Each month I interview travelers I meet along my journey.
This Month Features:
Tell us about the NotSo Hostel and the day in the life of managing it.
The NotSo Hostel is ocated in downtown Charleston, South Carolina with a mix of dorms and private rooms and they are all in historic houses. We are gearing up for being fully booked in our dorm room since COVID-19 and were 25% capacity this past year. We changed all of our systems to contactless with self check-ins, no cash system, digital locks to personalized codes and this morning we worked on turn-overs and troubleshooting the systems since they’re being tested by multiple people rigorously. All of the doors are open so people go upstairs to have coffee and tea. There are two parts to running a hostel. The backend which is the business and admin. The other side is the cleaning, booking, the guests, activity and all the stuff of actually being here.
You wrote the incredible book,
What inspired you to write it and what is it like being a leader in the hostel industry?
When I started working at the hostel 15 years ago, I just looked up how to run a hostel. I didn’t really know and didn’t have much experience. There was no book out there. If there had been a book already written I would have just bought it and read it. Years went by and still no book so I sat down and put it together. What really motivated me is that I traveled to India in 2012 and I did a lot of yoga there and did my 500-hour certification and sat in lots of caves. Then I just realized that I really wanted to write this book and needed to have a lot more discipline in my life to do it. So I set a schedule to be at the public library everyday by 12pm and if I was a minute late I would have to stay an extra 30 minutes. If I missed a day then I had to come in on Saturday’s and that’s how that book happened.
On the hardest days of managing a hostel, what is the one thing that keeps you inspired?
The people. When you run a hostel, the world comes to you!
If you could give one piece of advice to future hostel managers and owners, what would it be?
I would definitely say that the contactless check-in is a great asset. We are completely redefining and restructuring what it means to have a hostel. Do we need to have a lobby? Do people need to be led to their rooms? COVID has given us the opportunity to totally change the way that we’re doing things. That’s what we’re experimenting with. Maybe we don’t need a lobby or someone sitting at a desk for ten hours a day. Maybe we can do all of this digitally while still being onsite and still have these spaces for people to meet organically which is really what a hostel provides. Maybe it can look a little different. A good business is just good systems. And people are still traveling. It’s in our bones.
Do you have any advice about overcoming or powering through hard times in the hostel industry such as COVID-19 or a slow season?
There’s that great saying, “You become enlightened and then you chop wood and carry water.”. Whatever you can do to find joy and peace in it because there’s a lot of cleaning and laundry. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. It’s a reflection of our society and we teach people how to live in community which we’re getting less and less in society. Also to experience people outside of their culture and political viewpoints because we’re all in our filter bubbles. What matters is the foundation of your mind.
1-2 years from now, where do you see the NotSo Hostel?
We’re just trucking. We were up to 10-12k guests per year. Offering a space for people to experience Charleston. It doesn’t matter which business you’re running, what matters is your relationship to your community and environment.
Is there anything you would like to see change for the better in the hostel industry?
I started the American Hostel Conference a few years ago so I’ve been bringing people together once a year and we’ve always talked about starting an association and having a more unified presence in the United States. I think it’s more of a culture shift that needs to happen in the United States of sharing space, tolerating differences and that’s what hostels really do and that’s their service to the world. On the one hand it’s cool that the hostels in the United States are totally different and there’s no standard which is a wild thing in the industry/ It’s such a small industry. Just more hostels would be better! To learn more about supporting hostels, check out The Hostel Group Interview.
Connect with Vikki
The NotSo Hostel
Vikki currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with her family. She manages the NotSo Hostel and is the founder of The American Hostel Conference. To connect with Vikki, follow her on Instagram @notsohostel. To dive deeper into managing and owning hostels, you can purchase her book here.