Week three, and by Monday evening I’d completed five visits to three separate hostels, meeting 11 guests and 4 staff members. Much of the experience confirmed my own assumptions, I’ve spent more than a year and a quarter of my life calling hostels home. There were, however, a few little insights which I didn’t expect.

Denmark’s hosteling scene is dominated by DanHostel. I visited two of their hostels and one independent hostel and saw many differences in the two styles. I’m not sure the “backpacker” tradition I’ve seen myself in other countries is thriving quite so well in Denmark. I imagine the high cost of living in Denmark is a part of the reason, but larger hostels showed a real preference for families and school groups. It’s not easy to get the backpacker experience I’ve seen elsewhere – and that’s a surprise in a country where “hygge” is a way of life.

Among other surprises, the owner of the smaller hostel I visited informed me that guests are actually coming to him, and to his staff, and asking for help in meeting people. The hostel provides free wifi in the lounge (which also has a pool table, that wasn’t being used at any time I visited). At any given moment throughout the day 5-10 people are in the lobby, alone, or in pairs or friends, glued to laptops, netbooks, tablets or smartphones.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the other insights I’ve noted:

  • Guests can be divided into categories, the most obvious of which are those who travel to meet others as part of their experience, and those who don’t want to meet strangers or make new friends. Everyone is united in their desire to find somewhere cheap to stay.
  • Among guests who shared their fondest memory of a meeting at a hostel, the universal theme was the sharing of international perspectives, cultural experiences and stories from faraway countries.
  • Internet booking has caused significant changes in the industry. It is generally agreed that standards have improved. In parallel however, costs have gone up. Guests, in the end, pay for services like hostelworld.com.
  • Some hostel guests value a quality, which can only be defined as “character” in a hostel. Some are even willing to pay more for a “cosy” hostel with a good deal of “character” in order to enhance their experience.
  • Online reviews are the single most important piece of information considered by hostel guests, after price.

Wednesday and Thursday brought peer brainstorming. I set up some questions and did two sessions, each 45 minutes long with teams of my classmates. I also participated in sessions all day long for both days. It was exhausting, but inspiring. I walked away from both days tired and excited about the work everybody was doing. I’d happily set up camp in the lab and offer help with any one of the projects should they require some hardware/software prototyping assistance (the skill I’m most eager to build).

Unfortunately, where my own project is concerned, it was not nearly as inspiring. I haven’t fully processed the output from the brainstorming sessions, and there are some good ideas in there, but I didn’t get the “lift” I needed. I’m still undecided as to whether brainstorming is more useful to concept generation or to general morale.

Friday brought the requirement to complete a long piece of documentation before we sign off for the industry project. This was not a deadline I met. There was too much to do, sifting through the output from the brainstorming session and making more efforts with reading and sketching. I completed that yesterday, Saturday.

As things stand, I’m feeling strangely calm about the project, perhaps just kicking the can up the road until we resume in two weeks. I’ve got a folder full of sketches from brainstorming sessions. I’ve got a couple of sketches of my own. I’m eager to get hacking components together into prototypes and I’m hoping I’ll be able to test some of those prototypes in the field.

With some reassurance from faculty, I’m really looking forward to forgetting about the project for two weeks, working on our industry project and coming back with fresh eyes. Next weeknote, 3 weeks time.