I haven’t always been a homesteader on Deer Isle. Once I was a traveler – roaming the world always looking for another untrodden path. My travels led me to different cultures, new friends, war zones, deserts, mountains and oceans, constantly on very thin shoestring. I depended on cheap transport, inexpensive food and, more than anything, budget accommodations. It was the one determining factor for where my travels led me; if a place had a hostel it was a place I could go to; they made it possible for me to see the world. Some of my fondest memories come from hostels, some of my best friends too. So when I met Dennis a long time ago (at a hostel) and was invited to help him start one in Maine I didn’t have to think twice.
Many people think of hostels as something from Europe. Many of our older visitors tell us about trips they made overseas, staying at Youth Hostels and many think of hostels as a place for bicyclists or hikers to stay. Times have changed, and so have the hostels. Most have now omitted the word “youth” and cater to people of all ages, with all kinds of transportation. Most hostels now offer private rooms in addition to the traditional dorm rooms while keeping up with the signature communal kitchen, bathroom and living room.
We opened in 2009 and it’s clear to me, that many of our guests would not have come to Deer Isle if it hadn’t been for the Hostel. For those on a limited budget that do not wish to travel with camping gear, or those who simply prefer the indoor option we’re their only choice in the area. In fact, we’re the only hostel on the entire coast of Maine.
Many of our guests come with the Hostel as their destination and simply consider it luck that it happens to be located in such a beautiful place as Deer Isle. By now, we’ve seen travelers from all continents, ages, backgrounds and from all walks of life. Some come late and leave early. Some come by chance after seeing our road sign and end up coming back, year after year. One lady hasn’t missed visiting us a single summer since we opened. We’ve seen solo travelers congregate here by coincidence and leave as a group. Friends have been made and plans to see each other back home hashed out.
And right now, just about this time every year our lives are changing. We’re not just Dennis and Anneli living in a small cabin spending the days together; we’re host and hostess and we’re spending our days with everyone. Last year we had about 200 guests, not counting all those who came by only for a tour, to participate in a workshop or an event or family members on visit. We make an effort to talk to them all. We put on a communal dinner for all of our guests every evening and try to catch most of them at breakfast before they leave. We’ve long given up trying to get bigger projects done in the summer months. New construction, landscaping or milling must wait until fall. We do laundry, we clean, we cook. I keep the gardens in shape and the bugs a bay but mostly, we socialize with our guests, point out bike routes, ATM’s, restaurants or hiking trails. We assure them that they can make themselves at home and we hug most of them when they leave. They’re friends, right? In the afternoons I can go to my neighbor and take a nap on her lawn, on a safe ½ mile distance from the ringing phone. At the end of the season, I’m amazed I still remember my husbands name.
It makes me feel proud running a hostel the way we do; offering an affordable night’s sleep on Deer Isle we gives access to a beautiful, natural area and inspires others to live a more sustainable life. It’s also a great way, mildly put, to keep life interesting. After about a decade of living in a backpack, jumping the hoops of visas and passports and border controls and after spending night after night in new places, living on Deer Isle year round with the Hostel in swing through the summer is the best of both worlds; the comfort of home with the vibration of travelers.
Anneli Carter – Sundqvist lives with her husband Dennis on an island off the coast of Maine on a highly self sufficient, off the grid homestead. In the summer, they run the Deer Isle Hostel on the very same farm, providing budget accommodation, positive-impact living education and a unique experience for 100’s of travelers.