The writer GK Chesterton once said: "The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land." He might almost have been talking about the road trip - that great American journey.
North America's an enormous continent. Highways riddle its vast landmass. Winding roads delve into deep pine forests, scale mountain tops and snake through empty deserts. I was struck by the way in which my roadtrip allowed me just a taste of the thrill of the frontiersmen, pushing on ever further into the unknown.
But, as with all explorers and pioneers, I'll be the first admit that it can get a bit lonely out there on the road from time to time even with a trusted companion.
On my recent road trips in the US, I opted to stay in a selection of excellent hostels in some of America and Canada's slightly off the beaten track locations (well, you don't take a roadtrip to New York City, do you?)
Some were a little bit different; others offered a range of activities for their guests. But one thing I found to be practically guaranteed: a stay at one of these places meant that I met other like-minded folk to discuss my travels with.
Below are just a couple of places that stuck with me.
Hot Springs Resort (Truth or Consequences, New
Truth or Consequences is a remote little town tucked away in the heart of Sierra County, New Mexico, just off Interstate-25, between El Paso and Albuquerque.
The surrounding badlands are studded with ghost towns, whose populations left in the early twentieth century when the gold, silver and chloride mines that brought them there in the first place, finally dried up.
Arid scrubland rises up in many places to savagely beautiful rocky peaks, blasted by sun and wind. As with many places of great beauty in America, driving though it I came under the thrall of its slightly mournful feel, that glorious sense of isolation that really defines traveling in the country.
The town itself lies just next to the mighty Rio Grande, an epic setting for a cozy, unpretentious little hostel. The Riverbends Hot Springs Resort is a hostel that could've been made for the road-tripper.
It's located on the site of some geothermal hot springs, making it absolutely ideal for letting the tension of a hard day's driving wash away. As evening set in, and the temperature drops, the steam from the hot springs fills the cool night air. The effect is spectacular.
The next morning, feeling refreshed from a good night's sleep, a long soak in the springs, and some good company I felt like a new man as I hit the road again.
Algonquin's Wolf Den Bunkhouse n' Cabins (Algonquin Park, Ontario)
And from the clean, dry air of the desert of New Mexico, to the sparkling crispness over the border in Algonquin Park, Canada. (Yes, my travels have been pretty extensive!) Just over 300kms from Toronto, but a million miles away in terms of landscape and atmosphere, another place that really stayed with me from my time on the road was the Wolf Den.
They've got a selection of different styles of accommodation, from private rooms to the shared bunkhouses. The latter might be a little more rustic, but they're still very cozy with warm comforters to keep the chill of the night off.
This hostel is something of a catch-all visitor's center for travelers to the area. The guys at the Wolf Den can help provide you with everything you need to explore the wilds of Canada. Out in a canoe I saw all manner of wildlife on the shores of the lake, not to mention the fabulous Ragged Falls. Back on land, the park, with its fantastic hiking opportunities, seemed to stretch forever in very direction.
But over and above all the other amazing natural attractions in the surrounding area, one of the things that really stuck with me was the stars. Never before have I seen stars that sparkled so brightly in the night sky.
So here's a selection of some more noteworthy hostels in some of America's really off the beaten track locations. Some are a little bit different; others offer a range of activities for their guests. But one thing's practically guaranteed: a stay at one of these places means you'll meet some other like-minded folk to discuss your travels with.
Alaska Hostel (Fairbanks, Alaska)
Outdoor Adventure (Bethel, Maine)
Pirate Haus Inn and Hostel (St. Augustine, Florida)
- Buffalo Niagara (Buffalo, New York)