Today is the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the United Nations and will be marked by celebrations around the globe. Both Hostelling International and HI-USA are well-matched with UN ideals, as recognized by HI’s special partner status with UNESCO.
Amidst the celebratory anniversary parades, conferences and film festivals, I am delighted to note HI-USA’s contribution, identified in an article in an academic research journal. Its conclusion:
“Hostels were found to provide unique environmental conditions that promote equality and facilitate cross-cultural understanding.”
What better way to celebrate the anniversary of a global institution with peacebuilding ideals, than with confirmation that a challenging prerequisite – cross-cultural understanding – is being realized … through our HI-USA hostels.
“Hostelling as Pathway to Cross-Cultural Understanding” is co-authored by George Washington University Assistant Professor Heather Bowen and George Mason University Associate Professor Margaret Daniels, and published in the Tourism Review International, a peer-reviewed journal that “advances excellence in all fields of tourism research.” It is based on a series of traveler interviews conducted at five HI-USA hostels in the Northeast US.
The findings describe why hostelling is an unmatched cross-cultural experience. They include:
+ “Hostel stays create an environment that allows for intercultural dialogue and greater cross-cultural understanding to occur in a setting that is natural and spontaneous rather than forced and contrived.”
+ “Hostellers felt that conversations led to friendships, open-mindedness, and diminished stereotypes.”
+ “Many of the study respondents were in their early 20’s and had limited, if any, previous experience travelling without their families. This opportunity to fend for themselves on a trip of their choice brought increased significance to their experiences. Their logistic and social successes gave them a boost in self-confidence and self-reliance that they recognized as important both on the trip and once they returned home.”
+ “The fact that hostel stays are primarily geared towards the young means that the experiential learning that takes place can have long lasting influences.”
Surprising? Not to those of us who work and volunteer with HI-USA and its hostels.
Significant? You bet, because the findings confirm mission achievement with independent academic research. Our cross-cultural aspirations are lofty, and now our delivery on those aims is being further recognized.
Hostels are a gift.