An INFP’s Hostel Survival Kit

These are the items that I always pack with me to help create a more positive travelling experience as an INFP. For those of you unfamiliar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality inventory, INFP is one of the 16 categories of personality type. It is on the more rare end, comprising only about four percent of the global adult population. The acronym stands for Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving. 

I don’t know what other people or INFPs experience, but from my perspective, everyday life can be rather challenging. Every noise is too loud, every light is too bright, every smell is too strong, and I can read the emotional undercurrent in every face around me. While travelling, some spaces have been nearly unbearable. I’ve endured those experiences by sinking as deeply into my own self as possible and waiting for the external environment to change until either it is less painful or I can leave. 

When I travel, I stay in hostels for a few reasons. If I stay alone in guest houses, I would never have any incentive to talk to anyone else who speaks my language. That would be TOO easy. Staying in hostels gives that extra layer of challenge. Also, they are inexpensive. I travel very low budget. While travelling in the US, the hostels that are slowly popping up across the States are far less expensive than staying in hotels or in Air BnB locations. Finally, I believe it is important to consistently meet other people who will expose me to their ideas, their thoughts, their stories, and yes, sometimes even their toxicity. 

Buenos Aires Hostel
At a hostel in Buenos Aires, reviewing a map of the city, playing with my braid, and feeling very INFP-ish (overwhelmed and overstimulated).

I have stayed in multiple hostels across the countries of Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania; and in the cities of Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Bratislava, Llubljana, Guadalajara, Vancouver, Toronto, Victoria, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, Portland, Bozeman, Chicago, Manhattan, DC, Cleveland, Nashville, Sacramento, Columbus, Charleston, Savannah, and probably more that I can’t recall at this immediate moment. Without churning the memories in my mind to calculate the exact number, I estimate that I have stayed in at least 120 different hostels. This is my hostel survival kit.

Puerto Maldonaldo Hostel
The courtyard at a hostel in Puerto Maldonado, Peru.

Clothesline

Before my first long-term experience through South America, I picked up a clothesline at REI and was SO happy I had it with me. Laundry facilities were difficult to find outside of the cities, and I did a lot of hand washing. Also, in the humid climate the towels after showering would have never dried without that clothesline hung in front of the fan. With the clothesline, I did not have to give any energy to worrying about my damp clothes growing mold in my pack. 

Cartegina Hostel
Loving the clothesline while staying in a very tiny room in Cartagena, Colombia.

Sarong

The sarong is a highly versatile item. It’s an extra blanket in overly air conditioned environments like buses, air planes, and some hostels; a towel at the beach or riverside; a privacy curtain across the front of the bunk beds in the dorm room; a skirt, a scarf, or a pashmina; or a pillow when folded. Sarongs are lightweight and dry quickly, and worth the $25 to buy one online. 

Meander Hostel
My sarong is the tie dye fabric draped over the back of the bunk in this Budapest hostel.

Plastic Bags in Multiple Sizes

Think like three grocery-type plastic bags, three sandwich bags, and two freezer bags. I use these for food storage at the hostels, or to pack food before a long day on the bus. One plastic bag definitely always has laundry in it, and then I keep an extra on hand in case something I own is exposed to bed bugs. Disgusting, but it has happened three times. Also, in really muddy or rainy weather, I have used pieces of plastic bags as an extra barrier between my socks and my hiking shoes. While travelling, if I accumulate more bags than what I bring with me, I don’t throw any of them out until I return back to wherever home is at that time. Many times, they are all in use somehow.

Bread, pickles, and lard
Lunch in Krakow. Note the plastic bag in the back, containing cheese I purchased at the public market.

Mason Jar with Lid

Here is another simple item with many uses. Coffee to go. Soup to go. Oatmeal to go. Water. I didn’t trust the cleanliness of the glasses or bowls at the questionable hostel. I collected stones at the river and needed a place to store them before I acquired another plastic bag. The hostel had (very) limited water usage and none of it was hot, and I needed to maximize my water usage. To keep the mason jar from shattering in my pack, I stuff my sarong into the center of the jar, and then fold the outer edges of the sarong around the outside of the jar. 

Essential Oils

I have five go-to essential oils that I bring when I travel. Lavender is a given. A few drops on my pillow and my eye mask helps me sleep at the hostel, and also dispels any unpleasant odors. I tend to get anxiety on crowded buses and airplanes, and lavender relieves the symptoms a bit. 

Tea tree oil is a natural disinfectant. I use it while hand washing clothes, or I pour a drop into my shoes at the end of each day. Nobody wants their boots to be the pair that stinks up the dorm room. Also once I made the error of neglecting to wash the oatmeal out of my mason jar for a few days, and the tea tree oil alongside soap and water de-funked it enough to continue using it. 

Salta Hostel
Hostel in Salta, Argentina. I sprinkled everything with a couple drops of tea tree oil.

Frankincense is good for the skin, and each morning, I rub a drop of it directly onto my face. It helps moisturize my skin, eliminates bacteria, reduces anxiety, and also diminishes the appearance of aging. I’m not a vain person, but I never want to return from a trip abroad through a distant land to hear my friends and family say, “wow her years as a nomad are starting to catch up to her.”

Peppermint relieves tired feet and stimulates circulation. I use food grade Young Living brand peppermint oil, which is safe to add to drinking water. One or two drops in the morning reduces fatigue and helps me recover from any travel-related headache or tiredness. I am not much of a drinker and honestly can’t ever recall feeling “hungover,” but I have shared my oil with other people at hostels who report that peppermint relieves the symptoms of too much alcohol. If you are planning to ingest peppermint oil, be careful to purchase food grade pure essential oils that are safe to consume.

Another food grade oil from Young Living that I use is their Thieves Vitality oil. The Thieves Vitality blend is a powerful immune-boosting combination of Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary oils. It’s named for a band of thieves from 15th century France, who robbed the graves of those who died of the Black plague. These thieves protected themselves from the disease using this same herbal combination. The world is a fairly dirty place. Since I travel alongside the locals, I touch the same surfaces with my hands and breathe the same air trapped in the subways and metros. I am vaccinated against the Hepatitis viruses, typhoid, and yellow fever, but even the common cold can create misery when sharing a dorm, a kitchen, and a bathroom with fifty strangers. Thieves Vitality oil has helped me stay healthy under stress.

The Balcony
In Sarajevo, I got tired and stayed in a private guest house. The owner gave me the room with the balcony. I was able to avoid much conversation in Sarajevo, but I did speak a bit to the owner. It turned out that he is a prominent Bosnian filmmaker whose credits include a film that won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival. I should have spoken to him more, but we had language barrier and an INFP barrier.

As an INFP, these items help me balance the external overwhelm of travelling so that I can continue to learn from what life is teaching me. They are inexpensive and simple tools with many versatile uses, and have improved the quality of my journeys so that my gentle internal world is not distracted with a harsh and formidable external environment. 

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