Monday, February 10, 2014
For globetrotting backpackers
The idea was born in the early 20th century. Richard Schirrmann, a school teacher in Westphalia proposed the idea of creating economical accommodation for young people after his class and he were forced to bunk in barns, or in village school buildings, when they were out on a school trip. The idea took shape with the first such hostel in his own town, Altena, with a part of the Altena castle being set aside for travelling youth. That was in 1912, and over the next century, the movement has grown to cover about 70 countries. That first youth hostel continues to be operational even today, though you cannot book online.
Almost every state in India has its own youth hostel association, affiliated to the Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI). The hostel in Chennai seems quite well provided for; though I don't know anyone who has actually stayed there, the general ambience and upkeep of the place seem to indicate that it does serve the purpose it was meant for quite adequately. On most days, there is little activity around the buildings, but then you will see a bunch of boisterous students having fun at their hostel.
Globally, Hostelling International is a charity organization and the Indian arm is also registered as non-profit social body. The website of the YHAI says that membership will make you a globetrotter. The very purpose of the Youth Hostels is to provide safe accommodation to backpackers. Put the two together and off you go with the world in your backpack!