In the News

Hostels in Ohio: An unbeatable social and economic resource for travelers

posted Apr 17, 2014, 5:12 PM by Mathew Dietrich

IN THE KNOWOHIOON THE WAY | 04/08/2014 BY LIZ MASSON

By Liz Masson, Wanderlost Writer

The price of accommodations can easily be one of the largest expenses incurred while traveling. It seems unavoidable; one undoubtedly needs a place to sleep at the end of each day and, if you are staying at a hotel, this necessity could cost you upwards of $75 per night – essentially for a bed, shower and breakfast. Many travelers do not realize that there is a better option particularly well-suited for college students, but there is, and it is becoming increasingly common in the United States: hostels.

Hostels are a less formal and more culturally rich type of accommodations that run the gamut in terms of style; some resemble what one might consider a traditional hotel, while others are more like a bed and breakfast. But most have some characteristics in common: they usually offer shared rooms and bathrooms with free sheets and breakfast for a fraction of the price of hotels, they take on the local flavor of the city in which they reside and many offer additional perks like storage, bike rental, laundry facilities and kitchens that make them an incredible value.

The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel in Columbus, Ohio

The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel in Columbus, Ohio

One of the greatest benefits of hostels, though, is the opportunity for social interaction; far from being shut in their own rooms, travelers from all parts of the globe interact, become friends and experience the city together, making hostels a great option for both solo travelers and groups. They are also particularly well-suited for college students who are usually on a limited budget and accustomed to dorm-style living anyway. The best part: a shared room is usually only $25-50 per person per night.

While they tend to be associated with European travel, hostels are catching on in the United States and in fact several exist in Ohio. Two are spotlighted below: The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel in Columbus, the capital of Ohio, and The Cleveland Hostel in Cleveland, one of Ohio’s major cities.

A new way to experience the capital

While conducting market research, Mathew Dietrich discovered that Columbus was the largest city in the world without a hostel. This changed in August 2010 with the opening of his own – The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel at 2407 Indiana Ave. – located in a friendly red duplex where Dietrich had lived as a student at the Ohio State University.

“I had purchased my home in 2006 and lived there during my time at OSU,” Dietrich said. He studied business administration with a concentration in management information systems and rented rooms in the home to friends. Then in 2010 he traveled around the United States, staying in hostels in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and more, and decided to open his own.

“That sort of casual atmosphere was what drew me,” Dietrich said.

Dietrich now lives in the hostel that he operates in addition to having a full-time job. He is extremely satisfied with the experience. “There is a constant variety of enriching debates that occur in my living room every day,” he said.

The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel currently has a maximum occupancy of 15: two 5-person coed dorms, one 3-person coed dorm and a private room that can accommodate up to 2 people. Costs range from $26-$28.50 per night per person for a coed room and $52 for

The three-person coed dorm in The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel of Columbus, Ohio

The three-person coed dorm in The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel in Columbus, Ohio

a private room.

A slew of other perks are included. Guests receive free sheets, pillows and towels to use during their stay, free breakfast, a free locker and lock to store belongings, free parking, free bike and helmet rental, free wifi and free laundry with the use of their own detergent. Two kitchens and two laundry rooms are available for guests to use. There is a hot tub and grill on site, and activities include bonfires, potluck dinners, bar crawls and more.

“It’s truly the only 24-hour neighborhood in Columbus,” Dietrich said of his hostel’s location. He also stressed the social perks of hosteling. “You’re never alone when you stay at a hostel,” he said. “That’s really what hosteling is about, the ability to meet people.”

Dietrich hopes to open two more similarly-sized hostels in the future, each located in distinct districts of Columbus. For guests wishing to visit, reservations for The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel can be made online. Check out more photos below.

Cleveland, hostel style

Mark Raymond knows a thing or two about hostels; he has stayed in more than 100, in over 70 countries around the world.

“You look at all these different countries and think, ‘What’s it like there?’” he said. “It’s a great thing to travel and see places you’ve heard about and read about.”

Raymond put this experience to good use while opening The Cleveland Hostel, at 2090 W. 25th St., in August 2012. Located in a century-old building in the Ohio City neighborhood, the hostel combines all of the features Raymond knew from experience that travelers wanted, such as a location near the city center, easy access to public transportation and grocery stores and markets close by, with a big kitchen and two common areas inside the hostel itself. The hostel also includes a rooftop deck with a view of Cleveland’s skyline, and like Dietrich, Raymond lives in his hostel as well. “I get to live in a great neighborhood too,” he said.

The Cleveland Hostel currently has a maximum occupancy of 60, with a combination of coed dorms, private rooms and one female dorm. Bathrooms are a combination of en suite and shared, and rates range from $25-$27 per person per night for a shared room to $65-$75 per night for a private room.

Guests also receive free sheets and towels, free wifi, free parking, in-room lockers, coin-operated laundry and ironing facilities, bike and luggage storage, and $15/day bike rental. The hostel offers guests a $5 breakfast, including coffee, at the nearby Bonbon Pastry and Cafe located at 2549 Lorain Ave. An info board, updated weekly, gives suggestions on what to do around the city.

Raymond hopes to partner with more businesses in the future and provide as much as possible for his visitors. Anyone interested in staying can book online or by calling (216) 394-0616.

Traveling accommodations can be, and should be, viewed as more than an unavoidable expense incurred each day. If you’re looking for a place more in tune with the destination you are visiting, with the chance to experience the city together with other visitors from around the world — not to mention save more than a few bucks — hosteling is not just an option, but an opportunity that should be ignored by no one.

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Additional photos of The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel:

Flags hang from the hostel's front deck. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)
Flags hang from the hostel’s front deck. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)
The hostel's private room. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)
The hostel’s private room. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)
One of the bathrooms inside the hostel. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)
One of the bathrooms inside the hostel. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)

Free bikes, helmets and lockers are available for use. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)
Free bikes, helmets and lockers are available for use. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)
One of two free laundry facilities. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)
One of two free laundry facilities. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)
One of two common areas for guests. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)
One of two common areas for guests. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)

One of two kitchens available for guests to use. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)
One of two kitchens available for guests to use. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)
The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel owner, Mathew Dietrich. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)
The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel owner, Mathew Dietrich. (The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, Columbus, Ohio; Photo: Liz Masson)

His Hostel Home

posted Feb 23, 2011, 6:13 PM by Mathew Dietrich   [ updated Oct 14, 2011, 10:14 AM ]

University District venture starts simple - in one bedroom of the owner's duplex - but he has big plans for next year

Thursday, January 6, 2011  02:51 AM

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Mathew Dietrich felt an urge that he can liken only to the ethereal whisper in the movie Field of Dreams - a socially minded motivation that, unlike the film, involved no backyard ballpark:

If you open your home; furnish it with Ikea bunk beds; offer towels, guitars and a hookah pipe; serve bagels for breakfast; and show Pineapple Express on a projector-screen television, they will come.

The curious vision soon became a concrete plan.

During the summer, after some research and $6,000 in renovations to his University District home, the Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel began welcoming visitors from throughout the world.

"When I opened in August, I had my first guest three days later," said Dietrich, 23, who used no promotional efforts, except for a paid presence on several hostel-reservation websites.

"After that, I was pretty much booked solid."

Each patron of the humble red duplex on Indiana Avenue pays $15 nightly for the accommodations.

Male and female guests sleep in a single room, dormitory-style. The hostel has a full bathroom on the second floor and a lavatory in the basement. Fraternizing with the host and other travelers is considered the norm - with little, if any, obtainable privacy. The sparse interior decor, though tidy, resembles an off-campus bachelor pad.

The arrangement, Dietrich maintains, is nothing to fear.

"I think people associate hostels with homeless shelters or halfway houses or something," he said. "Modern hostels are clean, friendly, safe places."

Such lodging is particularly valuable to budget-minded travelers.

The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel offers free, unlimited telephone calls within the United States and to Canada. No-cost wireless Internet is provided, as is a desktop computer. Use of a washer and dryer in the basement is also complimentary.

Dietrich serves as concierge, housekeeper, cook and, when manageable, chauffeur.

"In some hostels, people behind the desk don't have the time of day," said Emily Campbell, 22, a nurse from Melbourne, Australia, who spent two nights in Columbus in the fall. "Mat was warm, welcoming and approachable. He even drove me to the airport."

A dry-erase board in the common area features similar testimonials, some scrawled in French, Italian and Spanish. Other praise is found on sites such as www.hostelworld.com, with guests from Costa Rica and Singapore describing their respective central Ohio stays as "helpful" and "sweet."

Dietrich has experienced few problem visitors (loudness after dark and a reluctance to clean dishes rank among the worst offenses). Individual lockers for valuables are available.

The maximum length of stay is 21 days; most visitors use the hostel for one to three nights.

Although most patrons are in their 20s and 30s, the Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel - which can host a maximum of six - has housed older guests as well as retirees.

Hostels, which originated in Germany in 1912, are commonplace in Europe and some American cities.

Because many ventures - including Dietrich's - operate independent of an association, keeping an accurate head count is difficult, said Mark Vidalin, marketing director for Hostelling International, a British-based consortium of youth-hostel associations in more than 80 countries.

The number of hostels worldwide has reportedly declined, particularly in the United States, but domestic bookings among Hostelling International affiliates rose to 1million overnight stays last year and has risen annually since a substantial drop in 2001, Vidalin said.

Area inquiries have also increased.

"We used to have none - now, I'd say we get one or two a month," said Scott Peacock, spokesman for Experience Columbus, the city's convention and visitors bureau. "It's nice to have somewhere to send them."

Hostel advocates maintain that the properties attract creative people and are key to boosting a city's arts scene. (Indianapolis, Dietrich noted, has two hostels.)

Columbus hasn't had a functional hostel for almost a decade, when the Heart of Ohio - which opened in 1984 in a former fraternity house at 95 E. 12th Ave. - closed because of financial struggles, according to Dale Lofland, 84, a North Side resident who was a volunteer liaison for the hostel.

Dietrich, who received a business degree last year from Ohio State University, is no stranger to the industry: His parents, Steve and Jane, have run Deer Creek Bed and Breakfast in Litchfield, in Medina County, for nine years.

As a teenager, Mathew cooked for guests and joined in late-night Monopoly games.

"He's a very social person," said Mrs. Dietrich, 48. "I'm just happy he's doing something he enjoys."

The family's entrepreneurial spirit compelled Mathew to purchase his $167,000 duplex in 2006 as a college sophomore. He rents out four of the six bedrooms to full-time roommates - including Isaac Laughbaum, who lives on the same side as Dietrich and the rotating hostel visitors.

"I didn't know what to expect; I had just seen the movie," said Laughbaum, 22, referring to the 2005 horror flick Hostel. "It's never boring."

Dietrich, when available, is happy to pick up travelers at Port Columbus or the Greyhound bus station Downtown. And, depending on their itinerary and interests, he is likely to take newly arrived tourists out for a burger or a few beers.

Last week, he drove four visitors from Quebec to Nationwide Arena for a Columbus Blue Jackets game and met the guys afterward to hit the bars on nearby Park Street.

"You don't meet anybody if you go to a regular hotel," said Montreal native Max Richard, 24. "(A hostel is) always a lot friendlier. We can discover stuff about the city."

Having logged 65 guests since August, Dietrich is already looking ahead: He plans next year to transfer ownership of Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel to Delaware entrepreneur Ray Domire, who aims to open a 60-bed hostel Downtown - with Dietrich serving as the live-in manager. The Indiana Avenue operation would dissolve.

The two are looking at the vacant upper floors of the Swan Cleaners building at 247 S. High St., where they hope to open by summer. Tentative plans include a rooftop garden and a hot tub.

Domire, 61, a nonprofit executive and longtime hostel frequenter, cited the venture's "great potential," but declined to provide details.

For Dietrich, though, the response to a modest investment has been impetus enough.

"This was a great way to test the water," he said. "I get a general sense that Columbus will support it."

kjoy@dispatch.com

Hostelling:

posted Oct 20, 2010, 3:10 PM by Mathew Dietrich   [ updated Mar 17, 2011, 9:49 AM ]

Don't believe everything you see in the movies

By Rich Kemp

Whether you have seen the "Hostel" movies or not, anybody knows that nothing can get the heart pounding and adrenaline racing like the true horror of an overpriced hotel room when trying to travel with friends for a cheap weekend away.

Now, those choosing the OSU area as their getaway destination have additional option. Well, that is, if you can forget about all the movie references.

"It doesn't help that people watch horror movies and believe them to be a fair depiction of reality," said Matthew Dietrich, owner of The Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel, the first hostel in Columbus in over a decade. "People have this ridiculous misconception of [hostels] being dirty, dangerous and awkward."

Despite the misconceptions, Dietrich has had a good start with his $22-a-night hostel located on Indiana Ave. in the OSU area. Within the first few weeks of opening in August, Dietrich had nearly all of his beds full on a nightly basis. That doesn't mean he has had too many locals referring their friends yet.

"People in the US are scared," he said of the myths surrounding hostels. "Canadians aren't this paranoid about hostels, nor Europeans."

Dietrich argues that the bad name hostels have is unjust; they can actually be safer than hotels. He muses that if both a hostel and hotel are located in the same rough neighborhood, the hostel will come out safer.

"A Holiday Inn, where you might stay alone, would not offer the same security as a hostel (because) there is always someone around to stay in or go out with," he said.

The Warfaring Buckeye Hostel, however, in amongst row upon row of modest family and student housing. The casual observer would not realize it was a hostel at all unless they were actually looking for it. Dietrich, a business information systems student, bought the house when he was 19 years old and rented it to friends. He later noticed the gaping hole in Columbus' hostel market and when a friend left four months early without paying his rent, Dietrich became an entrepreneur. He decked the place out with IKEA, remodeled the basement and installed new beds.

Because of their pricing, hostels are often popular no-frills choices among college-aged travelers. The Warfaring Buckeye, for example, is modest with wooden panels covering the floor, sofas scattered about the living room and musical instruments as decorations. The hostel has two large shared bathrooms, a dormitory, a communal kitchen, a laundry room and even a mascot: Ziggy the dog. Quite the contrary image to the horror movies to be sure.

In addition to being motivated by unreliable housemates, Dietrich took inspiration from the travelers' community organization CouchSurfing.com, a website listing both "hosts" and "surfers." CouchSurfing seek to "participate in creating a better world, one couch at a time."

A CouchSurfer himself, Dietrich shares many values with the organization. Through hostelling and CouchSurfing, he was able to develop communication, socializing and teamwork skills that may never have been used if he had stayed at a posh, expensive hotel.

At The Wayfaring Buckeye, Dietrich plays the role of both hostel owner and entertainer. He will personally show guests around the city if they wish and take them to nearby events and bars.

Hostels make the perfect choice for a myriad of occasions, Dietrich insists.

"I've had apartment hunters come here. The last ones stayed a week while they looked for a new place. Grad students stay here too, as they're only in Columbus for a day or two and then they leave. A hostel is a much better place to stay in as you get to know the city better with people in the same boat."

Dietrich is unsure as to what the future holds for his current hostel, though he and a friend have even talked about a 60-bed hostel in the downtown area.

Originally Published: September 22, 2010

Hostel takeover on Indiana Avenue

posted Sep 20, 2010, 3:58 PM by Mathew Dietrich   [ updated Mar 17, 2011, 9:49 AM ]


BY LYNDSEY TETER
Published: Thursday, September 2, 2010 4:47 PM EDT
It’s an unassuming red duplex on Indiana Avenue. Walk by, and you might not be able to tell the difference between it and the neighboring single-family homes and student rentals. But since opening Aug. 6, with virtually no marketing, the Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel has been booked almost every night with visitors from France, Holland, Turkey, Japan, Brazil … you name it.

Hmm. Guess Columbus apparently did need a hostel.

The 15th largest city in the country went almost a decade without a hostel. For years, young entrepreneurs and local artists have yearned to plug the gap in our hostel-less city. It took an Ohio State business student to pull the trigger.

“With the exception of Detroit, we were the largest city (in the U.S.) without a hostel,” said Mathew Dietrich, who converted his campus-area home into a six-bed hostel.

“Indianapolis has two.”

Columbus used to lay claim to hostel on East 12th Avenue in the Ohio State University area, but the home was demolished in 2003 to make way for a Mormon church.

Dietrich saw the necessity as a potential business opportunity. He spent several months researching the concept, decided it was worth his investment and scrounged up the funds necessary funds to renovate the seven-bedroom duplex that he’d purchased as a college student.

“I’ve never been a renter,” Dietrich said.

Initially, his roommates helped him cover the mortgage. Now, a seemingly endless flow of overseas guests are helping foot the bill.

“I’ve been fortunate enough growing up that I’ve done a lot of traveling myself, and I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels,” Dietrich said.

For years, talking heads at places like Hostelling International have preached about the need for budget accommodations for student and youth travelers. (Think: 20s and 30s, recent college grads, grad students with no kids, all scratching their global travel itch while they can, or simply scouting job opportunities across the country—including Columbus—on the cheap.)

Cheap beds, however, are not the only draw.

If you’re bunking with half a dozen people in the same room, with perhaps just as many languages being spoken, the cultural concentration is a real draw, he said.

“That’s my favorite part of it,” he said.

After a couple of cans of paint, some new fixtures and a handful of trips to Ikea, Dietrich was ready for guests. He posted his humble destination on hostelworld.com, and in a surreal Field of Dreams kind of response, the international clientele that proponents promised would discover Columbus actually did.

Dietrich has housed potential OSU students, he’s had folks looking for work or arriving for an interview and he’s had travelers from abroad just passing through.

It’s a clientele, experts say, that often is overlooked by visitors’ bureaus, though to be fair, these unconventional travelers apparently don’t think to go the traditional “visitor’s bureau” route first; similarly, they don’t think “hotel room” first. They chart their course by visiting sites like hostels.com and hostelworld.com.

In fact, last year, Experience Columbus told The Other Paper that it had received exactly zero inquiries about hostel traveling in the city.

This year, they’re up to half a dozen or so, said Scott Peacock, spokesman for Experience Columbus.

“A couple of weeks ago, we had a group of backpackers ask about a hostel,” Peacock said. The need is, “nowhere near dire, but it’s something that stays on the radar.”

Now Peacock and folks at Experience Columbus are tickled that a hostel has sprouted up in their midst, saying it will diversify our city’s accommodations.

Dietrich uses websites like the one run by Experience Columbus to keep foreign travelers abreast as to what shows, block parties, sporting events and festivals they can attend during their visit. Entertaining, and showcasing Columbus’s cultural diversity, is something he’s always enjoyed, Dietrich said, and apparently, he’s kind of good at it.

“I’ve had visitors say, ‘I would really enjoy living here’ and it catches me off guard,” he said.

“I love Columbus, but a lot of the general consensus among those who grew up here is, ‘when can I get the hell out of Ohio?’”

Online reviewers have given him high marks in all areas except location—something Dietrich hopes to remedy soon.

He’d like to open a hostel somewhere south of his current location, which is between Lane Avenue and Hudson Street just north of OSU’s campus. Dietrich said he’d ideally like to be between the Short North and campus to be a little closer to the action.

In the meantime, he hopes to convert a couple of his seven bedrooms into private rooms to accommodate requests from travelers who aren’t keen on the traditional dormitory-style hostel stay—and those high rollers are probably willing to drop a few bucks more than the $20-per-night fee that Dietrich is asking.

Also trendy among the international hostelling crowd is all-female dorms, which Dietrich also hopes to incorporate.

So far, he’s not bumped into whatever the mysterious obstacle was that kept Columbus hostel-free for almost 10 years.

When he graduates in December, he might take his hostel management position full time.

“We’ll see how things fluctuate between now and winter,” he said.

In the meantime, the city can finally remove that embarrassing hostel-less label that’s lowered us in the eyes of our foreign peers. Take that, Indianapolis!

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