Published piece: ‘I’m Creating a Nest on the Water’

Astoria resident Miranda Rinks unveils plans for a homegrown hostel

Published in HIPFiSH Monthly, April 2013

Guatemalan Hostel - Erin J. Bernard

Guatemalan Hostel – Erin J. Bernard

Stormy seas, winged visitors and epic journeys have loomed large in the imaginations of ancient Greeks and modern Astorians both.

In Greek mythology, the goddess Halcyon and her lover were turned into birds after drowning in a tempestuous ocean. Each winter thereafter, Halcyon’s father would calm the wind and waves for seven days so she could return to shore to make a nest and lay eggs, and the term “halcyon” came to symbolize peaceful times of calm seas and gentle winds.

Astoria resident Miranda Rinks is looking to this old story for new inspiration as she works to realize her dream of building a welcoming nest of her own right here in Astoria – a cozy coastal hideaway she plans to call Hostel Halcyon.

“What the word [halcyon] means and what it comes from is so perfect,” Rinks said. “I’m creating a nest on the water. I want to make a great, safe place for people to come.”

Now, she’s turning to the community of Astoria to help her transform her personal mythology into a reality.

Finding a cheap, great place to alight in when you’re far from home can be a tricky proposition – Rinks knows this firsthand.

The 31-year-old Michigan native spent her 20s traveling the world alone, beginning with a backpacking trip through Europe after she graduated high school.

During her excursions abroad, Rinks stayed at all kinds of hostels, and she got a taste of the good, the bad and the ugly, from a Canadian bunkhouse built inside a former jail (“super creepy and cool”) to dank dens filled with scores of standoffish travelers (“dirty and gross”).

In Dingle, Ireland, she fell in love with The Rainbow Hostel.

Rinks still recalls with fondness the warm welcome she received as soon as she walked through the door: “Within the first couple of days, somebody had made me a cup of tea, another person rolled me a cigarette, somebody made dinner and offered some of that,” she said. “Everybody’s really friendly and into sharing. I just really felt at home right away.”

She liked the Rainbow Hostel so much, in fact, that she ended up working there, and getting a firsthand taste of all that running a hostel entails.

These days, Rinks has hung up her pack and is readying to take on the role of proprietor herself.

She hasn’t settled on a location for the hostel yet, but she’s envisioning a small, low-key space that attracts short-term travelers of all stripes, from backpackers to budget adventurers to cyclists making their way down U.S. Highway 101, to the tune of $20-$30 per night for dorm accommodations.

Her recipe for the perfect hostel? Good staff well versed in the area’s history and attractions, inviting spaces with plenty of seating, and rooms kept clean as a whistle.

She plans to start small, carving out a common area, a kitchen and a couple of dorm rooms, and perhaps offering camping in the yard for tent travelers. Eventually, she’d like to add on private rooms and space for families and perhaps move into an old Victorian-style house, but communality is the key to her vision for Hostel Halcyon. Rinks also envisions the future hostel as a community gathering space, with everything from poetry readings to live music on offer.

“I really like the atmosphere of a hostel,” she said. “People from all cultures hanging out and everybody wants to make friends because they’ve been on the road, and they chat and tell stories and play music.”

Rinks is exploring a variety of non-conventional funding options to raise the $30,000 in start-up funds she’ll need to get the project off the ground by this summer.

She’s running an online fundraiser at Indiegogo.com that offers a variety of gifts in return for up-front funding. She’s also applying for grants through Mercy Corps and taking business classes.

On April 13, Rinks will unveil her vision for Hostel Halcyon to the community at a fundraiser to take place during the Saturday Night Art Walk. The event will feature live music and the work of almost 20 artists, plus massage therapists, tarot card readings and henna tattooing. At the event, the artistically inclined Rinks will also debut a series of watercolor paintings that lay out her plans in vivid detail.

Hostel Halcyon would definitely fill an unmet need in the community, Rinks says, by offering affordable lodging options to budget travelers who are currently skipping a stop in Astoria in favor of cheaper options further south.

“We don’t have a place for young backpackers, people traveling on a budget, or cyclists coming through, so people – cyclists especially – go on to Fort Stevens or down to Seaside to the hostel,” she said. “Astoria needs more young people. We want people to come check it out.”

And who knows? Some of those visitors may even decide to stay awhile, as she and many other young wanderers have.

“I love Astoria so much,” Rinks said. “This is where I want my roots to be. I felt like if I’m going to build something as an adult, I want it to be here.”

 -Erin J. Bernard

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