Gold Medal Moments

Olympian: an athlete who participates in the Olympic games (noun);  beyond what is ordinary or usual; highly unusual or exceptional or remarkable (adjective).

I have collected two favorite Olympian moments thus far in 2014. Let’s start with the most satisfying, which actually happened 2200 miles west of Sochi in Paris last week.

More than three dozen CEOs from across the globe had gathered at the newly opened HI-Paris Pajol hostel for HI’s Annual Global CEO Conference. It’s always heartening to be together with colleagues who share a strong bond around hostels and travel.  And as usual, this year’s topics spanned from the sublime to the confounding and readily spilled over into late night conversations.

A special evening Awards Dinner was held to recognize exceptional 2013 performance (from among 4000+ hostels in 85 countries) in five categories: best country-wide hostel network in the world, best hostel, best green hostel, most comfortable, and friendliest hostel.

And the envelope, please

2013 HIGHEST-RATED HOSTEL NETWORK WORLDWIDE:  HI-USA

The recognition is bestowed by hostel guests themselves, who rated their stays in HI hostels across the globe and rewarded HI-USA hostels with superior satisfaction ratings over the course of the past year.

What accounts for HI-USA’s success?  Simply put: Our people. As I walked up to receive the award, my mind quickly flashed to the all-staff meetings which I had just attended the previous week in San Francisco. Others have been held in Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York, San Diego and Washington DC. In every case, the people and the conversations were totally energizing.

So when I flew to Paris from San Francisco, I was especially jazzed. And when I returned home, I carried an award earned by our staff’s commitment and professionalism network-wide.

Four HI-USA hostels also received individual awards. A shout out to HI-Boston (#1 Green Hostel in the World), HI-Chicago (#2 Green Hostel); HI-Martha’s Vineyard (#1 Friendliest Hostel in the World and #3 Best Hostel) and HI-Phoenix (#3 Friendliest Hostel). Congratulations!

My other favorite Olympian moment happened at Sochi Olympic Park several days after I returned home. A little known American snowboarder, Sage Kotsenburg, put together the run of his life to capture the gold medal in slopestyle. Before winning a qualifying event last month that helped send him to the Winter Olympics, he had not won a snowboarding competition since he was 11.

More than just an underdog tale, Kotsenburg exuded fun and a true love of the sport. “Sage is all about snowboarding, having fun, and making snowboarding look as fun as it is”, his coach said. You could feel it when he was on the course and see it when he topped the medals platform (photo above).

On my own personal podium are the 435+ staff who everyday help HI-USA welcome and engage travelers from around the world. With enthusiasm and commitment, our staff creates fun and memorable hostel stays in their own authentic way. Their performances too, are Olympian.

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