What if I told you there was a way you could make your hard-earned travel money stretch, meet amazing people, and really intimately get to know a place. All of which are pretty standard travel goals.
Working while travelling is the key. And I’m not talking about the get a real job, visa, sponsorship, bank account, social security number, hassle and stress. Work in exchange for life’s basic needs; shelter and food. And it’s not the slavery it potentially sounds like. It’s some of the most rewarding and fun-inducing work you’ve ever taken on.
There are a broad spectrum of travel jobs you can get involved in along the way. Many require next to no skills, simply the right attitude and sleeves rolled at the appropriate length (up!). It’s sometimes about being in the right place at the right time and reimbursement varies. Some offer simply a bed, others meals, beverages, laundry, discounts, commissions, allowances, and bonuses. All offer life experience and friendships.
Many hostels, particularly those of the large and party variety often take on volunteers. You can use the skills that appear on your CV in the real world but most are looking for a high EQ. That is, customer service, like-ability, reliability, confidence, and strong social skills. You can be doing anything from making beds, manning reception, photography, social media management, blogging, guiding activities, bar work, cleaning, cooking…the list really does go on.
There are numerous ways to get a hostel volunteer gig.
Check their website and social media. Some hostels may list opportunities they have and what’s involved. This is pretty rare because most of the work isn’t exactly on the legal side of life. Don’t be surprised if you have to go from worker to guest mode lickety-split when the cops turn up. Note this is very rare and you won’t be the one to get in trouble but it is something to be aware of.
Get in touch. Call, email, Skype, Facebook, send a carrier pigeon. Let them know who you are and ask what they’ve got going on. It also helps to include a brief introduction, CV, photo and available working dates.
Rock up. If you really like a hostel you’re already staying at and they really like you, ask around and before you know it a free bed and roster will be yours.
Festival ground crew
Love a good festival? Who doesn’t. They go hand in hand with travel experiences. You can love it even more if it’s free. Put your hand up to volunteer at any of the big festivals. Try Topdeck Travel, Contiki, Pillow, PP Travel, and Stoke Travel for Oktoberfest, Pamplona Running of the Bulls, and La Tomatina. The potential lists are as big as Google. You can be involved with meet and greet, checking in, guiding, tent construction and maintenance, photography, and security.
Again, check out their websites, social media, and get in touch to see what’s coming up. Talk about a backstage pass!
Urban Dictionary describes WWOOFing as “When a young person throws caution to the wind, rejects their material possessions and travels the world working on organic farms for the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms organization. They pay for the plane ticket, but then have free room and board in exchange for backbreaking labor on an organic farm.”
“Have you heard from Elisha lately?”
“No, I heard she was Woofing on a Costa Rican Pineapple plantation.”
The good thing about backbreaking work? It’s the most satisfying. Basically World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms connect people who want to live and learn on smallholdings with a network people around the world who are looking for volunteer help. In exchange for hands on help, organic farm hosts offer volunteers food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyle.
It’s thing global, act local at it’s best. Get your feel goods on and WWOOF.
While it’s a sweet gig to not to be forking out accommodation money, volunteering is not for the faint hearted. Staff quarters are usually the worst of the room options. Think a 32-bed dorm is bad? You haven’t stepped into the chaotic staff room down the hall.
There’s some horror stories of people turning up to their host thinking they’re going to be teaching English to local children, only to be changing nappies and babysitting 24/7. People can lie on profiles. Do you research. Ask lots of questions. See if you can Skype them face to face.
Working somewhere for an extended amount of time, you can become a complacent traveller. It becomes all about shifts, and fun times at the hostel. Try to get out and see a bit.
Say goodbye to sleep. Or at least sleeping normal hours.
If you’re thinking about trying some volunteering, get involved. The benefits are boundless, especially for a long term or solo traveller.
Drinks are discounted for staff, and sometimes free. So is food. If your employer doesn’t provide food, it’s great to get together with other staff to pool for family meals.
You really get a feel for a place staying there longer than a few nights. You get the inside word on cool events and local haunts.
Say hello to readymade friends. Your coworkers are on the same page as you. Get ready for late night deep and meaningful conversations about the wonder of travel. These people will become your family. And you will never experience so much shit-talking in your life.