Baltimore: My First (Or Was It Second) Time in a Hostel

I spent a couple of days in Baltimore, Maryland in the winter of 2017. I was, as usual, working as I traveled, so spent half my days working and the other half wandering the city.

They (mostly friends who’ve seen The Wire) say that Baltimore is dangerous, but I figure that it can’t be worse than Manila. This, unfortunately, is my attitude wherever I go: I’m from Manila! I can survive anywhere! Fortunately, it also means I’m usually cautious, sometimes overly so. I like to think that living in the third world sharpens your senses and heightens your sense of survival.

Anyway, Baltimore.

I stayed at the HI Baltimore Hostel. Operated by Hostels International (HI), HI Baltimore is located in an old three-storey home in the middle of the city. I picked it because a. They rates were within my budget; b. It had excellent reviews; and c. It was the only hostel in Baltimore on at the time.

Though nondescript on the outside, the hostel is hard to miss by virtue of its landmarks: it stands across the Baltimore Cathedral, beside a psychic shop, and diagonal to the beautiful, ginormous, envy-inducing Enoch Pratt Free Library.

HI Baltimore is quirkily decorated, with things like inspirational quotes hung on the wall and stuffed monkeys hanging out on top of the radiator. Breakfast is free (all the coffee and pancakes you want from 7 to 10am), the rooms are clean, and luggage is secure (though this did not stop me from mildly panicking about getting robbed in my sleep).

Why did I pick a hostel? First was the price point. I wanted a place that was not too expensive, but was still comfy and safe. This was I think, only the second time I’d stayed in a hostel so it was my way of going out of my comfort zone.

Second was location. It was my first time in the city. In theory, the hostel was walking distance to a lot of places. By ‘in theory,’ I mean when it’s not the middle of winter, or the middle of the night.

Third, there would be other people in the room. I’m a huge scaredy cat and though I’m still waiting for scientific evidence of the supernatural, that doesn’t mean I’m going to risk encountering something of that sort in the meantime (this was probably a foreshadowing of what would happen in New Orleans, which is a different story). So yes, I was traveling alone, so being in a dorm room with other people was important to me. Sure, one of said roommates thought it was a good idea to pick a fight over the phone and with another roommate at two in the morning, but even listening to that conflict was strangely comforting. At least they were real people.

Breakfast was lovely. A never-ending flow of coffee on the percolator (burnt, because it’s never-ending coffee from a percolator) and pancake batter in an automatic pancake batter dispenser next to a large griddle. There were at least two kinds of cream and sugar for the coffee, and butter and syrup for the pancakes. I had stopped eating breakfast by then, so I mostly had coffee, though I did make and eat a pancake just for the experience of it.

I ate my meal while I worked at the breakfast nook in the kitchen, my favorite place in the hostel. It was just a table and two benches beside a window that faced a brick building. There were some plants on the windowsill, as well as a couple of knickknacks. It was warm, with just the right balance of light and shadow. I could have sat there all day.

I wish I had spent more time in the city. I would love to go back, hopefully when it isn’t so cold (that said, that winter was pretty warm). And if I’m alone, or if I’m with company that can be persuaded to do so, I would gladly stay here again.


Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.