We’ve all been there: scrolling through photos of beaches in Bali and temples in Thailand on our Instagram feeds, all while sitting at our desks eating last night’s leftovers from a Tupperware container. If you’re reading this, then you’re no stranger to the fantasy of quitting your job and boarding the next plane out of the country. But if you can’t become a digital nomad and you’re not particularly enthusiastic about teaching English, this dream can seem entirely unattainable. How would you make money? How would you meet people? Where would you go? As it turns out, there’s one option for long-term travel you may have never considered. One option that could possibly allow you to travel for months, or even years: volunteering at hostels. Here are just a few reasons why hostel volunteering could be your ticket to the adventure of a lifetime.
1. Live on the cheap.
You don’t need to have a bottomless savings account to travel the world. In fact, you’ll rarely meet the token trust fund kid while you’re living on the road. Volunteering at hostels allows you to travel while living on a shoestring budget. For starters, you won’t be spending a ton of money on hotel rooms like you may have done on previous trips. Hostels typically provide volunteers with a free place to crash during their stay in exchange for help with things like entertaining guests, cleaning, check-ins, and running bar crawls. Some hostels will even offer you free food and drinks while you’re on the job as well. And you can forget the cost of daily tours—you’ll be running them! Hostel volunteers are often charged with showing the guests a good time, and this includes joining them on fun adventures in your area. In the end, if your budget is your primary concern, it doesn’t have to be. Hostel managers are happy to hook you up with side gigs to help you make a little extra cash during your off-hours. Just make sure to choose a destination where the cost of living is relatively cheap, and you can live for next to nothing!
2. Find your crew.
Traveling alone for the first time can be daunting for anyone. If there’s one thing all solo travelers learn quickly, though, it’s that you’re never really “solo” for long. Backpackers tend to gravitate toward hostels because they’re the best places to meet like-minded people who are up for going on tours and exploring with them. This means you’ll meet new people from around the world every single day when you’re volunteering. And don’t worry about finding a drinking buddy to enjoy the nightlife with—there’s no shortage of opportunities for you. Many hostels ask their volunteers to run bar crawls and bring their guests out on the town. No matter where you land, you’ll inevitably find a crew of fellow backpackers in no time at all.
3. Dive into the culture.
One of the best parts about traveling the world is immersing yourself in new cultures—from blindly ordering off a foreign menu, to fumbling through a new language, to just experiencing a new way of living. However, it isn’t always so easy to dive into a culture when you’re completely surrounded by other travelers. This is where hostel volunteering can make all the difference. When you work for a local business, you will have the rare opportunity to work with and befriend the people who are native to the country you’re visiting. You’ll meet plenty of locals who are open to chatting with you, teaching you their customs, and having a laugh while they correct your pronunciation. As a hostel volunteer, you’ll also be able to spend quality time in one location. This is where you can really get to know the area like the back of your hand—finding all the best local eats and discovering which markets will give you the best deal. You’ll no longer just be another backpacker passing through. You’ll be a familiar face, a resident. That’s when you’ll really have the chance to know the country you’re living in.
4. Share your passions.
For hostels, one of the benefits of accepting backpacker volunteers is that they bring their skills with them. This is definitely an opportunity you shouldn’t pass up. How often do you have a boss that encourages you to bring your hobbies into the workplace? If you’re a musician, bring your guitar and put on a show for the common area. Perhaps you’re a certified yoga instructor—hostel-goers would love to sign up for sunrise classes on the rooftop. Or maybe you want to save the environment—organize a beach cleanup and make it happen! If you want to try something new or take your career in a new direction, you can almost always incorporate it into your time as a hostel volunteer. Like any travel experience, hostel volunteering is what you make it. Therefore, if you want to focus on your passions while you travel the world, hostel volunteering could be the perfect venue for you to do so.
5. Inspire your next adventure.
Whether you’re looking for your next travel destination, or considering the next steps in your career, there’s no greater source of inspiration than your fellow travelers. As a hostel volunteer, you’ll meet countless backpackers who will transform your travels—and your life—in ways you never could have predicted. At one moment, you could be discussing a country you never even considered visiting, and, in the next, you might find yourself booking a ticket to go horse camping in Kyrgyzstan or trekking in Peru. You’ll exchange ideas with entrepreneurs who have opted out of the usual 9-to-5 work week, only to discover you want to do something entirely different as well. All in all, hostel volunteering could lead you to new adventure buddies, new business partners, and entirely new possibilities you never knew existed.