Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities: Finding Cheap Accommodation in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati

When my proposal to present an academic paper on travel literature at the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association (MAPACA) in Pittsburgh was accepted, I instantly began to worry about accommodation. I had never been to Pittsburgh, so I didn't know what to expect. After tirelessly searching for a decent place, my luck changed when a friend recommended Airbnb. For those of you unfamiliar with Airbnb, Wikipedia has a succinct yet thorough summary of how the system works, "Airbnb is an online service that matches people seeking vacation rentals and other short-term accommodations with hosts who have an unused space to rent, generally private parties that are not professional hoteliers.The site was founded in August 2008 by Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. In July 2012, the company had over 200,000 listings in more than 26,000 cities and present in 192 countries with over 1,000,000 hosts and travellers on its platform.Listings include private rooms, entire apartments, castles, boats, manors, tree houses, tipis, igloos, speciality design housing, private islands and other properties."

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The living room area at Not Another Hostel

While browsing through Airbnb, I stumbled upon Not Another Hostel. This amazing hostel (the only one in Pittsburgh by the way) was founded by Jon, and his vision for the entire project is inspirational and impressive. Jon runs the hostel on a donation-based policy. I'll let him speak for himself, "Hostelling started as a way to help travelers. Period. Unfortunately, people have tried to cash in on a travelers' need for a cheap place to stay. This is not one of those places...This is my home, and I'm opening up the doors to help travelers. I ask for donations simply to help me pay bills. I recommend donating 25 USD per person, per night." Read more about his mission statement here. Sounds suspicious? Think again.

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The map on the hostel wall

Not Another Hostel is probably one of the cleanest, comfortable and aesthetically beautiful hostels you might ever get a chance to live in. Jon provides queen size beds, hot showers, free wifi, printing and scanning, bus maps, full kitchen use, clean sheets and the list goes on. All of these amenities for a minimum donation of $25 per night. I couldn't believe it. I'm generally very pessimistic about humanity but every now and then, something like Not Another Hostel comes along and reminds me that some people are *gasps* good. Of course there are some grotesque individuals who take advantage of this charity by using all the amenities and leaving without donating a single penny. However, most of the hostel's residents are keeping this initiative alive by donating. Spread the word people, really. We need more people like Jon and we definitely need more hostels like Not Another Hostel.

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Brillobox, we had fun in the club upstairs

Pittsburgh pleasantly surprised me. It felt like Boston's hip cousin and a distant relative of San Francisco. I met incredible people at the hostel and we had a blast. Public transportation is consistently efficient and it takes less than ten minutes to get to downtown: you won't find a better location. And oh, the MAPACA conference went well.

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The street next to the hostel

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The following week, I was boarding a plane for Cincinnati, Ohio to present an academic paper at another conference (54th annual Midwest Modern Language Association). Once again, I didn't know what to expect because I had never been to Cincinnati. Once again, I consulted Airbnb and found Hopkins Park Bed and Breakfast at Bigelow St. run by Ethel and Barry.


Bigelow St.

Once again, I will use the words once again. Once again, another incredible experience. I paid about $50 per night and it was worth every penny. First, the location: it is located on bigelow st, very close to downtown Cincinnati. Also, the bus will literally stop in front of your room and it takes about ten or less minutes to get to downtown.



Second, the hosts: Ethel and Barry are genuinely hospitable and welcoming. Even their adorable dog Luna will welcome you at the door. They are also great conversationalists. Third, free breakfast: it's free breakfast, so there's nothing else I have to say. Lastly, the house is comfortable and relaxing and very home-y. I had a TV in my room and my supple bed was huge; I slept like a veritable baby. And yes, the conference went well.


Cincinnati skyline

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On a totally unrelated note, I graduated a few days ago (masters degree), so I guess the adventure continues. Wish me luck.



  1. looks like you had a great trip & accommodation. great photos!

  2. Goodluck on your travels and congrats on your accomplishment! I plan on doing quite a bit of traveling come the end of next year and I've been using tripadvisor's forums like crazy trying to find the perfect places to go for when I set out on my month long excursion. Posts like this are greatly appreciated! Keep us in the know.

    Until Next Time,

  3. I heard of airbnb before but never tried them...congratulations on your graduation...all the best with future adventures.

  4. I'd just like to add, that the hostel doesn't have a "minimum" donation. The recommended is 25, but you can pay whatever you want (or nothing at all!)

    Cheers! :)

    Jon from Not Another Hostel