Nonprofits exist to imprint their good works on society. Yet for some like HI-USA, it is the public’s response to ideas in a handful of books that shows an intriguing path to societal impact and mission success.
Every year hundreds of thousands of books are published, and just a handful are recognized for their excellence. They are ones to receive awards like the Pulitzer Prize.
Yet a much smaller number are truly influential. Two books widely recognized for their influence are Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring – credited with launching the environmental movement – and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique – seen as sparking the beginning of second-wave feminism. How did these emerge to drive societal change? The public seemed ready to hear their messages, and both books catalyzed a response. In doing so, they shaped the course of history.
Think of our own lives, and a few books are likely to emerge as influential. Among the many excellent books I have read, Arthur Frommer’s World of Travel is on that short list (See my January 24, 2011 post). Surprising? At the time, I was ready to hear its message.
As a nonprofit, HI-USA seeks to make travel influential. More than simple relaxation, we believe that travel can yield lessons and insights that can be personally transformative.
But like a good book, one must be ready for it.
A profound travel experience often has a lot to do with what precedes and follows it. So HI-USA sets its mission focus as wider than just delivering an excellent hostel stay. (There’s that “excellent” word again, and if excellence is a prerequisite to influence, HI-USA hostels are consistently among the best rated in the world.) To get people ready for the travel experience, programs like Cultural Kitchen and World Travel 101 are designed to heighten intercultural awareness. And to sustain engagement afterwards, volunteer opportunities with hostels and programs are offered to returning travelers.
Yet as the works of Rachel Carson and Betty Friedan have shown us, it is only when large numbers of people embrace an idea as important to them that societal attitudes begin to realign and a movement can emerge. For those who recognize the power of hostels and travel as a force for global understanding, it will be HI-USA’s ultimate imprint.