Sunday, May 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Let’s Travel (on that student budget)

Alis shows us it is possible to travel with a student budget.

It’s that time of year again – the excitement of being back at university has worn off, the weather is miserable, deadlines are looming, and all you really want to do is pop down to Heathrow and jet off to some far flung island. Of course, this isn’t exactly a possibility. Even when summer does roll around, it’s pretty much impossible to travel on a student budget these days. Right? Wrong. Just last year, I discovered an amazing way to travel, enhance my CV and pick up some language skills, all on a student budget. I wanted to share my experience to inspire other students to get out there and explore the world.

It all started when I discovered the website – a website which allows you to find hostels who will give you a free bed in exchange for your skills. Sounds simple, but is actually an ingenious concept that works out perfectly for students. You ‘volunteer’ to work in a certain role at a traveller hostel and stay for free!

The most obvious reason that this is a great deal for students is because we are famously time rich, money poor. In general it’s pretty difficult to get a paying job abroad because visas and particular qualifications are often required. Offering up your time as a ‘volunteer’ in exchange for accommodation solves all of this, because it’s usually much easier to enter countries on a tourist visa. Plus, when travelling, a fair bit of money usually goes on accommodation anyway!

Staying for free is a great pull factor, but it can be difficult pushing yourself to travel, especially when most of your uni friends are all heading to their home towns for part-time jobs and home-cooked meals. If you can’t convince them to jet off with you, take the plunge and go alone! The great thing about volunteering at a hostel is that it’s completely solo-traveller friendly. Hostels are hubs for travellers from all over the world, and working as part of a team is an instant way to get involved. You’ll soon realise that you don’t need to be joined by existing friends to have an amazing experience abroad, and when you get back they’ll all be jealous of your new worldwide connections, independence and sense of adventure.

Of course, some people might say that the long summers at universities should be used for internships, work experience and expanding those CVs. The great thing about working in a hostel is that there are so many skills needed – it’s not just cleaning. Those who are mathematically inclined can offer to volunteer in accounts; artsy types could volunteer in decorating, music, video making or photography; drama students could offer their skills as tour guides or party promoters. Looking for teaching experience outside your degree? Try teaching languages or sports. Even if you fancy doing something not related to your degree, experience in admin, social media and web development are great, employable skills to add to your CV. All of these skills are valued on Worldpackers, and if you have a skill that’s not on the list but that you think could be useful in a hostel, you can always reach out.

Still need convincing? I used Worldpackers last year on a trip to Brazil, and it was such a unique experience. As a media arts student, I made promotional videos for a hostel chain in both Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro. I came out the other end with new material for my showreel, a host of new international friends, and money left over to explore Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. Plus, since Worldpackers aren’t sponsoring this article, I’m going to let you know that there are loads of ways to work in hostels! In many countries, it’s possible to roll up to a hostel, offer up your skills in exchange for accommodation, and get a bed for free.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and swap a boring summer at home for an unforgettable adventure across the globe.