Welcome to another edition of the “Work and Travel Abroad“ Series! In this series, I feature weekly stories of travelers who have managed to find ways to earn money while traveling by working jobs that don’t resemble a typical 9-5 routine. They share their experiences, give their advice, hopefully inspiring many of you to believe that paying your bills and saving for the future while traveling the world IS POSSIBLE!
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Today, I share my Q&A with Olivia from Halfway Somewhere who talks about her experience working in a hostel.
Q: Who is Olivia? Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: I’m a student from Melbourne, Australia who loves to travel. I prefer to move somewhere and get to know it over packing heaps of different destinations into a quick trip. I love learning languages, seeing new places, and writing about it all on my blog.
Q: You left your hometown at such an early age. What motivated you to say goodbye to Melbourne and embark on an adventure in Dublin?
A: I don’t know. I don’t remember ever deciding to go, it was always a given that when I finished high school I’d move overseas somewhere. I chose Dublin because it’s close to Europe for weekend adventures and it isn’t London. Nothing against London, I think it’s a great city I just didn’t want to be that cliche Aussie in London then.
Q: How long did you spend in Dublin?
A: All up I was in Ireland for about 10 months. Most of that time was in Dublin, but I also spent two months or so working in the mountains in Wicklow, about an hour south of the city.
Q: How did you end up working in a hostel?
A: First I started volunteering in exchange for accommodation when I thought I’d go find a ‘proper’ job and a flat and everything. I wasn’t having much luck on my job hunt, so I went to the manager and told him I could stay for awhile if he put me on the official team as a paid employee next time there was an opening. Hostels often have pretty high turnover of staff, so when I gave him a long term proposition it was appealing. I started working officially the next week.
Q: What did your job entail? What was a typical day/week on the job?
A: I would normally work the morning shift, so 8am to 1pm. I’d check guests in and out, take bookings, sell tours, give out information and suggestions on what to do in the city, and do safety checks of the hostel.
Q: What are some highs and lows of working at the hostel?
A: The main high is that it’s a really fun job. Obviously it is work and needs to be taken seriously, but I got to work every day with people who became really good friends, meeting people from all over the world, and talking about travel. There really weren’t any lows for me.
Q: Did you work for cash in hand or for free accommodation?
A:In the beginning I worked for accommodation, but pretty quickly I moved up to earning a wage that was paid into my bank account. I think for most hostels the way it works is you can do background work (cleaning, food service, etc) for accommodation or cash, but front of house work needs to be legit and you have to be able to work legally in the country.
Q: Did your responsibilities on the job change when you finally started earning a wage to work at the hostel?
A:No, but how seriously I took the work did. I wasn’t ever unprofessional or anything before, but there is a certain shift in your mindset when you start earning actual money.
Q: How was the pay? Did it allow you to save up for future travel?
A: I got paid just above minimum wage and I saved most of it. Because I was living in the staff area of the hostel, my accommodation was heavily discounted. All I spent money on was food and going out at night, so I was able to save up for two months of travel in Europe before I came home.
Q: Did your work schedule allow you to explore Dublin or travel much around Europe?
A: Definitely. I took a handful of short trips to other places in Europe, and being staff at the Dublin hostel meant I could stay for free at any other hostel in Ireland. I took advantage of that as much as I could and went on lots of weekend trips around the country.
Q: Have you worked in a hostel anywhere else? Has it proven to be a good tactic for funding your time on the road?
A: I haven’t, but only because I’ve mainly been at home at university since then. Quite a few of my friends from that time have worked in other places and I would do it again in the future if it aligned with my travel plans.
Q: Would you recommend working in a hostel to others looking to fund their travels? What would your advice be to them?
A: For sure. Just remember that it is a job, so if your aim is to travel and party and have no responsibility, it probably won’t work out. But if you want to slow down for awhile and get to know a place while saving a bit of money, it can be great.
Q: Where would one start if they wanted to look for a job in a hostel?
A: The easiest way is just to walk in and ask. It’s generally not the sort of job you can plan ahead for. Some hostels do advertise on job seeking websites and you can apply for those jobs online when they pop up, or you could try emailing places, but your best bet would be to go in in person.
Q: What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to in 2015?
A: This is my last year of university so I haven’t got much travel on the agenda for this year. I will be spending my winter break from uni this July in Spain, so I’m looking forward to that. Otherwise I’ll be taking short local trips and trying to decide what to do with my life once I’ve got my degree at the end of the year!
Huge thanks to Olivia for taking the time to answer my questions and share her experience with us!
Does working in a hostel to fund your travels sound appealing to you? If not, check out other posts in the “Work and Travel Abroad” Series for more ideas and stories from other travelers.
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Have any other questions for Olivia or want to share your own experience working while traveling abroad? Leave your comments below!