All who travel with respect and consideration for others are welcome at our hostels. This “open door” philosophy is a long-held principle of ours. It is a powerful frame of mind with a special relevance in today’s world.
Young people from all walks of life need to be engaged in global society, or they risk losing their stake in shaping it. It’s a necessity shared by those of every nationality, culture and identity.
HI USA’s network of hostels connects US youth and their counterparts from around the world. More than 300,000 travelers stay in our hostels annually, about two-thirds from other countries. Over 100 nationalities and scores of faiths and races are among those we host each year.
We curate opportunities for conversation and laughter and reflection that can make friends of strangers. Common areas become a common place to find common ground. We believe that by bringing together different people from different places and different cultures, tolerance and understanding can be found in shared experiences.
We deliver experiences that are powerful because they are special, like cooking your own meal next to a cuisine from a completely different culture. Or conversing in a second or third language. Or rooming with an ambassador’s daughter or a migrant’s son.
No matter the domestic climate, we seek to democratize the educational experience of travel by providing more affordable access, through our hostel rates and our travel scholarships.
Our staff and volunteers are the catalyst. They bring an energy and friendliness to our buildings and our programs. They are the best face of America – diverse, engaged and welcoming. And they introduce our guests to each other and to American life: A tour of local jazz clubs in Chicago or ethnic neighborhoods in New York City. Volunteer opportunities for serving meals to returning veterans in San Francisco and beach clean-up in San Diego. A peek into university life in Madison or the music scene in Austin. Visitors come to meet local community members and they talk, and they chill; life feels good and the world feels better.
It all works when we hold ourselves accountable: just as we ask our travelers to bring their respect and consideration for others, they receive it from us. It’s the stuff of diplomacy and friendship. And it seems too often missing today.
A secure, well-functioning society – and world – depends in part on growing open-mindedness and understanding for each other’s views, and that comes from getting to know the other as a whole person. For HI USA, it means treating every traveler as an individual, no matter their nationality, race, faith, sexual orientation or other attributes. Categorizing people seems more a recipe for isolation and divisiveness, than for well-being.