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My first time volunteering in a hostel
When I first went to work abroad, I just knew that when my contract was finished I would not go back home; I would stay and go back to the places that I didn't really have time to see due to my busy schedule. And, of course, new places. Landing a job in Europe happened more than one year ago, but my travelling really began when I was done with it and knew I had good money saved to take the road as a freelance once more.
My travelling always involved staying with friends, sharing rooms, using promotion codes on on bookings websites and the list goes on. My last destination, Ruse, Bulgaria, was my home for a longer time and when I needed to move again due to visa issues, I chose the closest one: Bucharest. Bucharest is the capital of Romania, one of the cheapest places for tourists (keep this in mind, for the locals is not that cheap, they just get by most of the time) and a place that's been surprising so far. I did not know what to expect from it and I'm in awe by the nightlife all around the old center and how clean the parks are. I haven't tried the subway yet, given you can do so many things by foot when you are right in the center, around the Universitate or Unirii area.
Before I came here, I googled the cheapest hostels for long stays - which is also good advice I can give: if you're staying somewhere for more than 7 or 14 days, don't book straight from some website, contact the place and ask for discount, it always works -, and although most of them had good prices, I was not ready to spend money not knowing when my next paycheck would come in. So I changed my Google searching terms to "work in exchange of accommodation" and if you haven't, use any search engine to see the results these words can come up with.
From websites for people willing to help out farmers to hostels' nightclubs and pubs looking for photographers, you can find jobs that will fit your lifestyle, needs and even help you improve your portfolio and CV. Most of them are volunteer jobs just to have a roof above your head, but some actually pay you a bonus if you do a nice job. For part of the websites I found, you need to pay to register, but the satisfaction is always guaranteed. The hosts always reply and if they don't have a position available for when you had planned, they always give you other options.
I choose one of the most famous websites after making sure some people had successful stories to tell about it. I contacted hostels in different countries now that I wouldn't have to worry with paying for a room, including one in Bucharest, that replied within a few hours. I exchanged some e-mails with the manager and, voilà, I gave my date, she said "see you then" and now I'm writing this article from the couch next to the reception.
I volunteer three or four times a week, depending on the amount of volunteers, for 8 hours each day. Basically, I need to make sure the guests are having fun in a nice environment. I talk to them, take their empty glasses to the bar, check if the showers and sinks are all working and with hot water. Not hard at all, huh?! In exchange, I sleep in a room with three people who are also working here. It's not a guest room, so also not the ideal room to stay for too long, but four days have passed already and I'm getting used to sleeping in a bunk bed that has no stair so you need to jump to go up. I have only 16 to go.
If you are willing to sacrifice your privacy and force yourself to mingle with people every other day, this shouldn't be too hard of a choice to make. It's how most people travel the world on a budget; all the other people working here do the same, go from hostel to hostel helping with whatever they need to have a bed at the end of the night.
Below you can find a list of website for places looking for helpers. Just make sure you have time to stay in each place, most of them don't take people staying for less than 15 days or even 1 month.