It felt a little dream-like, stepping off the bus in Anstruther and walking across the street into the Murray Library Hostel.
Thirty-six hours of continuous travel will do that to anyone, but the warm greeting I received from my host, Sophie, made the dream as tangible as the mug of French-pressed coffee she placed in my hands.
The nervousness I’d had about showing up to a new place and volunteering with strangers evaporated with the morning mist, and left me in a sunny seaside town in Scotland!
The volunteer work, about four hours each day, was simple: cleaning bedrooms, bathrooms, and checking guests in and out of the hostel.
I woke up early most mornings to enjoy a tea or coffee in the bright, cheerful kitchen. If I wasn’t on check-out duty, collecting keys and offering assistance to guests at 8 am, I could go for a walk on the beach - which was just across the street!
The cleaning shift started at 10 am each morning, when the other volunteers and I met to divide up the tasks and plan the day’s work.
We fell into an easy rhythm, and even on days when the hostel was completely booked, we were often finished in only two hours! Often, it didn’t feel like work - but maybe that’s just me. Either way, making beds and vacuuming while looking at the ocean was easy to enjoy!
After the upstairs and the kitchen was clean, we had free time - there was a schedule to show us who was in charge of opening the reception up for receiving check-ins at 4 pm.
While being on this shift meant that we wouldn’t be able to explore too far away from the hostel, I enjoyed welcoming guests from all over the world and making them feel at home. They were often just as impressed with the hostel as I was!
The work was always evenly distributed, and the work atmosphere was professional, but relaxed. Everyone was respectful of one another, and I loved working there.
Staff were given two days off each week, and the manager tried hard to give us the days off that we asked for. With a bus stop just outside the front door, as well as a gorgeous coastal path that strung the fishing villages together, it was easy to explore Fife!
Day-trips to St. Andrews, Dundee, and the Isle of May were lovely, but sometimes I just walked from town to town, enjoying the coast.
The only grocery store within walking distance was on the more expensive side, and since we had no freezer at the hostel, I spent more money on food than I expected.
Groceries cost me about $250 for the 3 ½ weeks I was in Anstruther - I treated myself to lots of fun new foods!
I spent about 35 GPB on public transit while there, and about 45 GBP on various tour experiences. I could have done it cheaper and still had a great time, though!
The train (Caledonian) and plane (Norwegian Air) I took to get there from California cost me $486, and the total - without souvenirs and postcards, of course - came to roughly $840. Pretty good for a month!
Exchanging work for accommodation really worked to cut my travel costs, and I got to experience the fun of living “like a local” and really getting to know an area well.
Anstruther is a very relaxing little town - I would recommend the volunteer experience there to anyone who is looking for a simple lifestyle of peace and quiet while still wanting to get out and explore occasionally.
The manager at the time, Sophie, was a lovely person to work with and had excellent people skills, and the owner and host, Yann, was generous (if slightly eccentric!).
One thing that I learned while volunteering there was that a workplace could be harmonious. Spending so much time working in food service and hospitality in America had worn me down - I was actually surprised to find how respectfully I was treated by my host and the manager of the hostel, as well as by guests!
Seeing how much more enjoyable service culture could be gave me hope, and showed me how things could be if some changes were made in the hospitality industry in America.
Thanks to my experience in the U.K., I now have some ideas on how to improve the culture in my own workplace when I get home!
I’d go back to the Murray Library Hostel to volunteer in a heartbeat. The work was light, the people were lovely, and the location was incredibly refreshing to my spirit.
Working there was an amazing experience, and I am so glad that Worldpackers gave me this opportunity! It really was a dream come true!