Frequently Asked Questions

A Commemorative Postage Stamp Honoring the
100th Anniversary of Hostelling

Why honor the 100th anniversary of hostelling with a postage stamp?

Because of the domestic and worldwide impact of hostelling on furthering international understanding. Since 1909, hostelling has served more than 1.3 billion overnight hostel stays to travelers. In 2005 alone, more than 34 million overnights were hosted in about 4000 hostels in 85 countries. In the United States, nearly one million overnights by travelers from over 100 countries were welcomed in 2005 – with about 40 percent domestic users. Hostelling makes a notable and unique contribution to intercultural exchange, domestically and globally.

How does hostelling contribute to intercultural exchange?

The design of a hostel building encourages interaction, and hostel programs reinforce it. Hostels are shared accommodations that by their design facilitate exchange. Common rooms, kitchens and dormitories all encourage camaraderie among the people of different backgrounds and cultures who stay there. Organized programs enhance the cross-cultural experience.

Who founded hostelling?

Hostelling was founded in 1909 by Richard Schirrmann, a German schoolteacher. Feeling the impact of the industrial revolution, Schirrmann grew worried about the effects to the health and welfare of his students. Schirrmann’s vision of a “wandering school”, which contained the early seeds of experiential learning, has grown into an international movement of over 4000 hostels worldwide.

Americans Isabel and Monroe Smith discovered hostels while leading scout troops through Europe. The Smiths established American Youth Hostels in 1934 and launched its first organized hostels. The organization’s name has since been changed to Hostelling International USA (HI-USA) to express its international connection and inclusiveness of people of all ages.

How has hostelling evolved?

The founding purpose of the hostelling movement was to preserve access to the natural world for students and other travelers. It wasn’t long before hostels dotted the landscape, providing warmth, safety and companionship to thousands of travelers, encouraging more people to venture out and explore the countryside.

Yet as violence between countries escalated through successive World Wars, Schirrmann and other founders observed travelers from different regions and disparate backgrounds, cultures and beliefs forming friendships as they spent time together in hostels. The unique environment and communal atmosphere of the hostels allowed people to overcome their differences and reach greater levels of understanding.

“Building peace through international friendship” emerged as a core value of hostelling.

Have other countries recognized the contributions of hostelling by issuing a postage stamp?

Yes. The governments of Australia (1989), Germany (1952 and 1956), India (1998), Ireland (1981), Japan (1967 and 1992), and Sweden (1985) all believed hostelling important enough to merit commemorative postage stamps. The United States has not yet. But we hope that will change in 2009!

What artistic designs have other countries used for hostelling postage stamps in the past?

Hostelling is a wonderful topic for a postage stamp because it lends itself to a range of visually appealing designs. To view past hostelling postage stamps, visit the Hostelling Stamp Gallery.

Are other countries considering hostelling postage stamps in 2009?

Yes. Tens of millions of people worldwide have had their perspectives widened and outlooks changed due to hostelling. In other countries around the globe, these advocates simultaneously are approaching their own postal authorities and requesting issuance of a postage stamp for their own countries.

How are postage stamps selected for the USA?

A Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee is tasked with reviewing all postage stamp proposals. The Advisory Committee has 15 members from a wide range of professions. Each year it recommends a mix of 25-30 stamp topics that are educational and interesting. The Postmaster General makes the final decision.

How do I express my support for a hostelling postage stamp?

Sign your name to the on-line petition that soon will be presented to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee. Or better yet, write your own letter of support. Send your letter to:

Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee
Stamp Development
United States Postal Service
1735 North Lynn Street, Room 5013
Arlington, VA 2209-6432

When will the final selection be made?

The U.S. Postal Service does not advise if a subject has been approved until a general announcement is made to the public. The general announcement for 2009 issues will be made in late 2008. In the meantime, visit this web site for progress reports.

top ^