I know what some of you are thinking… hostels.
People’s thoughts on hostels will of course vary.
The first being the enthusiasts, the fun seekers, always on the hunt for a fun night out and a cheap place to crash the morning after.
The solo travellers looking to make friends and immerse themselves into the countries local lifestyle and culture.
The long-term travellers passing through looking to save a little cash on the side.
Lastly there’s the doubtfulls, the ones who simply shudder at the thought of sharing a dorm with strangers, envisioning hair riddled plug holes, loud snoring and drunken sex.
All I can say is don’t be fooled by the movie ‘Hostel’- embedding us with the false impression that all hostels are sleazy, dirty and dangerous.
In 99% of cases this simply isn’t true.
All is required of you is a little common sense and research. Scoping out the legitimacy of a place by checking out the reviews and chatting with other travellers.
But all this aside, I want to talk about hostels from a slightly different approach, having visited, lived and worked in hostels, I’ve compiled a list of 10 Reasons (from experience) why everybody should try working or volunteering at hostel at least once.
1. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to the travel and hospitality industry
Whether in your home country or abroad, bagging a job at a hostel really is a great way to introduce yourself to the world of travel and hospitality. You will gain first hand experience on the basics of what this industry involves such as customer service, communication, organisation and on the job specific training such as reception/admin, housekeeping and tour guiding.
For most hostel jobs, particularly entry level roles, prior experience is not always a requirement as training is often given on the job.
However a few basic traits will get you far, if you have great people skills, know the basic functionalities of using a computer or dont mind picking up a mop now and again, then you’re already there.
Tip* Always take the time to research the country you intend to visit/work beforehand, as work and visa rules will apply for certain visitors.
I would also research hostels in advance and contact accordingly. A well thought out cover letter or even a speculative letter will really help you stand out. (This too can apply for any role) Chat with fellow travellers and look up local job boards in your desired area for open positions.
Ask around at the hostel, chat with the staff to learn how they did it, any advice is great advice.
Sign up for Workaway or Worldpackers and set up a personal profile with a little about you, your travel goals and where you plan to visit.
Do as you would when looking for a role back home. Research the country/location, the ‘company’ and role itself.
2. Heavily discounted or even Free Accommodation
Not every hostel will offer the same perks but that shouldn’t discourage you. Every experience counts and doesn’t have to be your ‘forever job’.
Some hostels may choose to offer accommodation in exchange for labour and can come forms such as;
a) Free accommodation in exchange for XYZ amount of hours of paid work + Free food/Staff discounts.
b) Free accommodation, food and staff discounts for volunteers and interns in exchange for temporary voluntary work.
c) No accommodation offered but paid work and in some cases staff discounts.
These are the most common cases I’ve come across when meeting other people who have worked/volunteered at hostels.
The last hostel I worked at didn’t include accommodation but it was a paid job and was offered a lot of perks.
My first hostel job however was a live in role which included pay, my accommodation was deducted from my pay check each week at a reduced rate.
Either way you think about it, each option does provide an opportunity to save money to an extent.
Even if there is no accommodation included, at least the money you are earning is paying for your stay which means you don’t have to touch your savings.
If you bag a paid job in exchange for free accommodation then your laughing!
If money isn’t an issue but you would still to help out, then volunteering is definitely a great way to go.
It’s really what you make of it. Either way your gaining new skills, making great new friends and bagging some great references.
Plus extending the duration of your travels! Win!
3. A very fair work and life balance
Unlike other travel and hospitality jobs (like Cruise Ships for example), you’re not stuck with the usual drudgery of a strict routine. Shifts at the hostel will come in all varying lengths and hours, you may work breakfast service for 3 hours a day or maybe night reception over the weekend.
The hours I find at hostels are much more forgiving and still allow you time to have a life outside of work as well as down time to relax.
From my own experience of working on-board a cruise ship, do your homework! If you’re looking for a well balanced work and social life on-board and an actual oportunity to travel, I wouldn’t bother… unless your up for working 12 hour days, 7 days a week for 6 to 9 months a year I wouldn’t recommend it. Days off don’t exist in the world of the ordinary seaman and you literally get zero time to get off the ship and explore new places….. but I’ll save this for another post.
Work and life balance within the hostels are where it’s at and sometimes you don’t even need to go far, you’ll always be guaranteed days off and there’s always something going on such as parties, games nights and group tours which take place nearby.
4. It will open your mind.
When starting any new job at a hostel you really need to enter this world with an open mind.
You will meet such a diverse range of people, each traveller bringing their own unique perspectives on life, such as politics, religion and culture.
Everybody will have an opinion but it is crucial to approach everybody with respect.
You will learn so much I promise you!
5. It will open up new employability opportunities and great references
The world is an open classroom.
The list is endless on the transferrable skills you will learn… Communication, Customer Service, Time Management, Budget/Financial Planning, Organisational Skills, Multitasking, Languages.
This is just scratching the surface.
Eventually for those of us who do decide to return home you may worry if you’ll still be employable after taking so much time out after travelling.
The answer is YES.
You’ll be a much more well rounded and educated person for it. Showcase you’re awesomeness! (Don’t be cocky) Sell yourself and your achievements, talk about those volunteering projects you did, how you taught somebody a new language, learned how to cook etc.
Tip* By keeping your new and existing skills relevant with projects and temp work you can bag yourself some solid references to present to your potential employer when you get back.
6. You will hear and see it all.
From drunks asleep in hallways to accidently walking in on frisky backpackers in the toilets. Literally nothing will phase or shock you anymore. You will have seen and heard it all.
Not all nights are carnage but you will still look back and laugh about it afterwards and believe me you will have such a laugh with your colleagues about it too.
You will become the master of ordering beers in half a dozen languages. (and obligatory swear words)
You will meet people of all languages, some of which will ask you to help them with their English.
Alternatively you may be interested to brush up on your own language skills too, take advantage of this. The best place to learn a language is to immerse yourself in that country and engage with native speakers you meet.
(By the way if you’re reading this Carlos, I’m happy to transfer to Lisbon with you but you’ll have to help me with my Portugese 😉) haha!
8. You will meet amazing people and make friends with colleagues and travellers from all over the world
I don’t even need to sell this point, it’s obvious! Amazing right?
9. Live like a local
By spending an extended amount of time in one place, this will really help you gain a feel for the location and lifestyle.
I’ve often met travellers who have bounced back and forth between staying and working in the same few hostels, just so they could stay and learn more about a place.
Becoming a home away from home tour guide, mastering maps by memory and impressing locals with your efforts and knowledge.
Eventually over time they have built close bonds and friendships with locals and even being invited over to their homes.
I’ll never forget my time spent in Hungary, I met with an old friend from Singapore who had recently moved to Budapest for university, we met and I was introduced to her friend who was a Hungarian native, she was so kind in inviting us round for dinner.
Cooking us traditional Hungarian goulash and enjoying a bottle of wine together whilst sitting on the apartment balcony. Memories.
I extended my stay at the nearby hostel I was staying in by offering to help with housekeeping in exchange for an extra couple of weeks.
10. You’ll learn to say goodbye but you’re okay with it.
People will come and go, some you you will miss, others not so much but the experiences and memories will stay with you and I can guarantee you will return home a completely different person. (In a good way)
Or… you could just keep going and move onto the next hostel. 😉
To sum up, you will see the world but more importantly see it differently too.
So what are your thoughts, would you consider working in a hostel?
Let me know in the comments below.
Happy and safe travels xo