Matt Kiefer: My Story of Hostels, Travel, and Digital Innovation

Hey, I’m Matt, the founder behind My team and I are collecting the absolute best hostels in the world for you. We share the coolest hostels so you can focus on your travels, rather than spending your time trying to pick a good hostel.

Personally, I’ve bunked in over 600 hostels and stamped my passport in more than 70 countries. My heart beats for Vietnam, Spain, and France, and so many more destinations. I’m a Foosball champ but a beer pong amateur.

A bit about me: Before diving into the hostel world, I studied Communication and Design in the Netherlands and Germany, then ventured into digital innovation in Barcelona. That’s where I met Anna, my partner in both life and Hostelgeeks. Together, we launched Hostelgeeks in 2015, turning Hostelgeeks into an industry leader and trusted source for travelers seeking unique hostel experiences.

On, it is all about the best hostels and you, the traveler. However, Google is basically forcing us to share more about us. And since you are also here to read about me, I am sharing a bit of my background, my expertise, education, and life.

From speaking at the World Hostel Conference to being featured in The New York Times, it’s been quite the journey.

A quick overview of facts about me:

  • Favorite Destinations: Vietnam, Spain, France
  • Special Hostel Skill: Foosball
  • Worst Hostel Skill: Beer Pong
  • Location-independent since 2015
  • Hostels I have stayed at: More than 600
  • Countries I have visited: More than 70
  • If I would not run Hostelgeeks…I would love to do full-time photography.

Traveling the world brings a weird feeling of excitement, the unknown, daily learning, and stepping out of comfort zones. It’s the best. On the road, you’ll find me in any good café, enjoying an iced coffee. In a hostel, look for me at the Foosball table.

Visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia
Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Visiting Zanzibar Island
Zanzibar, Tanzania

Visiting Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan

My Travel CV

I stayed at my first hostel probably around the age of 5, or even earlier. Hostels are very common in Europe and the go-to choice for families. I was born in Germany, right next to the border of Luxembourg and France. Half my family lives on the French side of the border. I started playing football at a young age, and my team was a mix of German, French, Luxembourgian, Italian, Turkish, and Albanian players. For me, it was the most normal thing in the world to speak and hear several languages. It was completely normal to hop to a different country, too. This might be one of the reasons I do not bother to count countries. I mean, where’s the quality factor in that anyway?

Some more events in my life:

  • 2010 moved to Barcelona, Spain
  • 2014 started to build Hostelgeeks
  • 3rd of March, 2015 – launch of Hostelgeeks
  • November 2015 moved for 3 months to Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

Since then, we have been travelling all over the globe including:

  • 2 months road trip through Central Europe (including Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg)
  • starting of 11 months backpacking South-East Asia including Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Maldives
  • Oktoberfest in Munich & purchasing and restoring our old Camper van from 1987
  • Vanlife through Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Greece
  • moved to Cyprus
  • Backpacked South America and Mexico
  • Travelled in Africa and Middle East including United Arab Emirates, Israel, Palestine

My partner and I are constantly traveling and working from hostels and cafés of the world. We usually move between Europe and Southeast Asia, always seeking the warmer climate. We spend our year between vanlife in Europe, our home in Cyprus, and Southeast Asia.

  • 9 Months Vanlife in South Europe including Italy, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, Greece
  • Living in Vietnam for 3 months and backpacking South East Asia
  • Vanlife Europe including Italy and Spain
  • Backpacking South America including Colombia and North America’s Mexico
  • Spain, France, Germany and Cyprus
  • living and backpacking in Sri Lanka for 3 months
  • Vanlife Spain, Atlantic Coast of France, Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark
  • living in Chiang Mai, backpacking Laos and Japan, visiting Seoul
  • Vanlife in Denmark, Sweden and Norway
  • Backpacking Tanzania including Zanzibar Island
  • living in Da Nang, Vietnam, Backpacking Southeast Asia
Vanlife in Spain, Europe - Me and my loyal camper van from 1987
Vanlife in Spain, Europe – Me and my loyal van from 1987

Backpacking Laos

Vang Vieng, Laos

Matt and Anna in Budapest, Europe

Budapest, Hungary

Backpacking Sri Lanka numerous Times

Ella, Sri Lanka

Backpacking Thailand - there has to be food!

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Exploring South Korea

Seoul, South Korea

Exploring Vietnam on a motorbike - Matt Kiefer

Hai Van Pass, Vietnam

Enjoying the Carnival in Colombia - Matt Kiefer

Barranquilla, Colombia

Kicking it in Thailand

Pai, Thailand

Enjoying Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey

Why I do not bother counting countries

You might ask yourself why I mention I do not bother counting countries, yet I show how many countries I have traveled to. Fair question.

It’s simple: For the sake of doing well with Hostelgeeks SEO-wise, Google “forces” me to showcase my travel experiences. And apparently, it builds trust with you, our readers, too. I understand this, and I do get the fun part of saying, ‘Yay, I’ve visited 45 countries in my life.’

However, I personally do not bother with this as I do not see the quality factor here. I want to give a simple example. In one travel day, I have crossed 5 countries. We drove our camper van from Greece through North Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, to Montenegro, covering around 700 km or so that day. How on earth can I now claim to have ‘visited’ these countries? Crossing them? Sure. Exploring them? No.

All that being said, I don’t mind other people counting their countries. You do you!

From Academia to Adventure

My academic journey began in the Netherlands and Germany. I pursued Communication and Design, culminating in a Bachelor of Science from Aachen University of Applied Sciences and further studies at Maastricht Institute of Arts. My quest for knowledge led me to Offenburg University of Applied Sciences for a Master of Science. During my masters program I moved to Barcelona, Spain and started a full-time job at a start-up for hostel-reservations. Here I contributed to front-end development and marketing. My move to Barcelona in 2011 marked the start of an adventure in the hostel industry, blending my love for travel with a passion for digital innovation.

I was juggling University and full-time job simultaneously and flew over to Offenburg for exams and finally to present my master thesis. My master thesis was the development of a desktop app connecting travelers staying the same hostel and city. It was named “Social Backpacking” and further explored this dynamic, examining the impact of social online tools on young travelers. Today, you can use apps and websites that offer this service. I am adding a screenshot below of my desktop app in 2011. After finishing my master program with distinction, I have been offered a tempting opportunity to get a PHD, however I felt like the world outside the university was more enticing.

Social Backpacking - Master Thesis by Matt Kiefer
Connect with fellow travelers in the same hostel and city – a screenshot from my Master Thesis back in 2011 (the design fits that century well)

Building Hostelgeeks: From Concept to Reality

It was also here in Barcelona, on a rooftop terrace in 2012, where I met my partner Anna, marking the beginning of a shared journey in life and business.

The inception of Hostelgeeks in 2014, alongside my partner Anna, was more than just launching a start-up; it was about changing how travelers connect and find hostels. Our mission was clear: to curate hostel experiences that weren’t just about a place to stay, but about the memories and connections made along the way. Hostels are about people.

Our commitment led us on a two-month European road trip, personally visiting and reviewing hostels, followed by an extensive backpacking adventure across Southeast Asia. In the process of building from nothing, we have visited more than 120 hostels and met endless travelers, helping us to always stay user-centered.

A Voice in the Industry

My expertise spans business development, marketing, sales, SEO, and front-end development in the tourism sector. At the World Hostel Conference in Israel in 2012, I spoke to an audience of 200 about the future impact of social media on travel and hostels, highlighting my insights and forward-thinking approach. My tenure at the hostel reservation platform as a marketer and developer further underscores my hands-on experience in the industry.

As the strategist and developer at Hostelgeeks, I also offered business consulting for online tourism startups, hotels, hostels, and other accommodations. Among my clients are well-known travel brands, individual hostels, and hotel chains.

Recognition and Influence

Our work at Hostelgeeks has caught the attention of notable media outlets. Being interviewed by Radio Taiwan, RM World Travel Podcast, USA Today, Refinery and featured several times in The New York Times stands as a testament to our influence and authority in the travel and hostel industry.

We also have been interviewed for a TV show from the US about budget travelers. We declined since it felt like a cheesy show with fake narrative.

eBook about Hostels (2016 and 2017 Edition)

Back in 2016 and 2017, we published an eBook about the Greatest Hostels of Europe + 10% Discount Codes to them.

The 2016 edition featured 75 hostels and discounts up to 10%.

The 2017 edition featured a total of 128 hostels with discounts of 10% to every single one.

eBooks by Hostelgeeks

Vietnam Exhibition

In 2017, I had the privilege of showcasing my photography at the “Go Explore Vietnam Immersive Art Exhibition” in Hanoi, Vietnam, alongside one of the world’s top portrait photographers Réhahn,. This immersive event, sponsored by Traveloka, was a celebration of Vietnam’s rich culture and stunning landscapes, blending photography, videography, and sensory experiences to bring the essence of Vietnam to life. The event also featured performances by Vu Nhat Tan, a pioneer in Vietnam’s contemporary music scene. You can find all photos of the exhibition in my article about Travel Photos of Vietnam.

My participation in this exhibition was a personal milestone and a remarkable opportunity to showcase my work on an international stage and contribute to the global appreciation of Vietnam’s rich cultural tapestry. I personally met Réhahn, and there is a lot left to learn. I purchased one of his photography work and it is placed in my office.

Photos taken at the art exhibition

Engagement and Trust

We believe in the power of real stories and experiences.

At the heart of Hostelgeeks is our commitment to genuine, AI-free content. Our engagement with our audience goes beyond just sharing travel tips; it’s about building a community of travelers who share our passion for authenticity. Whether through emails, social media, or our newsletters, we’re dedicated to maintaining a transparent and responsive connection with our community.

Continual Growth and Future Aspirations

Like any traveler, our journey does not stop. We’re continually learning, exploring new avenues. Our goal was to make Hostelgeeks the world’s leading platform for hostel travelers, a trusted source for those seeking not just a place to stay, but a place to live unforgettable experiences. We are proud that we are seen by many travelers, industry leaders, and independent outlets as one of the most influential brands in the world of hostels.

Personally, I believe in consistency. One of my favorites quotes is:

Direction is more important than speed.

I am working with hostels since 2011, and during that time I developed more and more in-depth knowledge in the industry and beyond. I do not believe in changing your subject of business/interest every 3 months; for whatever reason. I am proud that my team and I do not jump from one topic to another; from crypto to NFTs, selling online courses to coaching and becoming a yoga instructor – we are not interested in this.

Join Our Journey

I invite you to be part of this adventure at For a more personal glimpse into my travels and the stories behind them, follow me on my personal Instagram. From navigating Europe in our vintage camper van to exploring the alleys of Southeast Asia, every journey is a chapter.

Final note: Personally, I was never keen on sharing my academic life and other details about myself. I always felt like Hostelgeeks is about hostels and travelers; not about me or the team. In times of AI, Google and other search engines are changing and basically forcing us to share more personal and professional background about ourselves.

Because, yes, Señor Google: We are real people that want the spotlight on Hostelgeeks, and not ourselves. We are leading industry experts, acknowledged by media outlets and other industry leaders.

Articles written by Matt Kiefer

Below you find every article written by the author