Travel for young people has been greatly simplified in 21st Century. Youth travelers are the recipients of benefits from the growth of an idea begun 101 years ago.
At the turn of the 20th Century, travel was real adventure. Huge portions of our planet has yet to see the footprint of man; certain tribes had yet to be encountered; travel and tourism infrastructure was severely limited and expensive. In short, travel was an “expedition” and restricted to the wealthy.
But travel was truly a grand adventure! It only began to fade towards the end of the 1970′s.
The first “Youth Hostel” was conceived by Richard Schirrmann, a German teacher who organized trips and excursions for his students.
The idea of creating Youth Hostels came when a rainstorm forced his group to take shelter in a schoolhouse. In 1909, Schirrmann began using schools closed for summer vacation to house young travelers.
Our Toronto hostel is a direct descendent of this early vision. But how much has changed in a century!
Even as late as the 1980′s most hostels were “youth” oriented an imposed age restrictions on guests. Books were written with titles like, “Europe on $5 a Day” – eventually increased to $10 , then $20 etc.
Age restrictions no longer apply. (See earlier entry: “8 Months to 80 Years” – 10/6/2010)
Today, travel is much easier and backpackers who were once adventurous iconoclasts seeking greener pastures have given away to a sub-culture in which travel/backpacking is almost a modern rite of passage.
Low-cost air travel, backpacker’s inns providing budget accommodation in remote and exotic locales and a lowered age of majority in many countries have altered the zeitgeist of backpacking.
Is it better today than it was say the backpacking of the ’60 an ’70′s? Absolutely – in many, many ways.
Travel is easier. Travel is cheaper. Travel is arguably safer too. Working/holiday visas are easily obtainable. Paths are well-worn and explored.
Forty or fifty years ago you could recognize fellow travelers/backpackers when they sat in a cafe smoking cigarettes from back home; or sat reading the International Herald Tribune; or pouring over maps while eating fast-food burgers.
Today it is more common to meet in public bars operated by hostels in hostels. So many want to “Do Europe” or “Do America” aor “Do Asia” etc.
Yes. Backpacking today is easier. It is more convenient. It is much less expensive.
But we’ve somehow lost the fierce independent spirit of early backpackers. There still exists “roads less traveled” and adventurous travelers who would see them out.
Our best advice to backpackers of the 21st Century. You’ll have plenty of years left to abuse your livers; but, there’s a whole wide world out there for you to explore. So go and grab a piece of it while you are young!
(See previous entry:”Tony the Tiger – Published!“ 10/29/2010)
“Two For the Road” in the 21st Century.
Hippies “Backpacking” in Amsterdam circa 1965.