My Volunteer Work Exchange Experience at a Hostel in Malaysia

4th September 2015

volunteering at a guesthouse in Malacca, Malaysia

I came to volunteer at a guesthouse in Malaysia as part of my rehabilitation into the single people club. I needed some time to pick up the pieces and to decide what my next move would be before starting to travel again. Things seemed like they were lining up for me without having to ask, so I took the opportunity that was presenting itself – all I had to do was to hit the reply button, say “I’m on my way”, pack my bags, and go start this brand new chapter of my adventure. Opportunities to volunteer at guesthouses like this are usually found through work exchange websites, but I was actually poached by a previous guesthouse owner where I had stayed a few months prior – so in my case it was just a matter of good timing. And as unable as I was to decide what was best for me – it was indeed the perfect timing.

Rickshaw in Malacca, Malaysia

volunteering at a guesthouse in Malacca, Malaysia. Help Exchange, Workaway experience.

I spent nearly four months in Malacca – the longest I have stayed put anywhere in a very long time (I did have a 10 day holiday in Laos in the middle!) I had plenty of time to screw my head back on properly and make awesome travel plans – all the while having a great time in a city that I grew more and more fond of as time passed, and without spending any of my savings. I met people from all around the world, whilst living with local Chinese Malays, got lots of work done, both for my blog – catching up on everything I had let go by the wayside post-breakup – and freelancing on a few web and graphic design contracts. I also found time to meditate and do yoga twice daily. As an added unexpected bonus, the guesthouse was a Warmshowers host and I got to meet several cyclists from all walks of life who inspired me so much that I decided to continue my adventure on two wheels quickly after arriving in Malacca! All in all, it was a little bit like a holiday from the holiday – with a few daily chores.

volunteering at a guesthouse in Malacca, Malaysia. Free dinner at the Sikh Gurdwara with the guests

Free dinner at the Sikh Gurdwara in Malacca.

Working for accommodation at a guesthouse is a great way of cutting down on expenses when you travel – especially if, like me, you enjoy slow travel and spending a full month (or more) in one place sounds like a nice way to discover it. And in light of my three months spent volunteering at a backpacker hostel in Malacca, I’m left wondering why I didn’t consider doing these kind of work/travel arrangements before – the money I could have saved! In return for various tasks (in my case: watering the plants, checking the guests in and out and taking them on bicycle tours at night as well as a few other light cleaning duties here and there), I was able to stay for free in a double room with free breakfast (don’t get too excited, it was white bread and tea – my healthy eating habits are also a little bit on holiday post-breakup!), with my own bicycle, free wifi, laundry and pocket money that ended up covering all my other expenses. Unfortunately I did not get a day off and sometimes things felt a little chaotic and unorganized for my liking, but once I decided to embrace the chaos, I quickly felt at home. Work usually took 3 or 4 hours each day and I was left with a big chunk of free time in the afternoons where I could do some sightseeing, hang out with the guests, get some work done on my computer or just lay down in a hammock on the rooftop. I also gave Thai massage by donation and taught yoga a few times. I managed to save a little extra cash that I used to buy a bicycle for the next leg on my journey.

volunteering at a guesthouse in Malacca, Malaysia

Pimping my free hostel bread 😉

volunteering at a guesthouse in Malacca, Malaysia. Massage by donation

volunteering at a guesthouse in Malacca, Malaysia. Thai massage by donation

There are several positions such as this on websites like Help Exchange and Workaway. Working arrangements vary greatly from place to place, so if you are considering volunteering at a guesthouse as part of your travel, I would recommend doing a little research before engaging yourself somewhere – unlike me! I was extremely lucky to end up at a place that suited me well, but you’ll probably want to investigate if a hostel is a party place, what exactly you are expected to do, if they have a lot of rooms and who is supposed to clean them, how many hours of work are required from you and in exchange for what, if you get days off, pocket money, etc. If you are an easy going person who loves the constant company of others and speaks good enough English, this could be a great opportunity to travel cheaper and longer.

volunteering at a guesthouse in Malacca, Malaysia

22 thoughts on “My Volunteer Work Exchange Experience at a Hostel in Malaysia

  1. Jennifer Ryder Joslin

    I thought that was Malacca as soon as I saw the pimped out cyclo rickshaws! What a great place to spend a few months, meet new people, and get to know the diverse Malay culture. We loved it there! So great how the hostel gig worked out to be perfect timing for you. Thanks for sharing the ways you have volunteered and made extra money as well. Always love to see how people are making more travel happen-it’s inspiring!

    Reply
    1. Amélie Post author

      Ah! Yes, well spotted for the crazy Malacca rickshaw haha 🙂 It was truly an amazing experience and I’m a little sad that I didn’t think of doing this before given my travel funds is a little low now after nearly 2 hours of more “traditional” backpacking. Oh well.. Live and learn! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Lesley

    I always wonder about volunteering experiences with a toddler. I use to volunteer often when I was younger and before she was born but I think it would be awesome to find an experience that would take me as a mother.

    Reply
  3. Elaine J. Masters

    A great post-breakup fix is throwing yourself into work and new endeavors. Sounds like there were so many perks to your guest house gig. I’d love to spend several months in Malay or elsewhere getting to know the area and working too.

    Reply
    1. Amélie Post author

      Yes, it was a great distraction post breakup, and I had a lot of time to heal myself with yoga and meditation. A very positive experience indeed! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Dana

    I’m glad you had such a good experience and were able to get things sorted out. I prefer slower travel and getting to know a city more than just for a weekend visit.

    Reply
  5. Mar

    It is interesting to hear the insight stories of working holidays and good that you had time to spend on your personal things and the blog. It looks like a great way to save money, even if you didn’t have any time off

    Reply
  6. Laura

    That sounds like a fantastic way to reset and recharge. You’d get to meet so many people. And having most of the day to yourself is great too. I would have donated to the Thai massage cause!

    Reply
  7. Bobbi Gould

    Well hello fellow yogi! So glad you were able to get in that meditation and yoga time. This was an enlightening post. I wish I would have done it back in the day when I was in Europe!

    Reply
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  10. Jayne Armstrong

    I’d love to do this when I graduate uni… However Im a little intimidated by going in it as a solo female! Any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. Amélie Post author

      Hi Jayne! Not really any specific suggestion no, perhaps pick a place where the culture shock won’t be too big to start with (i.e. the language is the same) and remember that life begins at the end of your comfort zone 🙂

      Reply
  11. Saar

    Aw so nice, I’ve stayed at this place a couple of years ago, early 2011! It hasn’t changed a bit! I really enjoyed the city, and definitely stayed longer than ‘planned’!

    Reply
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