It’s the eternal question that has plagued many a gap year student, English teacher and holiday maker.
The notion of ‘travelling’ has changed from what it used to be.
Before the backpacker explosion, the notion of taking a gap year as we know it today almost seemed unnecessarily extravagant. After all, our parents never had a chance to do such a thing, why on Earth should we be able to?
But that was exactly why so many teenagers. during the late 60s and 70s, started to travel more. In the wake of the austerity that had gripped the UK for decades after the Second World War, teenagers and young adults were finally beginning to assert their rights to roam the country and began envisioning a way to grow up that was markedly different to how their parents did so.
Instead of leaving school at 16 and entering straight into a job, the young person’s youth began to extend beyond their teens. As the world changed around them and communications grew, the world appeared to shrink and each corner of the globe seemed that much easier to grasp. It wasn’t until the cost of flights began to significantly drop that the gap year, as we know it today, became a more viable option for the mainstream masses.
By the time the 00s hit, despite a constant barrage of Global Recessions and Financial Crashes, more and more British kids were heading overseas to ‘find themselves’.
By this point, the travelling gap year had become less of a daring risk and more of a rite of passage.
Thanks to a slow but solid increase in young travellers trotting the globe, thousands of entrepreneurial individuals from all over the planet were beginning to catch on. Soon, hostels began popping up, inviting travellers to take a load off in shared dormitories for cut prices.
The standard of these hostels at the start were poor. After all, most of the would-be budget hoteliers were not trained for the world of customer service. Beds were left to fester, bathrooms struggled to compete with the standards of prison camps and thefts were common place. As with all fledgling industries, it would take time and healthy competition to raise the standard of these places.
As the Information Age hit its stride, websites began cropping up, providing travellers with an opportunity to review their stays, causing hoteliers to reconsider the way that they transacted their business.
For many, they had reached something of an impasse. Their current standard of treating customers brought in money and had the bonus of requiring little action on their parts. However, if they chose to continue this they risked creating a bad reputation for their business and potentially ruining their future incomes.
The end result of the constant push-pull relationship between online reviewers and hostel owners is symbolised by the current state of hostels that we now see today. Thanks to almost ten years of customer based invigilation – we can now safely research our night’s stay before our holiday has even began.