Volunteering in hostels, NGOs or family houses: lodging, breakfast and experiences for free

Sometimes the best laid plans don’t go at all according to plan, ironically enough. Let me tell you an example, where chance and will power played a major role.

In April of 2016 I was volunteering in Ethiopia. However, I knew it was only for three months and I’d have to figure out what to do next. One of the many Facebook groups I’m in posted an article that read “Origini Italia”, for people from Italian descent. And that caught my attention. I started digging. It was a 5-months long program between Rome and Trieste, where a group of 30 people, all Italian descendants from all around the world, would be taking a business course and studying Italian in the, in my opinion, most beautiful country of Europe: Italy. Requirements were posted and I knew I could sign in for the 2016 inscription. Out of the 3000 applicants, only 100 would make it to the next stage. And I did it. However, I knew that there were face interviews in Latin America, in which I wouldn’t be able to participate, since I was still in Ethiopia. They let me do the interview via Skype, but warned me that I would need a strong connection. That wasn’t the case in Gondar, the northern city I was living in. So, I made sure to get the best possible connection. I went to a five-star hotel, the interview was at 5 pm. It was 4 pm and I was already ready. Could you believe that at 4.58 pm there’s an internet outage in the whole town? Yes, two minutes away from my interview. I started to panic. How was I going to have my long-awaited interview? There happened to be an Ethiopian with a 3G connection in his cellphone. He saw me so desperate, that he lent me his phone. And it was late, and it wasn’t the best impression. And I had the interview, but it didn’t pan out. And I’ve always wondered if it was due to the connectivity issue, or if I just didn’t fit the profile. My plans had “collapsed”. I was “frustrated”, where was I going to go after Ethiopia? What would become of my future, labor-wise and at a personal level? I went back to my place, crying and filled with anguish. But that didn’t last long. I started looking for options. And that’s when I found out about volunteering in hostels, it was “a shed of light in the darkness” for my uncertain future. I started getting in touch with hostels through the Worldpackers platform. After a few days, I’d got selected to go to a hostel in Marseille. I’d go to France and work on my French, which was on my to-do list. Nowadays, travelling is more affordable.

I believe Internet is a great tool to explore different options within the comfort of our home. When I came looking to settle down in Europe, I found this volunteering option in exchange of food and lodging. It was an excellent opportunity for me. Earlier, I’d been volunteering in a hostel in Tel Aviv, Israel, where they provided me with food, a bed and free tours, which is to say I basically took the opportunity to live in a splendid city such as Tel Aviv.

Finally, in Marseille I did get to improve my French and got lodging and daily € 6 vouchers.

The main plan is to have a “cultural exchange” paying as little as possible. You work 20 or 25 hours a week with food and lodging included, in most cases. It’s important to do your due diligence, not every place offers the same deal.

And I’d do it again, because there’s thousands of possibilities, from volunteering in a hostel, to an NGO in Asia, or working a vegetable garden.

What to expect?

* You can learn a new language

* Meet a new culture

* Try the local food

* Get in touch with the roots of a new place

* Save money, since food and lodging are covered and are the most expensive part of every journey.

I suggest logging into Worldpackers to surf the available options. The membership has an annual fee of USD 49, but entering my code PAULATRANZILLO can get you a USD 10 discount, so the final fee would be of USD 39. There you’ll have unlimited access to the platform to browse the different options.

Truth is, you get the chance to do a lot of volunteering, with all its perks, for only USD 39 a year, which is the regular fee for one hotel night.

Should you have any inquiries, feel free to contact me at info@paulatranzillo.com or share my info with anyone who might be interested.