After a few weeks of volunteering at a hostel in Manali, I wanted to share what a “day in the life” looks like here. As I shared previously, I found this volunteer opportunity by meeting people in Manali, so this whole gig started off very informally. However in these last weeks, I was able to create some structure out of a very unstructured situation. Chetan (the hostel manager) and I have built mutual trust where he knows I have good intentions and am motivated to help, and I know my basic needs will be covered (bed + meals) and I’ll get ample free time.
Overall, my job has been more project-based versus having a set of responsibilities each day. Our hostel is well-staffed, so I’m not super involved in day-to-day operations (housekeeping, check-in, etc), but rather my job involves tackling one-time projects to prepare for the summer season as well as creating atmosphere with guests – more on this below.
The only area that I regularly help with is managing the Wrong Address’s Instagram page. I’m constantly taking pictures of the going-ons at the hostel, adding posts/stories, as well as responding to inquiries through DM.
As hostel life goes, each day looks different from one another – there are some days when I have complete free time and other days when I’m head down working on a task. This day-in-the-life recap will reflect a more productive day. 🙂
I wake up every day between 6 to 6:30am – I’m usually the first person up at the hostel and love having quiet time to myself. 🙂 I start the day by making coffee in the kitchen and enjoying the cool morning air – the rooftop views never get old.
Every few days, I’ll switch it up and grab coffee at the corner store down the street. I love this sweet man who works here. Like many of my friends in the village, he speaks very little English and I don’t speak Hindi; but through smiles, head nods, and hand gestures, we’ve grown quite fond of each other.
Then, I venture off for my morning hike. I have a route that I do every day through the entire village and a forest. I use this time to catch up with Joe and/or my mom. ❤
I’m usually back at the hostel around 9 am when the staff and guests start emerging. Mornings are quite lively as everyone starts their morning tasks, working out on the roof, and hanging out in the sun. We usually eat parathas for breakfast – similar to Chinese scallion pancakes, but with different fillings (potato/onion/cabbage) – very delicious but not super healthy. 😛
We also give yesterday’s food leftovers to the cow downstairs. She can handle some spice!
We have a few digital nomads staying with us, and so later in the morning, the hostel quiets down as people start their work. If I have personal chores, I do them this time, such as hand-washing my clothes (#villagelife). Boy is it an arm workout! I can see why washing machines were invented. 😛
Around ~10:30 am is when I open my laptop and start work for the hostel. Wrong Address is relatively new (3 months), and my first ~2 weeks were spent helping with one-time tasks to set up and grow the business, mostly on the computer. I personally love working for a new hostel as it gives me a better sense of what it would take to start my own one day. One of my first tasks was designing the hostel’s menu. It was a huge milestone for the entire staff as it helped create some structure in our kitchen.
Another big project I was excited to help with was getting the hostel live on our first booking site. Wrong Address has done very well in its first months in attracting guests through Instagram and word-of-mouth. That was one reason I joined because I saw how successful it was without being online yet.
Almost all the guests have been from India, and so Chetan and I discussed a strategy for attracting foreigners. And so we decided to start with Airbnb, which is more popular with westerners. I helped set up our first Airbnb listings which was a pretty big project, including taking photos, writing descriptions, and determining the price. I had a lot of fun with it! I felt like this was the perfect task that combined my past jobs in business development + my love for writing. 🙂 There was a lot of excitement when we got our first online bookings – one of our private rooms booked out for the next few weeks!
Chetan works a full-time remote job while managing this hostel (is he superman?!). So I work right next to him in the common space while he does his work. It felt like office life again where I could turn to my boss and ask questions. 🙂
Lunch is usually ready around 1:30pm – usually rice and dal. Sometimes I’ll go out for lunch to my favorite spot in Manali, Super Bake, when I’m craving western food.
When my project work is done, the rest of the afternoon is less structured. Sometimes, I’ll bring guests along for hikes/activities (this might take place in the mornings too). Guest interactions have picked up more recently as we are now officially in high season. This is hands down my favorite part of volunteering – I genuinely love hanging out with guests and showing them around. 🙂
Other times, I’m hanging around the hostel, chatting with visitors who pop by – we get a lot of guests who pass by looking for a room, so I try to make them feel comfortable and “close the sale.” 😉
All this said, something that isn’t formerly part of my job but for which I do feel responsible is “creating atmosphere.” No one wants to stay at an empty hostel, so I’m always trying to socialize with visitors and bring life into the space.
The last area that I help with is giving Chetan honest feedback about the hostel, especially the dorm experience as those were recently added. I appreciate that Chetan values my feedback and will quickly make changes.
If there are no activities in the afternoon, I might take another walk, go shopping, run errands in New Manali, or work on blog stuff.
If I’m bored, I usually head downstairs to the street area and hang out with whoever’s there. The streets are always lively and full of friends in the village.
I have a lady who stops by to sell me cherries.
I’ll also hang out with the furry friends who pass by. 🙂
Usually, the hostel owner is around – we call him “uncle” – and I’ll spend time with him. Uncle is one of my favorite people in the village as has one of the kindest hearts I’ve ever met. He’s a big reason I quickly felt like family here.
In the evening around 7pm, the digital nomads free up, so more people emerge as the cool night air sets in. We usually hang out in the lounge, watch a movie, or set up a bonfire on special nights.
Dinner is usually around 9:30 pm (Indians eat dinner very late – something I had to get used to!). After dinner, I’ll usually hang out for one more hour before heading to bed (I sleep in the same dorm as guests). Just as I’m the first one to wake up, I’m usually the first one to sleep. Hostel life is typically night-centric, but throughout my travels, nightlife is an area I am willing to miss out for “me time” in the mornings.
I hope you enjoyed this post and got a better sense of what a day in the life looks like here! 🙂
6 thoughts on “A day in the life volunteering at a hostel in Manali, India”
The morning hike sounds lovely, and like that the cow enjoys a bit of spice lol 🔆
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Yes it’s a lovely time so far! 😊
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