Mission and History

Outdoor Hostel Adventure (OHA) is an educational program of the nonprofit 501(c)3 organization Hostelling International USA.

Our Mission
To help all, especially the young, gain a greater understanding of the world and its people through hostelling.

Our Vision
Hostellers become caring global citizens who are catalysts for intercultural exchange and understanding and stewards of the earth.

We work to achieve our mission and vision by:

  • Promoting global awareness through a network of welcoming, comfortable, and affordable hostels that encourage exploration, and nurture cross-cultural communication.
  • Offering programming that encourages intercultural exchange through friendly interaction among hostellers and community members.
  • Encouraging educational travel through information, activities, and services that facilitate safe, affordable, and culturally sensitive hostel travel for people of all ages.
  • Inspiring protection of the environment through programs that promote meaningful, low-impact travel using hostels, and that focus on the conservation and interpretation of the built and natural environment.
  • Broadening community participation through involvement of all members of the community in hostel travel, programs, and volunteer participation.

History of Outdoor Hostel Adventures

For more than four decades, Hostelling lnternational USA has developed and operated hostels and programs which encourage environmental exploration and cultural exchange for people of all ages in the Bay Area. 

The hostelling movement began in 1909, when Richard Schirrmann, a teacher in an industrialized city in Germany, began taking his students for overnight trips to the countryside for fresh air and to introduce them to the natural world. He utilized empty farm and school buildings to house them for his "wandering school," and thus the concept of student hostels was born. His town of Alteena donated the town castle to Mr. Schirrmann, to establish the first permanent hostel. A network of hostels for young people quickly grew in Germany and then spread to other European countries.

Two American school teachers, Isabel and Monroe Smith, brought hostelling to the United States in 1934, when they established the first American hostel in Northfield, Massachussetts. Within a year more than 30 hostels sprung up in Massachusetts, and the movement spread west across the country

The Golden Gate Council, established in 1958, embraced hostelling ideals by leading outdoor activities and developing a chain of hostels. In 1971, the AYH Ecology Club was established in San Francisco at Galileo High School, and a second club soon after at Mission High. Like Richard Schirrmann, the high school advisors (and AYH Board members), Nate and Miriam Schaffler and Alan and Adrienne Scroggie, took these high school students on environmental adventures both camping and hostelling outside the confines of the City. The students raised money for these trips through recycling glass and aluminum, and were in fact part of one of the earliest recycling programs in San Francisco.  

In 1986 the Hostel Adventure Program (now called Outdoor Hostel Adventures) was born. Fashioned on the same ideals as the first Schirrmann wandering school and the AYH Ecology Club, the Hostel Adventure Program reached out to inner-city children in San Francisco, Richmond, and Oakland to introduce environmental conservation on overnight adventures using the Council's coastal hostels as a base of exploration. Two decades later, more than 20,000 children have participated.

Travel education programs were introduced in the 1990s in conjunction with the Council's travel store, to educate first-time travelers about how to travel safely, affordably, and responsibly.  These programs were institutionalized as World Travel 101, and have been adopted by Councils around the United States. The audience for these programs varies from high school seniors and college students to older adults who are embarking on their first overseas trip. Travel education programs now include World Travel 101, Women Traveling Solo, Travel Planning, Hostel USA, and Hostel California. Special versions of these programs have been developed for Girl Scouts.

Together, these environmental, cultural, and community-oriented programs help us to realize the vision that "hostellers become caring world citizens who are catalysts for intercultural exchange and understanding, and who are stewards of the earth."