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.
Sometimes, while you’re staying at a hostel, you’ll find it a little challenging to connect with your fellow travelers beyond the usual “where are you from?” conversation – maybe the language barrier is particularly strong or it’s extra difficult to find the flooring for common ground. That is, until someone name drops their favorite TV show or starts singing along to the familiar tune that’s playing in the hostel common area, and next thing you know you’re re-enacting famous scenes and performing impromptu karaoke with a brand new lifelong friend.
There’s something about the fall time that makes sharing a meal around a table seem extra enticing – maybe because it’s Thanksgiving season in the US, or perhaps it’s just because the colder weather calls for hearty food and cozy conversations. If you’re traveling, it might be a little difficult to find that warm breaking-bread experience, unless you plan on stopping by one of our HI USA hostels, where it’s easy to find new friends to cook dinners with.
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.
Summer is officially over: you’ve spent the months liking and sharing on Facebook, hitting reply-all and taking endless calls, and now you’re gearing up for winter festivities and the kind of chaos that the holidays bring. But before you go back to the office or enter another season of heavy social media activity, what about a mini escape to unplug, unwind and recharge your own battery while giving your overworked iPhone a break too? Our suggestion: The secluded hills and beaches of the Point Reyes National Seashore.