Cleveland, USA: The Pandemic Report on The Cleveland Hostel and Passenger Cafe

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Cleveland occupies a sacred space in my heart. During the 2009 recession, I had left Humboldt County, California, after evaluating the reality of my unstable housing and employment. I was doubled up with my sister in Indianapolis searching for the next path to follow when a friend from college invited me to attend a family wedding with her in Cleveland. I graciously accepted the invitation.

After the wedding, we stopped at a beach on Lake Eerie. I ventured out along a rock jetty, and felt something wistful and ancient blow in the wind from across a mirror of time. It felt like escaping a famine, and the joyful hope of new resources on the other side. Perhaps my own distant ancestors crossed this lake from the northern forest in dugout canoes. I dipped my hand in the water, and I knew I wanted to try on this city.

My transition to Cleveland felt easy. I rented on a month-to-month basis in a hotel that had been renovated into efficiency apartments, and quickly found work as a barista at The Phoenix Coffee Co. Without a bed, I slept on a camping mat and a few thick blankets. I stayed for three months and departed with the final rays of summer sun as it waned into nighttime sleet. I had an opportunity to follow 2572 miles west back to Humboldt County.

All that said, I visit Cleveland whenever I get the chance. I am pleased to see Cleveland creating space for budget travelers with the addition of The Cleveland Hostel. Let’s see if it survives the pandemic; the Passenger Cafe, located on the ground flood of the hostel unfortunately did not. I am grateful for the two mornings I spent at the Passenger Cafe, drinking a latte while journaling in reflection of my travel lessons, which is a necessary practice for any aspiring or confirmed travel writer. 

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Inside the now closed Passenger Cafe.

So far, The Cleveland Hostel has been able to stay open. Located in Ohio City, about three miles and a short train ride from downtown, The Cleveland Hostel is positioned to give the traveler access to the highlights of Ohio’s North Coast. The neighborhood of Ohio City is a bustling and artsy district, with craft breweries, coffee shops, and the world-renown Westside Market. Somehow, Cleveland with its public market and 19th century architecture, resonates with a similar energy as Budapest, another city I love. Although fair warning, a friend who is from East Cleveland described Ohio City much differently, saying it is, “nothing but weird white people.” 

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The Westside Market is a five minute walk from The Cleveland Hostel.

This hostel has much to offer. I am partial to hostels with rooftop patios, and this one rivals the Cosmopole Hostel in Prague as my favorite. From the top floor, I can watch the pedestrians below, and observe how the sunlight reflects against Terminal Tower downtown. I cooked a healthy dinner in the well-stocked kitchen, and supplemented it with cheese and yogurt leftover in the “Free Food” box. I always love to stay at hostels that actually have kitchens to use. I have had some experiences when the appliances don’t work, or it doesn’t have any cookware. The Cleveland Hostel has a nice gas cook range and industrial sized oven with like-new cookware. Americans tend to prefer to go out to eat while traveling instead of preparing their own food and I had the kitchen to myself.

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The clean, fully stocked and spacious kitchen.

On the downside, consistent with my other American hostel experiences so far, this place did not enforce the quiet hours. I was woken up throughout the second night to loud partying and other forms of rude behavior. The last question I want to ask myself at 2:43am is, “Why is she clapping again?” This situation is unique to American hostels. Although many travelers like to party, they respect the common areas. For example, I was in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, over their week-long Independence Day celebration. On one of the nights, I had gone out with a German woman, and three guys: a British, a Portuguese, and a Colombian. I left the group relatively early, around midnight, and got lost on my walk through the confusing, unnamed, twisting streets. I ran into the Portuguese as I was backtracking to recover my way, and then he and I returned together. We got back around 1:30am. The common area was completely dark, quiet, and empty. We literally crept around and whispered our conversation while sharing bread leftover from dinner. The same American concept of the individual refusing to wear a mask, is the same worldview that doesn’t respect quiet hours in a shared space.

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Year round, rooftop patio.

I anticipate the shape of American travel will evolve substantially as we endure the endless sea of pandemic waves into the unknown future. More hostels and other cooperative spaces will become a necessity, as the corporate chains continue to lose money and are unable to maintain their bloated overhead. Let them fail! Travel is supposed to expose us to new adventures, new horizons, and new places. I’m hitching my star to the future, and hostels, ride shares, permaculture ecovillages, coops, are milestones of the revolution.

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