DEER ISLE — A hostel in Georgia where guests sleep in tree houses inspired a local man to establish the only hostel on the Maine coast.

After visiting the Hostel in the Forest in Georgia, Surry native Dennis Carter decided his life’s calling was to open a more traditional type hostel in Maine. Carter was in his final semester at Savannah College of Art and Design when he made the decision, but after college, he worked at the Georgia hostel for several winters.

Carter and his now-wife, Sweden native Anneli Carter-Sundqvist, built and now operate the Deer Isle Hostel, which offers guests insight into the tradition of homesteading—living simply and relying on the land to provide food, water and heat.

Carter-Sundqvist blogged about the process of building and running the homestead hostel  on the Mother Earth News website, and those entries are now collected in a book, A Homesteader’s Year on Deer Isle (available at and at bookstores listed on the site).

Carter-Sundqvist also knew something about hostels before building one in Deer Isle. She spent ten years touring the world on a shoestring budget before she married, she said, with the location of hostels often determining her destination.

The two met at the Georgia hostel.

The couple operates their hostel from Memorial Day until Labor Day, and this year, they expect at least 300 guests from across the nation and abroad seeking to experience homesteading.

“Dennis had long had the dream to live off the land,” Carter-Sundqvist said, “and since I came here in 2008, we’ve accelerated the development of the homestead along with the hostel. To live as homesteaders, work from home and meet most of our needs

right here allows us an alternative socioeconomic lifestyle,” she said.

That lifestyle means “limited dependence on fossil fuels, few strings attached to the

global economy and an overall greater security for food, energy and building materials,” she said.

Among the benefits the couple enjoys are working at home, not having to commute and being more secure against “losing financial footing due to events beyond our control,” Carter-Sundqvist said.

“This is our home, so we like to spend our days enhancing our own place. We are a family, so we like to spend our days together,” she said.

The couple was named Homesteaders of the Year in 2013 by Mother Earth News.

The hostel, which is modeled on a 17th century style home, can accommodate up to 12 guests. The building uses solar power and hand-pumped water. There is a dorm room, a private family room, a secluded hut for two, a private single room, a communal kitchen and an outdoor shower.

When the hostel is open, the couple often hand pump 20-30 gallons of water a day for washing dishes, feeding animals and other purposes. The pressurized water for the shower is heated in a water line passing through a hot compost pile which is built with seaweed, grass and wood chips.

Guests are invited to share in a communal supper with fresh veggies from the couple’s organic garden and staples like beans and rice. Guests are asked to contribute other items such as bread and cheese. She said some guests help with chores, like carrying in water or doing dishes.

“We try to get to know our guests personally,”  Carter-Sundqvist said. “We interact with them and they interact with each other.”

With an often unstable global economy, interest in the homesteading way of life is strong.

“Homesteading and living off the land is not just something from the past but rather a sensible, dignifying and viable option for the future,” she said.

Nightly rates are: $25 for a bed in the dorm; $30 for each person in the private room (which sleeps up to four); and the secluded hut for two is $60.