Last weekend I was in Chicago for a quarterly HI USA Board of Directors meeting.   We stayed at our Chicago hostel, located in a vibrant downtown student neighborhood just a few blocks from Millennium Park on Lake Michigan.  The whole experience was a terrific reminder of what makes HI USA so special:  our people.

Our purpose is what drives everything we do.   And in Chicago, it is literally front and center:

HI USA is founded on the enduring belief in the power of travel to foster a deeper understanding of people, places and cultures for a more tolerant world.


Did you know HI USA is a nonprofit?  When you stay with us, you support all of our programs.

Chicago Tolerant World

Friendly staff and our purpose greet you in the HI Chicago lobby.

Travelers choose HI USA for a very practical reason – we help those who stay with us gain a deeper understanding of the place and culture they’re visiting.  Most leave feeling like the world is a bit smaller and friendlier place because of the travelers they have met and the community they experienced.

Our staff is a big reason the whole experience comes together so well.   With so many themselves having diverse travel and cultural origins, our staff know what it’s like being in unfamiliar surroundings.   As a 24/7 source of help, knowledge and energy, they help to deliver a HI USA hostel stay that’s consistently rated among the top three in the world.

Chicago We Are A Nonprofit

HI USA offers programs for hostel guests and the community.

Our volunteers also have strong travel DNA.   While on the road, they are engaged travelers.   Back home, they share knowledge about their local communities with guests by leading walking tours, and organizing mixers, dinners and other programs.   Years of travel have taught me: if you really want authentic, local experiences, look to friendly, open people who live there.   Last year, our volunteers gave over 20,000 hours welcoming and engaging travelers in their communities.

Have you heard of a Community Hostelling Fund?   You will soon.  Piloted this year by volunteers in Austin, Chicago and Houston for a wider rollout in 2016, it is another way HI USA hostels serve the local community.  Local hostels fund youth scholarships for international and domestic travel.   These local programs are supported by our engagement staff who build community involvement across the country.

And circling back to the beginning of this post, there’s our Board of Directors.   They volunteer their time in a governance role because they know first-hand the power of travel, and they help make sure a traveler’s perspective is part of everything we do.

If it all sounds a bit amazing, it is.  That’s why I am marking my 100th blog post by recognizing those who make us who we are: our volunteers and staff.