July 22, 2024

From Backpacker to Hostel Owner

Since I was a kid, I had always dreamed of traveling the world. I think my obsession began when my dad bought me a stack of old National Geographics from a charity shop. I read them cover to cover dozens of times, inspired and bewitched by far off places, untouched landscapes and exotic cultures. I first hit the road on my own when I was eighteen, hitchhiking across Europe and ending up backpacking across India where I spent two years living on $10 a day.

I quickly fell in love with the freedom I could experience whilst traveling and had no problems being uncomfortable if it meant I got to live such an incredible life of epic experiences… I hitchhiked, couchsurfed, worked on farms, sold t-shirts to tourists and camped my way around the world, learning a lot along the way.

from backpacker to hostel owner -view of mountain and landscapes from inside a tent


Over the last twelve years of travel, I’ve stayed in many incredible places and met many amazing people. From shepherds’ huts on Pakistani glaciers to man-made cave temples in Turkey, incredible party hostels in Colombia to chill beachside communes in Cambodia, I’ve seen and experienced a lot of amazing places to bunk down for a night or more.

Four years ago, I began an epic journey – the goal is to travel from the UK to Papua New Guinea without flying. I made it as far as Pakistan but then life intervened. Whilst hitchhiking across Iran I fell in love with an Iranian girl called Nina. Determined to somehow make it work, I paused my travel plans so that we could fly back to Iran and get married. We then spent a couple of years hustling hard and building The Broke Backpacker up to a point where it could support two people.

from backpacker to hostel owner - Will Hatton and Nina celebrating Pakistani Independence Day with friends

Me and Nina celebrating Pakistani Independence Day with friends

Fast forward a couple of years and The Broke Backpacker is one of the most popular travel sites in the world, with a team of over twenty awesome people and 1.5 million visitors a month. Recently, I’ve been able to take a step back from my work and think about what is important to me.

For over ten years now, I’ve had a dream and that dream has been to open an eco-conscious, digital nomad friendly, backpacker hostel…

I’ve imagined the kind of place where one could stay for a day, a week, a month and feel at home. A hostel which has everything you needed… beautiful views, comfortable beds, friendly vibes, damn good coffee, an excellent bar, a pool table (of course), an amazing pool, plentiful greenery, a slackline, delicious food and, crucially, the kind of place where one could work from – I wanted to build the kind of hostel I had always looked for but never found – somewhere I could work my ass off during the day, in peace, and then be assured of a good time in the evening with plenty of social areas to chill at whatever pace I was feeling.

And so, the dream for Tribal Hostels was born…

from backpacker to hostel owner - tribal hostel pool and rooms

Two years ago, I made the decision to slow down and to spend 6 months a year based in one place. That place is the backpacker paradise of Bali…

Famed for its serene landscapes, excellent surf, plentiful diving spots, eclectic party scene and incredibly high standard of living (for expats and digital nomads), I was really just passing through a couple of years back when I ended up taking in a four-week-old puppy I found dying on the beach. Two years later and Chimmigi (Which means ‘what are you saying’ in Farsi) lives a charmed life of being incredibly spoilt.

from backpacker to hostel owner - will hatton holding a small dog

Chimmigi the day I found her on the beach

One year ago, I pooled all my savings with a friend and together we bought a large chunk of land in the up and coming backpacker paradise of Perenan in Bali.

And here we are, one year later, just one week away from getting the steel frame up.

I had quite naively hoped to get the hostel open by September 2019, but It took a lot longer than we anticipated to get our architectural designs locked down.

In February, we finally broke ground on the plot. Before we did this, we held a ceremony asking Dewi Sri (the god of the sawah – rice paddy) to kindly relocate to a nearby temple and inviting the business spirits in. Check out the video below to see what I’m talking about.

It has been an absolute mission to get here and it’s fair to say that I am all in (financially and emotionally) on this project…

This EPIC 82 bed digital nomad co-working hostel will be the first of its kind… A truly incredible build where we will be incorporating recycled materials, including recycled ocean plastics, as much as possible. We are building the hostel with our impact on the environment in mind and aim to be carbon negative within two years of opening. Just one minute from the beach and in one of the most beautiful parts of Bali, this will be the first, but certainly not the last, Tribal Hostel. Truly, Tribal Hostels will be where you can find your tribe. We plan to be open in September 2020 – if you’re in Bali, come say hey!

As for what’s next for me… well, next year I plan to continue my epic journey to Papua New Guinea. I’ll start with Pakistan, because it’s my favourite country in the world, and then travel by motorbike through India, Myanmar and Thailand.

from backpacker to hostel owner - man on motorbike in the Pakistani mountains

Exploring the Pakistani mountains by motorbike in 2019

I’ll catch a ferry to Bali, party in my hostel for a bit, and then hit the open ocean. I plan to build some kind of raft, boat or thing that floats out of recycled ocean plastic in Bali and to journey onwards via the sea to Papau New Guinea. You can find out more about this, and the other projects I’m working on in my goals for 2020 post.

About the author

Will Hatton shared his inspirational tale with us and if you want to check in on him and The Tribal Hostel’s progress, check out The Broke Backpacker.

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