We began volunteering our way around Europe in November 2015, hopping from one Workaway host to the next through France, Portugal and Spain. While in Spain in February, we received a message inviting us to work at Volver Beach Hostel in Gran Canaria!
After all of about 30 seconds of consideration, we replied with a hell yeah!!!
Since it was the first time for us working in a hostel we didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect. But we ended up settling straight in and what initially was going to be 6 weeks, turned into 3 awesome months! We shared many special moments with like-minded travellers from all over the world…and it turned out to be the highlight of our year-long Euro trip.
Since we spent such a long time living and working in a hostel environment, we can confidently share 13 things you’ll learn if you choose to work in a hostel during your travels…
1. You Learn To Share Meals
It’s an unfamiliar territory when you go to the staff kitchen for the first time…Where do you put your food? Is this place taken? But after a couple of days you settle in and make your mark. You realise it’s too time consuming to cook everyday and you end up teaming up with fellow staff to take it in turns cooking up a storm. On many occasions our Indian friend Travis and Italian friend Mattia cooked special vegetarian dishes for us and the hostel guests (thanks guys!) We’d all chip in a couple of euros each to pay for the food and it was a win win for everyone.
2. You Make Friends Very Quickly
If working in a hostel or even a team environment is new to you then it may be quite daunting when you arrive and see that everyone gets along like they’ve known each other for years! You can either feel slightly intimidated or you can throw yourself in there, buy some cheap beers for everyone and you’ll fit in with no problem. We’ve found that 99% of people who work/volunteer in hostels are really friendly and welcoming to everyone they meet.
4. You Meet People From All Over The World
Whether they’re hostel guest or fellow volunteers, you’ll literally meet people from all corners of the world. By the end of your trip you’ll be surprised at how many friends you made from different countries. It will give you an excuse to keep travelling the world meeting up with the in their home towns or on the road.
5. You Meet Like-Minded People (And Also Some Strange Characters)
Since you will be meeting people from around the world every day, you’ll most probably develop some strong friendships with people who have the same outlook on life and just ‘get it.’
You may also come across people who are just really annoying and you’ll never want to run into again, but that’s all part of the experience. You’ll meet those kinds of people for a reason…and it will help you learn more about yourself.
6. You Get Bored Of Having The Same Conversation All The Time
In the begining it’s exciting when people want to know about your life and you want to hear all their stories. But as the weeks go by and you’re meeting 5-15 new people a day, you get bored of answering the same questions, “How long have you been here? Where are you from? What are your plans?”
7. You Start To Appreciate Alone Time
Since you’re all living in a small space together it’s often hard to find time to yourself without having to talk to anyone. Even if you pull the curtain to cover your bed space or even put ear plugs in, you’ll most likely get distracted.
Sometimes we would venture off into the mountains and go for a long walk to get away from the chaos.
7. Cleaning Sucks But It’s Worth It
Ok let’s not hide the fact that you will have to scrub toilets, make beds, wash up after people…oh and fall out with the washing machine when it decides not to work on your shift.
But once you’ve done your duties, you can sit back, relax and enjoy the fact that you don’t have to pay for accommodation!
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8. Cockroaches Aren’t So Bad
Depending on the climate, it’s more than likely you will come across some annoying insects that you’ll have to deal with. Luckily for us there were zero mosquitos in the South of Gran Canaria…but there were more cockroaches than people! We also experienced bed bugs, which sent us all crazy. At the end of the day, we share this world with thousands of animal and insect species who have been around long before us, you’ll eventually learn to accept them.
9. Random Jamming Sessions Become Normal
When living in a hostel you’ll have memorable nights listening to live music played by fellow volunteers or hostel guests. Some of our favourite nights in Gran canaria were sat in the Chill-Out Area or in the mountains with a fire and 2 guitars on the go. After a few drinks we’d all start to sing together, and in those moments you realise how grateful you are to be there.
10. You Learn To Look After Your Stuff
Since you may be sharing a room with 10 other people, thats 10 people’s belongings that get scattered across the room. If you leave your stuff lying around for a day, you’ll probably never see them again. It’s good to have a place for everything on your own shelf, otherwise this can literally drive you insane.
11. You Have So Much Free Time
Although this can vary from hostel to hostel you’re unlikely to be working more than 30 hours a week, especially if food isnt included. At Volver we worked 18 hours per week over 3 days in exchange for accommodation at the hostel, which meant we had a whole 4 days free! Get to know the local area like the back of your hand or venture out on day trips with friends.
After exploring the island and settling in, we decided to spend some of our free time wisely and did an internship at the Dive Centre in Puerto De Mogan, where we became PADI Diver Certified for free.
12. You Learn To Live Like A Local
You’re working in a local hostel, which more than likely means you are travelling long term and probably on a budget. Save money by getting food at the local markets and do as the locals do. You’ll end up meeting many other expats in the area who will give you tips on the best things to do and places to visit.
13. Saying Good-Bye Will Never Get Easier
So you’ve made your new best mate…and in 3 weeks they leave to carry on with their travels. Someone else comes along, they leave…and again and again…it’s a never ending cycle. You’ll make a lot of good friends who you’ll share amazing memories with and saying good-bye will never get any easier. You just have to have faith that your paths will cross again some day.
So if you’re thinking about volunteering in a hostel during your travels, do it! You’ll have an unforgettable experience. But if it’s not your thing then we definitely recommend that you stay at Volver Beach Hostel at least once in your life. We had an incredible time, met some amazing people and created memories that we’ll never forget.
Will & Sandy xx
Have you worked in a hostel before? Leave us a comment below…
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