This month’s Member Spotlight is showcasing Daniel Beaumont and Sam Cooper. These are the two ambitious souls behind Podstel, a hostel concept that combines travel and education to create positive change. What an incredible concept! We all know that travel has the power to change people, and is more than just seeing the sights. So we asked Dan and Sam to open up to us about what makes Podstel so unique, the challenges they’ve had with opening, and where they see the future of travel.
What are your backgrounds?
Daniel: I’m a 25-year-old traveller and budding hostel owner from the Lake District in the North of England. I studied business at university, and since graduating in 2012, I’ve spent 4 years adventuring 40 countries with my best friend Sam, while working on our dream to set up a new kind of a hostel.
Sam: I also grew up in the Lake District. Dan and I met at age 12 and been best mates ever since. I took a gap year before university and went to NZ, where I caught the "travelbug"/ passion for travel. I continued this after graduation, and flew out to meet Dan to motorbike across in Vietnam together. Along the journey I taught myself videography, web and graphic design all of which you can see from our media platforms.
After we had both talked about opening a hostel, Podstel was born, and the rest was history.
What is the current dream?
A hostel concept called Podstel. We’ve spent the last 3 years building Podstel from the road, while volunteering in hostels and interviewing backpackers, asking them what makes a great hostel. We’ve finished all the planning, secured finances, and now searching for a location/building in Europe for the first Podstel.
The broader dream is to build a small community of hostels focused on principles of community, learning and exchange.
Want to hear what really makes Podstel so unique? Check it out!
What inspired you to get involved in running or opening hostels?
Daniel: My first backpacking experience interrailing around Europe. I stayed at Carpe Noctem Vitae in Budapest and I was blown away by the community spirit of the hostel. They were all about the experience, and the staff really wanted to get to know the guests on a personal level. We partied, bbq’d, played fun games, debated and even cooked together. This touched me, from that moment I knew I wanted to start my own hostel in the future. Till this day, after 500+ hostels, it’s still my favourite hostel experience.
Sam: Sam: From staying in hundreds of hostels myself. I feel at home in the hostel environment and have witnessed first hand what a great melting pot of diversity it is. People from all over the world, conversing, laughing and sharing ideas/skills together. I feel after our experiences it’s time to put all of these positive experiences into one platform for others to enjoy now.
Describe what gives your future hostel its magic that makes it so special?
In two words, community and learning. With the growth of technology and emergence of Generation-Y, travellers are starting to look for a different experience. Travellers want to learn new things, create memorable experiences, and feel a sense of belonging and a special connection to where they stay. They want to create meaningful connections and stories with people they meet in the hostel.
Podstel will be a place that facilitates this shift in trend. We want to be a small community hostel, so rather than competing on price, we’ll focus on service, doing our best to give each guest a personal and memorable experience.
Beyond that, we want to give guests a stage and place to express their skills. Travellers already have the skills and talents – they just need a the platform/place and audience to share those talents, and what better place than the hostel? Podstel will include a large multi purpose communal space where this magic can happen.
Without getting into details, we’re thinking along the line of events, workshops, learning opportunities, inspiring presentations, as well as giving guests a chance to make a difference in the local community.
Some of the crew and travelers behind the Podstel concept
Which other hostels inspire you?
Daniel: Of course, as I mentioned earlier, Carpe Noctem Vitae back in 2012 was a huge inspiration for Podstel. Also Wish You Were here in Cambodia, and many many great hostels in New Zealand (all about the community and homely feeling).
Beyond hostels, I’ve also had some very rich hospitality experiences CouchSurfing. This platform gave me an entirely different perspective to hospitality, because the interaction tends to be more personal and intricate since a host is inviting you into their home. I learned the importance of taking a genuine interest in guests. This starts at a very basic level with things such as remembering each guests’ name, or even asking them about their hobbies and passions.
Sam: Every hostel I have ever visited has inspired me in one way or another. Their layout, what they offer, their design etc. However, what I found the most inspiration in was the people who ran the hostels. Some of the hostels I've stayed in offered nothing but beds but I will always remember them because of the owners/workers and how they made my time there so special.
What has been your biggest challenge in starting a hostel?
Definitely finding an appropriate location. We’ve searched 4 continents and still haven’t found the first building for the Podstel.
We’re looking for partners/people with locations/buildings in mind, preferably in Europe, so if you’re interested or know anybody that can help, please get in touch using the contact details at the bottom of the interview.
Why are you in your current location? Why are you considering leaving?
We currently live in Leipzig, Germany, and we’ll leave at the end of September. It’s a beautiful student city just south of Berlin. We hitchhiked here last year on our hostel trip through Europe and decided to take base while we finalised plans and searched for the place for our first Podstel. We thought about setting Podstel up here but the international traveller market was pretty low, so decided against it.
What are your main criteria for where you go?
After all of our travel, we’re very open-minded in terms of a location for the hostel.
There should be a thriving/upcoming travel and start-up/technology scene, culture and history, nature/adventure nearby, temperate/warm climate, good food, healthcare and a major airport close by.
We like the idea of countries in Europe such as Croatia, Spain, Portugal, but even Germany, Slovenia or England.
What were your first steps to a very big process?
Buying the plane ticket to Australia 4 years ago. In all honesty, when we left 4 years ago for Australia, we had a lot of fear and pretty nevous. We didn’t know what would come of our adventure, but knew a very interesting path full of growth and experience was happening.
Looking back, the first step was so small but crucially valuable – we talked about our idea, bought a notebook and started asking backpacker’s what they’d love to see in a hostel. That turned into a brand, then the brand developed a vision. After that, we developed a small, tight knitted community of travellers who believed in what we stood for as a hostel. This opened the doors for investment, which we have now secured. Now we’re at the next stage, seeking the building for the first Podstel.
When you put all those steps in place, it’s remarkable to the chain reaction of a simple thought seed.
Dan & Sam working at a hostel while traveling to learn the best tips & tricks.
What has helped you the most in the process of starting a hostel?
We couldn’t have built Podstel without the help of all the wonderful souls we met on the road while hitchhiking, couchsurfing and living off €8 a day. Creating meaningful relationships with people we met along the way is the biggest reason we now have the opportunity to start the first Podstel. We asked people what they’d like to see in Podstel, as well as how they imagined it to look and feel. Beyond the project, many people we met helped us in other ways - giving us food, or a place to stay.
What was some great advice you were given that is proving true?
Daniel: If you have an idea to build your own hostel, stick at it and see it through. The idea part is the easy bit, it’s the execution that’s hard. Go into the whole process with a beginner’s mind, and be willing to make a few mistakes along the way. It’s all about your passion, perspective and mindset. I always believed that even if the hostel didn’t work out for some reason or another, I’d learn so many invaluable lessons, while having lots of fun and new experiences along the way.
Sam: "Focus" was the advice I took the most from. In the early Podstel days we were trying to do all sorts of things, like getting free music festival tickets as travel bloggers, for one example. These are great opportunities but are they going to open you a hostel?? No. We have learned the lessons along the way but it is so important to avoid straying from the sole focus. Every time we make a decision now we always revert back to our focus and it has saved us a lot of time and effort.
How has HostelManagement.com been useful for you?
HostelMamangement.com has been an incredible tool and gateway for connecting with professionals in the industry. We’ve met a lot of travellers on the road who had a pipe dream to open their own hostels, but rarely professionals who were coming from a more business perspective.
We are extremely grateful for this site, thank you, thank you, thank you!
[For those of you out there who feel the same, consider becoming a supporting member of HostelManagement.com. Your contribution keeps this site of over 20,000 members afloat, and membership starts at just $34.99 per year.]
What would you like to see HostelManagement.com do in the future to become even more useful for you?
Definitely hold more events/conferences – like I mentioned before, I believe it’s all about creating meaningful relationships and that is easier in person. In addition, an interactive, real-time space for people in the industry to talk and communicate.
Any final thoughts or comments to share with the community?
We’re living in a very different world now. One of our biggest observations from the 500+ hostels we visited was that many hostel owners were old school in the way they ran their hostel. Obsolete websites, lack of marketing, and understanding about the way people were travelling.
People are travelling in new ways, and their attention is focused on different platforms and channels now. Technology is a trend that cannot be ignored and hostel owners need to become more innovative, otherwise they may face difficulty surviving in what is, already, a very competitive industry.
Finally, if you have your own dream to start your own hostel – DO IT AND DON’T LOOK BACK! Because, the reality is, the only thing that stops that dream happening is YOU.
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