Each year, HI USA’s Great Hostel Give Back program give hundreds of participants from dozens of groups the chance to stay for free at HI hostels across the country in exchange for volunteer service hours. From volunteering in soup kitchens to participating in environmental clean-ups, this year’s participants will donate thousands of hours of their time to good causes in our diverse communities.
For groups like the 12 young adults and alumni from the Sierra Institute’s P-CREW program, who spent three days at the end of December 2016 at HI Point Reyes hostel, the Great Hostel Give Back is also a chance to experience the joy of hostelling as a way to travel.
“I think a lot of them didn’t know that hostels were a thing in general, and it opened up their eyes to the possibilities,” says Ashley Bonar, the Program Coordinator for P-CREW, which stands for Plumas Conservation, Restoration, and Education in Watersheds. “They were also surprised that they didn’t know that Point Reyes was a place you could even go to in the Bay Area.”
The group was made up of a mix of 16 to 20-year-olds from the East Bay’s urban areas and rural Plumas County who had participated in a summer internship for high school students run by the Sierra Institute. The program gives the students experience in restoring areas affected by forest fires while they get up close and personal with the wilderness in the Plumas National Forest. With three successful summer sessions done and dusted, the P-CREW group gathered at HI Point Reyes for a reunion and a chance for more natural exploration.
During their three-day-stay within the expansive and stunning Point Reyes National Seashore, the crew got to go on day and night hikes led by naturalists from HI USA’s Outdoor Hostel Adventure (OHA) program, and also spent some time cleaning up the nearby Limantour Beach as part of the volunteer requirement for the Great Hostel Give Back.
On their last night at the hostel, the gang enjoyed quality time together making pizza and cookies all from scratch, and interacting with the other hostel guests, who expressed their own joy for seeing a group of young people getting to experience the magic of Point Reyes. A representative from the park’s forest service also stopped by to lead a talk and reflection about the group’s time spent adventuring in the great outdoors, and they finished off the evening writing thank you notes to the people who had made their reunion retreat possible. “This was my first time at a hostel and it was very rewarding because it’s communal and very homey,” said 19-year old Nyarah Breed. “I think I would enjoy traveling while hostelling.”
If your group is interested in participating in the Great Hostel Give Back at one of dozens of HI USA hostels across the country, apply today! Applications will be accepted until February 15, 2017!
HI USA Tip: Read about another Great Hostel Give Back experience at HI Marin Headlands, and find out more about how every time you stay at HI USA hostels you’re actually doing some good. Be sure to check out just how beautiful HI Point Reyes by following on Facebook and Instagram!