This is the question I get the most frequently at this hostel: "How are you doing this? Where did you find this job? How did you get a visa? Do you make money?"
I have answers for you!
I found this gig on a website called Workaway.info, which is a platform for finding opportunities all over the world to do volunteer work in exchange for food and accommodation:
I am the biggest advocate of this website and people need to know this exists! I can speak for Americans in the sense that most US citizens think that travel is a luxury for the financially well-off, which is why travel isn't on anyone's radar while they're young. Workaway makes travel possible for those on a budget, because you aren't paying for food and accommodation, which is usually the biggest expense while traveling. Also, you get a much more authentic experience in the country you're volunteering in because you're working for and interacting with locals instead of staying in isolating hotels and eating at overpriced tourist traps.
There's a huge culture of serial-workawayers who hop around working in different countries. Most of my hostel colleagues do this, working at one hostel for 3 to 5 months, then hopping over to another country for another workaway gig. It's the cheapest (and in my opinion, most genuine) way to see the world.
To use Workaway, you have to pay a fee to register as a volunteer once a year (which I believe is around $30, if I remember correctly), and with this fee you are able to contact hosts. You can look up hosts without paying, but you will not be able to contact them.
Workaway is not just for hostel work! You can find farming gigs, renovation projects, yoga retreat work, au pair jobs, etc. You can choose the country you want to visit and look for hosts who need help. I have only worked in hostels, so I can't really speak for anything else, but it has always been relatively easy to find work. It's like finding any other job though: you need to contact several hosts and a small percentage will respond. I think I contacted 10 hostels in Barcelona this time around, and 2 had openings. Side note: most hostels prefer you stay for 3 or more months because it's a pain to train new people every month.
Now, the plane ticket is going to be your biggest expense, so you need to plan a bit in advance to save some $$ for that (there are tricks to finding cheap flights, which really comes down to timing. Check out Skyscanner -- I will write more in depth about it later). Also, you will want to bring some spending money. How much should you bring? It depends on how expensive things are in the country you're volunteering in and the kind of things you want to buy.
The first time I came to Barcelona to do hostel work, I brought $3000 for 3 months (not including plane ticket). With this money, I was able to get a nice dinner with friends occasionally, buy drinks at bars several times a week, buy groceries, take a 5-day holiday in Budapest (flew Ryanair and stayed in a budget hostel) and 11-day holiday in Sardinia (flew Ryanair and stayed with Italian friends). I lived very comfortably with $3K and I could have made it last a lot longer. Every country and city is different, but this has been my experience in Barcelona.
Do I have a visa and do I make money? I have a 90-day Schengen tourist visa, and I am not technically allowed to make money here. I have a separate post explaining the Schengen visa and ways to stay. How am I able to stay? Send me an email and I'll explain. ;)
If you suffer from overthinking like me, here's the best advice anyone every gave me: Just buy the f@#$ing ticket and go. You. Will. Figure. It. Out.
And you will. You will surprise yourself. You will become resourceful. Anyone can do this. Buy the non-refundable plane ticket and you will be forced to figure it out. You'll figure it out as you go. Stop overthinking.
P.S. There is another work exchange website I've heard of but never used called HelpX. It's worth checking out in addition to Workaway: