New to travel? Start in your own backyard | Hostelling International USA

Why Novice American Travelers Should Start by Exploring the US

02 December 2019

If traveling is something you’ve also wanted to do but you feel intimidated because you don’t know where to start, it might be a good idea to start at home. And if you call the United States home, you’ve got no shortage of options: we’ve got a pretty big country offering a beautiful and diverse spread of people, places, and cultures. From big city sights and quiet coastal havens, to unique regional foods and an array of breathtaking landscapes, you don’t have to go far to experience a lot! Take a look at a few more reasons why traveling around in your own country is a good way to test the waters and see what the travel life is all about. 

It will be more affordable than traveling overseas

Most people think travel is out of their reach because when you add up flights, accommodation, and all the fun stuff, it can end up being really expensive. But if you’re traveling locally, that doesn’t have to be the case at all. You can drive or fly, or take a bus or train to a new domestic destination on a budget, and still end up somewhere that will be refreshingly unfamiliar. Whether you’re chasing wildflowers in the spring or looking for a big city winter escape, you can find lots of options right here in the U.S. to keep your transportation costs down. 

a woman looking at the Washington Monument

It will be unfamiliar, but not too unfamiliar

If you’re worried about how you’d manage with a different kind of currency or find your way around in a country where you don’t speak the language, then traveling to a different city in America is good warm-up practice. You’ll still definitely encounter differences in the way people speak (do you say pop or soda?), or find some local traditions a little strange (ever been caught up in a second line parade in New Orleans?), but seeing the ways you are different will also make you see how many shared experiences you can have with a stranger. And that may be the just the spark your curiosity needs to explore even more. 

You’ll gain confidence

OK, travel is daunting, and even the most seasoned of jetsetters will tell you that airports still make them nervous or they’re always scared they forgot to pack the right things. But it’s also one of those things where the more you do it the better you’ll get: you’ll know what to bring because you forgot it last time, or know what to do because you’ve done it once before. And whether you’re solo or with a friend, you’ll find that traveling will challenge you to push through your fears and see what you’re really capable of. 

Three people with a surfboard at HI San Diego Point Loma hostel

Seriously, there’s so much good stuff to see

We’ve mentioned it before, but America is really so big and diverse that traveling to a different state is almost as good as traveling to a different country. Each place has its own unique personality and offerings, so whether it’s art and pop culture in Los Angeles, finger-licking good barbecue in Texas, or stunning scenery in Yosemite National Park, there’s always something amazing and new to learn about this country. Plus, exploring America is kind of like exploring the world thanks to the people from different countries around the globe who’ve brought a taste of their home cultures to their adopted cities. 

Woman with bag at HI Point Montara Lighthouse

You can stay at hostels for a gateway to the world

Hostels are great for first-time travelers for many reasons. Firstly, because they’re an all-in-one shop for an excellent, affordable experience thanks to the free activities and locally inspired events. Plus, people from all over the world come to stay at hostels in America, so while you’re staying there, you’re bound to make friends with someone from somewhere new. Who knows? The connections you make can lead to more adventures around the world as you visit new friends in their own home countries. 


If you’re ready to take the plunge but don’t think you have enough funds, consider applying for HI USA’s Explore America travel scholarship. If you are between the ages of 18 and 30 years old, have limited (or no) experience traveling, and have a demonstrated financial need, you could qualify! Scholarship recipients receive $1,000 and free accommodation at HI USA hostels across the country for up to seven nights. Take a look and apply today!