I am lying on the lint-covered futon in the Airbnb that I booked last-minute in a major Eastern-European city, thinking about the naked pictures of women that my host has thumbtacked to the entrance-way wall of the apartment that he shares with his deaf, 89-year-old mother. I stare at the leather chair that I have wedged under the handle of the lockless door to my room, wondering if it will keep my creepy host from being able to enter in the middle of the night.

A photo that I sent to my mother at the time... she was not happy.

A photo that I sent to my mother at the time... she was not happy.

Yes, these are paranoid thoughts, but as a solo female traveler, they are unavoidable. As I stare anxiously at the handle, I am thinking about how I ended up here, by myself, in an apartment that is a 40-minute walk from the city center, that smells of stale coffee, and that (as I later found out) has bedbugs. The reviews were great, it was cheap, and everything seemed all right on paper, but actually being there? That is a whole different story.

I am here because I am a first-time traveler who doesn’t understand how to assess the best location to stay in a city that I have never been to. I am here because I trust the reviews of a community that provides overwhelmingly positive reviews, even in negative situations. I am here because I am a college student on a budget, looking for the cheapest option, rather than the best one. And I am here because I don’t want to spend all of my time on my phone or computer, looking for something better, when I could be exploring where I am.

In this moment, I decided to create something that would help keep fellow travelers from experiencing this sense of fear, wasting their time and money, and compromising on their spontaneity. I called it HostelPass. 

That summer, after my study abroad semester in London, I traveled to 11 different European countries with the help of my EuRail Pass. I was able to be wonderfully spontaneous: hopping on-and-off trains in any city I wished, without worrying about purchasing individual tickets. I did much of this traveling alone, making it personally enriching, if somewhat more daunting. The advantages of freedom and flexibility offered by the rail pass, however, were obviated by an inability to gain lodging with anything like that flexibility. How would my experience have been different if I had a comparable pass for my accommodations?

Interlaken, Switzerland. June 2015.

Interlaken, Switzerland. June 2015.

When I returned from traveling to begin my senior year at the University of Southern California, I adopted an entrepreneurship minor. I began testing the HostelPass concept in all of my entrepreneurship classes, and speaking with potential customers to pinpoint what they might want from such a service. In January 2016, my business partner, Meir Razzon, and I registered HostelPass as a company in the United States. Later that month Meir and I flew to Amsterdam to attend the STAY WYSE Hostel Business Conference. We made connections with some of the largest hostel chains in Europe, many of which were eager to join our platform. We spent the rest of our senior year working diligently to bring HostelPass from an idea into a reality, and we are proud to say that the hard work has paid off.

Meir and me receiving our name-tags at the STAY WYSE Hostel Business Conference. January 2015.

Meir and me receiving our name-tags at the STAY WYSE Hostel Business Conference. January 2015.

HostelPass.co offers the first pre-paid, fixed-price pass for accommodation at the best hostels in Europe. We provide travelers with reliable accommodation that we have vetted in-person and through our network of affiliated travelers. Using our app, travelers can choose from a selection of curated hostels in their desired city that they can book with one-click, saving them time and relieving stress. 

Meir and me winning $10,000 in USC's New Venture Seed Competition for HostelPass. April 2016.

Meir and me winning $10,000 in USC's New Venture Seed Competition for HostelPass. April 2016.

The journey of creating HostelPass has been a whirlwind of challenges, late-nights, and European adventure. Especially during a time of international tension, we are proud to encourage international communities and cross-cultural understandings. I have never felt more driven or proud when I think about what we have done so far, and all that we have the opportunity to do for fellow travelers.