Hostelling - A Short History
The concept of hostelling has been around forever, but the movement as we know it started in 1907, when a German school teacher named Richard Schirrmann cleared out some classrooms and laid down some straw mats so that "thoughtful young people of all countries could be provided with suitable meeting places where they could get to know each other!"
It used to be that youth hostels had only dormitory-style arrangements reserved for youth. A chore was assigned (usually involving a clean-up task) to offset the low cost of the bed.
Well, there are still dorms and some rural hostels still require a chore--but things have changed. No longer are hostels only for the young, and most places have double rooms available. You'll still share a bath in most cases, however.
Hostelling is a Big Business Now
From its humble beginnings, hostelling has blossomed into a big-time business. Huge directories of world hostelling resources have sprouted on the web and estimates of the number of hostels around the world range from 4,000 to 5,000. A list of the best directories is found in our Hostel Links. These have been chosen not only for their breadth of European Hostel information, but for each website's ease of navigation and download speed as well.
Consider an Independent Hostel Tour of Europe
Along with easy-to-use web directories, at least one company has come up with what looks to be the ideal way to see Europe cheaply and independently. Based on the concept of a single bus line on a monster scale--that is a fleet of buses that circulate through 66 cities in Europe going from hostel to hostel stop--you can plan a whole vacation from a single website.
Bussabout Europe has a superb web site offering the traveler the ability to acquire bus passes (in a flexible array of durations) and make reservations at the hostel/camping sites served by the buses along their route. They also offer a forum in which folks planning travel can meet, exchange notes, or find a travel partner.
What Stuff You'll Need to Stay in a Hostel
- In many cases you might want to make sure you're traveling light, and that you have a day pack in which you can cram all your valuables.
- You may wish to purchase a Hostelling International Membership but this isn't really necessary.
- You'll probably need to carry soap and a towel.
- You might want to carry a sleep-sheet. That's two sheets sewn together to make a self-contained sleep sack. I've used a double sheet and simply sewed up the bottom and side edges. Some hostels do provide sheets and many will rent you a sleep-sheet, but renting kinda defeats the purpose of traveling cheap, doesn't it?