Editor’s note: This series of blogs was written last year by Anneli Carter-Sundqvist about her and her husband Dennis’ adventures homesteading and running a hostel on Deer Isle. The entire year of blog posts are contained in the book A Homesteader’s Year on Deer Isle (see www.deerislehostel.com). 

I haven’t always been a homesteader on Deer Isle. Once I was a traveler, roaming the world, looking for yet another untrodden path. My travels led me to different cultures, to war zones, deserts, mountains and oceans, usually on a very thin shoestring budget.

I depended on cheap transport, inexpensive food and more than anything, budget accommodations. It was one of the determining factors for where my travels led me: if a place had a hostel, it was a place I could go to. Hostels made it possible for me to see the world and some of my fondest memories from traveling—as well as some of my best friends—come from hosteling.

So a long time ago when I met Dennis (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. Our older visitors often 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. But times have changed and so have the hostels. Most have omitted the word “youth” and cater to people of all ages, with all kinds of transportation. Most hostels 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 for those on a limited budget who don’t want 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 of all ages, from all continents and from all walks of life. Some come late and leave early. Some come by chance after seeing our road signs and end up coming back, year after year. One lady hasn’t missed a single summer since we opened, and it’s hard for me to imagine a summer without seeing the return of some of our guests. 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 our days together; we’re host and hostess and we’re spending our days with everyone.

Last year we had about 250 guests, not counting all those who came for a tour, a workshop, an event or family members visiting. We make an effort to talk to them all. We put on a communal dinner for all of our guests every evening, and we try to catch most of them at breakfast before they leave.

We long ago gave up trying to get bigger projects done in the summer months. New construction, landscaping or milling must wait until fall. In the summer we do laundry, we clean and we cook. I keep the gardens in shape and the bugs at bay, but mostly we socialize with our guests, point out bike routes, ATMs, restaurants and hiking trails. We assure them that they can make themselves at home and we hug most of them when they leave.

In the afternoons, I can go to my neighbor’s and take a nap on her lawn, at a safe half-mile distance from the ringing phone. At the end of the season, I’m amazed I still remember my husband’s name.

It makes me proud to run a hostel and to offer an affordable night’s sleep on Deer Isle. It gives access to a beautiful, natural area and it might inspire 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 full swing through the summer is the best of both worlds: the comfort of home with the vibrations of travelers.