Ellen and I are at a hostel in Santa Rosa, where we’ve agreed to volunteer for three weeks. We’re one week into our stint, and so far it’s relaxing but slightly bizarre. We’re having fun but not really doing much of anything.

Our main job is to answer the phone and let people in when the hostel owner and administrator aren’t around. They are usually here, though, so the job isn’t particularly difficult or demanding. We are also supposed to make sure the cleaning lady is cleaning (yep, she is), feed the hen (she prefers to eat corn from our hands, rather than peck it off the ground), and do occasional odd jobs like making a sign in English or buying a bar of soap from the store. Most of the time, Ellen and I play card games and hang out. I can’t see that the hostel gets any benefit from our presence, other than to make the place look busier than it really is.

Cleopatra, queen of the hostel

Cleopatra, queen of the hostel

From our perspective, the experience is slightly more advantageous. We get a free place to stay, discounts on local tourist attractions, and a chance to practice Spanish and cooking Colombian food. We have almost endless hours of free time, and an opportunity to research the next leg of our journey. Life is pretty good here.

Discount on entrance to the hotsprings? Yes please!

Discount on entrance to the hot springs? Yes please!

I don’t imagine that Ellen and I will want to volunteer at hostels for a large proportion of our travel, but it’s a nice way to take a rest from more intensive farm or conservation work and get some touristy stuff in without breaking the bank.