On a recent visit to Los Angeles, I met with no less than three London residents who had also decided to travel to California. My trip took place in early spring, a time when most American college students or twenty-somethings crowd the same beaches and cheap motels in Florida for Spring Break. But these millennials were different. Not only were they not traveling in a herd, they had completely open mentality towards international travel.
This was my first visit to a hostel and I was a little nervous, but as I was soon to learn, staying in hostels is the preferred mode of accommodation for young Europeans.
I met Harry* at the morning breakfast. We bonded over our mutual love of tea. A young doctor from London, he was in town simply because he had never been to Los Angeles before. Traveling solo, he was excited about meeting different people. Quite a few German and Dutch travelers were also staying in the hostel, who were mostly very young people. Harry informed me that the price of the hostel was exorbitant in comparison to far better appointed hostels in Europe. We had several involved conversations about traveling, in general. He sincerely had no qualms about traveling the globe and expected to travel even more in the near future. The next day he was off to another hostel to continue exploring California.
Emma was also staying in the same hostel. She was a fitness instructor from London visiting L.A. to explore the local fitness scene and incorporate some trends into her own fitness classes. Emma became my guardian, of sorts. Tall, lean, and with flowing blonde hair, she resembled a typical California beach babe. I was stunned when she greeted me with a strong West End accent! We walked around the area on several impromptu “tours”. I have to admit she was much more adventurous than I was. She was simply fearless in exploring every street, bolding wandering into any shop that caught her eye. It was her first visit to L.A. and like Harry she had come on her own and was having a great time meeting new people.
On one of our excursions into downtown Venice, we ran into Leona, a young woman who had just relocated to Los Angeles from England with her husband. Meeting her was an extraordinary coincidence and turned into an extended lunch as she and Emma exchanged their initial L.A. -vs- London impressions. Leona was thrilled with her new life in Los Angeles. An opportunity had arisen in her company to relocate and she decided to go for it. We all laughed over the fact that I was dying to move to London while Emma was clearly reluctant to return to England.
Quite a few of my relatives have lived in England for several generations. My younger cousins also travel frequently, exploring parts of the globe that many American millennials have never heard of and probably can’t pronounce. They have inherited their parents’ suspicion of “foreign” places and dislike venturing beyond familiar American hotspots, like Florida. While American millennials languish in their parents’ basements, they could be trying to live abroad and take advantages of opportunities for young, open-minded Americans with a taste for international flavor.
The younger British generation seems to harbor far less of the racial and travel prejudices than their American counterparts. They have an open, enterprising nature and don’t mind traveling over 5,000 miles to places where they have no friends or family.
It was refreshing to be around individuals who weren’t just trying to “network”, barhop, or see what you can do for them. These young British travelers journey simply for the experience of meeting new people and stretching themselves socially. I am still connected with the Brits I met via social media, however I’ve already lost touch with the majority of the Americans I met while on vacation.
In my own life, I had never considered staying in a hostel before and only did so to save money. However, now that I have been influenced by these fearless British millennials, I view hostels as a viable alternative to expensive hotels. A former schoolmate of mine recently stayed at the Generator hostel in Paris. She raved about it. It is far more modern and luxurious than my American hostel, as nice as any hotel, and very affordable.
So it seems an informal exchange program is underway where young, travel minded Brits are eager to see America and fearlessly discover new people and places. Those of us lucky enough to meet them experience the same youthful savoir-faire and diversity of culture and mindset that London is famous for.
Much focus has been on the problems facing American Millennials. Perhaps it’s time we focus on globe-trotting European youth, who have learned the secret of survival in a globalized world -get out there and explore.
*names changed for privacy