! I was tempted to follow suit and extend my stay with this lovely hostel and people, but I resolved to explore more or Romania and push outside of my comfort zone. This type of connection should not be limited to a certain physical space or a certain 'crowd' - I'd put that belief to test!
Once everyone had headed for bed, I decided to finish writing up my catch-up update from Cuba. I was sat next to a guy from France who said that he was heading to Brasov, which was next on my loose itinerary. We decided to head there together and booked a hostel online (predicting it wouldn't be as good as this place!) It's pretty cool how you pick up fellow travellers along the way!
Podstel notice board, which reminded me strongly of Escape the City!