Anyone who’s ever taken a long trip, especially an open ended one, will tell you that there comes a point when you just can’t face the thought of packing up your backpack and dragging it off to the train station, when the sight of one more pagoda or temple will make you scream, when you really don’t want to say goodbye to the friends you’ve just made. You’re not yet ready to go home, but you want to stay in one place for a little while.
There’s one major problem – the cost. You don’t want to feel like you’re just wasting time and money when you’ve worked so hard to come here. There’s always the possibility of English teaching, but that often requires a commitment of several months.
Hostel Working Is the Solution
My solution is hostel working. This isn’t well paid, or even paid at all beyond room and board, but is rarely too demanding of your time. it gives your bank balance some room to breath and you the opportunity to relax a little and get to know a place in a lot more depth than you would simply by passing through; a chance to cultivate some real friendships instead of isolated encounters.
Hostel working usually isn’t too hard to come by, even if, like me, you only speak English. It’s often just a question of seeing something that needs doing about the place, some way in which you can help, and approaching whoever is in charge.
Recently, I have been working at Sim’s Cozy Guesthouse in Chengdu, China proofreading signs and tour documents. Though most of the staff spoke reasonable English, they had no native speakers working there and often the signs were confusing and needed some time to decipher. I suggested to Sim that I do this and he was happy to let me. Previously, I have also worked offering poi and juggling lessons, and as bar and reception staff.
Choosing the right place for hostel working is (obviously) quite important. I have always tried to go for smaller, more personal places. They are much more pleasant places to stay, for one thing, and usually the owners, taking an active interest in creating a good environment for travelers, are in a position where they have no time off.
Having someone help out, even for just a couple of weeks, gives them a little time to themselves, something they’re usually more than grateful for. A few years back, I was working at the Juggler’s Rest in Picton, New Zealand, and all I really ever did was show people around the place in the evening, then sit and talk with them – something I would probably be doing anyway. This gave the owner a chance to go to the pub and see his friends, something he hadn’t been able to do in months. Having stayed a few days and got to know him before I asked about the job helped enormously.
It may not be the best paid work, and you may end up dreading he question ‘So, how long have you been here for?’, but hostel working is a great way to take a short break from traveling and still be in contact with other travelers, and to have the time to get to know a place in detail, or to learn much more about a foreign culture, without having to worry too much about the money.
Meet the author:
James has been living and hostel working in Chengdu, China for longer than he cares to admit, but it has allowed him time to travel the area extensively and even trek in Nepal.