The more and more we travel the more our eyes are opened to the realities of the world and our responsibilities as global citizens. As we interact with people and explore different environments, it’s difficult not to want to help make the world a better place, and increasingly for a lot of travelers, volunteering while vacationing has become an essential part of the itinerary. “Voluntourism” – as this type of traveling has become known – is not an entirely new concept, but it’s picked up over the years and has become an industry in its own right.
We choose to hostel not just because we’re looking to pinch a few pennies while travelling, but for the feeling that seems to only exist in these spaces. At hostels, strangers don’t seem that strange and the commonness of everyone’s adventurous spirits is far more important than any differences that might exist. Because as most seasoned hostellers can attest, it’s the people that make the experience – not just the travelers you may be sharing a dorm with, but the staff of locals who make sure that you head to your next destination feeling enriched and renewed.
In the past, hostels have generally been associated with over-zealous, boozed-up young adults; dingy, dodgy dorm rooms with ultra-thin mattresses and far-flung European destinations à la the movie Hostel. But at HI USA, we believe hostelling can be a real force for good. And as more and more people are opening their eyes to the joys of travel, this form of social, budget-friendly accommodation is fast becoming the popular choice for young and old who are looking to explore the United States and beyond.
Every major city in the world has that neighborhood: the one that’s a little rough around the edges, that has the interesting characters, and that the guide books might tell you that you can skip. But sometimes these places can also have the most interesting histories, offer great insights into the way that a city came to be, and introduce you to a side with more local flair than you’ll find on the beaten tourist path.
One of the reasons we choose to stay at hostels is that we are looking for experiences that are off the beaten path. Sure, when visiting a city like San Francisco, it’s basically mandatory to see as many of the major sights as you can, but as any traveler will tell you, we often make our best memories by interacting with the locals and becoming one -- even for just a little while.
The only thing better than getting to know a new city when you’re travelling is getting to know your fellow wanderers and the different places they are from. The absolute best part, though, is discovering that despite whatever differences you may have – language, fashion sense, or taste in music – you almost certainly have a few things in common, like a shared love of adventure and new experiences.