Things you learn when volunteering on the road, or, I cleaned up puke today but I’m still insanely happy

I’ve been off the grid for a little while in terms of writing, mostly because I’ve been bopping around Spain doing very exciting music projects. More on that story later. I’m also preparing to make my first return to the UK since before Christmas, so stay tuned for a very grumpy British post complaining about the weather and general hooliganism of my native country (have you heard by the way? It’s coming home…apparently).

For the past few weeks I’ve been living and working in Barcelona, the city that started this whole escapade. I visited for the first time two years ago and they’ve been trying desperately to get rid of me ever since. It’s truly a unique city, equal parts beautiful and completely batshit. For me there’s nowhere like it, it’s the place I found myself (HORRIBLE Millennial cliche but it’s true).

In 2016 I was a horribly drunk, recently single human nightmare bopping around the bars and occasionally taking in some of the culture. In 2017 I was based here for three months, volunteering in a hostel which enabled me not only to meet lots of extremely attractive people, but also to learn about the city and Catalan culture. It’s 2018 and I’m back bitches. I’m spending July volunteering in a hostel in the Poble Sec neighbourhood, part of an amazing group of hostels dotted around Europe which really enhance the traveller experience, sometimes by helping people get super drunk.

Even though I’m going to be extremely poor for a few weeks, I cannot recommend this way of life enough to travellers. Whether it’s for a couple of weeks during a short trip or for a few months in the middle of your gap yah, it’s a fantastic experience. Here are a few things I’ve learned during my time volunteering in Barca:

People are super interesting

I love people. Probably a bit too much if my dating history is anything to go by. Volunteering in a hostel, you see people come and go all the time from all corners of the globe (disclaimer: I know the earth is round, Columbus fucked this saying up for us years ago but I’m still gonna use it).  You make friends almost instantly and meet all kinds of people doing amazing and interesting things in all sorts of places and there’s something really cool about all these people coming together to be drunk and ridiculous.

On average people stay here for three days, so there’s a lot of turnover which means lots of new friends. In my current place of work, people tend to have so much fun that they extend their stays, which also means you get to know them better. Free crashing space WORLDWIDE.

‘Age is just a number to keep the authorities happy’-my grandad, 2004

When I dropped out of the rat race at age 26, I was convinced I’d be too old to bop around the globe. Imagine my SURPRISE when I checked into this very hostel and found out I was one of the younger guests at that time. As a perpetual child, this made me extremely happy. You really can up and leave at any time, travelling the world is not just for the pre-university backpack set. Hostels are not just for vodka-blind 18 year olds on their first jaunt away from home. We’ve got guests here who aren’t yet 20 and guests in their 40s, and sometimes beyond. It’s not about age, it’s about the experience of exploring a new city and sharing insight, wisdom, and probably gin. Age really ain’t nothing but a number (Aaliyah said that one, not my grandad).

Who needs cash anyway?

Volunteering typically means you get accommodation, food, and often other perks in return for work which is more fun than probably any job I’ve ever done, aside from DJing. If you’re travelling for a long time, it’s an ideal way for you to get to know a new place while saving money. Even in a more pricey city, you can reduce your outgoings significantly, enabling many more months of travelling and loving life in general.

Don’t screw the crew (unless you’re prepared to deal with the consequences)

I get it, everyone’s super good looking and not a pasty English person. I’ve already broken this rule about 506393 times, so this is less of a rule and more a musing/observation. If you’re young, free and single, get on it by all means, but be aware that if you’re getting jiggy with another volunteer, you’re going to be in close proximity to this person A LOT. So if you get bored of each other, make sure you have an exit strategy so you don’t accidentally walk in on them boinking the cute new volunteer from Sweden. CURTAINS PEOPLE.

It’s a lot like babysitting at times

Adults really are just large drunk children. The part of hostel life which facilitates partying and a good time will always be an integral part of your experience – my current hostel gets the balance between culture and cocktails just right – but be aware that while this is everyday life for you, it’s vacation for people staying here. People are going to get WASTED. I can’t count the number of times I’ve cleaned up puke, half-carried people to their beds, warded off comical unwanted advances using only a broom. It’s part and parcel of the gig and it’s very entertaining – well, until someone poops their pants (as one of my colleagues found recently).

We’re pretty much all the same (take note Mr Trump with your racist ginger ass)

The beauty of this lifestyle is the diversity – every day you meet people from different parts of the world, with different backgrounds, languages, cultures, outlooks on life. But one thing you realise is that we’re all basically the same, we all want to be happy and experience all the good things life has to offer. And sometimes boink the cute volunteer from Sweden.

So if you’re considering taking a break from sleeping on train floors to settle for a month or two and volunteer in a hostel, DO IT. I promise you won’t regret it, even during your worst hangover.