For a certain amount of time my family was chasing me with the bold remarks: ‘so maybe you should try to look for work where they will actually pay you’, ‘you can’t work for free the whole life’ and so on… Until they’ve got used to my lifestyle.

The problem was that they didn’t understand the whole idea. It took them a while catching the concept…and I guess my huge smiling photos from the sunny places have helped too.


Not exactly because the concept of volunteering in the hostels might not bring you money, but…so many other things. That’s why it is called work exchange!

And that means: I work and in exchange I get accommodation and sometimes free food (like breakfasts and dinners) and free extra services. It all depends from each hostel.

It doesn’t sound bad, right?

However in order to start this kind of adventure you need to have some funds: for travelling, going out, some food, etc. That’s why the past years I have been working during the winter and then volunteering during the summer. Sounds fair to me.

Thanks to working in hostels I have many great friends!

So I still need a lot of money?

Well…not really. If you are smart enough, once you get to your destination you will find opportunities to save some money. Like: guests leaving food products that you can use, tips from the customers and so on. If you know where to look, you will find the cure for everything.

Work exchange…

…allowed me to live in the new places almost for free. It allowed me to learn new things like riding a longboard (tho I need a lot of practice) or surfing…totally for free.

As a hostel volunteer I could learn to surf for free

And most of all I had a great time without spending even one cent.

Not to mention that I have met wonderful people.

In exchange…

I didn’t earn money but I have received tons of good vibes and heard inspiring stories.

 Me doing ‘bla bla’ and trying to learn how to ride the longboard

Work exchange is an experience. You learn, you grow and you live an adventure.

So in the end I wouldn’t call it ‘working for free’. Without a doubt I like to be paid for my work (so I can survive somehow in this world) but work exchange gives you as many values (or even more) as the so-called ‘normal’ job.



If you feel like you need a change, have an appetite for an adventure, here is my suggestion:

Take a sit in front of your computer. Go to the Workaway, Worldpackers or HostelManagement website – register, create an interesting profile and search for the work exchange.


This world is full of the possibilities. You just need to make it happen.

And yes, it is worth to work for ‘free’ from time to time.

Have you ever done work exchange? How was your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Note that this post might contain affiliate links. That means that if you purchase through them a recommended products, I will get a small commission with no extra cost for you. This small money allows me to go for a beer after finishing my shift in a hostel (very often much-needed) and supports maintaining this blog.
Posted by Ewa Gabara

Posted by Ewa Gabara

Founder of Don’t Mess With The Receptionist. I geek out on hostels and I’m a long-time receptionist turned into a copywriter. I help the hospitality and travel brands conquer the world with words.

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