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I never had a chance to travel internationally while in college. I once chose love over a semester abroad in Italy; there are few things I regret in life. I kick myself for this one. After I graduated from university, I traveled to Spain where one night in a Barcelona hostel turned me into a snob and I had only patience for the mom-and-pop pensions or three-plus star hotels. Five years later, post trauma of a self-inflicted broken heart, I backpacked through Nepal, India, and southeast Asia with renewed sense of humility and stayed in guest houses ($2-6/night), mummified in a silk sleep sheet I cannot rough-it without.
Now that I appropriate most of my travel budget for food and drink, I’m quite happy with a clean and lively hostel. The Old Observatory Youth Hostel in Qingdao (214RMB for private double bed) is a luxury apart from some of the bang-up places I stayed at in India. Clean rooms, private bathrooms with hot showers, and a rooftop lounge serving better-than-any hostel fare with views of the city and sea. The WiFi is fast and the staff friendly. Upon entering, the coastal breeze carries the scent of gardenias lining the halls, throughout the former observatory.