The Hostel Comes of Age, Along with Its Clientele
by Sara Tucker
Pink-slipped baby boomers and retirees are hoisting backpacks and heading to Europe and beyond this summer, lured by cheap airfares and beds that range from low-cost to no-cost. Among those ready to receive them: upscale hostels that offer far more comfort than their rustic predecessors while providing "a built-in social life for travelers" (New York Times).
"Greypackers" is the term coined by blogger Ben Groundwater to describe this new breed of traveler. "It's not a bad thing," he asserts. "That's what I want to be when I grow up."
With no job to curb their freedom, some of these old-timers are hitting the road for months at a stretch.
"The number of people taking a gap year has increased massively over the past 12 months as unemployment soars," reports the Daily Mail. "American Express Insurance has almost doubled its sales of gap year travel insurance to those aged between 30 and 50 since August."
For advice on travel insurance and other grown-up concerns (e.g., what to do with one's mortgage and car payments while on the road), mature travelers are turning to Web sites like Backpacking for Grownups, which advertises itself as "a useful resource for any grown-up in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, or even 80s or 90s looking to take a career break, gap year, or go traveling with a backpack."