Forget the UN, natural disasters, or alien invasion. World peace only requires a hostel. Anyone who has hit our lonely little planet on the cheap knows that lifelong friendships, hot romances, and soul-searching insights take place in these humble places to hunker down. After all, where else can you sleep above someone from Japan, eat breakfast with someone from Australia, and find traveling partners from Finland who are headed conveniently to Eastern Turkey too?
Young entrepreneurs Harmony Marin and Juliana Zhen who met through a mutual friend spent their share of time in hostels and liked them so much that they decided to open one of their own — the Unik Hostel. The Unik Hostel is… well… unique because it brings the local art scene into the hostel, allowing guests and locals to meet and bond.
“It provides all the usual hostel amenities,” says Marin. “It has typical hostel accommodation in shared rooms, a kitchen, a living room/common area, computer access, and information about Montreal. We provide breakfast in the price of the stay. Except, we are going to offer the opportunity for travelers to meet locals and experience Montreal through its artistic facets.”
Marin and Zhen know what makes a good hostel. Zhen came to Montreal via Brazil and China, traveling along the way. Marin comes from Romania and has traveled through 12 countries, taking off for four months at a time and staying until the money runs out. While traveling, a hostel in Lisbon made a strong impression. “The people at reception made it look so familiar and so caring that I loved the atmosphere inside,” she says.
Similarly, Unik Hostel intends to put the traveler first. “We want to put the guests first. They’re not customers. They’re guests and we want to treat the guests as guests. They’re family and friends. They’re there to have fun. We want to talk to them, share with them, and enjoy each other’s company,” says Marin.
“We couldn’t travel all the time, so we wanted to bring the unique international family to us,” she says.
Marin wants to showcase the best parts of the city: it’s art. “Montreal is very artistic city. Its full of all sorts of art currents and artists from all over the world,” she says.
To do this, the walls of the hostel will be painted periodically by local artists. At the moment, two artists in particular have been recruited for the hostel: Nadine Cinq Mars and Adida Fallen Angel who works with Fresh Paint Gallery. The indiegogo campaign is intended to raise funds to pay for the artists.
Marin and Zhen also intend to feature temporary exhibitions and bring musical performances to the hostel. Improv nights and movie nights are also in the works.
“It’s been a lot of work,” says Marin. “The most challenging thing is finding the location. What was the hardest was the waiting. Waiting for answers from financing and location. But, it’s been an amazing experience and we’ve been learning so much.”
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I’m like what am I doing?” she says. “But, it’s totally worth it. It’s the most amazing experience ever.”
Unik Hostel’s fundraising campaign can be reached HERE. The hostel opens in late March – early April 2014.