Seeking a manual on engaging in voluntary work at hostels? You're invited to explore this firsthand guide, where we provide personal insights and experiences. We've been coming across the enchantment of volunteering while on the move, and we're eager to spread the word because it offers a remarkable blend of relaxation, productivity, exploration, and meaningful connections with the local community that go beyond simply visiting popular tourist spots. We caught up with our current volunteer as he shares his experience.
I’m Guillaume, I’m 30 years old and I come from Nice, south of France. I studied computer science engineering for 5 years and just after my master’s degree I went travelling solo for the first time. I travelled for 8 months mostly in Ireland volunteering in farms, BnBs and hostels, loved it but after some time, I eventually grow tired of it and just wanted to settle. I came back home, worked for 2 years in my field but this travelling experience kind of changed my mindset about things and what I really wanted. Therefore I quit my job to find Something more down to earth, physical and closer to people. After some time, I ended up working at a market selling fruits and vegetables, then worked at an organic shop in charge of the fruits and vegetables section. I really liked it better than my desk job and did it for 2 years and 1⁄2. Now and after this strange Covid period, I wanted to experience travelling and volunteering again, I had some money aside and therefore I quit again my job to start this new session of volunteering. My plan is to eventually find a new place other than Nice to settle and actually live in a foreign country instead of volunteering.
2. Volunteering as a way of travelling. What inspired you to do it?
I just started travelling in Ireland and heard about websites from guests in the hostels I stayed where you could volunteer in many places and decided to give it a try. Now, it is my way of travelling, I love to be at least a month in a place and really discover the culture, language and meet new people from everywhere. I did it everywhere I went whether it was for a month vacation while working or in between jobs.
3. What challenges do you often face and how do you overcome them?
The biggest challenge is everytime to be able to adapt to the new volunteering opportunity whether it is in a farm or an hostel. To overcome this, the best way is to know what you want at the specific moment and ask questions before accepting the opportunity. In hostels, you have to deal with people so you have to be ready to spend time, talk to guests or volunteers and sometimes go out with them. Farms on the other hands are usually more lonely places where you spend time with the family, fewer volunteers and you need to be up for physical and outdoor activities. The second biggest challenge is to always see people come and go especially in hostels and this can be tough at the beginning since you bond with them whether they are guests or volunteers. With experience, you learn to accept this and do your best to enjoy as much as you can the moments you can share with them even though you might never see them again.
4. What advice would you give to those who are about to travel solo & volunteer?
Do it. Try solo before because it is the best way to know yourself truly, your boundaries and to be fully open to meet other people and new cultures. There are many websites to choose from, just look at the opportunities and sign up for the website that match most of the opportunities you like.
5. What’s your favorite hostel memory?
I spent a couple of weeks working in a tiny hostel at Baltimore, Ireland, we were only two volunteers to take care of the whole hostel, Carmen, a Spanish girl and me. Since the place was kind of remote, there was not a lot to do around, we could not leave the hostel unattended for too long and did not want to go out alone so we stayed together. We worked really well as a team, make the place clean and comfortable for the guests and when we had time we would go around gathering berries, baking carrot cakes for guests, playing some Scrabble (she would beat me everytime) or watching old movies together. It was a very special moment of pure bonding and friendship but eventually we parted ways, went back to our respective countries and went on with our lives.
6. Recommendations. Do’s & don’ts before and while travelling.
First of all, it is always good to start with some money aside because, depending on the opportunities especially hostels, you might have to buy food for your meals and you might want to be able to enjoy some of the local cuisine or be able to go out with guests or visit other cities around while there so save some money before travelling and volunteering. Second, you have to be serious and committed when you’re volunteering, do not expect that you’ll be hosted for free doing nothing, it is kind of a contract between you and the people hosting you, they are counting on you. Ask as much questions as you want so that everything is clear, in order to be independent and comfortable during your stay and that it feels like a routine. I’ve never had a bad experience so far while volunteering but it might happen, if so, find a backup plan and tell the hosts why you’re leaving. You’re a volunteer so you can leave whenever you want if it doesn’t fit your expectations but don’t do it too much though, learn from this and try to avoid this happening again. A lot of hosts have reviews so you might want to check these out before, choose a host well reviewed and ask a lot of questions. Enjoy your time while volunteering, it is the best time to learn new skills, languages, try many different things and gather experiences from that.
7. Everyone has a different idea of what personal development is and how they can achieve their own. What is you take on how volunteering abroad can help with personal development? What is your experience?
Travelling is about getting out of your comfort zone, it can be scary at first but this is how you better know yourself, by experiencing new things and learn from that what you can do, not do and maybe find what you want to do in your life. For example, I’ve never set foot in a farm before travelling so I was a bit scary at first, it was hard sometimes because life usually is on a farm especially with animals and you can experience life and death situations (a sad failed donkey pregnancy for my part) but it was very interesting and I went out of this volunteering opportunity with a very different perspective about things, a changed man if you like. Another example is a volunteering opportunity I had at an eco-camp in a remote area of Ireland with no running water or electricity. The volunteers would sleep in Tipi, we would wash our clothes and ourselves in this cold pond created by a river and gather wood to cook food for our every meals. I was skeptical at first about living off-grid like this but in the end, I absolutely loved it, we would all gather after our work in this big round wooden cabin with the fire in the middle, reading, playing music and I discovered a new passion of mine there, modern board games like Catan or Carcassonne. Now I have a whole shelf of board games back home including Catan and Carcassonne and I might try to make this big hobbie of mine into a job somewhere at some time.
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