Friday, August 12, 2016

Youth hostels are giving older travelers a bigger bang for their bucks

Hostels aren't just for the youth anymore. They're for anyone who's young at heart.
Hi-New York

Regardless of whether or not you live on a fixed income, unless you're Donald Trump, nobody should want to spend more money than they have to for something they can get cheaper elsewhere. With the price of a night's lodging on the rise at even moderately priced hotels, older travelers are seeking an alternative, and some have found it in youth hostels.
Now don't let the word "youth" turn you away. The "youth" part has been dropped from the name because hostels aren't just for youth anymore. Hostels have been attracting increasing numbers of older adult travelers who are discovering what the youth have known all along— hostelling is a great way to see the world and not spend a fortune doing it (Sorry, Mr. Trump). Although still a primary destination for a younger generation, hostels are attracting an older clientele with their ideal locations, low cost and convenience.

I'll let you in on a little secret. I am a converted hosteler. Those who know me may be shocked that I would even consider sleeping in a hostel environment (pun intended). To be honest, when I first decided to try hostelling, I was somewhat apprehensive about what to expect. But I didn't go in cold, and neither should you. I did my homework, looked at websites, and read hostel reviews prior to booking. During a trip to Chicago, I actually checked out of my hotel early just so I could spend one night in a hostel to try it out. My first night at the Hi-Chicago hostel, the staff served up a complimentary meal of Chicago-style hot dogs. From that point on, I was hooked on hostels.

Whatever misgivings, reluctance or fears you may have about hostels, I urge you to keep an open mind. Hostels have grown up, and more importantly, spruced up, as travel writer, Alex Schechter, points out:
Forget the typical hostel clich├ęs of cramped rooms, messy bathrooms, and lackluster design. As hotels show across-the-board improvements in their amenities, public spaces, and digital capabilities, so too are hostels catching up to the times with contemporary designs, upgraded facilities, centralized locations, and dedicated concierge staff.
Forget about the glam and glamour because you won't find it in most hostels. What you will find are clean, comfortable, safe accommodations in some great places for far less than what most hotels charge. Hostels offer a dormitory style sleeping arrangement, which means you could be sharing a room with other people (Sound a little creepy? I thought so too, at first). Room sharing configurations can have as few as four or as many as 12 beds to a room, depending on the size of the hostel. But if room-sharing bothers you, many hostels also have private rooms, which will cost you a little more. If you are traveling with family members, you can all share the same room or suite. Unlike a hotel, you won't get room service in a hostel. Instead, most hostels have fully equipped kitchens for you to store and prepare your own meals. Some hostels include a continental breakfast in the room charge, or may have an on-site cafe where you can purchase meals. These comments are from a veteran hosteler:
I was quite anxious before I had stayed in a hostel for the first time. I was concerned about the safety of my belongings and how easy it would be to meet people in each one I stayed. But the more I traveled, the more I realized hostels really are for everybody. They’re for people from all social backgrounds, from all parts of the world, all walks of life and all ages. If you’re concerned that your age puts hostels out of your reach, I’ve two words for you – don’t be.—Colm Hanratty
If you like making new friends, hostels are a great way to meet travelers from other countries. On a recent visit to New York, I stayed at the Hi-New York City hostel where I met Marie from Martinique and Virina from Germany, who I gifted with a copy of the New Testament. Both women are staying in hostels as they travel throughout the U.S. I also met Ben from Ghana. I didn't see my roommates very much, but I do know they were from Brazil, Australia and Sweden. For their part, hostels try to foster a sense of community among the guests through organized activities like city tours, pub crawls, comedy nights, movies and pizza parties. Participation is voluntary.

There are many hostels located in cities throughout the U.S. and around the world. Think of someplace in the world you'd like to go. You might be surprised to learn that there is at least one hostel there, maybe more. An easy way to find out is to do an online search at Hostelling International and Hostelworld, two of the largest hostel booking and membership sites. Between these two websites, you'll find thousands of hostel listings in places like—New Orleans, Miami Beach, San Diego, London, Paris, Portugal, China, Africa, The Netherlands—just to give you an idea of what's out there.

Well, I've just about said all that I can on the subject. It's now up to you to decide if hostelling is for you. As for me, I'm off to book my next hostel adventure in Miami Beach. Until next time, Hostel la vista, baby.
When you were young, you were able to do as you liked and go wherever you wanted to; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and others will direct you and take you where you don’t want to go.—John 21:18 TLB

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Why "Black Lives Matter" is a win-win for us all

The colonial history, the legacy of enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism, and racial inequality in the US remains a serious challenge as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent.—Statement by the United Nations on Racism in the U.S. 

Recently, I had a conversation with a Jewish man in which I compared the enslavement of Jews in Egypt to the ordeal of Africans in America whose ancestors were brought to this country in chains and sold into slavery. I asked him how Jews have been able to transcend their own enslavement. He admitted that slavery for Africans in America was 10 times worse than for Jews in Egypt. He went on to say that one thing that helped Jews move beyond their past was the fact that the old slave generation died out in the wilderness, and was replaced by a new generation that knew no slavery. They got a new start, so to speak.

Africans in America a.k.a blacks are not there yet. A legacy of slavery still mars generations of blacks who continue to be marginalized by American society despite the anomaly of electing a black president in 2008. The United Nations recently took note that black people in the U.S. still face daily reminders of their slave past, even generations later, in the form of subtle and sometimes not so subtle societal discrimination, inequality, injustice and racism that is exclusively based on their skin color. Unlike Jews, blacks can't hide who they are, not that they should have to. It's America's image of black people, and blacks own self-image that must change. For that to happen, hearts must also change.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. —Ezekiel 36:26
The growing controversy over the Black Lives Matter movement sends a clear signal that hearts need to be transformed on both sides. Some have chosen to view Black Lives Matter as negative, divisive and racist, even though the movement's founders have stated otherwise:
#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important–it means that black lives, which are seen as without value within a white supremacy [structure in America], are important to your liberation. Given the disproportionate impact state violence has on black lives, we understand that when black people in this country get free, the benefits will be wide reaching and transformative for society as a whole...   
This is why we call on black people and our allies to take up the call that black lives matter. We’re not saying black lives are more important than other lives, or that other lives are not criminalized and oppressed in various ways.  We remain in active solidarity with all oppressed people who are fighting for their liberation and we know that our destinies are intertwined.—Black Lives Matter statement of purpose
In times past, when blacks in the U.S. organized to achieve parity within the bounds of the majority white society, such groups were targeted for destruction by the government, and their leaders neutralized—i.e. Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Whitney Young, Martin Luther King Jr., George Jackson, Fred Hampton, Angela Davis and Huey Newton, And so it is with the new Black Lives Matters movement, purposely labelled a terrorist group by some to set the stage for its eventual demise like all the others before it. And that could happen unless America changes course and is convinced of the positives that could come from embracing its racially divided past, righting the many wrongs it's done to blacks, and opening the door to economic opportunities for this oppressed group. Telling blacks they should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps while you still have your boot on their necks holding them down is disingenuous. When Black Lives Matter, we all benefit, and we all matter.

Undoubtedly, blacks must also be accountable for their own actions. For Black Lives Matter to really matter, the black community has to come together and police itself. Black futures are being decimated by self inflicted wounds from black-on-black crime, drug addiction and trafficking, illiteracy, joblessness, juvenile delinquency and a broken family structure of single parent households. Not that these things aren't occurring in other communities, but the numbers for blacks are out of proportion to their percentage in the population. Destructive forces, counter-productive attitudes and behaviors within the black community need to be called out and stopped no matter who's doing it. No longer should those persons committing crimes against black people be ignored and given safe haven to do more harm. If Black Lives Matter they must matter first within the black community, and to their own people.
if they pray to me and repent and turn away from the evil they have been doing, then I will hear them in heaven, forgive their sins, and make their land prosperous again.—2 Chronicles 7:14
But it doesn't stop there. Likewise, good-hearted whites must not keep silent when racism continues rear its ugly head in private or public conversations, within institutions, media reporting, commercial images, jokes, comments and so on. To do so only serves to perpetuate and pass down the vestiges of prejudice that divide this country. For America to be made whole, blacks and whites must coalesce to expose and root out the bad apples among us.  No doubt it will take a committed village to do it, but it's not an impossible task. In the end, it will be worth it, and a win-win for the generations to come.