Home Away from Home
Justin and Melanie Steele host adventurous visitors at the Hostel of Maine
When Justine Steele traveled through Europe six years ago, he took the adventurous route and stayed in hostels rather than hotels. He loved the laid-back style of shared lodging, and he and his wife, Melanie, dreamed of opening a hostel back home. In January 2018 their plan finally came to fruition when they purchased and opened the Hostel of Maine (HoME) in Carrabassett Valley. “We got a sense that it was right up our alley in terms of the lifestyle we wanted and the kind of business we wanted to run,” Justin says.
The Steeles wanted to open their own hostel because of the travelers hostels attract. People who stay in them are low-key, friendly, and often adventurous, they explain. “The biggest thing we like about visiting hostels is that you always get a warm welcome,” Justin says.
“It’s like a pop-up community.” The Steeles opened HoME in a former bed-and-breakfast on Route 27, less than a mile from the Sugar- loaf Access Road. With its log cabin structure, comfy couches, and puzzles and board games, the Hostel of Maine has a rustic, cozy vibe that makes it feel like a home, which, for the Steeles, it is. The pair lives in the hostel with their dog, Zoe. Their sole employee also lives on the premises.
The hostel can sleep up to 26 people and has a mix of private and shared rooms. The private rooms can sleep couples or families, and the shared rooms are bunk-style, although they were designed to give guests as much privacy as possible. Justin says, while the hostel may be less expensive than traditional hotels, he didn’t want comfort or cleanliness to be lacking. “It’s more about the atmosphere and less about cheap accommodations,” Justin says. “People have certain ideas of what hostels are, and we want to show that that’s not always accurate.”
In the past year, the hostel has hosted Appalachian Trail through-hikers as well as families and other groups that were in the area to visit Sugarloaf. “It just really fits well with the area, where it’s so unpretentious and just about loving the outdoors,” Justin says. There’s a shuttle that goes between Sugarloaf and the hostel during the winter, and the Steeles often give visitors other recreational recommendations. “While we’re told the hostel is new and exciting,” Justin says, “we’ve just created a slightly different take on what the valley has always offered—a comfortable place for visitors to share space and enjoy the area.”