Not long ago, I found out about a HI Connect opportunity through www.globetrotter.si web page. I was always into travelling and I found this opportunity really interesting. The more I was reading the stories of past volunteers, the more I was daydreaming and getting excited about all the possible experience I could get. I was very motivated and optimistic about the opportunity and at the end very happy and grateful to be a part of it. I did some travelling as a tourist, but I never travelled as a volunteer. I didn’t work in a hostel before, even though I always thought this could be a very interesting and nice job. Being a HI Connect volunteer sounded like a big challenge to me.
When I saw all the possibilities that I could HI-Connect to, I immediately asked to stay in Portugal, if possible. Apart from volunteering, I also wanted to visit the country. I visited Porto in the past, but never Lisbon, the coast or Faro. Portugal is famous for the best beaches in the world, surfing, delicious cuisine, Port wine, warm and friendly people, and all of that is completely true!
My experience was really positive. I stayed in Portugal for ten days; three days in Lisbon and seven days in Areia Branca Youth Hostel. From the organisation of the trip onwards, everything already went nice and smooth. I met incredible people that even invited me to their homes, showed me around, and really accepted me as they would their own good old friend. They showed me around, prepared their traditional food for me, and we spoke about many different topics during those days. Because of them, I see Portuguese as really warm and friendly people with a big open heart. Their point of view helped me understand and answer some questions I had before I departed to Portugal. I learned a lot and I’m very grateful for such a positive experience.
The hostel was located on the beach near the surf school, and my view from the room was breath-taking. Because I visited Portugal in May, it wasn’t the hostel’s peak season, therefore there were not so many guests during the week. During the day, I helped with some daily tasks and I mainly worked at the reception desk. During the afternoon, I was free to discover the area, surf, run, or just spend time on the beach.
Breathing fresh Portuguese air, watching sunsets from this part of the world, meeting people I would never meet in my own town, speaking a foreign language, eating the local food, hanging out with the locals, and improving my communication skills was just like a holiday feeling…
During that week of volunteering, I learned a lot about the hostel’s organisation, its back office and its management. I really like the idea of trying new things, stepping out of my comfort zone, and learning something about the things I don’t know.
I also visited some other hostels in the Lisbon area with my mentor as well as the Youth Hostel headquarters in Lisbon where they prepared a nice welcome meeting, and I presented them our Slovenian youth hostelling presentation.
There are many possibilities for volunteering and I’m really glad that I had this opportunity to volunteer in Portugal.
To me, traveling isn’t only a cool thing to do. Sometimes, it can be really hard and stressful. It means you have to move, not only your body but also your mindset, to explore, to live, and to create experiences outside your comfort zone, learn about the things you don’t know, be flexible and adjust. The world is really vast, and I think we should never stop learning and exploring.