After years of traveling and being helped by random strangers in foreign countries, I moved to Pittsburgh and started its only hostel. There is no obligation to pay anything at all, and donations are completely anonymous. University of California Berkeley has done a study on the sustainability of our guilt free donation model, and found that it is just as sustainable as pressuring guests to donate.

We offer free beer, free bicycle/scooter use, and all the typical hostel amenities. We have a projector hooked up to a N64, yoga room, and outside slackline and hammock. We are trying to be the best hostel in the world, and want to expand to other cities. Ask me (absolutely) anything!

Oh hey. I forgot the most important part! I've been writing this book for the last few years during my travels and hostel work. It's called "An Autobiography of the world". Every person I meet gets 1 sentence in the book. It can be literally anything. Something you want to be remembered for. It has to be original to you (can't quote Gandhi). If reddit wants to contribute, send me a message with your sentence, first name, and location. I'll be sure to add it in!

My proof!

Update: I'm off, folks. I tried my best to answer each and every one of you. If anyone has any other questions, especially about opening up your own branch, please don't hesitate to call or email me. Also, you guys saved me. I was so incredibly depressed last night after a hard week of guests, and I was ready to shut down this hostel. You have all been so helpful and encouraging, and helped me relearn that people are so good. I cannot thank you all enough.

Stay tuned for an update about how our new bidet fares with guests. I promised the user who bought it for me that I would ask guests to write about how it changed their life. Lastly, I'm going to have to eat a hat soon...

Comments: 567 • Responses: 83  • Date: 

oceanshark110 karma

Have you ever had to tell anyone to leave and have there been people who paid you nothing?

pghparagliding175 karma

The address isn't published online to prevent walk ins and sketchy people. When applying for a spot, guests send a email with some personal info, and I do a little background check on them. If they seem okay, I'll give them the address. That weeds out a lot of the bad ones.

That being said, I have had a few slip through the cracks. Personality disorders are really hard to spot sometimes. I have had to kick out a few crazies and horrible people. Maybe 3 or 4.

Edit: forgot to respond to second question. People don't donate a thing all the time! I hope they need the money more than the project and continue on with my day!

DaveTheDownvoter48 karma

Does that mean that there are a lot of people donating far more than they would have at other accommodation?

pghparagliding82 karma

We don't really have people donate more than the ballpark suggestion of 25 dollars. It's happened a handful of times, but not often. The thing is, in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati it's either staying on the street, homeless shelter, or 200 dollar hotel if you're traveling. There is airbnb and couchsurfing, but no real affordable accommodation options. You would think people would be more willing to donate to such a needed project, but that's not the case. Like I said, just have to trust they need the money more than the project!

DaveTheDownvoter34 karma

You mentioned that it is sustainable as a nonprofit (in another answer). How is that possible with so little money coming it? I know for sure the places charging $200 aren't making $175 profit...

pghparagliding58 karma

Simplified monthly budget:

House/water/sewage- $900 Electric- $50-$200 Gas- $30-$150 Internet- Free from nice neighbor Website hosting- $10 Supplies (toilet paper, soap, laundry detergent, other random stuff)- $100-150 I'm sure I'm forgetting a few things, but those are the big ones.

On the low end, our costs in the summer per month are around 1,100-1,200. Having 4-5 guests a night, even if half of those guests donate nothing, and the other two donate 20 dollars a night... we cover our expenses. Sure, it's a very small amount of money compared to what a hotel is bringing in... but it's enough!

Smellslikesnow37 karma

What about insurance?

Having survived two house fires--in which one I had contents insurance, the other I didn't--I can't stress its value enough.

You might consider liability insurance, too.

pghparagliding23 karma

Got liability insurance. House fires scare me, but I got that covered.

DaveTheDownvoter21 karma

You might have already answered this in another question, but what are the facilities like? Is it like a motel, or more like a backpackers because you are just trying to put a roof over heads?

pghparagliding56 karma

It's a typical row house. We have a huge back patio with a firepit, bbqs, slackline, and hammock. 2 living rooms, one with a projector and one with yoga mats. Three guest rooms with a varying number of beds in them. There are two shared bathrooms, which is the biggest limiting factor in expanding.

It's seriously just my house. I'm a pretty clean dude, so I'd say it's a step above a motel, one step below a hotel.

franklin_stubbs10 karma

You mean to tell me there are tourists in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati?

pghparagliding4 karma

Pittsburgh was voted best city to live in in the US. So yes... we have tourists.

cappnplanet15 karma

Uh the Facebook verification posted the address....

pghparagliding82 karma

That's not my real address! Tis a ruse.

Phylar4 karma

Personality disorders are difficult to spot, even if you are trained to look for them. Well done even noticing. Shows that you are paying close attention.

pghparagliding5 karma

The truly scary ones are when you are looking for it, and have no idea it's there until it's too late. After so many guests, I really love how well I can read people in general, though. It's been a great life skill!

ATZ03 karma

"I do a little background check on them"

Go on ....

pghparagliding14 karma

I went to school for criminal justice to be a private investigator. So they send me a facebook link or some form of social media. I check out their page, use my best judgement to see if they're normal. This sounds highly judgmental, and it is, but you can tell a lot based on how someone presents themselves on a social media site. Have you ever been on a dating site, and a girl has 20 selfies of her in almost the same pose making a duck face? There is probably something off about her. It's the same thing. If I get weird vibes, I do a more typical background check. One time, there was a dude who was wanted for check fraud (and assault or something, can't remember) in Florida. So much nope.

nelg6 karma

But you didn't find out about that by his duckfaces, did you?

pghparagliding9 karma

Surprisingly yes. He's probably making a duckface right now in prison.

twally81 karma

So awesome to see this AMA become so popular. Dude, I stayed at your hostel back in late June 2012 and had a great time. I was at the very beginning of my around-the-world trip, and this was the first of more than 30 hostels I stayed in for my trip. When I arrived, there was a family from France staying there, and we all hung out in the living room talking. We even hosted a pizza party at your hostel, and I showed you how to make dough. We kneaded several batches of pizza dough, and had a bunch of your friends come over. Good time had by all. Are you still in the same house as you were back then? I remember your girlfriend helping you out with running the place as well, but based on responses looks like you're managing all alone now? During my travels, it was places like this that were the best to stay in... small, tight-knit group that was more like a friend's place than a hotel. I'm sorry to hear you had a bad week of terrible guests. Not everyone follows the "Don't be a dick" rule I guess. Hope things improve. You have a truly unique concept going on here. And for anyone wondering, yes, I did leave the recommended donation. Great little hostel in a cool city.

pghparagliding68 karma

Dude! I remember that. It was my first week of operation! I moved to a different bigger house, but same setup. Please please come back! I'm glad to hear you had a good time, even though it was a rough start. I've learned SO much about running this place in 2 years!

Also, Brazilian girlfriend fucked a German guest, no longer girlfriend. I'm doing it on my own, and loving it!

twally11 karma

Yeah, I remember how it was all really new, and you guys were still trying to figure it out. I always wondered if it was still running, so glad to see it is and I got to be a part of the first week. Sorry to hear about the girlfriend, or maybe it was a good thing in the long run. Whenever I come back to Pittsburgh, I'll definitely look you up.

pghparagliding8 karma

Please come back! I think it's 100 times better than it was two years ago.

B4ckB4con8 karma

what a whoor... stupid ex-gf.

pghparagliding32 karma

Yeah, then she turned into a nude model. That was a weird month.

FightingAgainstTime7 karma

Time to get a German girlfriend, and keep out the Brazilian guests!

pghparagliding20 karma

Not Another Hostel: Now accepting resumes for German girlfriend.

RatherBBurnin42 karma

You are a truly amazing individual.


Can we hang soon?

pghparagliding34 karma

Come on over buddy.

[deleted]6 karma


pghparagliding8 karma

We have so many hammocks. But I like the ring to that.

iTerrence32 karma

Wow, this is really awesome of you to do such a thing. Kudos to you! :)

Here are some questions from the top of my head:

*What is the staff like? Are they volunteers or paid through donations?

*Does the staff have the typical schooling of a nurse/doctor/tech/etc?

(Sorry if these questions are dumb, I'm just curious how it all works, hehe!)

Most important question of all:

  • What games do you have for the Nintendo 64?

pghparagliding42 karma

Thanks! And good questions!

I'd say the only staff member is a pretty okay guy. I like him most days! But seriously, I don't take any paycheck from this. I wouldn't have it any other way!

I run a paragliding company during the day, so I have my CPR and first aid training. Never had to use it for that or the hostel, though!

I was waiting for this question! Mario Kart, Super Smash, Diddy Kong Racing are the most often played. I have a hard time getting someone to play Perfect Dark co-op with me, but that's my favorite. All the Zelda games are my go to on a rainy day! N64 tournament sometime? On the projector it's madness.

Skeeders20 karma

If I stay at your hostel, will you take me out paragliding?! I went paragliding once when I lived in the D.R. and it was the most exhilarating experience I have ever had. My favourite part was when the guy who I was attached to did this corkscrew type maneuver to lose altitude quickly. So much fun!

pghparagliding51 karma

I have been taking guests paragliding for free for the last 2 years... but recently decided I can't keep it up. I'm going to charge 50 bucks for a lesson for guests instead of the normal 200. BUT, if you show up, Skeeders, I will give you the reddit discount of fo free.

The corkscrew dive is the best! Spend a week here, I can get you to the point of being able to do that on your own. Also, if you're interested in a cool flight, check out this video. That was my favorite paraglide ever!

Skeeders15 karma

Sounds great! If I am somewhere nearby with the time, I will check out Pittsburgh and stay at your hostel. I think it is awesome what you are doing, I have done a lot of travelling and have stayed at many hostels. The best hostels are ones where the owners/workers are involved with the people staying.

That video is pretty intense, it looks like you lost quite a bit of altitude really quickly! That must have been a rush!

pghparagliding23 karma

It's my theory that when you pay someone money, it's really hard to break away from that business relationship and be true friends. That's why I love being this places "owner" and yet still being able to be friends with almost anyone who walks in the door. So seriously, come on down. I've had about 10 guests that were just visiting Pittsburgh and decided to live here permanently. And now they all live within 2 blocks of me. Nothing better than that!

My buddy in that video was flying with me tandem. Then I unclipped and did a skydive out. That's the altitude loss!

iTerrence7 karma

I'm ashamed that when I read your reply I thought you were talking about someone other than yourself for a good minute, haha!

Paraglider by day, moonlighting as a superhero by night! That's the way to roll. Hopefully, you won't need to use your skills, but they're always great to have :)

I've never played Perfect Dark!:( The other games are high on my favorite games list. Turn up for Smash on the big screen! Keep doing what you're doing!

pghparagliding21 karma

Ha! That would be kind of weird if I just sat back and watched another person run this project. Although, I always wish I could hire a cleaning person... Cleaning this much everyday is some form of purgatory!

The true superheros are the people of the world who do good for no recognition. I wouldn't be the person I am today without those people. I truly only hope I can give the same inspiration others have given me to guests. That's my mission!

Seriously, come to Pittsburgh. I'll feed you, you can stay for free, and I'll give you free paragliding lessons (weather permitting!) And once you feel all warm and fuzzy inside from all the fun you are having, I will absolutely destroy you in Smash. You pick my character.

Rydoe2 karma

Dude, you seem too good to be true. I live in PA but I've never been to Pittsburgh. You're place may be just what I need next semester! I'll be broke but I'd give what I have and even help clean, thanks for doing this man.

pghparagliding5 karma

Anytime you need a place to stay, give me a call!

mcvoid14 karma

I've been looking for a job in Pittsburgh and flying in for interviews is pretty expensive. I'd love to drop by and play some Perfect Dark co-op for an affordable room the next time I drop by.

pghparagliding6 karma

I have helped so many people relocate to Pittsburgh. Send me a message and I might be able to find you a job, or maybe even hire you myself for my other company. Either way, perfect dark all day!

Kartoffelplotz3 karma

Ok, now I have to make plans to travel the US again so I can go to Pittsburgh to play Perfect Dark with you. I adored this game as a kid and have played it again and again and again...

pghparagliding4 karma

That would be the most worthwhile plane ticket ever. I'll even buy the pizza.

f0xxy0722 karma

I think this a fantastic idea however I see a few places for problems. Have you even been close to having to shut the doors due to not having enough money. Do you feel there will ever be a situation where the owners (yourself) will be used and abused by your customers?

pghparagliding45 karma

Thanks for the compliment! I run another successful business, so anytime we are short on bills it comes from my pocket, which I'm totally okay with!

I have had an incredibly taxing week with guests actually, which is the reason for this AMA. I am close to my last straw with shitty people, so trying to get a second wind to keep going!

That being said, the good always outweigh the bad. I've met so many cool people from this that I wouldn't have otherwise.

f0xxy076 karma

I can imagine that being the biggest problem, Despite how amazing what you're doing is there will always be those shitty people and with the business you're running there really is no way of eliminating that chance of letting in ungrateful douche bags :) I hope with time this element becomes easier to deal with because this is a fantastic self funded project. And if I'm ever in your part of the world I will defiantly visit! Keep up the amazing work!

pghparagliding22 karma

You should visit Pittsburgh! It was voted the best city to live in the US!

In terms of there always being douche bags; isn't that life? If you let the terrible ones make you jaded, you'll never appreciate the truly remarkable people that are right in front of you.

f0xxy072 karma

Exactly! Im so inspired by what you have done and are doing!

pghparagliding26 karma

We offer interest free loans to anyone with the right mindset to open up one of their own Not Another Hostels in their city! I'll fly wherever you are in the world to help build bunk beds and get everything else setup.

We just opened up another one in Cincinnati that's doing really well, and we want to take over the world!

jrossetti7 karma

I would be super interested in this in Chicago. Please inbox me.

pghparagliding4 karma


jrossetti6 karma

Awesome, replied.

pghparagliding12 karma

If this reddit thread forms 2 more branches, I will eat a hat. This is crazy!

SirBloodthirsty3 karma


pghparagliding3 karma

Hey bud, send me a message! I'd love to help you start one. Just a little overwhelmed trying to answer all these questions. OP... must... deliver!

unknownop2 karma

I want to build one.. :)

pghparagliding3 karma

Contact me!

oldspice7522 karma

Do you have homeless people who come for the free beer? Have you had bedbug problems? What other infestations have you had?

pghparagliding45 karma

After 2 years, and thousands of guests, we haven't had any bedbugs. I have nightmares about the day it will come...

We get an occasional spider or two, but no infestations!

edit for your edit: I help out the homeless when we have space... and yes they abuse the beer.

drmonix19 karma

This sounds awesome and I like the idea. However, it seems like your service is catered to outgoing, extroverted people. Have you ever had anyone stay there that just wants to be left alone? What is your stance on that?

pghparagliding18 karma

I am an introvert. I understand alone time. I try to gauge where someone is at and interact with them accordingly. Some of my favorite times were just watching Attack on Titan with a guest who doesn't like talking.

SarcasticEmbodyment6 karma

Sorry, I have to ask. English dub or subs?

pghparagliding8 karma

Subs. I am trying to learn Japanese, so that's the only way!

mbair116 karma

This is awesome. How many guests do you average each night?

Were you zoned commercially already, or did you have to go through various zoning issues getting it started?

pghparagliding41 karma

4-5 average a night.

Residential. I met with the local zoning department originally and told them what I wanted to do, and they said "well, it sounds like you're having a bunch of friends over...", and I said "exactly!", and then they didn't care at all.

mbair113 karma

nice! I guess being a concerned folk that I am -- aren't you worried about liability? in a few ways. like, if someone breaks their neck on your stairs and sues you...what then? or, the fire department comes by and sees the fire code violations?

I really love the concept, just thinking of how it would work in a more full on approach

pghparagliding30 karma

I have insurance for people falling down stairs, falling out windows, air conditioners falling out windows onto them... you name it. Despite all that, the best way to avoid getting sued is to be poor as shit. If someone wants to sue me, they'd get about 20,000 worth of parachutes and a sweet Subaru pickup truck, but not much else.

I'm totally up to fire code. We have smoke alarms in all the rooms, escape ladders in all the sleeping rooms. I'm not worried about that.

I would need some help for it to truly become an international non-profit. It will happen, just don't know when or how!

plsletaniggabreathe11 karma

You drive a brat too? High five, sir.

pghparagliding16 karma

Baja. The brat is sweet, though! I want those rear facing seats in the bed...

Edit: Can't believe I missed the high five. High five back at you!

djhworld6 karma

4-5 sounds nice, I'm a bit intimidated by hostels because they're often 20 beds in one room, so having a much smaller group sounds more more approachable!

pghparagliding15 karma

Pretty much every guest says it feels like their own home in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. And I love that! Actually, sometimes they make themselves TOO much at home. All the time people leave their dishes in the sink despite me telling them to wash their own. I have recently changed the wifi network to "do your own fucking dishes", with the password "seriously" and posted a big wifi info sign over the sink. Dish washing is up 65 percent!

NorbitGorbit11 karma

what non-cash donations are the most helpful? (toilet paper etc...?)

pghparagliding16 karma

Toilet paper is the best! None of that single ply shit, though. You couldn't imagine my monthly budget for toilet paper.

Other than that, people always give me beer instead of cash. We definitely aren't (huge) alcoholics, but I love the bond of greeting a guest with a handshake with one hand, and giving them a beer with the other.

We get a lot of art, glass work stuff, and other random stuff too.

rexdartspy5 karma

Have you ever thought about setting up a bidet or bum gun in your toilets? Bum guns are super popular in Asian guest houses and once you are used to them, they are far superior to tp. I think you can get easily installed bidets on Amazon.

pghparagliding6 karma

I've thought so much about this. I was just in Asia and it is so much better. I really think that would freak guests out though. It'd be the only bidet in a few hundred miles!

rexdartspy5 karma

You probably have more than a few foreign guests who would be comfortable in with the idea. Maybe just start with your chill out area toilet and go from there.

pghparagliding6 karma

I am going to seriously consider it this month if we have some extra funds. This would change everything.

Vutpa2 karma

You got to think of it like this: Those people go live with somebody they don't know. If that doesn't freak them out, those bidets can't either!

If you need a little help getting there this month, I can help you out. Just write me a PM here and I'll see what I can do!

pghparagliding3 karma

There are people in more need, seriously. You convinced me though. I'm crazy overwhelmed by this ama, but if you link me to a good, tried and true, bidet, I shall buy it.

MagnusLoverBoy11 karma

Hey man, this sounds like an awesome idea. Once upon a time I had an idea of opening up a hostel here in Melbourne. One day perhaps.

Since apparently I have to ask a question, why is Crosby such a baby? And do you support the Pens? Cause you seem like such a nice guy and that just wouldn't make sense.

pghparagliding8 karma

If you have a few extra rooms, or could get some, we could make it work! Feel free to contact me anytime to discuss opening up one more.

I don't know man. He's not even that cute, either. I never really understood regular professional sports, even though I'm a pro extreme athlete. To each their own, though.

theguy6322111 karma

A good friend of mine lives in Mount Washington area and brews his own beer. Would you be open to a possible partnership with him to promote his suds? Also can I come visit when Im in town?

pghparagliding7 karma

Yes and yes! Email me.

Lycangrope11 karma

I'm from NE Ohio and drive through Pittsburgh when I come home from the east coast. No point in staying a night since you're an hour from my final destination, but if you PM me your address I'll stop by with some beer and toilet paper. What beer do you like?

pghparagliding5 karma

Send me an email and I'll shoot you over the address!

hejqt10 karma

How many people work at the hostel?

What are your plans for expanding to other cities?

Could you describe the most interesting person who came through the hostel?

pghparagliding44 karma

Just me!

Spreading the word, finding the right people to start their own, giving them loans to do so if need be, spreading the word even more! I want to be the anti Hostelling International.

Great question! This dude showed up at 7 AM unannounced with a bottle of good wine. We were all hungover from the night before making breakfast together. Hesitantly, we drink this wine with him and he starts talking about his life story. He was a Rwanda genocide survivor. He escaped the genocide with a few people, then went back to save his mom... and did! Now he travels around and gives inspirational speeches. I still can't believe that guy exists in this world. So positive despite seeing SO much negative! Every time I hate people, I think of his outlook.

ChamptainBeardley5 karma

Fuck. That just got me in the feels.

Going back in and succeeding. That's something serious, man.

pghparagliding3 karma

He was THE man. And not one of those dudes at the bar who has the best story ever. He was so humble about it. I want to be as humble as he was one day.

And seriously, this thread is giving me a straight shot to the feelers, too. So many messages offering to buy me TP. You guys are amazing!

Arxidomagkas10 karma

Great AMA and ingenious idea.
Some questions of my own:
1)Do you get any international visitors and how you overcome any language barrier.
2)Is it self sustainable most of the time?
3)What the people you accomodate do in the area?

pghparagliding21 karma

Thanks bud!

  1. Many. I'd say 50 percent are foreign. I speak 6 languages well enough to get by in conversations with guests. Trying to learn Japanese at the moment, because I've had tons of Japanese guests who could barely speak English.
  2. I commented on that in an earlier post. Summer earns a little more than costs, winter is a little less. All in all, pretty sustainable. We even have a garden!
  3. I've had students, people taking glass working/metal working clinics, doctors and nurses doing rotations at the nearby hospital, parents visiting their kids, kids visiting their parents, a pastor doing a traveling ministry, a nomad stripper, and then your average 20 something gap year kid who sort of has the world figured out, but not really. Those are my favorites!

qdii11 karma

I speak 6 languages well enough to get by in conversations with guests.

What six?

pghparagliding11 karma

English (sometimes), Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, and the worst is French. Working on Japanese!

Arxidomagkas3 karma

Thanks for the response i wish everything pans out the way you hope.And just to say again very cool idea.

pghparagliding5 karma

I appreciate the kind words!

Come to Pittsburgh. It will be amazing!

rubberhead9 karma

Free beer?! That's got to have backfired at least once. Have you set a limit?

Otherwise, an awesome concept. Do you accommodate families?

pghparagliding13 karma

This one time, my local beer distributor was getting rid of shocktop for about 10 dollars a case after taxes. That's 20 dollars off normal. I bought 1000 dollars worth of beer. We made a couch out of it, and drank that thing all year long. 1000 dollars for a year of guests drinking for free? Totally worth it.

Families are cool. Over zealous mothers are not. I get them all the time where they complain because I don't have fucking sweet and low instead of real sugar for the free coffee I just gave them. Nope.

iseeyourpanties8 karma

Was this an independent project or did you have funding?

pghparagliding17 karma

Independent project. I'm proud to say I have taken zero grants or outside funding. It was relatively easy and affordable to start in my own home, and now it is almost 100% sustainable as a non profit.

StefieMISC8 karma

Man, this is so cool. Super friendly and welcoming, too! I'm a Canadian who travels for costume contest and hotels suck so much these days. To me, you sound like the chilliest roommate ever!

Anyway, if this were to change the world in one way, what would you want it to be? Keep on living the (lucid) dream man!

pghparagliding13 karma

you sound like the chilliest roommate ever!

Thank you! I do keep it super cold in my house. 25,000 btu window AC does the trick!

Great question. I honestly don't know. I'm so fortunate to be a part of this project, but it's so beyond me even at this point. I can't wait to see how it's going to change the world!

keyblade11717 karma

• How many guest do you have in your hotel?

• Does your hotel serve breakfast?

• Does your hotel have internet and tv?

pghparagliding31 karma

Between 5-20. We have 5 beds, a few hammocks, and 2 pull out couches. We crammed 20 in when a hurricane made a few huge cities on the east coast flee to Pittsburgh (and other safe zone cities). It was a blast!

Not typically. I'm not allowed to serve food without going through special health department stuff. But I have weekly barbecues in the summer and "accidentally" make enough food for 30 people. Guests/neighbors/random people I meet that day just help me eat the leftovers!

We have super fast free internet, and can hook up a computer to our projector to watch movies. No TV. Because fuck Verizon.

JustAnotherCrackpot9 karma

A chromecast or a similar device is a nice way to say fuck you to the TV companies, and still get some decent content with hulu, and netflix. Not to mention most anything you can stream on your browser.


pghparagliding5 karma

Hulu and projector all the way! Thanks for the advice though!

l3arrend6 karma

Hello, fellow Pittsburgher here. Just wondering, what kind of visitors usually stay with you? International/ US / backpackers? What's it like?

Also, I know you aren't making your address public, but may I ask which neighborhood you are located in? Thanks!

pghparagliding11 karma

You should see the world map with pins of where guests are from. Every continent except for Antarctica! Most from Western Europe, Eastern United States, and Eastern Australia.

Lawrenceville on Butler Street. Feel free to send a message if you're cool and want to join in a BBQ!

hoodyuplod6 karma

Where do you get the idea of this donation hostel ? did you come across such hostel on your traveling to many countries?

pghparagliding26 karma

No, this is truly one of a kind. I got the idea from traveling in Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. Someone that was giving me a ride (I was hitchhiking) told me there was an ancient law where locals had to host and feed travelers for 3 days if asked. Total strangers took me in and treated me like a king. I wanted to do the same for others to repay the kindness I was shown. Because when I asked how I could repay them, they always said pay it forward!

piphyt8 karma

If you ever get the chance to visit Spain, the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) is full of hostels like these. It's a religious pilgrimage, but many people hike it for sport, and the sense of community is truly amazing. I'd walk by small towns where little old women would be sitting outside with a plate of breads for pilgrims to take as they walked by.

pghparagliding6 karma

I've heard rumors of these. I'm glad to hear they are a thing! As far as I know, we are the only non-profit/donation based chain (and only ones in big cities), but there are definitely a few in the mountains that I've wanted to visit!

hoodyuplod3 karma

that is a great idea, i will consider such a hostel in future . is your hostel an apartment or a whole building ? how do you advertising the hostel ? what kind of licence you have ? hotel or guest house ?

pghparagliding2 karma

It's a house, 5 bedrooms, 2 living rooms. If you type in "pittsburgh/cincinnati hostel", it's the first on google. No need to advertise. No need for license. In a previous answer I explained the zoning issues.

Alkenisto5 karma

How much do you make a year, after taxes?

pghparagliding19 karma

Tree fiddy.

Dubesta115 karma

I have to say this is a good idea, and I hope it becomes very successful.

Are you making enough to sustain and eventually grow?

When do you think you could expand?

Are you using any personal money to pay for expenses?

What is your average profit (if any) to buy personal items?

Best of luck.

pghparagliding11 karma

Thanks buddy!

We grow slowly. I started out in a 3 bedroom house for the first year, and then got a 5 bedroom house this year. Summer months there might be a little excess of funds, and in winter, a little less. Throughout the year, we break pretty much exactly even.

I could expand this physical location tomorrow if I wanted to. I have had developers and investors offer me tons of money to grow it into a bigger thing... but that's not the way I want to do it. I want the idea to grow organically and spread around the world. The Pittsburgh and Cincinnati locations are doing just fine... all we need is more locations!

I use personal funds to buy cool new stuff for the place. I just bought a Honda Ruckus to let guests use, but I get to use it, too! Overall, there has rarely been a time when I'm dropping large sums of cash to keep the place running. It pretty much supports itself.

Personal items? For myself? I don't use hostel money for my stuff. I think that's what you were asking...

Thanks again!

musicmerchkid5 karma

I've heard about how great Pittsburg is. What do you recommend to do in the area?

pghparagliding11 karma

Voted best city to live in the US!

My house is in Lawrenceville, also voted one of the top 10 coolest neighborhoods in the country. There are tons of cool unique bars on my street. One world famous gay bar that has some amazing drag shows. We go to improv on Monday nights (anyone welcome to try!), sometimes bowling during the week, and lots of outdoors stuff. I teach paragliding and work with 8 other adventure companies in Pittsburgh (surfing, atv riding in caves, scuba diving, hang gliding) so I can get guests discounts if they're into that sort of stuff.

Other than that, there is lots of urban exploring, microbreweries (someone converted a Catholic church into an amazing one), sports games, concerts, and a few rivers to boat on. Come on down, I'll show you a great time!

eire93 karma

I grew up in Pittsburgh (don't live there now) and it amazes me how much Lawrenceville is booming when I go back to visit. Awesome work that you're doing - best of luck!

pghparagliding2 karma


butzjr5 karma

Have you ever kidnapped anyone staying at your hostel and sold them to the world's richest elite for use as torture toys? (fyi...its a joke about a movie called 'hostel' for all you downvoters)

pghparagliding5 karma


aloeprincess4 karma

What an awesome idea! This had given me such inspiration to one day open my own hostel. Good luck and if I'm ever in the area, I'll stop by. What are your policies on pets? Any age restrictions?

pghparagliding2 karma

No pets, 18 +. Once you're ready, send me an email!

Slave_to_Logic4 karma

Have any tried to tip with sex?

Were any successful?

pghparagliding15 karma

Many of tried, and many have succeeded.

Kidding. Only a few succeeded.

robotcop4 karma

Hey dude. I stayed at your hostel a few weeks ago. I was the guy bicycling from LA to NYC, I'm posting this from Brooklyn. Just wanted to say what you're doing is awesome. Pittsburgh rocks and so does your hostel.

My question is, would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?

pghparagliding4 karma

Hey buddy! Glad to hear you made it safely!

Horse sized duck. I've thought this through a lot. Grab something that can be a spear, and you are golden. Also, either way, afterwards would you want to eat a giant duck or a 100 tiny horses? Assuming you won of course. Otherwise, they're eating you.

gailelizabeth4 karma

Few questions for you...

  • How do people "know" that they're supposed to donate? How do you explain this to them without sounding like you're basically pressuring them to do it?
  • What are people's reactions when they find out it's donation-based?
  • And finally... What's the craziest dream you've had recently?

pghparagliding10 karma

Great questions!

Once I do my small background check, I send a confirmation email with all the info of the house and how it works. It explains there that we run off completely optional donations, and it all goes towards the project and not me. We do recommend 25 dollars a night as a ballpark estimate (that was the low end of an average hostel cost when I started this 2 years ago), but that's not enforced at all. Once they check in, I point to a lock box and say that's where you can donate at the end of your stay if you wish!

It's pretty apparent on our website, so whenever we get an email people usually are impressed and excited to be a part of such a unique project.

Best question ever! I actually just learned how to lucid dream a little bit ago. Biggest life improvement ever. Although, a few days ago I had a lucid nightmare where I was stuck in a trial the whole dream. It was very Seinfeld finale-esque where people from my past were making accusations and I kept getting found guilty despite my pleas. I woke up in a panic, and realized none of the accusations were remotely close to things I've done. It was a really weird and terrifying experience!

gailelizabeth7 karma

Thanks for the reply! Also wanted to say that I just went through your website (, for anyone interested) and I can't say enough how AWESOME this is. Stuff like this reminds me that it is possible to believe in the good of society/people. Keep it up!

pghparagliding7 karma

I cannot express enough how much your encouragement means to me right now! Always believe in good.

Also, I was/am scared that if this got too big, that the reddit hug of death would crash my measly site. Please hug softly!

doffensmush3 karma

Do you also provide food?

pghparagliding6 karma

Read previous questions. I do not promise food, but I sometimes happen to cook for people.

ManlyGinge3 karma

What's the average amount people will pay you?

pghparagliding30 karma

10 to 15 dollars. I had a professional blackjack card counter give me $100 for 1 night once. I framed that 100 dollar bill, then had to take it down and use it for the water bill. He was cool though, traveling from casino to casino till he got kicked out.

ars_ex_machina3 karma

I'm not trying to shoot you down, I admire your overwhelming optimism. And I totally understand doing something that's based on your passion. But from a business standpoint, how is it possible to convince someone to open a local version of this in their town? You've admitted to using personal cash to keep it running. You've said that you're so poor you don't worry about being sued since they'd not get anything (why you're not an LLC I have no idea). This is, admittedly, a non-sustainable business model. Yet you think there should be more. I do not understand that and I'd like to.

pghparagliding7 karma

I appreciate the skepticism. Good ideas need lots of it. And good ideas need refining. I don't sink money into the sustainability of it. I've put money into the improvement of the place, but hardly ever to pay for costs. The thing is, though. It's not a business. It was never set up to be. It's a charity that 95 percent of the time pays for itself. I do it to meet people, not make money.

I'm poor because most of my money goes into other projects. I volunteer for big brothers big sisters, and a few other things. I live comfortably, don't get me wrong. I just am trying my hardest to make the world a little better.

ars_ex_machina3 karma

Selling it as a "charity hostel" instead of a "donation based hostel" would be a good place to start and change perceptions. Up until this answer, it has really seemed to me like you're trying to explain this as a not for profit business. While similar to a charity, it's not the same. As a charity I think you get a lot more grace for things that are not commercial quality. And it's easier to understand a greater need to make a difference. A lot of businesses are run not for profit to give greater dividends to the share holders. That's simply not the case here. If you license as a charity you'd open yourself up for a greater range of donations as well as more opportunity for local charters.

I admire your belief in the inherent goodness of humans. I wish I still viewed the world through your eyes.

pghparagliding4 karma

That's a great thought. I couldn't agree more! I despise most non-profits who guilt trip you into donating. Especially when the higher ups are taking a huge pay check.

I gotta talk to the lawyer about registering it as a charity. He actually just sent me a doge meme saying "nice AMA".

You totally can see it like this. Come to Pittsburgh and I'll explain more. :)

ars_ex_machina2 karma

If I'm in town I'd love to stop by. If I had cash, I'd love to buy an old place to do this type of thing as well, all bitterness aside. I do think it's a good idea. But, as with anything in this world, you need to sell it in the appropriate context.

As a charity, you could have official fund raisers. I think you should talk to the local tourism ppl, if there are any in Pittsburgh, and ask if they have ideas or would like to cross market in any way.

Also, instead of emails and "getting to know someone" perhaps an official registration process. That way, if you do expand, those folks could go from location to location with relative ease.

Just sorta thinking as I type... if you did expand this to a charity... why not do national fund raising and use it to preserve old buildings and repurpose them? That way you'd get a huge expansion and have yet another aspect of doing good/making an impact. I suspect there are a lot of locations just here in the states that have no reasonable use for an old place but don't want to see it go. It'd be a fantastic way to get newcomers to see the city in a good light as well. So now you need to get some historical societies and architects to donate time/resources. But... this is all very doable and in today's climate would have a very welcome reception.

pghparagliding3 karma

See, that's the sort of insight I need. I love the idea of re purposing old buildings. I've been so hesitant to take funding. Call it ego, but I just love the thought of doing it all on my own. Maybe I should let that go and accept some help, though.

I'm going to talk to my Lawyer about this today. So many good ideas!

ars_ex_machina2 karma

Seriously, ego is so over rated. By yourself you'll spend the rest of your days barely floating, if at all. NASA did not send anyone to the moon with a single person conceiving and building a rocket by themselves. (If you read some of the subs, we never sent anyone at all.)

You want to make a difference. You want to show a better half of humanity. So do others. Most lack the ability, more lack the vision. Let people help where they can. Many will want to lend you a hand. If you're seen as a egoist who is all about doing this on his own... then guess what, you'll be left to your own devices. ESPECIALLY in the US. No one thinks twice about an individual sinking here since we've been told since birth you can be ANYTHING you want. This implies failure as well. Simply not true, but people buy the bullshit.

So set up a proper charter. Make a list of goals. Get a few others to be on a board to thinktank it all and suss out every detail for each stage of your goals. Kickstart an initial fundraiser to start 2 or 3 of them in a few cities. Or do a campaign for each individual one. Get local media involved when you're ready. Push it on Reddit, since this group loves a "hey remember when I talked about this... now look at where we went..." thing. In 5 years you'll have a new full time job, so will a few dozen other people. And who knows, when you die, there may be a few thousand people, whom you would have otherwise never met or affected, that mourn you and thank you for making their lives happier, even if it was for just 2 nights and three days.

pghparagliding3 karma

You are totally right. Thanks for that. Last night, when I was all depressed and fed up with this, I realized I can't do it on my own. Who cares how it gets done, as long as good is getting done? To the moon we go!

Anyone who wants to be a part of this amazing project, please contact me. I'm open to any and all suggestions. All I ask is that your heart is in the right place. We'll figure out the rest as we go.

ars_ex_machina2 karma

I don't blame you for getting down. Humans can be complete shit. All the potential we possess and yet... we level out at Jerry Springer.

pghparagliding3 karma

I was seriously at my lowest point last night fed up with all the shit. After all this, I am so encouraged to keep going. You guys literally saved this project. Thank you, thank you.

derpinita2 karma

Could you explain a little more how you're able to cover living expenses if the hostel does not quite break even? Or maybe I'm misunderstanding the 95% of the time...

pghparagliding2 karma

My average monthly cost is 1200. Most of the time it covers that. If not, I put in the difference. Even though I work my butt off to keep it running, I'm totally okay pitching in money to cover a little difference in costs. I would be doing that anyway if I weren't running a project like this! The money I save in rent goes towards buying cool stuff for hostel guests to use.

dreadfighter3 karma

Can I send you a Gamecube?

pghparagliding4 karma

Yes please!

chuckie5122 karma

Pittsburgh has a hostel?!?!?

pghparagliding3 karma