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I’ve just finished working for my first hostel, and in Tirana, Albania of all places. One, I can’t wait to work in another, and two, everyone else needs to do so too.
Yes, volunteering in a hostel will get you a free bed, and maybe even a few meals. But that’s actually the least motivating reason to work in a hostel.
Much more rewarding is getting to stay in a new city for a few weeks (or a few months as many do) to learn the culture, try several local dishes and find out where else is good to visit in the region. Another benefit is to be able to practice the local language, as there will usually be some local guests using the hostel as well. But if you don’t speak English, working in a hostel is even better, as there will always be English speaking travelers passing through.
Another advantage with work in a hostel is the range of duties you can be assigned. Depending on the hostel, you might be simply holding reception or cleaning, while in others you could be preparing breakfast or other meals, working at the bar, helping with running tours, repairs, IT and social media, etc. In fact, there is almost always work in a hostel no matter what your skill set.
I did several jobs, such as reception, preparing breakfast and holding the night shift. All of it was fun, and sometimes more play than work. As in watching movies on a shift with the other hostel staff, getting up only when a guest checked in or had a question.
The adventure came when I held the night shift. I was told it was the easiest shift since you just slept with the doorbell and phone, and helped anyone who rang, which almost never happened. Well, it almost never happened to the person before me, but not a night went by on my night shifts when someone didn’t ring, and usually more than once. The last night I held the night shift, the doorbell rang at 2, 3 and 4 AM, and the final arrival was at 6! But it’s a job, and in a town where the streets are empty until late afternoon when the temperature drops, there’s nothing wrong with sleeping in.
I will admit I was glad they had a full-time cleaner. While I can clean and have done so extensively over the years, it’s not my favorite job.
But the main reason to work in a hostel is to pay it forward as a traveler. In fact, most hostels are owned by travelers. As a traveler, you know what other travelers are looking for, and how to help them the most. Contributing to their experience in the hostel makes it even better. And yet another benefit is you’ll get some fantastic stories from their own journeys.
Not every hostel will need someone to volunteer for them, and some will require you to have a visa or other ability to work in the country. In Tirana I applied to work at three hostels, and actually had two accept me. But when I went to the second hostel after a week at the first, they had just had another volunteer arrive and didn’t need my help anymore. All the better, since I really didn’t want to leave the other hostel, and it turned out the volunteer scheduled to replace me fell through.
There are many ways to secure work in a hostel. Workaway.info and Helpx.net are the biggest websites to find opportunities. Hosteljobs.net is a great forum to find them too. And there is always the option to simply show up and ask for a job, or write to them directly.
Somehow, find a hostel to work in, at least once. Then you’ll really be part of the traveler family!
Wishing you luck and lots of fun working in a great location.