For a lot or people working while on a holiday sounds a little unreasonable. I for one can certainly relate – you’ve booked your time away and the very last thing on your mind is figuring out how to swindle your way into some work while overseas. Most normal people have saved enough money to live comfortably for the entire length of their trip anyway, why would you bother working? As an experienced …travel… worker (?) I see it as a handy tool that can be used for long term travel or an alternative way to experience a foreign country on the cheap. In general most people won’t have the convenience of a steady income whilst traveling and most wouldn’t have saved enough money to go out and discover the world for a few years, so working or volunteering is an essential piece of the perpetual travel puzzle.
For me, it was a simple case of “Oh shit! I’m running out of money! I don’t want to go all the way home to work again!” I had to find an alternative to the usual ‘go-home-to-work-and-save-for-my next-trip’ routine I found myself in time and time again. There HAD to be another way.
It was the January 2014 when my bank account was once again almost empty. The United States had destroyed my Australian dollar and my $12,000 of, what I thought was, yearly travel funds had been guzzled up by 3 months of nonstop partying. “I was supposed to be traveling to South America! How am I supposed to do anything down there with no money?” I felt trapped. There was no way I was going to let a little (a lot) of overspending ruin my chances of South American glory.
“You should go work at this hostel in Mancora, Peru.“I remember an Irish friend of mine advising me, but I had never thought to find work. I mean, I had just worked my ass off to go traveling so working was the last thing I wanted to do, but I didn’t see any other option. I had to give it a shot.
I arrived at the hostel a few days later and was told I was to start work the following Wednesday. That was it? It was that easy? Yes, it was just as simple as sending the hostel an email and asking for a volunteer job. There was no hassle of preparing for an interview and dressing up in a stupid suit, sure it didn’t pay …well…anything, but it was certainly a good way of not spending money whilst having the pleasure of exploring a new foreign town.
Ever since leaving Mancora I have worked at another 3 hostels for a total of 13 months. All of which have, to the displeasure of most of my vital organs, encouraged a life mostly centered around excessive alcohol consumption, but I can promise you that only a small percentage of volunteer jobs around the world involve this much risk to your general well-being.
Whilst working at a hostel, depending on what the hostel offers, you can expect to receive in exchange for 25-30 hours of fairly unchallenging work:
* Free accommodation
* Free breakfast
* One free meal from the menu per day
* A good percentage off of anything (usually 30%-50%) purchased from the hostel i.e drinks, food, shuttles etc
*A share in the tips and if you’re lucky and in some cases a percentage of what the bar makes and the end of your shift.
*Free activities – Yoga classes, language lessons, cooking classes, bike rental, tours.
After a few weeks at the hostel I was happy to find that although I was enjoying myself just as much, eating well and meeting new and interesting people I was spending less than $100 per week. A significant difference from the $12,000 I spent in just under 3 months in The States.
Although my experiences mostly revolve around living and working in a party hostel environment, volunteering is obviously not restricted to this type of work. Whether you want to teach and support children with learning disabilities in Africa, help horses in Slovakia or help design a permiculture garden just south of The Dead sea Jordan there is definitely a wide range of interesting positions available for the long or short term traveler.
The term ‘work’ in these circumstances should be used as a word that loosely describes the various fun activities available because, for me, work has a certain connotation that is synonymous with uninspired routine and is a word that I personally dislike.
If working behind a bar or at a reception desk isn’t your piece of cake you can use your skills, talents, profession or passion to find work and earn money on the road in many ways. Whether you’re a yoga teacher or wanting to give guitar lessons, you will always find places to give classes and earn money from your students. What if you make beautiful jewelery or paint unique postcards? You can sell your work at crafts markets or to fellow travelers looking for a special souvenir . This can all be very helpful, not only can you share your passion and inspire others, it will be your key to independent traveling for as long as you like.
A website that is fairly popular and that I have had recent success with finding a volunteer job is: www.workaway.info
It will cost you $29USD per year to sign up as a solo traveler or $38.00USD per year as a couple, but if your spending habits are anywhere near as bad as mine, this is a logical investment.
Once signed up you will be given access to thousands of hosts from around the world looking for volunteers, so whether you want to work for one week or one year in exchange for accommodation and food, the site is there for that reason.
Working or volunteering while traveling can be an adventure in itself and because you know it’s not permanent, it doesn’t have the same empty vibe as a lot of my previous 9-5 office jobs and is a way of becoming immersed in the local culture and language without completely destroying your bank account.