By the time I met my dorm mate, Valeriya, in Thailand, she had traversed India and Europe, done volunteer work with children in Chennai and stayed with a family at a vineyard in New Zealand.
Valeriya, a Russian in her 30s, left a cushy job as a post office manager and dreamt of settling somewhere in Lombok, Bali earning a modest income at painting.
We shared a common quest of living without need for a large wardrobe and expensive housing, but had contrasting views when it came to the significance of Hindi movies.
On the bunk above mine, a guy from Singapore sat reading a textbook, sighing loudly each time someone entered the room.
If you're up for a similar dose of eccentric travellers who have more time than money, nothing beats a hostelling experience.
Hostels resemble basic hotels, except with even less frills. The constants are low cost and a predominance of young travellers. You may also get breakfast, Internet access, laundry facilities, ready-made friends, knowledgeable local staff and other stuff thrown in.
At worst, hostels are over-priced, dirty establishments of dubious legality. At best, if you're lucky, it's a home away from home.
"It's hard to argue with the impact a RM40-RM70 (S$17 to S$30) a night bed will have on your travel budget when nearby hotels are charging five times that or more. In fact, it might even be a better bet than a flea-infested hotel by a bus station," says Peter Herman, 47, an Australian who works in construction back home.
Despite its unflattering reputation, hostels aren't always a test of endurance.
"A hostel I stayed at in Bali organised a pub crawl for the guests, which was a great way for lone travellers like me to get to know people," recalls Brandon Fisher, 21, a wide-eyed student from Scotland on summer break here.
"A couple of weeks later, one of their staff e-mailed me pictures from that night, with contact details of the other backpackers. If you have running water, and it's not flooded, you should consider yourself lucky. If you have more than one shower for 15 people, again, consider yourself lucky," he adds.
Finding a hostel that's both fun and reasonably priced is a traveller's biggest challenge.
"If it's your first night in a new country, it will probably pay off to book ahead," advised Ryung Jin Oh, 26, a Korean studying in France.
"Although there's a thrill in stepping off the bus or plane and finding yourself in a new place, with nowhere specific to go, you'll be jetlagged and disoriented, and it's quite likely you'll need some help getting your bearings," he says.
"Also, when making reservations, if you can avoid giving your credit card number to some random person halfway around the world, it's best to do so," Ryung advised.
"I would go for newly-built places over older, run-down ones," says Barbara Bock, 24, a German flight attendant.
"You would want to stay in a place that is centrally located for seeing the sights and getting transportation. Look up hostel reviews online or get recommendations from your nomad friends. And do try to avoid red light districts."
For introverts, a hostel sleepover may be just the thing to draw you out of your shell.
"Settle yourself into your room, find an empty bed and introduce yourself to your new roommates before sending mass e-mails home to assure your friends, family and pets that you've arrived safely," suggests Robert Meachin, 25, a student from England.
"But if you don't want much contact with other people besides the guy who answers the room service calls, I guess you are probably better off in a hotel."
Some hostels have curfews and, by certain times, the place is locked up for the night, which could work in your favour or against you.
"If a hostel has a curfew that means you won't be able to check in if your transport is late, leaving you sleeping out on the sidewalk until the place opens in the morning. If you like to stay out late, this can be a real bother," says Christina Koehler, 24, a teacher from Germany.
So be sure you understand the security proceedings for your particular hostel - they're different every time.
How do backpackers stay safe when bouncing from hostel to hostel?
"Your best bet is not to bring anything that could be perceived as valuable like fancy gadgets and expensive watches. You don't want these extras to call attention to yourself," cautions Melanie Christ, 21 a student from Germany who's travelling with her childhood pal, Anna Theilmann, 21.
"Some hostels have safes or lockers where you can store valuables, but it's best to avoid bringing any," she adds.
Hostels, being a communal sort of place, you'll want to keep in mind a handful of pointers about staying in close proximity to others.
"In the communal bedroom and bathroom, there's a good chance you'll catch someone changing clothes or stepping out of the shower. Don't act like you're 13 and have just watched your first X-rated film," says Theilmann.
And for some reason, a lot of backpackers conveniently forget that they didn't buy that box of chocolates they're eating.
"Repeat after me: If I didn't put it in the fridge it's not mine to eat," says Christ.
Crashing in Kuala Lumpur
There's some sweet hostel living to be found in Kuala Lumpur! Hostels in the city are in parts of town where the backpack-toting crowd wants to be - Chinatown, Puduraya and Bukit Bintang.
With restaurants, bars and clubs just around the corner, hostels around Bukit Bintang like Red Palm, Anjung KL and Pujangga Homestay, offer guests their fill of KL nightlife. Although not in the swankiest parts of town, most like Equator Hostel in Jalan Pudu is conveniently located near public transportation, including buses and trains and is only a few minutes walk from Berjaya Times Square.
You won't see many local faces at hostels in Kuala Lumpur as they are not designed to be a cheap place to stay for those in the local community. Most establishments in the city require that you be travelling, but if you are on the move, exploring the state and from out of town, you are usually welcome.
The local operators are not big on rules although there are common ones like cleaning up after using the kitchen facilities and respecting other guests. Almost all the hostels here do not impose curfews, so should guests decide to stay out till late, they can enter the house using the keys given to them.
Accommodation provided is usually dormitory-style, with large rooms holding between four to 10 single or bunk beds, although certain places also offer single or twin sharing rooms. Many of these rooms are single-sex, though there are some that are mixed-gender.
All provide common areas to relax and socialise, and communal bathrooms. The better ones will have a choice of amenities, including kitchen and laundry facilities, private rooms, Internet connections, keyed storage for belongings, 24-hour front desk service and some version of security.
The staff is mainly local and more than happy to help you out with your itinerary, recommend restaurants and even arrange discounts on sightseeing tours. Some will arrange group activities like movie night or a barbeque party to encourage boarders to get to know each other, which is better than trolling the clubs trying to meet people.
All in all, two points for cleanliness and three more for friendly operators!
If you want to save more and meet fellow travellers on your next trip, book a hostel.
Hostelworld.com or Hostels.com provide ratings and reviews from backpackers. Some facilities offer limited family quarters, so check ahead if you wish to book a stay with family members.
Often, travellers who've had good or bad experiences will post blogs or photos of the hostel they stayed at.
Some promotions listed may not be available through the booking engines, in which case you may want to book directly with the hostel
Read the cancellation and deposit rules and print out the confirmation page. About two weeks before your trip, send the hostel an e-mail to reconfirm your booking. Although beds are sometimes available for last minute arrivals, advance bookings are highly advisable during peak season.