Month: March 2015

Gear up for spring at the Pequest Trout Hatchery

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com on 3/24/15

New Jerseyans don’t have to travel far for a whole lot. Looking for a weekend at the beach? Head to the Jersey Shore. Craving a hearty mountain hike? The Kittatinny Mountains are a short drive away. Want some fun in the city? Hop on a train to New York City or Philadelphia.

Turns out, New Jersey’s trout fisherman don’t have to go far either for an afternoon spent hanging by a well-stocked river.

“Anglers have a lot of positive things to say,” said Jeff Matthews, superintendent of the Pequest Trout Hatchery. “Personally, I think that New Jersey has the best trout fishing in the United States.”

About 625,000 trout are stocked into N.J. bodies of water every year. (NJ Press Media file photo)

About 625,000 trout are stocked into N.J. bodies of water every year. (NJ Press Media file photo)

Thanks to the Pequest Trout Hatchery of Oxford, 200 bodies of public water in the state from Cape May to the New York state border have been stocked with 625,000 trout annually for 32 years, including the Musconetcong River and the Raritan River.

Although the Pequest Trout Hatchery plays a large part in New Jersey fishing, according to Matthews many people don’t even realize that it’s there or that it offers a little bit of everything, including hands-on environmental education, one of the chief focuses of the New Jersey-owned-and-operated facility.

“When it comes to nature, we have something for everyone. Everyone who works here is willing to talk to the public and answer questions,” Matthews said.

An aerial view of the Pequest Trout Hatchery facility in Oxford.  (Courtesy of Pequest Trout Hatchery)

An aerial view of the Pequest Trout Hatchery facility in Oxford. (Courtesy of Pequest Trout Hatchery)

Due to the large demand of education at Pequest and the 33-year-old age of the current education building, there are currently plans to replace it, although it will be several years before the project is finalized.

On a self-guided tour of the Pequest Trout Hatchery, visitors can check out the current education center, filled with displays teaching visitors about the trout propagation process, and the nursery building, a favorite element of the hatchery for visitors when it is in use from May through September and where a million and a half eggs are stripped per year and fertilized.

Visitors are not allowed inside the nursery building, which is comprised of an egg room and a nursery room, since trout can get sick very easily, but the young fish in the nursery room and the egg room can be viewed through large windows.

Juvenile trout are raised in the raceways at the Pequest Trout Hatchery before being stocked into N.J. bodies of water. (Courtesy of the Pequest Trout Hatchery)

Juvenile trout are raised in the raceways at the Pequest Trout Hatchery before being stocked into N.J. bodies of water. (Courtesy of the Pequest Trout Hatchery)

Outside, they can view the mile-and-a-half of fish raceways where juvenile fish can be seen from the observation deck before they are released into the wild when they hit 10 and a half inches. The site also includes a fishing education pond, hiking trails among the 5,000 acres of land in the Pequest Wildlife Management Area and a picnic area.

This wildlife area, paid for through state hunting and fishing license sales, also helps to protect the Pequest River and its underlying aquifer of cold, clean water, which makes the hatchery an ideal site for raising trout. Plus, the area is available for various recreational uses, such as hunting and bird watching as well as fishing in the nearby Pequest River.

To teach visitors about wildlife, Pequest Trout Hatchery also offers fishing and hunting classes for families and school groups year-round as well as nature walks and bird watching.

About 4500 people head to the annual open house at the Pequest Trout Hatchery every year. (Courtesy of the Pequest Trout Hatchery)

About 4500 people head to the annual open house at the Pequest Trout Hatchery every year. (Courtesy of the Pequest Trout Hatchery)

To kick-start the trout fishing season, which begins Saturday, April 4, the Pequest Trout Hatchery will be hosting its annual free open house on Saturday, March 28 and Sunday, March 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine.

About 4,500 people annually attend the open house, where representatives of the Division of Fish and Wildlife show off the trout raised that year and show people what fish they have the opportunity to catch in the wild via a large tank.

There are also various activities available for families including crafts and other hands-on activities, displays and demonstrations by conservation groups, archery ranges, hunter education classes (pre-registration required), fish feeding demonstrations, a historical encampment and a sportsman’s flea market.

“We like to introduce kids to fishing and wildlife because they may not have the opportunity do it depending on where they live,” said Matthews. “If they catch their first fish here, they’re never going to forget that. Then, they can inspire their parents and get them outside, too.”

PEQUEST TROUT HATCHERY

Address: 605 Pequest Road, Oxford

Phone: 908-637-4125

Website: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/pequest.htm

Hours: Open Mon. to Fri. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost: Free

Wildlife Management Area: Closed 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. unless engaged in lawful hunting, fishing or trapping activities

Open House: The free event will be conducted on Saturday, March 28 and Sunday, March 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine

Giving Jamaica a second chance, 25 years later

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com on 3/17/15

My father wasn’t thrilled with our family’s decision to travel to Jamaica for our annual trip this March.

Actually, he was horrified.

As he informed every person that we met while staying in Montego Bay for six days, when he traveled to Negril, Jamaica, 25 years ago, the hotel that he and my mother stayed at may have been reasonably priced, but it also had no hot water and one black-and-white TV in the glorified lobby that only played “Toma” reruns.

After my parents arrived at Sangster International Airport, they sat on a rickety, smoky bus for about an hour and a half and enjoyed what would eventually be pleasant countryside and colorful beachside homes but in 1990 was a collection of shacks with wood pallet roofs. Feral dogs and goats roamed the land and many were left dead on the side of the dirt roads. The two-lane highway that we took from Sangster International Airport to Montego Bay this time around didn’t even exist then.

Their arrival at the “resort” wasn’t much better. With barbed wire on the hotel property, they were often harassed to buy drugs by locals and hotel security guards. Leaving the hotel was discouraged, but they did make it out to a few Jamaican destinations, including Dunn’s River Falls and for river rafting on the Martha Brae.

Although I’m sure that this particular hotel did not define every 1990 Jamaican hotel, it certainly left a bad burn on my father’s memory — one that lasted 25 years, right up until our recent trip.

Jamaica is known for its lush greenery. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

Jamaica is known for its lush greenery. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

He was, however, pleasantly surprised when we arrived at our Jamaican lodging and were greeted by lobby-side drinks, friendly locals, clean, modern rooms and gourmet meals, alongside welcomed 84-degree weather. This came to $1,400 a person at the Hilton Rose Hall, including round-trip flights to and from Newark, six nights in a double-queen balconied room and unlimited food and drink, including alcoholic beverages, from six on-site resort restaurants and bars.

Locals were friendly and hospitable, always thanking tourists for their visit and urging them to share with their friends at home what a great destination Jamaica was. Although elements of poverty still exist, Jamaican infrastructure had clearly improved and was evident by a plethora of small businesses, paved roads and contemporary homes.

Nowadays, colorful beachside homes dot the Jamaican countryside. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

Nowadays, colorful beachside homes dot the Jamaican countryside. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

There are probably some tourists who remember wholly positive experiences regarding their early-’90s time in Jamaica, but the fact is that the ’80s and ’90s weren’t exactly kind to the tourism industry of the Caribbean island. After Jamaica was hit by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, its second-biggest industry, tourism, was also negatively affected by the Persian Gulf War from 1990 to 1991 and the U.S. and Canadian economic recessions in the early ’90s.

However, since that period, Jamaica has received more than 1 million visitors a year — a figure that has kept on growing. At the end of 2013, they celebrated a year of 2 million visitors.

Ocho Rios and other northern coastal destinations are popular for Jamaican tourists. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

Ocho Rios and other northern coastal destinations are popular for Jamaican tourists. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

These days, most visitors head to the north coast, which includes Montego Bay, my destination, as well as Ocho Rios and Negril. Tourists are lured by the white-sand beaches and ideal weather, especially from December to April, when it rarely rains and a pleasant breeze flows alongside reggae music.

Tourism is so important to Jamaica, which has over 30,000 hotel rooms, that one in four Jamaicans work in the tourism industry.

Besides the beaches, tourists also head to Jamaica to check out roaring waterfalls, lush mountain scenery and exotic wildlife.

Braco Stables offer a swim-and-ride tour where visitors ride their horses at a private beach in the ocean. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

Braco Stables offer a swim-and-ride tour where visitors ride their horses at a private beach in the ocean. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

One of those waterfalls is Dunn’s River Falls, named as a can’t-miss excursion for anyone who visits Ocho Rios. The flowing falls extend more than 600 feet and head straight into the Caribbean, one of few rivers to do so.

When I visited the Falls this month for $20 a person (not including bus tour fees, which vary per hotel), I figured that we would all strap on our sneakers and climb up a forest trail to snap some photos before getting back on the bus. Not so. At Dunn’s River Falls, you do walk up to the top — while you’re in the water.

Dunn’s River Falls is a 600-foot-tall waterfall that flows directly into the Caribbean Sea. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

Dunn’s River Falls is a 600-foot-tall waterfall that flows directly into the Caribbean Sea. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

Everyone bared down to their swimsuits and sneakers and created a human train led by a Jamaican guide to literally trek the falls, which are completely natural and made by the actual flow of the water, contrary to popular belief. On the way up the rocks, we took some pit stops to jump in passing lagoons and pools.

Jamaica also has lush greenery that can be enjoyed via bus but is better appreciated on horseback.

Many tourists take to horseback to check out the beach in a new light.  (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

Many tourists take to horseback to check out the beach in a new light. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

During our stay, we did a $70 per-person ride-and-swim tour at Braco Stables, in which my family and about 15 other people went on a two-hour tour, first heading down trails through undeveloped land filled with colorful birds and tropical foliage before stopping at a private beach to ride horses through refreshing water.

Braco Stables offer a swim-and-ride tour where visitors ride their horses at a private beach in the ocean. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

Braco Stables offer a swim-and-ride tour where visitors ride their horses at a private beach in the ocean. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

There’s another way that I checked out Jamaica’s wildlife too — through the trees. For $140 a person, we went to Mystic Mountain, which can best be described as a small-scale rain-forest theme park that includes a quiet ski-lift-style ride through the jungle, a ride on an independently controlled “Jamaican bobsled” that flew down the mountain similar to a roller coaster, and, the highlight of the park, zip-lining through the trees from cringe-worthy heights with a view of the ocean in the distance.

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Jamaica certainly isn’t the tourist destination that it was 25 years ago — and that’s a wonderful thing. Instead, its tourism industry has grown to Dunn’s River Falls and Jamaican mountain-worthy heights, bringing an incredible influx of tourists to a reasonably priced yet hospitable island.

Jamaica Attractions

Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios is a formation of cascading waterfalls that flow into the Caribbean and cost $20 per person for tourists to trek.

Braco Stables in Duncans, Trelawny, offers several horseback riding tours, including those in which tourists can ride their horses into the water on a two-hour $70 tour.

Mystic Mountain in Ocho Rios is a rain-forest theme park that offers zip-lining, bobsled riding and other attractions for $140 a person.

The Bob Marley Museum in Kingston is the former home of the reggae legend and can be visited for $20 a person.

River Rafting on Martha Brae in Montego Bay is a private bamboo raft ride over three miles of the Martha Brae River for about $25 a person.

Experience three cities’ histories in photos

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com on 3/10/15

Most Americans are familiar with their own local city, such as New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles, as well as smaller cities. These cities are staples of our daily lives and we hold definitive images and opinions about each one of them.

The Princeton University Art Museum wants you to forget them.

In the museum’s exhibit “The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, 1960-1980,” which opened Feb. 21 and runs until June 7, visitors are encouraged to take a hard look at their held images of cities they have traveled to and read about and question where those images came from and if they represent reality.

The catalyst for this questioning of reality comes from the exhibit’s collection of photographic and cinematic works that depict massive social unrest, political protests, labor protests and race riots throughout the ’60s and ’70s and the urban change that followed suit in three of the country’s largest cities.

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“I really hope that many of the visitors walk out and don’t think about their surroundings in the same way,” said Katherine Bussard, Peter C. Bunnell curator of photography. “Although this focuses on the largest cities, there are enough themes present that will even resonate with towns like Princeton.”

Bussard said there are generally two types of visitors who have headed to the exhibit —students who are experiencing the historical era through the collection as well as the generation who lived through the period and is bringing their experiences to what they see displayed, which can augment their impressions or even challenge them.

By delving deeper into the period of change of the ’60s and ’70s , students also are making connections to social and urban change that they see around them today. Bussard said one such connection can be found in “The Destruction of Lower Manhattan,” a collection of photographs by Danny Lyon, published in 1967, which can be found at the exhibit.

Although many students find it hard to imagine, at that time, industry was moving out of New York City and the city almost declared itself bankrupt. In the collection, Lyon photographed buildings that were slated for demolition during the redevelopment of lower Manhattan. By viewing photographs such as these, students are making connections to similar events that are occurring now in Detroit.

“By publishing this and dealing with questions of urban renewal, Lyon is also preserving these buildings,” said Bussard.

Besides preserving the history of historic events, some artists featured in the exhibit also work to bring about change in their work and in some cases, they succeed, and the effects can be seen in a city’s changing landscape.

New York, Chicago and Los Angeles were chosen as the focus, since as three of the nation’s largest cities, urban change was felt very acutely and was concentrated within them.

The artists whose works are featured in the exhibit, which was hosted in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago, include Garry Winogrand, Ed Ruscha, Allan Kaprow and Shadrach Woods, to name a few.

The Princeton Art Museum projects that by closing on June 7, 75,000 people will have visited the exhibit, which holds a theme of “urban change,” said Bussard. “There are both moments of crisis as well as optimism exhibited in this collection,” she said. “This isn’t just the city lost, but also the city found.”

 

THE CITY LOST AND FOUND: CAPTURING NEW YORK, LOS ANGELES AND CHICAGO, 1960-1980

Where: The Princeton University Art Museum on the Princeton University campus, a short walk from Nassau Street in downtown Princeton. Once on campus, follow the lamppost Museum banners to McCormick Hall

When: From Feb. 21 to June 7

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Cost: Free

How To Take Better Vacation Photos, With Tips From Travel Photographers

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com on 3/3/15

It’s a Sunday afternoon, and you’re not entirely sure how you ended up trapped in a distant family member’s living room.

You try to pay attention to the photos that they are motioning to from their position on the couch next to you, but you find yourself going through the motions, nodding and smiling at what seems to be the appropriate moments.

How does someone have so many photos of the same beach? How much longer am I going to have to sit here and look at these drab vacation photos?

We’ve all been there. Held hostage by a well-meaning companion, we are forced to sit through one boring vacation photo after the next. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

A cabin that Palecek frequently visits in Ontario, Canada where she wakes to watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee. (Courtesy of Heather Palecek)

A cabin that Palecek frequently visits in Ontario, Canada where she wakes to watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee. (Courtesy of Heather Palecek)

According to Heather Palecek, portrait, celebration and travel photographer of Hamilton, the best travel photos retell the story of your trip and allow you to visually relive your experience.

“In 20 years, the goal is to be able to look through your album and smile when reminded of a romantic night under a blanket of stars or be able to smell the morning dew from that camping trip you took in Oregon,” she said.

For a recreational photographer, this can sound a lot easier said than done. But with tips from Palecek and Songquan Deng, owner of Songquan Photography of Edison, any camera-dutied family vacationer can take more compelling photos.

One of the easiest things that travelers can do to create more interesting photos is to look for new, interesting perspectives. “Rather than photographing the Seattle Space Needle from the same spot everyone else does, photograph it through a window reflection, from below or from far away out your car window so you can document a story about the moment you saw it,” said Palecek.

Palecek had to hitchhike for the first time in her life and then walk along a winding dirt path to get to the top of a waterfall which had a view of Telluride, Colorado and the neighboring forest fires in the Summer of 2012. (Courtesy of Heather Palecek)

Palecek had to hitchhike for the first time in her life and then walk along a winding dirt path to get to the top of a waterfall which had a view of Telluride, Colorado and the neighboring forest fires in the Summer of 2012. (Courtesy of Heather Palecek)

When choosing a new perspective, travelers should focus on details that will remind them of their specific trip through all of their senses, Palecek continued. “A photograph of the New York City skyline from Hoboken will remind you that you once visited NYC, but you’d make a more compelling argument if you had a close up photo of a pigeon eating a pretzel on a dirty sidewalk while people walked by or a close-up photograph of that delicious margarita you drank at that hole-in-the-wall bar on the Lower East Side,” she said.

She also mentioned that finding focal points, such as that pigeon or margarita, can make a landscape photograph more interesting because one central element that the eyes are drawn to is created, although obviously everyone is going to want at least one wide-angle landscape shot of a city or park.

However, since photography is the art of light, following the light of a scene is one element that cannot be forgotten within these methods. Although light can be controlled in a studio, the same cannot be said for shooting outdoors.

According to Deng, travelers should face their cameras away from the sun, which means shooting to the west in the morning and to the east in the afternoon. When it comes to landscape photography, like taking shot of a sunset or a cityscape, travelers should aim for the early morning and late afternoon. “As the sun is less bright, photos are less likely to have blowing out highlight and dark shadow,” Deng said. “The warm hue of the sunlight and soft blue sky also allows your shots to stand out with brilliant colors.”

An adult mother whale swims in the Klamath River in Oregon as her calf was swimming out of sight. (Courtesy of Heather Palecek)

An adult mother whale swims in the Klamath River in Oregon as her calf was swimming out of sight. (Courtesy of Heather Palecek)

Deng said that timing is the mistake he sees most often in unsuspecting travelers as most people take shots in the middle of the day when the sun is at its brightest, which is the worst time for photography.

“It is understandable as people enjoy their sweet dreams in the early morning and they drink beers and eat their delicious steaks when the sun is down,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with that as people travel for fun and taking photos is just the way they keep their beautiful memories. If it conflicts with your vacation fun, I would say stick to the fun and keep the beautiful sunset in your memory instead of in your camera.”

Many people think that to take beautiful photographs they need expensive, heavy gear, but Deng said that this is not the case, especially for casual travelers who have no need to carry an extra 30 pounds of photography gear with them. His No. 1 camera recommendation is something that many of us already have — an iPhone, due to its size, weight and ability to quickly upload shots to a computer.

Palecek recommends an entry-level digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) such as a Canon T5i ($600) or Nikon D5300 ($700) for those who are looking for more versatility with their cameras, although these can be intimidating and a little more cumbersome than a smart phone.

New York City’s Manhattan panorama view with the Brooklyn Bridge and office building skyscrapers skyline illuminated over Hudson River in memory of September 11. (Courtesy of Songquan Deng)

New York City’s Manhattan panorama view with the Brooklyn Bridge and office building skyscrapers skyline illuminated over Hudson River in memory of September 11. (Courtesy of Songquan Deng)

“It is understandable as people enjoy their sweet dreams in the early morning and they drink beers and eat their delicious steaks when the sun is down,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with that as people travel for fun and taking photos is just the way they keep their beautiful memories. If it conflicts with your vacation fun, I would say stick to the fun and keep the beautiful sunset in your memory instead of in your camera.”

Many people think that to take beautiful photographs they need expensive, heavy gear, but Deng said that this is not the case, especially for casual travelers who have no need to carry an extra 30 pounds of photography gear with them. His No. 1 camera recommendation is something that many of us already have — an iPhone, due to its size, weight and ability to quickly upload shots to a computer.

Palecek recommends an entry-level digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) such as a Canon T5i ($600) or Nikon D5300 ($700) for those who are looking for more versatility with their cameras, although these can be intimidating and a little more cumbersome than a smart phone.

Both Central Jersey photographers urged all camera users to read the owner’s manual of their camera so that they can have complete control of an image and will know how to use it when the right moment comes.

New York City Manhattan skyline aerial view at sunset. (Courtesy of Songquan Deng)

New York City Manhattan skyline aerial view at sunset. (Courtesy of Songquan Deng)

According to Deng, 60 percent of the beauty in his photos comes from the “shutter click” and 40 percent from retouching, so those who are serious about their travel photography should invest in Photoshop. Palecek also recommended that interested travelers should continue their photography education by taking a course at a local library, conducting personal online research or attending a workshop, such as those offered at Unique Photo.

However, rather than something like a lack of expensive cameras or software, Palecek said the biggest mistake that she sees people make are not taking enough risks. “Too many photographers will take the safe route while on vacation and end up with a lot of posed family photos in front of landmarks when the greatest shots would probably be the candid moments shared amongst your family and friends,” she said. “Take some risks and you’ll surprise yourself with what you end up with.”

 

Hostels aren’t just for kids anymore

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com on 2/24/15

George Finn, who is in his 50s and general manager of Hostelling International USA, is not a hosteller by nature.

However, the manager of the American arm of the nonprofit organization that hosts a network of hostels became one rather quickly once he spotted an unlikely exchange taking place between two people during his stay at a hostel in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Finn had been taking a stroll on a Tel Aviv beach and, upon leaving the area, discovered that a bomb had been fired from the Gaza Strip right around the time that he had been on the beach. As pandemonium ensued and people evacuated the immediate area, Finn hurried back to his hostel.

“In the dining area, a Palestinian and an Israeli were breaking bread together,” he said. “They were discussing, very calmly, that they do have differences and they had to recognize that.”

Finn saw, through that exchange and many other hostelling stays since, that hostels, through their no-frills dormitory-style accommodations focused on culture and experience rather than luxury and comfort, could help travelers connect with one another much deeper than a typical hotel would allow, regardless of their age or background.

In a hostel, including this Generator Hostel, four to 20 travelers sleep in rooms of bunk beds and share a communal bathroom with other floor mates in major European and American cities for $15 to $40 a night. (Courtesy of Generator Hostels)

In a hostel, including this Generator Hostel, four to 20 travelers sleep in rooms of bunk beds and share a communal bathroom with other floor mates in major European and American cities for $15 to $40 a night. (Courtesy of Generator Hostels)

When thinking of a hostel, many Americans are brought back to the 2005 horror flick “Hostel,” in which three backpackers are kidnapped and tortured after staying in a Slovakian hostel.

“A hostel isn’t about the movie. You’re not thinking, ‘Ew, I don’t want to get murdered,’ or stepping over junkies or seeing a bunch of people sleeping on one bed. That’s not what a hostel is,” Finn said.

In a hostel, four to 20 travelers sleep in rooms of bunk beds and share a communal bathroom with other floor mates in major European and American cities for $15 to $40 a night. Many hostels also have private rooms with private bathrooms. Bed prices sometimes include breakfast, and guests are also welcome to use a self-service and fully equipped kitchen.

Besides the free Wi-Fi and breakfast, the chief difference between a hostel and a hotel is that hostels are social by nature, while people tend to retreat back to their hotel rooms at the end of the day, a “complete change from the often lonely experience that you can have in a full-service hotel where the only people who talk to you are staff,” said Carl Michel, executive chairman of Generator Hostels, a European hostel chain.

Hostels may have originally catered to young backpackers because of their price and friendly fixtures, but “there’s a reason that these days, they’re no longer referred to as ‘youth hostels,’ ” said Marc Desmarais, president of Apple Hostels Philadelphia.

Twenty percent of Apple’s visitors are over 30.

Hostels often feature modern amenities and designs, including this Generator Hostel. (Courtesy of Generator Hostels)

Hostels often feature modern amenities and designs, including this Generator Hostel. (Courtesy of Generator Hostels)

“Hostels aren’t just for the young anymore,” Desmarais said. “No matter your age, if you enjoy meeting people from around the world with different interests, religions and political views, you’re going to love hostelling.”

Sissel Garnes, a Denville native, stayed at several European hostels in the mid-90s because of their price and said that, at that time, 90 percent of her fellow hostellers were in their 20s. However, she had no issue connecting with others.

“Even then, everyone was interested in everybody else and was open to learning about other cultures and lifestyles,” she said.

The average hosteller is between 18 and 26, but more and more hostels are seeing older guests, especially at Generator hostels.

“Ten years ago, Generator was a party hostel and the demographic was younger. Today, we are the leading design hostel in Europe and offer great service, great atmosphere, great events and, of course, a great night’s sleep,” Michel said. “As a result, the age band has broadened — 10 years ago, 95 percent of our guests were under 30. Now, it’s more like 80 to 85 percent.”

Even more of the visitors at St. Christopher’s Inns, a European hostel chain, are over 30. Robert Savage, public relations manager, said that 35 to 40 percent of visitors over the past 12 months were over 30, “myself and several other board member included.”

“We even host a gentleman in his 90s who journeys over to Paris from Australia every year, and very much likes the private en-suite dorm rooms at the 550-bed St. Christopher’s Gare du Nord hostel,” Savage said.

Hostels commonly offer private rooms, including St. Christopher’s Inns, for a slightly higher price than dormitory-style rooms. (Courtesy of St. Christopher’s Inns)

Hostels commonly offer private rooms, including St. Christopher’s Inns, for a slightly higher price than dormitory-style rooms. (Courtesy of St. Christopher’s Inns)

Savage said that the recession brought in business travelers, who, after the recovery, chose to remain with St. Christopher’s Inns because of the price and modernity. Loyal customers, backpackers by nature, “are the intrepid bunch who took no note of the recession and traveled in greater numbers than ever.”

Finn said, “When older people come and stay here with us, we know that they are diehard and seasoned hostellers. They are in the breakfast room with millennials, making better world citizens out of themselves, exchanging ideas and gaining a better understanding of the world and its people.”

Desmarais said that there is no better way to get to know an area than by staying at a hostel because of their use of common areas and various activities such as city tours and game nights for guests. Activities offered at other hostels include comedy nights, pub crawls, open mics and Salsa, often involving the surrounding community to connect travelers to the city.

St Christopher’s Gare du Nord in Paris provides free breakfast to its guests, a prevalent hostel feature. (Courtesy of St. Christopher’s Inns)

St Christopher’s Gare du Nord in Paris provides free breakfast to its guests, a prevalent hostel feature. (Courtesy of St. Christopher’s Inns)

However, prospective hostellers need to keep in mind that hostels are not out to cater to the feel-good, Finn said. “If you are looking for fluffy towels and room service and eco-green soap, then stay at a four- or five-star hotel because we don’t have that kind of service here,” he said. “You serve yourself. The kitchen is kept clean, but you bring your own food and cook your own meals and, hopefully, you cook a little extra for someone else to try it.”

According to Finn, the kinds of people who would thrive in a hostel environment are those who are open to learning about other cultures, as well as creative types such as artists, writers and chefs who work in professions that “transcend all boundaries.”

However, it’s also important to recognize that even though some hostels, because of their updated fixtures and interesting design, may look like hotels, they are not the same because a hosteller trades his privacy for a chance to try life simply and communally.

“When the day is over,” Finn said, “you need to be the type of person who has an understanding that if you didn’t like a person, it was because they were rude, not because they had a different skin color or an accent.”

If you are interested in booking a hostel, visit hihostels.com to find international hostels that meet assured standards.