I hang out with travelers every week. And by hanging out, I mean going to karaoke with them every Thursday. I talk about beer with Germans, I talk about European football with well, most of them and I talk about dreaming of traveling the world with all of them. How do I manage to hang out with all these awesome travelers? I volunteer at a local hostel, Hostelling International Boston, also known as Boston Hotels.
I am an Activities Volunteer – meaning, I help out with the many amazing activities that are planned for guests to participate in as a way to explore Boston with a local and also mingle with other guests. It’s one of the many perks of staying at a hostel – you get to meet all sorts of people from all around the world. One day I could have a group of 7 Germans and 2 Australians, 1 Brazilian, 6 Irish and 1 American and another days I could just have 1 person from Japan, Chile, Argentina, England, Scotland, Australia, Germany and Switzerland (see how I mentioned Germans and Australians twice? Well, there’s always at least one German and Australian in the group). Anyway, sometimes I get to take people bowling. Sometimes I get to take them on a Pub Crawl. It really depends on the hostel’s needs but every week, I take them to Karaoke Night and the Harvard Tour. Those two are my babies :)
The two most common questions I get are “So… you don’t get paid. What do you get out of it?” and “Why do you do it?” The answer to both questions is simple. I volunteer because what I get out of it is kind of invaluable. Sure, it would be awesome if it was my job and I got paid for it, but I am 200% happy doing what I do without getting any money from it – heck, I lose money from it because it means I have to go out every week!
So, why do I volunteer and what do I really get out of this?
- I learn so much about different cultures & life around the world. Until I met a traveler from Slovenia, I had never imagined what life there would be like. Until I heard about what college life in Switzerland would be like, I had no idea that having time to do internships while in school was such a privilege. I simply wouldn’t know what life would be like around the world without listening to people who actually live them. There are so many different types of jobs and college majors that I never even thought about. And being in the communications field and highly interested in global communications, hearing about how social media is used in Germany for social work was the most fascinating thing ever.
- It reminds me of being back in high school in Cambodia. I grew up going to an international school. That means, all my life, I had friends from all of the world. Australia, Germany, Uganda, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Japan, Sweden, New Zealand, Korea, you name it. So when I hear someone is from a certain country, it reminds me of all my friends from that country and I start spilling everything I know about the culture including silly words like “schnitzel!” I think about all those friends and how much I miss being surrounded by that. Boston is an international community but it really is different and I don’t get to meet people from all over the world as much. It’s a nice little travel down the memory lane for me.
- These people inspire me to get out and travel. Hearing all these travel stories and lives around the world makes me want to travel and see things for myself. Meeting someone who has been traveling for 3 months itches me to get out there. And simple sentences like “You should come visit me in Italy!” makes me want to go, “Hell, yea. How about tomorrow?”
- I make new friends from all over the world. I’ve made so many great traveler friends that I know I can call up when I go to a strange land and meet up. I’ve already met a few that were from Montreal, who showed me around when I visited few weeks ago. For now we are really just Facebook friends but being able to have shared a certain moment is an enough connection to meet again in the near future. Now I have friends to stay with when I travel to Italy, Switzerland, France, Australia, Canada, and the list goes on.
- I learn some really, really random things and I love it. Seeing as how we go to a bar for Karaoke night, I learn a lot about beer. I also learn a lot of random facts about drinking cultures in other countries. I also learn about sports around the world and.. um.. how tuition fees work in other countries (due to the famous Harvard tours).
- I get to feel like a traveler and explore Boston too. Being surrounded by travelers, I can’t help but feel like I’m one of them and I’m traveling too. Boston is my home for now but it also has only been 4 years. I’ve not explored as much as I could and haven’t really ‘lived’ here to know everything about it. So I get to do cool tourist things I don’t usually get to do with friends here. I get to go to random sports museums and go on the Harvard Tour (every Saturday, I can actually give the tour myself).
Of course there are times when I am super tired from work and really would rather go home and pass out – or spend that Thursday going to a yoga class or hang out with friends. But, no matter how tired I am, usually at the end of the night, I’m glad that I went and once again got to ‘travel’ vicariously through them.
If you love everything about travel but can’t get out yet, try volunteering at a hostel and meet people from all over the world that way. All you need is time, positive attitude and an open mind!