Portland, Maine’s Only Hostel is a Funky Traveler’s Dream Behind a Walgreens
If I hadn't been walking around waiting for my clothes to dry, I never would have known about the Black Elephant Hostel.
When your dryer breaks and you find yourself at a laundromat in Portland on a gorgeous summer day, you walk around to waste some time. I was at the Looking Good Laundromat in a plaza on Congress Street that also had a Walgreens and the Portland Food Co-Op. I decided that instead of waiting inside, I would walk around a neighborhood I wasn't very familiar with. That's when I came upon something I had no idea Portland, Maine, had: a hostel!
Hostel? I thought those were only in Europe and frequented by young college kids. Nope. An empty nest mom started the Black Elephant in 2017, and it's a super cool concept!
What is a hostel?
According to the owner Heather Gildea on the Black Elephant's website,
I truly do believe that hostels contribute to the greater good. They are a melting pot of different cultures and a place to make connections with others. They inspire community and open you up to endless possibilities and inspiration…if you will allow them to. My daughter Sadie and I co-own the business - and when she is not off exploring the world - she helps me run the show!
A hostel is a budget-friendly accommodation that focuses on a shared social experience. That's it in a nutshell. Heather has set out to make this Maine hostel a funky experience. This is the cool, eclectic lobby.
You have to be at least 18 to stay (that's new this year), but there is no age limit. It's a place to meet other people. You are encouraged to get to know your neighbor, something completely different from a hotel room. If making connections is part of what you want, a hostel is for you. I love the description of what you will and won't find in a hostel on their website.
Things you will NOT commonly find in a hostel
Mints on your pillow, a TV or mini bar in your room, individually-wrapped plastic items, a feeling of isolation.
Things you WILL find in a hostel
Clean sheets, hot water, free WIFI, like-minded travelers, a communal kitchen, a sense of community, and some money left in your pocket to explore the place you traveled there to see!
This sweet little four-floor, 60 occupancy, 13-bathroom hostel makes me love Portland even more. I don't know if I would actually try a hostel, but I love that it's an option for people coming here.