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How to Meet People When Travelling

Travelling alone is awesome and there are lots of cool benefits. However, the major drawback is that you usually don’t know anyone when you go to a brand new city. It can be especially difficult if you’re travelling in Europe, so many languages! That’s why I used to worry about meeting new people to hang out with. However, I’ve come to realize that 90% of the time it’s really not that hard at all. Here’s how I make new friends in every city that I go to.

1. Stay at a Popular Hostel

If you’ve traveled before than you already know that this is the easiest way to meet people. Hostels are awesome social hubs where friendship is easy to come by. You’ll probably never see any given person again in your life, but you never know.

Staying at a popular hostel is also awesome because it’s so, so easy to score an invitation to hang out. All you have to do is say hi to the people in your room and ask them what they’re up to that night. 75% of the time they’ll tell you and then invite you to hang out with them. If you’re staying in a smaller room or you don’t like your roommates, go to the common area.

2. Take a Guided Tour

In general I’m against all things that label me as tourist. However, an occasional guided tour is a good way to meet some new people. After the tour is over you can always see if someone wants to get a beer or some dinner at a nearby cafe.  These tours are also nice because if you take one in English then you know that everyone else there will speak English as well.

3. Ask Your Friends on Facebook for Hook Ups

A Friend in VietnamThis can be totally hit or miss. It really comes down to your friend group. If all your Facebook friends are from your hometown then this won’t work. However, if you’ve done some travelling before then you’re in the perfect position to do this. Create a Facebook post and ask for people to tell you about one of their friends in the city you’re going to. You may be surprised at how well this works. Not to mention that if you meetup with this new person you’ll instantly have something to talk about.

4. Use InterPals

InterPals is a website that has people from across the world. Ostensibly it’s for practicing languages. It works great in that regard, but lots of people also use it to meet friends in new cities. You should plan ahead though. If you know where you’re going, write some people a week before you get there. If all you want to do is hang out you should be upfront about it. Some people are only there for language practice and you don’t want to waste their time or yours.

5. Go to Couchsurfing Events

Me with MaxSave the best for last. Going to Couchsurfing events is by far the best way to meet people in any given city. The events are free, they’re usually in a cool local pub, bar or park, and the people are usually friendly and welcoming. I’ve been to dozens of Couchsurfing events in Moscow, Odessa, Kiev and Dresden. On average I’ve enjoyed myself 4 out 5 times. That’s a good percentage in my book!

Even if the event ends up being a bust, you’re still guaranteed to meet a few people. Exchange numbers and offer to hang out the next day. Just like that you have a new contact in a city where you didn’t know anyone before.

Do you have any other ideas about how to meet people while travelling? Post them below, I’d love to hear about them!

3 Reasons You Should Quit Your Job and Travel

If you get a job straight out of college I think you’re making a mistake. As soon as you start your first work, you’re heading down a path that ends in a lifetime of stagnation. Before you have time to think you’ve got responsibilities, people who depend on you, things happening, and you can’t leave it all behind. Fuck, even just getting a dog can ruin your plans to travel.

That’s why if you’re reading this, and you still have enough leeway where you can quit your job and travel, you have to do it. Travelling is a unique experience and there is no replacement for it. And for all you Americans out there, travelling in the USA doesn’t count. Save some cash and go to Europe or South America. Here’s why.

1. You Meet Awesome People Travelling

Four of Us Having FunWhen you travel you meet awesome people who you instantly have something in common with. You’re both in a foreign country, and you’re both probably there for a reason. Unless you’re my friend Zhena, who picks countries based on the cheapest plane ticket.

Even if you meet other people from your own country, you’re still going to have more to talk about than if you met them at a bar back at home. That means relationships are more solid. Even though I’ve only been travelling for a few months, I already regularly talk to more people I’ve met in hostels, than I do from the first twenty-two years of my life.

2. Learn Something New

I’ve been doing research for a company, and I’ve read fifty personal bios of bloggers in the last few days. One man said that he’s lived in the same fifty mile area his whole life. For a vacation, he goes four hundred miles away, once a year, to the same fucking spot. Every time.

What kind of life is that?

He doesn’t know anything about the world. Reading is great and watching movies is fun, but to actually learn something you have to get out the door and go experience it first hand. When you step off that airplane, bus or train, and breathe in the air of the new city, you always learn something new.

Do you know what Moscow smells like? Or Berlin, Kiev, Miami, New York, Krakow or Prague?

3. You’ll Regret it Later

CrazyStuffIf you don’t quit your job and travel, I promise you that you’re going to regret it later. Money is only cool for so long. Once the charm wears off, you’re left in a house. With a car. And a job that you don’t like. Who knows, maybe you travel and then you get all of that stuff anyways. But at least you’ll have stories to tell.

Don’t subject yourself to a life of servitude. Don’t trade your time for money when you’re young. Get out and do something awesome! There will always be something waiting for you when you get back. But if you don’t go now, if you don’t quit now, you’re going to be forty someday and you won’t be able to. You’ll have kids, a wife, a house, a mother-fucking couch. Once you have it, it’s tough to let it go. Make it easy for yourself. Quit now, buy a plane ticket and just go.

No matter what happens, no matter who you meet or where you go, you won’t regret it.

The Best Travel Backpack to Buy

If you’re going to travel it makes way more sense to take a backpack than a suitcase. Backpacks are lighter, more versatile, more attractive, and they’re definitely cooler than lugging around your parent’s old suitcase. Finding the best backpack for travelling can be daunting though. There are so many different brands and sizes on the market that you might not know what to pick.

In this post I’ll show you the backpack I bought, tell you why I made a big mistake, and then show you what I consider to be a way better choice.

The Osprey Aether 70 – Mistake

Aether 70When I was in Russia I did some research and determined that Osprey is the best manufacturer of hiker’s backpacks. After locating the sole retailer in Moscow, I took the Metro there and bought the Aether 70 (73 liters of storage space). I chose this large sized backpack because I just didn’t know any better. I knew that I would be living for several years from it, and I thought that I would need all the space I could get.

That was a bad move. It turns out that I don’t need all the space. Nor do I need all the fancy gadgets that come with it, including: sleeping bag straps, ice axe loops, a water pouch section, pouches on the sides of the support straps, and so on. That’s great if you’re hiking, but unnecessary in most modern airports.

The worst drawback of this backpack is that it’s too large to carry onto the airplane. This means that every time I fly, I’m giving the airlines a free pass to lose my backpack. I don’t know what the statistics are, but I feel like this chance is even larger since I often fly to precarious places, like Ukraine and soon Vietnam.

The Porter 46 – Smart Choice

Porter 46In my experience, a 45 to 50 liter pack is the ideal size for most people. It’s large enough to hold more than a week’s worth of clothing, and yet small enough to carry onto the plane. When I traveled through Europe last month I even saw lots of girls using this size of bag. Taking it even further, when I was in Kiev in June I talked to a guy who had been travelling for months. He had a 45 liter pack and thought it was too big!

That’s why if I could do it all over again, I would choose the Porter 46 from Osprey.  With a 46 liter capacity I feel that it’s the best travel backpack ever. I’d probably have to get rid of a few shirts and a pair of basketball shorts, but I wouldn’t even miss them after a week. If you’re just travelling for a few weeks, you’ll be able to fit more than enough into this pack to be comfortable. In Kiev I talked to a guy on a three month Euro tour and he said he loved this pack and it gave him plenty of room. The price is fair too. At $140, it’s about $100 less than I paid for my backpack.

Comparing Backpack Features

It’s only fair to point out that while my backpack is too large, it’s still an awesome piece of equipment. It’s incredibly light, very comfortable, it looks attractive, and the quality is brilliant. In the end though, it’s just not right for me. The Aether is designed for climbing a mountain, not travelling across Europe by train. So to help you pick the right pack, here are a few common features to watch out for

Damn1. Size, often measured in liters. Your average school backpack is about 25 liters, which is fully one third the size of my massive 73 liter pack.

2. Hip straps. These are really, really nice for carrying your backpack long distances, but completely superfluous if you’re just going from the airport to a hostel.

3. Water pouch. Unless you’re planning on actually doing real hiking, this is an additional feature you won’t need.

4. Assorted hiking gadgets, too many to list. There are so many different straps and hooks on my backpack I don’t know what half of them do. That’s what’s so attractive about the smooth, sleek appearance of the Porter 46. After all, unlike this guy, odds are you aren’t going to the airport ready to film global warming in action..

5. Brand. Osprey is the best, why buy anything else? With some basic maintenance this backpack will easily last for a lifetime.

Impressions from Germany

My father’s grandmother and grandfather emigrated to the United States after World War Two. When they left, Germany was not doing well. There were few job opportunities, the country was still being rebuilt, and the future looked bleak.

When you walk through Germany today, none of that spirit remains. Germany is a vibrant country with a lot to offer. The public transport system is top notch. The streets are clean, the people are wonderful, and the beer is reasonably priced.

Getting Around

What struck me most was the fantastic public transit system. Trams and buses are an omnipresent sight. They are clean and quite. A far cry from the trams in Ukraine, which simulate the experience of driving a car down a brick road. Also, a world apart from the buses in my home city of Buffalo, NY. Inviting would not be the first word you’d use to describe them.

At most bus stops there’s a little board that tells you when to expect the next tram or bus. This is brilliant! The extra million dollars that this must have added to the budget is money well spent. Why can’t America do the same thing?

Accommodations

While in Dresden we stayed with my friend Zhena. She’s studying in university and has an apartment ten minutes from campus. Her place is one of the cooler apartments that I’ve ever been in, and I was surprised to learn the price. Every month she pays 180 Euros in rent.

What?

When I was in college we had $200 dollar apartments too. Typical problems included: a leaky roof, former tenants were crack addicts, broken windows, no running water, holes in the wall, bedbugs, poor heating, no insulation, general look of deathly disrepair. That’s loads different from Zhena’s modern, inviting apartment.

This trend of affordable rent holds true in Berlin was well. While touring around Berlin on bicycles, we encountered a brilliant neighbor called Kreuzburg. I fell in love immediately. Fantastic clubs, bars everywhere, lots of young people, right on the river, a general feeling of youth and vibrancy.

The New York City equivalent would be SoHo. However, unlike the ludicrously priced SoHo ($3,500 a month for a studio) an average person can afford to live in Kreuzburg. At 900 Euros a month it’s not cheap, but it’s not prohibitively expensive either. In fact as soon as I’m earning $2,000 a month online, I plan to rent a place there for a few months.

The Culture

CheersGermanyBefore going to Germany I asked my friend Sergej to give a rundown on the culture. Anything I shouldn’t do, any norms that I should be aware of? He thought about it for a second, then shook his head.

“Germany is a lot like America, you’ll be fine.”

While that’s a gross simplification, I understood his point. The difference between Germany and America isn’t that great. That is, as compared to America and China, or America and Russia.

While there, the thing that took the most getting used to for me were the bikes. Like cars, they have a right away. They often have their own lanes. At large intersections they sometimes even have their own stoplights. You have to be careful with them. In Germany a person riding a bike has a right to use the road, and you have the right to get the hell out of their way.

That’s different than America. I’ll make a disclaimer that I’ve never been to a bike friendly city like Oakland or San Francisco. However, in New York and Buffalo, it’s a bike rider’s responsibility to avoid you, not the other way around.

Transitioning from the healthy to the unhealthy, I really love that you can drink in the street in Germany. Is there anything really so wrong with sitting in a park, or in a public square, and having a beer? Germany doesn’t think so, and neither do I.

It’s illegal to drink openly in Russia, Ukraine and America. However, in the Russian speaking countries people just do it anyways. Nobody cares, it might as well not even be a law. On the other hand, you can get a ticket for doing it in America (I’ve verified this law twice). I think that’s silly and annoying. As is America’s irrational belief that you must be 21 to drink. A blog post on its own could be written on this.

Germany and Me

Six months ago I didn’t know what second language I would study. The choices were: French, German or Swedish. Thankfully, Germany made the choice easy for me. I’m going to study German!

In the short term I’d like to spend a few months in Germany. I think that as soon as I have the cash to back it up, I’m going to rent an apartment in Berlin. My visa will limit me to three months. In that time, I hope to find out whether Germany is a country that I’m interested in for the long term.

I think it sounds poetic, like the ending to a cheesy B grade movie. Grandparents leave Germany to pursue a better life in America. Two generations later, grandson returns to Germany, pursuing a better future in a fascinating country.

Here’s to you Germany, prost!

Homes, Offices & Other – Unique Buildings in Berlin

Today, walking around Berlin hopelessly lost, I snapped some pictures of cool apartments. If you have the cash, I definitely think Berlin would be as cool city to spend some time in. Everything is super clean, the people are nice and there are lots of cool sights to take in.

So with that in mind, which apartment would you choose to live in?

Leave a comment below, I’m interested to find out!

I’ll accept debate to as whether this is a home or an office. I call it The Hoffice

Hoffice

If you can’t live in the penthouse, why bother?

Balcony

 

If you live here, you’ll never have to worry about people peaking into your windows (slats).

Privacy

 

Plainer than others, but all the balconies on this building look out over a cool river.Plane Jane

 

I can’t even imagine how much this penthouse must cost.Penthouse

 

Sort of boring, but I’m a sucker for the color scheme and design.

Orange and White

 

Black and white, or is it white and black?

Black and White

 

This building is offices.. But I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the world’s largest slice of cheese.

Cheese

 

Top floor for the wind, and for the sun.

Red Brick

 

I don’t think I can afford to live here just yet.

Expensive

 

What’s the point of having a sick ass apartment if you can’t drive to it in a 458?

Black on Black

Kiev Almost Killed This Man

I’d like to introduce you to Benny. This is exactly how he looked as his flight home was taking of from Kiev’s international airport. You may notice several things, like the filthy shirt and the somewhat haphazard manner in which he’s sleeping.

What you can’t see are the lack of a wallet, telephone, and impressive facial reconstruction courtesy of several unknown fists. After a heavy night of partying Benny was mugged, and as Benny himself pointed out;

“This is going to be a good story to tell in a month or two.”

The Party Animal

Benny checked into our hostel on Monday night and as soon as it got dark outside he left. The next morning he came back sometime around 7, which set a pattern for the days to come.

After he woke up in the evening, I took him out for steak and then we ended up going to a few bars around Kiev. When we came back to the hostel at midnight I was ready to call it a night, but despite partying till past sunrise the night before, Benny wanted more.

So he went to the club and I went to sleep.

This story continued to repeat itself. Benny would party till sunrise then sleep till 6 pm. He would eat something and go out again. He never once actually woke up early enough to go see anything in the city nor did he ever allow his liver a chance to recover.

After the fourth day in a row of this he felt sick, couldn’t eat anything and looked pale.

“I ate some bad soup” he said to me. “Dammit, why do I always get bad food at restaurants?”

“Maybe it’s just that you’ve been getting drunk every night and your body hates you?” I asked pleasantly.

“No, I don’t think that’s it. I’m pretty sure it’s the soup..”

A Last Chance Resolution

Sunday afternoon, his last day in Kiev, Benny resolved to do something cultural and enlightening. He reserved a ticket to the opera and left sometime around four. Well the next day rolled around and at 7 am, his usual return time, he still wasn’t back.

8 came and went.

9 came and went.

The owner of our hostel suggested he just took off without paying. “Sometimes people just go and all we find is a crummy backpack with some bad clothes.”

Curse you Benny! I thought to myself, while secretly at least slightly pleased that I would get to keep his beat up copy of The FountainheadBut then we looked at his things and saw his British Passport. That was a clue something was amiss.

“He’s in jail!” I said in Russian to my friend.

Benny Returns from the Dead

10 was just about to come and go, when I walked down the stairs to the common area and there was Benny, stumbling drunk and looking like hell. His shirt was wrecked with dirt, his face had been worked on, and I had trouble imagine the amount of alcohol that this seasoned drinker must have taken in to be walking like Ernest Hemingway at an open bar wedding.

“Worst night of my life!” He said to me in his English accent. “Worst fucking night of my life!”

He got himself seated on the couch, then he broke it down.

“I went out and I was at the bar. Then after that I saw these homeless guys and I thought yeah, that’s cool you know. So I bought them three bottles of vodka and we all drank together. And it was all chill you know. But then one guy asked me for 50 Grivna and I said no. Then something happened and he punched me, and I punched him. And it was like crazy! But he had this really big friend and he came and punched me. And then there was like a million guys punching me and it just sucked! But I showed them though. When they were going for my phone I didn’t let them have it.”

At this point he mimed picking up his phone high in his hand..

“I took it up and smashed it on the concrete so they couldn’t use it, and then before they could take my wallet I bent up my ATM card so it’s useless. They still took all my money though, so I guess they did sort of win in a way.”

Minutes after this he went into a vodka induced coma from which we were physically unable to rouse him. I have a video of us trying to get him to wake up but I’ll keep that to myself.

Needless to say, Benny did not make his flight back home..

Curse you Kiev!

You can blame who or what you want, but I think the root of the problem here is clear..

What kind of city sells beer for a dollar at any bar anywhere in the city!

Obviously whoever created this policy didn’t take into account that some people come from places where alcohol is expensive. When they arrive in Kiev they simply don’t know how to conduct themselves.

What is for some of us a blessing is for others a curse. Benny was in Kiev for a week and I don’t think he ever saw anything besides the inside of bar. We have no idea if he ever made it to the opera or not.

How to Make Traditional Ukrainian Borsch

Earlier in life I wasn’t a soup guy. I liked the stuff my mom made but that was about it. Now though, I’ve found a dish I could eat every day for the rest of my life. Borsch is a fantastic blend of vegetables, spices, and magic.

This recipe came from Mama Luda, who grew up in Norther Ukraine and learned how to cook from her mother. She was nice enough to cook it with me one morning and allowed me to write down the recipe.

Remember though, if you decide to make it, you have to eat it with a dollop of sour cream. It’s tradition and it’s delicious.

Ukrainian Red Borsch

Ingredients 

-7 to 10 medium sized Potatoes
-2 Small green onions (regular onions will do too, one medium sized onion is sufficient)
-2 to 3 Carrots
-3 to 5 Beets (plus the leaves too if you can get them)
-1 to 2 Tomatoes (tomato sauce will also work)
-Half head of cabbage
-A teaspoon or so of sugar
-A little bit of fresh dill
-Salt and Pepper optional

Preparation

1) Cut up the carrots and beats into small pieces

2) Cup up potatoes, onions and beet leaves into small chunks and add them to a big soup pot with about 1.5 liters of water. Set this pan on a high heat to boil, and then when it does boil turn down the heat to low

3) Fry carrots in a bit of oil and after several minutes add the beets, tomatoes, and a touch of sugar. Fry the lot of it till the carrots and beets begin to brown then set aside

4) Consider what life must have been like under communist rule

5) Cut up or shred the cabbage into inch long pieces

6) When the potatoes in the pan are soft and ready, then add the cabbage to the mixture

7) Continue to cook on a low boil and add water as you see fit (perhaps another half liter or so, depending on how it looks)

8) If you don’t have tomatoes and are using sauce, you can add it to the boiling water after the cabbage

9) Wash your dill in cold water then warm water. After that, cut it up into very small pieces

10) Several minutes after adding the cabbage, add the beet, carrot and tomato mixture to the boiling water. Put a little bit of water into the pan you fried that all in then dump it into the soup pan, ensuring you don’t leave any delicious bits stuck in the pan

11) Stir, add salt and pepper if you so desire.

12) Once the cabbage, beets, and carrots are cooked and soft, then add your fresh cut dill. Stir it into the soup thoroughly then turn off the heat.

13) Make mental note to buy more vodka as you only have one bottle left and you may want to get drunk tonight

14) Let stand ten minutes and then serve with sour cream on the side (this step is incredibly important and must be obeyed at all costs)

 

You have now made traditional Ukrainian Borsch!

Why Ukrainians are Straight Up Hustlers

Being in Ukraine right now is incredibly good for my business spirit. I’m surrounded by people who are making do without a lot of money. However, it’s not a permanent state of mind.

One of the worst curses of poverty is the state of mind that goes with it. People in poverty often believe that they cannot change things. Even if there is an opportunity to better their situation and make a positive change, a person with a poverty mindset won’t see it.

Fixing Poverty

People toss around statistics sometimes.

“With X Billions of dollars we could get rid of poverty in the United States.”

I disagree. Even if you bought every person in poverty a new apartment, and gave them job training, and made sure they had enough food, it would do nothing to change their underlying mental thought patterns.

It can take years to radically change the way you view your environment. Most people don’t have the gumption to switch to a new way of thinking. Thus, most people either have it, or they don’t.

Ambition and Action

That’s why I freaking love it here in Kiev. Even though many people are surviving on a very small salary, they have exactly the opposite of a poverty mindset. Most of the Ukrainians I meet are hustling to make more money and improve their situation.

One guy I know has invested money in an online business and has started earning a return. Another is taking programming classes. I just met a guy my age who founded his own English language school with some friends, and they’re expanding the business right now.

This spirit is infectious!

I’m working towards developing a monthly income from online work at the moment, and I feel like a Ukrainian. I’m proud to say that too. Admittedly I haven’t really been that many places, but I definitely identify more with Ukrainians than Russians.

Living Carefully

Another thing I’ve noticed is that people here are careful with money. They don’t buy something new if they can fix the old thing. They don’t eat out when they can cook at home.

I think America should take lessons. We are so quick to throw out our stuff and buy something new that we have lost touch with our roots.

Almost a hundred years ago America was in a depression and people were hustling. Food was a question not a guarantee. Today, our waistlines prove that this is no longer the case.

As do our landfills.

We’ve lost touch with what it means to economize and hustle and jump for opportunities. That’s why I think everyone could benefit from some Ukrainian spirit. This is a fantastic country that’s on the rise. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all the hard working Ukrainians I’ve had the pleasure to meet!

How I lived for One Month on $376.16

As the title of this post suggest, my first month of my $2,500 challenge was successful. In fact I came in under budget! I’m allowed $416.67 a month, which means I was about $40 light. Damn, that’s awesome!

It really wasn’t that hard though. I put myself in a situation where it would have been difficult to fail.

The Rural Life

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts you know that I spent two weeks on a commune in Ukraine. I don’t even know if commune is the right word for it, but it’s the closest word that I think of.

Everyday I worked about five hours, carrying water and working in the garden. In exchange I slept for free, and enjoyed three delicious traditional Ukrainian meals a day (probably my favorite part of being there).

The closest store was a fifteen minute bike ride away.

I estimate that in the fifteen days I was there I spent about $7. I bought some ice cream cones, some cookies for the kids, some Tarhun, and a couple of muffins. Obviously that complete lack of expenditure is a big reason why I came in under budget (not to mention not buying alcohol).

The Kiev Party

It’s a good thing I didn’t spend any money for those two weeks, because I overspent the rest of the time.

When I first arrived in Kiev it was the beginning of my vacation, after working eight months as an English teacher. I was so thrilled to be done teaching that I went a little nuts. Lots of restaurants, lot’s of bars and lots of overpriced morning coffees at the local cafe.

I also paid a decent chunk of change to help fund an awesome adventure.

A local Ukrainian guy me and my friend Zhena knew took use to a movie theater, where we rented out an entire room to ourselves. We drank wine and made fun of Mel Gibson, it was a riot!

However, as the average monthly salary for a Ukrainian is about as much as I paid for my hiker’s backpack, I picked up Max’s share of our movie theater adventure, and wrote it off as a brilliantly fun night.

The Budget Continues

I’m working with this challenge month by month, and July is taken care of. I’m volunteering at a hostel near the city center of Kiev. In exchange for a couple of hours a work a day I have a free place to stay. That means my only expenses are food and alcohol.

With $13.87 a day to spend, this is easily doable. I’m sure that there are million of Ukrainian out there who do it on half this amount.

You can go to any bar around here and buy a beer for $1. Food is also inexpensive. Yesterday I went slightly over budget, spending $15.23. However, for that money, let’s take a look at what I got.

A bottle of Wine from Chile, a block of Swiss cheese, a package of pre-sliced salami, two-hundred grams of vegetable salad with feta, two slices of cake, a bottle of Kefir, five small cucumbers, a bar of chocolate, eight sausages, and two cans of summer edition RedBull.

Pretty awesome huh!

If you’re converting Dollars or Euros to the local currency (Grivna) you benefit from a wonderful exchange rate. A couple of years ago you could only buy half as many Grivna as you can today. Add to that that most things here are cheap to begin with and you get a winning formula.

It’s not wonder that I’m going to come back to Kiev next summer and rent an apartment.

Why Aren’t You Here?

All of this begs the question, if there is a place you can buy a back pack full of food for $15, and a beer at a downtown bar for $1, why wouldn’t you come?

The war in Ukraine is invisible here. I feel safer in Kiev than I did in New York. The people are fantastic, and nearly without exception, every person I’ve met has said how much they love Kiev.

What are you waiting for?

How to Get a Volunteering Job at a Hostel

If you want to travel around the world on a budget, volunteering at a hostel is a great way to live for free. In exchange for a couple of hours a work a day, you’ll have a place to stay for free. I think that’s a pretty good deal, especially as the work load won’t be difficult.

I have some personal experience with this. At this very moment I’m sitting on a couch in my hostel in Kiev, Ukraine. I’m volunteering here in exchange for a bed. I think I’m getting a great deal!

Most of my work is doing laundry, and since we only have one machine, much of my job is actually waiting for the washing cycle to finish. Two hours of reading every four shift, check.

I’m also always meeting new, interesting people. Yesterday four cool Canadians came in. We all went to the bar last night and a couple of them ended up getting their heads lit on fire. Good times.

If this sounds like a good deal to you, let’s check out how you can make it a reality.

How to Find a Volunteer Job at a Hostel

1) Check out

www.WorkAway.info

You may get lucky and find a hostel volunteering opportunity there. Or maybe some different work you like even better. Simply search for you city and see what’s available.

2) Go to

www.HostelWorld.com

Find all the hostels in the city your interested in. Next, take the names of those hostels and find their websites. For example, the website for the hostel I’m volunteering at is;

www.KievCentralStation.com

Once you’ve found your hostels website, navigate to the Contact Us section. There you should find a contact email. Copy that email address and send them a message.

What should you say?

Well I don’t know if there is one correct message and one other one that’s not good. I think a good email will disclose a few sentences about yourself and why you want to volunteer. Next, briefly mention some related work experience if you have it. Or if you’ve already stayed in many hostels, mention that as well.

Finally, offer customize the message a bit. Check out pictures of the hostel your emailing and find something that looks cool. Maybe the location, or the common room, or an in-house cafe. Mention that you think the hostel is desirable because of that. Just don’t forget to change this part of the message for every hostel!

And that’s it. Send this message to a bunch of hostels and wait for some replies.

My Message

When I was doing this I sent out three emails, five days before I was ready to arrive. One hostel never replied, one hostel very nicely declined, and one said yes.

And that’s the story of how I’m here. Literally ten minutes of work and I found a place to live for free for a month.

So I’ll end this post with an exact copy of the email I used to secure this job. It’s awfully informal, rather short, and conversational. But it get’s the point across and worked for me.

Cheers from Kiev

Sam

P.S. In Russian, it’s very common to do smiley faces not like this 🙂 but like this )), in case you think I made a grammar error.

——————-

Hello, привет))

My name’s Sam and I’m living in Northern Ukraine right now. However, I’m coming into Kiev on Friday. What I’m looking for is a place to work / volunteer, and I think Kiev Central Station looks awesome, I love the layout of the common rooms and kitchen.

In exchange for a place to stay I’d be happy to help out with whatever you need. Registering guests, keeping the rooms tidy, or organizing events.

I’m American, 23 years old, and I almost speak intermediate Russian. Если удобно для вас, можно разговаривать по-русски.

If you think this sounds like a good deal, please send me an email back. I’m going to be in Kiev waiting for your reply.

Спасибо!

My Friends Got Their Heads Lit On Fire!

Another crazy night out in Kiev. At some point I’m actually going to have to adopt a more civilized lifestyle and stop being a Gatsby. For now though, that party continues.

At the moment I’m in an amazing position. I’m volunteering at a hostel in Kiev, which is turning out to be a fantastic way to meet new people. Every day some people leave, and some other people come in from all parts of the world. Yesterday some cool Canadians arrived, and they wanted to have a night out in Kiev.

The Local Kiev Bar

My boss suggested we all go to a local bar which sells $2 steaks and $1 beer. Obviously that’s where we went. The steak turned out to be delicious, and we got more than we bargained for in the way of entertainment.

The bartender grabbed a few of the Canadians. We had no idea what was happening, as he wrapped them in a large coat and put helmets on their heads. The mystery increased when he started putting alcohol soaked rags on the bar, and then a wrench, and that’s all I’ll say. You’ll just have to watch the video.

Cool right..

Another fun night partying in Kiev. I’m really glad I’m here right now and I have the chance to see cool stuff like this. Although I gotta say, the reason I’d go back to this place isn’t that they may light me on fire, it’s the sheer awesomeness of being able to eat a steak and drink a beer for a total of $3.

Ukraine is where it’s at!

14 Fantastic Pictures from Chernobyl, Ukraine

The Chernobyl disaster happened on April 26, 1986. In one day an entire city was forced to leave behind their lives. Now it’s a popular tourist destination in Ukraine, and there are a handful of companies that offer guided tours to the abandoned site. My friend Sergej (pronounced Sergei) went there a few days ago and based on everything he showed me, I think he spent more time taking pictures then he did breathing!

But that’s ok, because he got some really fantastic shots. He also narrated the story behind every picture before handing them over. So without anymore words, let’s check out some of the pictures he took. If you want to learn more about Chernobyl, click here for the Wiki entry.

Sergej (the man behind all these photos) chilling on top of an abandoned 16 story apartment building

An abandoned store. This used to be a thriving town until the accident

This MASSIVE radar array could detect a nuclear missile launch the second it happened in America

Really, you think this would be obvious

At one point all of these documents were classified, not anymore though

This guy looks like he had a lobotomy at a young age

An abandoned kindergarten, with dolls left on the beds by the children

A faded socialist mural

Sergej said that the floor on this court is still decent, and you could play here if you wanted

Bumper cars anyone? This is my personal favorite of the lot

The famous ferris wheel. Anyone else recognize this from Call of Duty 4?

Same thing with this diving board, I swear I’ve seen it in COD 4 before..

The view from 16 stories up. The apartment building forest

I think the background sky for this monument is so fantastic!

Well that’s all it. I have about a hundred pictures that Sergej gave me, but uploading more simply is not happening. If you want to learn more, you’ll just have to come to Ukraine and see the site for yourself.

Thanks Sergej for the pictures!