Why We Hostel: Joanne Lam

23 February 2016

joanne lam

Why do I hostel? A question that I have to answer to on a regular basis, and yet, I still struggle to come up with a one liner. And that’s because there are so many reasons to why I hostel it’s hard to pinpoint just one. I hostel because of the unexpected encounters. I hostel to make new friends, to learn new cultures, and to share the stories we gain on the road to one another contributing to a more understanding and loving world. I hostel because it’s an important part of my travel experience. I was a stranger to hostelling merely a few years ago. It all started in Tallinn, Estonia. Unknown to the culture and norms of hostels, I sat awkwardly one night in the common area of my hostel unsure what to do, or who to speak to. I noticed some guests watching tv, some staring at their phones, and some speaking to one another. I’m naturally a social creature, and yet I was nervous to approach anyone. But the next thing I knew, the staff on duty, an Estonian local approached all of us and asked if we wanted to go for dinner and drinks. It didn’t take long for us, 15 guests exactly, to eagerly take up the offer to check out local grubs. The evening was full of laughter and conversations about ourselves, our cultures, and the world we live in. We connected through the common space of the hostel, and created a life-long friendship. That first experience showed me the power of hostelling. I immediately felt comfortable, felt at home, and was hooked to the experience of hostelling. Soon after, I arrived back in Boston for school and began interning with HI Boston. Since then, I have been an intern, a staff, and a volunteer with HI USA. There is something uniquely special about being in a hostel, surrounded by fellow travelers from all over the world, speaking different languages, all with the common goal of learning about one another and the place we’ve traveled to. Hostelling allows for conversations and actions that break down stereotypes and barriers between strangers. Every time I find myself in a hostel, I am immediately energized from the collective curiosity of one another from guests, staff, to volunteers. It is always such a joy to witness new friendships being formed, knowing that the more people hostel, the smaller our world will become. I hostel not only because of the power of travelers connecting, but also because of its power to bridge the gap between travelers and the local community. HI USA events such as Sleep for Peace for International Day of Peace, or volunteering for thanksgiving dinner allows for connection between travelers and the local community. At the end of the day, I believe travel is about learning the destination’s culture- and what better way to learn than through the local community? Above are simply a few of the reasons as to why I hostel. Most importantly, throughout my life, I have always lived by the motto: “Live to exist outside our bodies in the lives and thoughts of others.” Hostelling allows me to do just that. And that is why I hostel.