After arriving in Chicago on my own, culture shock was a major issue for me. I was alone and hoped someone could help me cope with the gap. I used to live in a two-bedroom apartment with a spacious living room that neither I nor my roommate needed. Since it was empty, I turned it into a small convertible hostel for Asians, especially Taiwanese tourists to rent. We used Facebook as our primary social media source to engage traffic. Unlike many hostels, my roommate and I made connections with our customers. This was a year before Airbnb.
We used the rent from customers to improve amenities and create a comfortable place for tenants. Also, we shared our kitchen and dining room with the customers so they can make their own meals. We wanted them to feel like they’re not only traveling, but also experiencing living a life in Chicago. I made a huge map of the city so they can arrange their route of transportations according to which attractions they’d like to visit. I also designed key rings for them to take home as souvenirs.
Some of our guests left messages on post-its to say thank you, took pictures with me before they left, and even sent me postcards. Most of them became my friends.
After the first two months, I began recording the results on a map. It shows where the customers came from and went to before and after Chicago. This was the database for me to decide the locations I will be promoting the hostel. Until now, the hostel is still very well-known in the Taiwanese community. This brand can be easily found while prompting a Google search and it has also been published in a Chicago guidebook from Taiwan.
I will keep running this brand and keep providing the space to tourists from all over the world, giving them the best experience they will ever have.