from far and wide
that stayed with us and others
and brought the word
'hostel' to me and dreams
of train trips to Europe and Japan
to my sisters.
We threw parties
that threw open the gates
opening our fences
joining our backyards,
for a few nights
before returning to our
-Jane, HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Anyone who’s stayed at a hostel (especially a HI USA one) likely has a story of the moment they realized that there’s no better way to travel, to meet people and to truly experience the world than making hostels a part of the journey. With that in mind, here’s a collection of tales from HI USA staff who have found this love while traveling, or working, or looking for the other kind of love. We hope they bring the same warm feelings as a dozen red roses and fluffy white teddies do on Valentine’s Day.
A life-changing dinner with some Brazilians
“I left for New Zealand for my first trip overseas. I was 21 and going for five weeks, on my own, with no plan in mind. I landed in Auckland and there were a few people, 'touts,' from the hostels outside the airport. After chatting with a few of them, I chose one and was on my way. The hostel was right in the middle of the city above a bar/club. It was loud, crowded, and dirty. I hated it. I wanted to go home and remembered thinking to myself, “Ok, only 32 more days left." On the third day, a group of friends from Brazil invited me to join them for a dinner they had cooked in the kitchen. We immediately hit it off and spent the next three days exploring the city. We then decided to rent a car together and go explore New Zealand for a week. I ended up spending 13 months in the country, staying, living, and working in over 50 hostels, constantly changing plans and direction with each new person and adventure that came across my path.”
- AJ, HI Marin Headlands
Carpet sweeping + hostel common rooms = true love
“I don't know when I fell in love with hostels and hostelling. I've had the luck to be a hostel guest in the North West Hostels since I was a little kid so all of my memories can run together. But, a few years ago I was visiting HI Point Reyes and peaked into their Bunk House. Immediately, I was transported back to a memory I've long loved but couldn't place... me, age four or five, using the carpet sweeper to clean the bunk house as my morning chore…and LOVING IT.
So yeah, carpet sweeping and hostel common rooms = true love.”
-Molly, HI San Francisco City Center
“It was a few years ago when I took a solo trip to Austin, Texas. I've been to San Antonio many times in my life and I have a ton of family there, but this time I decided to check out Austin for a few days. I stayed at the Firehouse Hostel, which was conveniently located a block away from 6th Street (the main party/bar street there). I was by myself so I talked to some people and ended up playing some drinking games and hanging out with some cool Aussies that I am still friends with today! That trip is when I discovered how awesome hostelling is and the bond that you can make with other people while traveling.”
-Nico, HI San Francisco City Center
A traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings…in New Zealand
“I'd been living and working at an amazing hostel on New Zealand's south island for a couple of months when American Thanksgiving rolled around. The Australian owner of the hostel (go figure) went all out, even going so far as to special-order turkeys, which aren't really a thing in New Zealand. The whole staff pitched in and we made a huge dinner for all the guests who came from all over the world – most of them had never experienced an American Thanksgiving, and certainly none of them ever expected they'd be doing it in New Zealand. But everyone crammed together at communal tables and laughed and talked like old friends over dinner all night. That was the first time I remember feeling like I had an insta-family while traveling.”
-Jessica, Northwest Regional Office
Being a global citizen
“From working at the front desk, I get a unique crash-course in international peace and acceptance. Talking to travelers – from across the Golden Gate Bridge, across the country, across the world! – has infused me with the belief that I AM a global citizen. I fell in love with hostelling when I found myself letting go of my baggage of political or cultural prejudices to truly share in someone's vulnerability and pride as they tell me about how they live and why they found themselves at HI Marin Headlands hostel. What a marvelous web these communal spaces are for being agents of change and understanding!”
-Gladys, HI Marin Headlands
A series of beautiful moments
“I have always been fascinated with the idea of hostelling, but I don’t think I really fell in love with it all at once. Instead, it has been a handful of moments: it was the time I assembled a track-phone for a young German woman, which sparked our adventure to Santa Cruz to see a live funk band; it was the time an Irish gentleman and I attempted to answer the question: “Would an aloe plant taste good if it was cooked over an open flame?” (the answer is no); it was the time I wrung in the New Year with new friends from Portland, Australia, and Czechoslovakia; it was the time I took a step back and looked at the smiling faces sitting around the fire-ring, singing Beatles to the melody of the crashing waves. Moments like these made me discover that we are all part of a universal tribe – a constantly growing family that stretches to all corners of the earth.
-Keith, HI Pigeon Point Light House
Love at first sight
"I can't help but smile when people ask me when I first fell in love with hostels, because for me, it was literally love at first sight! It was the weekend of February 12th, 1994 when I stayed at my very first hostel, HI Point Montara Lighthouse, and met a guy working there. And now, having managed two hostels together while raising two children, I can honestly say that I love hostelling even more than I did 22 years ago when I met the love of my life, Christopher Bauman."
-Janice,HI Point Montara Lighthouse
A thong by any other name
“As far as hosteling is concerned, I fell in love the day I started working at HI Washington, DC. I grew up in a rural equestrian town where most people married their high school or college sweethearts, settled down in the area they grew up, and raised a family. With the exceptions of the trips I took with my eldest brother every year to a different country, I didn't have much by way of learning about different cultures. The second I started working at HI Washington, DC, I started learning so much about the world and its people and I didn't even have to fly to their homeland to get an understanding. From the Aussies I learned that thongs are not ladies’ underwear, but instead flip-flops. From the English I learned that brolly was short for umbrella. I fell in love with hostelling when I realized how much we can learn from others and how much we can teach others”
-Marc, HI Sacramento