Volunteering, not exactly something we expected to be doing only a month into our stay in New Zealand. We discovered quickly how costly accommodation can get everywhere in the country. We were looking for a van to live in and meanwhile needed a place to sleep, like every traveller does. We found ourselves paying $30 per person per night and were standing by idly as our bank accounts slowly drained.

The decision to volunteer at a hostel came while we were in Christchurch, we had already paid for 10 nights and weren’t able to extend that any longer (many hostels have a 10 night rule). One of the volunteers had suddenly left and there were two spots now open, a chance to trade our time and cleaning skills for a bed with a roof that was free. Yes, FREE. There are obviously pros and cons to volunteering and we got to learn them first hand. Here are 5 pros and cons of volunteering at a hostel in New Zealand.

Lets go over the cons first:
  • 1) You had to work three hours each morning for five days, sometimes they have night positions where you work about an hour at night. We found these shifts were great for people who working during the day, but it does interrupt your evening a bit.
  • 2) You just travelled 18 hours around the world to clean bathrooms and kitchens. You find a lot of pretty nasty stuff when you have to deep clean after hundreds of people stay in one hostel.
  • 3) You discover how disgusting people actually are. Venessa once found a clipped toenail in a shower drain that was at least a cm long…clipped.
  • 4) You do as your told, you do the nasty work that the regular cleaners don’t want to do. So reverting back to point number 2, you deal with a lot of nasty stuff and at some point will most likely gag unless you have an iron stomach. Luckily neither of us puked but it was pretty close.
  • 5) You have to share a dorm room. For couples it’s a con because they’re usually bunk beds so you won’t be sleeping in the same bed, on the flip side there is no arguments about who is hoarding the blanket. Sharing a room for single travellers probably wouldn’t matter as much. This point can be seen as a pro because you will obviously meet and get to know your new roommate. Ours was wonderful but snored. Be prepared and bring some ear plugs.

Ziggy our hostel resident cat.

Now for the Pros:
  • 1) You are getting free room and board which is worth its weight in gold! For a couple staying in a private room without an en-suite you’re looking at $70 a night minimum, that’s $490 a week saved. If you volunteer for a full month that’s almost $2000!!
  • 2) You’ll meet some amazing people. The people you meet will become some of your best friends. Had we not met the amazing travellers we did while volunteering we would thought Christchurch was miserable.
  • 3) You get a lot of free food from the free bins. When people leave the hostel they leave stuff behind and place it in the free food bins and as a cleaner you are the first to find it, finders keepers! We scored so much Nutella!
  • 4) You may get free stuff from the hostel. We got really lucky and managed to snag a free mattress for our van from our hostel, that saved us over $300. Sometimes they clear stuff out to replace it and you will be able to benefit from that! Don’t be afraid to ask either. We also didn’t have to pay for laundry while we volunteered.
  • 5) You get to find the hidden gems of the city. You get the chance to live like a local. The full time workers at the hostel will tell you great places to eat, the places that are worthwhile visiting and the cheapest supermarkets to shop at. You will find all the secrets that hide within the cities.
  • 6) Bonus Pro: You get to meet the travellers who come through and stay at the hostel. Even though you don’t spend a ton of time with the people passing through the hostel some of them are instant friends. We met quite a few people who gave us amazing tips and suggestions all while providing great conversation. We even got offers for future places to stay. Our Facebook friends lists grew so much our families even started to notice.

The month we spent volunteering was completely worth any con we can come up with. Even though sometimes it was awful having to clean it led meeting wonderful like minded people and allowed us to explore more of the city.

If you’re thinking about volunteering just remember that it wont always be glorious but it will be worth it.
Hagley Park, the green haven in the middle of the city just two minutes from our Christchurch 'home.'

Hagley Park, the green haven in the middle of the city just two minutes from our Christchurch ‘home.’