The sign on Edgartown-West Tisbury Road is nondescript, as far as signs go. It is square, with a blue triangle painted on a white background; inside the blue triangle are pictograms of a tree and a house.

The triangle, the tree and the house mean the same thing all over the world — they are the symbols of Hostelling International. And while the locations of the symbols vary, appearing on everything from castles in Germany to log cabins in Alaska, the same things are found inside each building: food and a bed, yes, but also good company.

“What we like to say is that hostelling is really a way of traveling, not just a place to stay,” said Donnie Morgan, who has managed the Lillian Manter Memorial Youth Hostel for the past two years with her husband, Mike Gambone. The two are pros at the hostel lifestyle, having previously worked at hostels in Eastham and Buffalo, N.Y.; Ms. Morgan was also a staffer on the Vineyard from 2000 to 2001.

“You share a bunk room, you share a kitchen, you make meals together, you eat together, you share the common room,” she said. And, perhaps of equal importance, guests share experiences.

Where to go and what to do, the map says it all. — Ivy Ashe

The experiences are varied upon arrival, but once travelers toss their backpacks onto one of the 64 beds in the hostel, they become part of a tradition stretching back to 1942, when nine girls and three boys — all members of the American Youth Hostel Association — arrived from New York only to find that there was no hostel on the Island (the group was accommodated by the Home Service branch of the Red Cross for their stay). Six years later, Lillian Manter negotiated the use of the Navy’s bachelor quarters at the airport for hostelers; in 1955, when the quarters were leased to a new renter, Mrs. Manter donated her own land to the cause.

In addition to demonstrating Mrs. Manter’s generosity, the gesture also gave the Vineyard hostel the distinction of being the first purpose-built hostel in the country. Every other American hostel — and most hostels abroad — had been converted to their current function.

“It was almost like a barn raising,” said Ms. Morgan. “It was built by the community in, what, three weeks . . . that’s an amazing story [the building was described as “sprouting up like a mushroom” in a May 6, 1955 Gazette story].

The structure has been altered somewhat over the years — additions were built in the 1960s, and an on-site staff quarters was built in 1998, but the most notable changes to the hostel are in protocol.

According to a 1984 story: “Rules are strict: No one is to be in the building from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., and hostelers are limited to three or four nights in the place. No smoking in the dorms or the kitchen and no alcohol on the premises. Lights-out is at 10:30 p.m.”

Hostelers in the kitchen after breakfast. — Ivy Ashe

While smoking and alcohol remain prohibited, the other restrictions are gone.

“[For] people who’ve hosteled for a long time, their mind set is still, ‘Oop, out at ten, back at five,’ said Ms. Morgan. “But now, if you want to come back and grab something during the day, knowing that you can do that is nice.”

She added: “It just means the pace of the hostel is different from years ago.”

Ms. Morgan and Mr. Gambone are assisted by three part-time staffers — Erin Maddex, Pam Touhey, and Maddy Conlon — who do “everything,” said Ms. Maddex.

Everyone doing everything is a more traditional model for hostel staffing, said Ms. Morgan.

“There aren’t that many jobs where the customer service is so broad as to include being welcoming . . . but that also includes cleaning and doing laundry,” she continued. Because of the relative isolation of the hostel, one of the more important services is “making sure somebody gets on the right bus.

“That’s a big thing . . . Mike makes an announcement 10 minutes before each bus in the kitchen.”

The advent of the bus system on the Vineyard has been a boon to hostelers.

“They’re astonished [to learn it exists],” said Mr. Gambone.

“This is basically rural America,” added Ms. Morgan, “and we have a bus system. I think the foreign travelers probably appreciate that more, because [typically] . . . they’re mostly confined to the big cities, and they really want to get . . . off the beaten track. That’s pretty hard in the U.S. with the public transit situation the way it is now.”

In keeping with the 12 original New Yorkers who arrived with their bikes, however, cycling remains a popular way to arrive at the hostel and, in turn, see the Island. The hostel is situated perfectly for both serious cyclists, who can easily access the challenging up-Island roads, and amateurs, who can instead use the bike path that goes right through the backyard.

Cyclist father-daughter duo Kevin and Katie Looney of Dedham have been coming to the hostel since 1995, missing only last summer. They remember the days of doing chores at the hostel — “I used to have to feed the chickens in the morning,” recalled Katie — and of rooms being $15 a night (rates are now $33 per night). Katie, now 21, has brought friends along on the annual two-night stay; visiting the youth hostel is part of the pair’s summer traditions.

“There’s a great freedom here,” said Mr. Looney, describing cool nights riding the bus with the windows open, which juxtaposes perfectly with the sweltering conditions of the day the Looneys arrived for this year’s visit. “You’re on the Vineyard.”

And for those who have never been to the Vineyard and are overwhelmed by the options, well, that’s what the staff is for.

“It’s really fun to help people figure out how to spend an afternoon and then the next whole day” said Ms. Morgan.

“[It’s] probably the challenge and the thing we’re most proud of,” said Mr. Gambone. “[Making] the experience positive for the wide range of guests that we have — if it’s a group of 11-year-old cyclists from western Massachusetts, and then a group of codgers who want to be left alone — we try to inform them about what’s possible, and make their stay comfortable and clean, and keep them happy.”

“I just love meeting people from all over,” said Ms. Maddex, 24, who is returning for her second year at the hostel and arrived at her current position by “looking for a random adventure” after being out of college for a year.

“My favorite part is probably all the international kids from . . . Eastern Europe who come here to work for the summer,” she continued. “They stay here while they’re looking for housing, like usually for a week or two [no hostel stay can last more than two weeks, under Hostelling International regulations]. So I get to know them; most of them work at Stop and Shop, so I see them all around.”

In addition to running into former hostelers while running errands, Ms. Morgan and Mr. Gambone have also had the pleasure of seeing familiar faces from the past — they’ve had guests visit from their old hostels in Eastham and Buffalo.

“There are people who like to hostel so much, they just look at where the hostels are and [decide] that’s probably a good place to visit,” said Ms. Morgan.

Working at the hostel admittedly fuels wanderlust — Ms. Maddex traveled to Spain during the off-season last year, spending time in Madrid with a friend she’d met at the Vineyard hostel — which might seem a challenge during the busy summer season when the staff is Island-bound.

“We live vicariously through our guests,” said Mr. Gambone, smiling. “We travel all the time.”