Somewhere on the southwest side of Ireland, in a county called Kerry, there is a small town called Killarney. So small that you can walk through it in 10 minutes and still have time for a shop in that time. On our last visit we got there by train.
In order to get to the Killarney International Hostel from there, you either decide to take a walk for around 30 minutes, and you can also see small parts of Killarney National Park in the meantime, or wait for the bus to come (Killorglin bus).
If you have a bike, well, that’s much better. Just see below for one short bike path in Killarney:
For more details on how to get there, check Killarney International Hostel Page.
Meet John, hostel manager at Killarney International Hostel
Getting back to our trip there, we got picked up from the train station by John, the hostel manager. He is exactly how you would think a traveller around the world and life would be: light blue pants, orange sneakers, red shirt, long hair… A true hippie hipster. I never met him before but he acted as if he knew me for a long time already. These little aspects of travelling really matter.
We had to make a stop for him to buy the final vegetables for a big dinner he was planning for the Erasmus Student Network group that was arriving in a couple of hours. I couldn’t wait to get to see the hostel… and thanks to his true Irishman driving skills, a bit crazy but safe at the same time, we were there in no time. The road that leads up to the hostel is like a tree tunnel, which just makes the building look even more beautiful than it is.
Looking at the library room or the common room next to it, with fireplaces and comfortable couches, everything clean and with that cozy home feeling to it we started talking to John a bit more.
John can never sit in just one place. He always has to do something, whether it is cooking for a group, doing some reception work, cleaning, fixing something… he never stops. So if you want to talk to him, you need to be next to him and just let him do his stuff.
That’s how I ended up in the kitchen of the hostel talking to him.
He said he started being a hostel manager at Killarney because, well, he needed a place to put his car while it was broken and this was the only garden with an empty shed. Whether this is true or not, all I can say is that he travelled a lot through Ireland in order to get there. He was in a lot of hostels and he saw how things changed during the years. There are not many more walk-ins happening. Times have changed.
According to him, tourism is about building a relationship. The first moment you see a hostel, in this case, the first impression it gives you lasts forever. The people who work there have an impact as well. “At the end of the day, all we have is a building. We need to build the relationships” he says while adding the ingredients on the pizza for the students that arrive soon. If we think about it, that is certainly true. He has the Killarney International Hostel, which will stay there, with small improvements from time to time and people will come. Tourists will remember it, though, because of the personality it has.
There was a story he told us about a German group who came late at night to stay there. They had no booking, nothing, and they were just asking for a room or two. John served them with some tea and coffee, and offered to show them the rooms they prepared on such a short notice. They didn’t want to. They said the fact that he got them in and offered a place to stay, the way he is, as friendly as one can be, is enough for them to trust him.
During the evening, the pizza was ready and the students were enjoying it. You could see in John eyes how much he loves having groups over and how much he wants to talk to people, make jokes, make them feel at home. The students were from all over the world, studying in Galway or Dublin, and he could relate to each one and try and make a joke according to their personality.
John and his team give Killarney International Hostel that classic hostelling personality, that travelling feeling where you feel welcome. That hostel is the place where when you leave you actually want to forget something, just so you can come back as soon as possible.