Living as a local Vs Living as a backpacker

I just recently moved into a flat share in Sevilla city centre, while I am based here to learn Spanish. I must admit, after travelling for 5.5 out of the last 7 months, staying in hostels the entire time, it has been a great relief to get my own private room for a change! There has been some great benefits already to living more like a local and having my own place, and I’ve only been staying in the apartment a few weeks already, but I have also felt the downsides too. I wanted to go into detail about the upsides and downsides through my own experiences so far, so that anyone considering doing something similar may have a better judge as to what will suit them best, as it is important to remember that each has both an upside and a downside. There is no perfect choice.

Privacy

I must admit, I got lucky and found a particularly nice apartment. I decided to pay a bit extra and go for something that had a few added extras. These included my own private balcony over looking the city from my room, 2 large bathrooms, prime time location, and overall just very nice decor and furnishings. Even if I had went for the cheapest option however, I still would have had my own private room and double bed. This, for me, after several months of staying in large hostel dorms has been priceless. I love hostel life, I really do, but I was ready for a bit of privacy. Something as simple as just being able to go in my room and close the door when I need space to work on my websites, study Spanish, or just sleeeeeep, has been particularly refreshing. Then there is the whole issue of guys. When I was staying in hostel dorms and I wanted to have a bit of privacy with a guy I’d met, sometimes it could be particularly hard to find anywhere without other people around! When you have your own room in an apartment there is no issue. You don’t even need to think or worry about it. When you living more like a local, i.e. living in your own place instead of hostels, hotels etc, you have the huge added benefit of the privacy you would usually get at home.

Meeting People

This is hard one to judge, because on one hand since I have moved into the flat I have missed the social atmosphere of the hostel terribly. Back in my Sevilla hostel, and also all the others across Europe I have been to this year, everyday I have met somebody new. There is always somebody who wants to party, or who want to go sightseeing during the day, go for lunch, or whatever. I do miss that environment a lot. However, although I meet less people now I am living in a an apartment, the people I do meet tend to be Spanish… which is a huge bonus! I came here not just to learn Spanish, but to understand more about the country, people, and way of life. In the backpacker hostels you very rarely meet any Spanish people, everybody speaks English, and you don’t really learn a huge deal about the place you are staying. The local people I have met here however, although small in numbers, have taught me so much about Sevilla, and Spain. They have also been great to practice Spanish with, although I must admit, I do pick it up rather slooooow, but then foreign languages was never my my strong point back in high school when I (was supposed to) study French!

Experiencing local culture

I think a lot of this has to do with how much effort each person puts in. For instance, when I was staying at my Sevilla hostel I still felt like I was experiencing some local culture. I ate out regularly at local restaurants, drank local Spanish and Andalusian beers, and shopped in many independent stores. Also, I struck lucky with my hostel (Oasis Backpackers Palace Seville) in that they regularly serve Paella, and a range of tapas at the bar. They also regularly take you out to local Flamenco shows, bull fights (I’m not saying I agree with it, but it is distinctly Spanish), and host local bands live on the terrace. Every day I felt like I experienced a little bit of Spanish or Andalusian culture. I also made good friends with the bar staff, and had the opportunity to go with the bar manager to the local union where they usually organise things like the protests going on right now in Spain, where we got to check out another local band, and hang with only Spanish speaking people. However, generally speaking, when I stay in a hostel I can’t say I experience as much local culture as this all the time. I must admit, sometimes I do get sucked up into the bubble that is hostel life and my hostel buddies. Even in Sevilla, I have still been guilty of that from time to time. When you have your own place, or attempt to live a little bit more like a local, you don’t have that to fall back on. You either get out there and experience it, or you just sit in your room all day! Certainly however, it is possible to experience local culture while you stay in a hostel, but you really just have to make sure you don’t fall in that comfort zone bubble of hostel life.

There is also the question of what is local culture? On one hand, there are things which are traditionally Spanish, and unique to Spain, but are they really things the locals do? For instance, I had a really good time at a local Flamenco show. Sevilla is the birthplace of Flamenco after all, and I definitely would go again, but in reality the majority of people crammed into that little Flamenco bar where all travellers, backpackers, or from another country other than Spain. There lies the question is this really local culture, or in fact a tourist attraction?

If I had to simplify this whole debate down into one sentence or piece of advice it would be “just do what you enjoy”. If you are happiest living the backpacker lifestyle, or happiest trying to live more like a local then do that. It is good to get out of your comfort zone, and I highly recommend you try it while travelling as often as you can, because you may not have this opportunity again, but at the end of the day, no matter what anyone else says, there is no right or wrong answer. A lot of people feel pressure to get off the beaten track and mix with locals all the time, but if being a backpacker living in a hostel is what makes you most happy don’t feel like you have to force yourself into doing something else. For me, I am enjoying this new challenge. I’m learning a language, staying in one place for the first time in a looooong while, and really starting to enjoy life living in Sevilla for now..

3 Responses to “Living as a local Vs Living as a backpacker”

  1. Steve says:

    In Seville, we stayed at a private apartment on Alameda de Hercules, across from the big promenade. Unfotunately, the promenade was being renovated.

    We were able to cook eggs and chorizo for breakfast and then pick up some chocolate and churros for a snack later in the morning. In future trips to Europe, I’ll always look for private apartments. In Spain, the apartments are exempt from the “hotel” tax.

    Have you made the trip to Cordova yet? We used the bullet train, just to see what it was like. We liked it. About 45 minutes faster and their own separate staff at the stations.

    We inadvertently visited Jerez on the holiday of their patron saint. It was mostly shut down except for some of the sherry bodegas.

  2. Alouise says:

    Great post. I only stay in hostels for short times, never longer than a week. I don’t know if I could do months of hostelling. My ideal travel would probably be a few weeks of hostels, to meet people, and then some local living.

  3. Liv says:

    I find it is too easy to become lazy while staying in a hostel and I think the only way to really learn a language, is to live, as a local, in that culture and be forced to learn it.

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