Volunteering abroad might garner mixed responses in the travel circuit. I was among the ones who are on the ‘confused’ side. However, after about 3 months of seeing a new hill, mountain, beach, lake, monument every single day, I wanted to take a break and just walk on the beach when I felt like and not have to look through hostels every two days.
Below are my experiences with volunteering abroad:
Montanita, Ecuador – Popular party hostel in a beach town:
How did I end up here: Recommendation from a fellow traveler
Responsibilities: Keeping track of Inventory (Beer, water, and cold drinks), check-in and check-out, mopping toilet floor (It’s not that bad), and other reception duties
Working hours: 5 hours a day on a fixed shift (Mine was 7 p.m. to midnight), 6 days a week
A lot of confusion and a night on the couch later, I was explained by the owner what all I was supposed to handle. It was all good minus the fact that nobody was even trying to be helpful the first day once the owner left and I couldn’t figure things out.
For two days, I fought my instinct to leave. I had two contradicting thoughts, one – this is the most I have come out of my comfort zone which is worth giving it a shot and isn’t travel all about that, two – do I really need to stay in such an environment when I could be traveling and choosing people I really want to spend my time with.
Eventually, I met some really nice fellow volunteers and decided to stay.
This place was nothing that I had expected. I was hoping to get things done on my blog and read a lot but it was such a busy hostel that I was either making conversation with fellow travelers or occupied at the reception desk.
The hostel folks didn’t have to do anything additional as volunteers got to stay in the hostel only when there was an extra bed available otherwise they slept in ‘volunteer house’ which to say the least wasn’t a pleasant place at all.
But when you’re in good company, nothing else matters. I was sleeping in the same room as my best friends there and that made me very happy. That’s what you need at the end of the day – People you love and who love you back around you.
I worked for 12 days straight, took a day off and then left for my next destination.
Final Say: You’re not really contributing to the society or anything but you’re not stealing a local’s job either which is what I used to think earlier. They are not going to hire anyone else for doing what you are doing anyway. Volunteers were there only to ease the workload of full time employees.
Mompiche, Ecuador – Camping area in a quiet beach town:
How did I end up here: Wrote to a couple of hostels in the town on their email id or website
Responsibilities: Just stay in the hostel for said number of hours
Working hours: 4 hours a day, 5 days a week
The owner here is the kindest hostel owner I have ever met. He would bring us fruits from his garden, would always come up for conversations, and really expected nothing but our presence in the camping area to attend to guests. But all the volunteers used to pick up jobs like cleaning the kitchen, garden, etc.
Although, it would have been a lot more constructive for me if there was wifi there. The environment was perfect to catch up on my writing.
Bogota, Colombia – Quiet hostel in the Capital city:
How did I end up here: Knocked on the hostel doors (Not pleasant at all)
Responsibilities: Reception desk with another volunteer
Working hours: 6 hours a day, 6 days a week
I would never choose a capital city for volunteering abroad but I had to. I was there to sort my documents after getting mugged in Bogota. It worked great to change my emotional status at that time, which is exactly what I was looking for.
Fortunately, the owner respected my opinions and gave me a free hand with the hostel. Learning wise, this was the best experience. I worked in the business development side, painted the hostel, put up new signs, brought new offers, basically whatever I could think of. I gave myself some targets and by the end of 2 months, I had achieved them. The most important one was improving the hostel rating on booking.com.
Working in a hostel is great if you want to meet people, get into the hostel industry, or get things done from one place like catching up on reading or writing.
Will I do it again? If the hostel folks are nice then for sure. It becomes difficult to appreciate new things when you are seeing things that leave you awestruck every single day.
Here is a fellow traveler – Priyanka’s experience of volunteering in Chile, teaching English.