September 21st is observed around the world as the International Day of Peace. It’s a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. And yesterday it was a day of common focus for HI-USA hostels across the country.
Peace is one of those amorphous things that you know best when you see it or feel it. For me, it is best exemplified in the actions of individuals. As more and more of us act with understanding and respect towards each other, we will reach a tipping point for peace.
HI-USA brings people together for cross-cultural understanding and friendship through travel. The hostel is the vessel for our mission work. And therein lay the simple brilliance of Sleep for Peace.
To celebrate the day, and mark our global partnership with the United Nations, HI-USA this year launched Sleep for Peace. For every person that stayed in one of our hostels yesterday, we allocated $1 towards our scholarship fund which helps underprivileged youth to experience hostelling for the first time. We believe in the power of hostel travel and want as many people as possible to participate; this scholarship fund enables it.
I spent last night sleeping at the Washington hostel. When I checked in, the front desk staff gave a brief introduction to the Sleep for Peace program. They informed me that $1 of my overnight fee would be allocated to a scholarship program for disadvantaged kids. And they shared news about a hostel program earlier in the day on the Arab Spring and New Media.
It was a rainy night in Washington DC, and the hostel was brimming with travelers. Lots of languages, and plenty of conversation. The most satisfying exchange took place next to me, between two Australians and a Chilean in the dining room. The Chilean traveler had just arrived into DC, and the Australians were getting ready to move on. “Take the hostel walking tours”, the Australians implored. “We went on a walking tour a couple days ago to the monuments, and it was a great way to meet people”. Bingo.
The strength of HI-USA is that we are more than any individual hostel. We are a network. In my next blog, I will share the names of all the hostels that participated in our inaugural Sleep for Peace.