After my Chinese studies ended, I decided that I was going to stay in Taipei, but living in my apartment wasn’t doing it for me (that damn landlord). And at that moment, I felt that it was time to change my environment. The semester was ending, Dragon Boat Season was coming to a close, and moving just felt right at the time. It was also a very quick and last-minute decision. Just like that, I moved out of my apartment and into a hostel, doing yet my 3rd work exchange. I talked about my first ever work exchange experience here, the second one isn’t
worth mentioning, and now my third and yet another special one at Meander Taipei Hostel.
Meander is located in Ximending, which is a very convenient location to live for there are a variety of places to go eat and shop at. It is also located both on the Green and Blue MRT lines and super close to Taipei Main Station. But I will have to say, its one of the places I actively avoided while living in Taipei. Just a place full of tourists, too many slow walkers, taxis everywhere, and a bit on the grungy side. I can’t understand why would anyone choose to live in Ximen, but I see the appeal: Great for tourists who want to buy all the cute touristy things, but nothing more.
I did a work exchange at this hostel meaning that I am working here exchange for a free stay. It is a hostel, after all, I don’t get special treatment in getting my own room, but the rooms itself are pretty nice and I don’t mind sharing a space with others for a short period of time. Each bed is in shape of a long box with curtains, set of lights and more than enough plugs to charge your devices and a small locker.
The hostel also has water dispensers for unlimited free water, a really nice rooftop, and a huge lobby area to hang out, play some darts, cook and most importantly, meet new people.
I would put this hostel into the category of a poshtel for its a hostel but more on the nicer side. The whole hostel aesthetic is modern, minimal with a wood/nature theme in hand. The beds are box styled with everything inside you can possibly imagine. A curtain to close yourself from the rest of the room, two different types of lights, enough plugs to charge all your daily needs and hooks for days. It’s perfect.
With the hostel holding a max of 180 people at a time, a lot of people come and go. This is the largest hostel I have ever worked in and when I first arrived, I found it a bit overwhelming being there. So many people in your face at all times so, meeting people was not difficult at all. The staff create a chill and yet easy-going environment for guests to come together and meet each other. So it was easy to just sit down at one of the tables and start a conversation. People knew that I worked there after some time and the staff would always call me out of my experience living in Taipei, so guests did not hesitate coming up to me asking for suggestions. I love talking to people helping them share my wealth of knowledge, but damn was it so much. I love being around people chatting with them, but I also enjoy my own company, which is nonexistent living there.
Guest distinguish us workers by our uniform and name badges and with that, comes a lot of responsibility. There is a max of 4 people that can work here at a time and 4 different shifts of the day. There’s the morning shift, the mid-afternoon shift, the evening shift, and the overnight shift. We have to manually clock into work with a punch-in card machine, which I have never used ever before in my life till now. It’s 2019, but then again its Taiwan, everything here is so manual and offline. I’m pretty sure if Taiwan was to suffer a major electricity loss, Taiwan would be ok.
We can give our preference of which shift we want to work, but the staff doesn’t guarantee it for us entirely. Worst-case scenario, I can converse with another volunteer to swap our shifts. I know the hostel staff lowkey hates me so much for I changed my schedule around the most out of all the volunteers that have been working there in the past two months. Your girl was busy.
With the morning shift, it mostly involved setting up breakfast, some cleaning here and there and making sure the lobby is in top-notch condition. The Mid-afternoon shift is all about cleaning (literally the worst time of the day to work if you ask me and I luckily never did this shift whole staying at the hostel) and the evening shift is some cleaning here and there, but mostly giving tours to incoming guests and chatting with the kids. The overnight shift involves mostly doing late night check-ins, chatting with guests, and doing rounds around the hostel making sure everything is in top-notch shape.
Each shift lasts 5 hours long. During my time there, I mostly did either the morning, evening, or overnight shifts. Some days, time moved by so slow for the hostel was empty or I had no energy to work. Other days, I would chat with people to help the time pass by or be caught up in helping guests in planning their trips that my shift would end and I would not even notice.
Sometimes if certain tasks are missed on an earlier shift, we would have to pick up the slack and help out on the next shift. There was a day where I decided it was a good idea to go out and have dinner, then go hard at the club, then KTV and went straight to my morning shift at 7 am. It just so happens, on this same day, I was asked to climb up on to the roof to move something, then recollect the uncollected trash from the day before, and help clean a leaking AC. My body could not take it. I felt like I was hallucinating and wanted to crash.
While working here, lots of people come and go so you have to reintroduce yourself pretty much every day. That shit gets old so fast. Then after, people asking the same questions or wanting to spend time with you. It feels nice knowing that there are always people there wanting to be around you, but its all temporary. Once they leave, you are back to being alone and having to repeat the entire process. Once you come to realize all of this knowing its a part of the job and traveling lifestyle, it is not so bad.
After some time, people begin to notice you. You walk in and the guests staying in the hostel would see me and automatically want to chat. No time to eat a snack or put my stuff down. And they expect you to be there available at all times. It can be quite inconvenient at times for you don’t want to be rude, but It’s all a part of working in the hostel. The customer is always right (which is absolute bs if you ask me). I kinda wish people were more in touch of picking up cues though of when people need a minute or don’t want to be bothered.
There are so many days when I walk into the hostel and don’t want anyone to talk to me. Even with my lack of interest shown in my face, people don’t even notice and keep running their mouths with their stories. Socializing with people is energy draining. Some days, I can sit in the lobby and chat for hours, other days, I don’t want to look at anyone. I spoke with so many individuals, I would even forget if I have spoken with some of them. For example, this one guy was staring me down from a distance (ew why are you looking at me) and was like “Hey DC girl” and then he walked away and I was like, “I don’t even recall having a conversation with him.”
HANNA’S INFINITE NUMBER OF SELFIES TAKEN FROM MY PHONE ALWAYS MADE MY DAY WHEN SCROLLING BACK
Even for myself, working here, I have placed myself in a very unique situation. Most people that come to volunteer at the hostel are long term travelers that move from one country to another. Whereas myself, I have already been living in Taipei for over one year and have already well established myself with the city and see my various groups of friends. So when I came in, I came to meet people but to also still live and go about with my people outside the hostel.
Being here, I felt like for some, there’s an unwritten expectation set where volunteers should be made available to always be there to hang, but I feel like being there at the hostel and hanging for 2/3 hours at the hostel outside of my work hours was enough for me. Whereas most people that do come, all they know are the people they meet at the hostel so our expectations and circumstances are very different. A lot of times, cool guests that I met wanted to hang and eat here and there, but honey, I have been in Taipei for a minute, like I ?????? don’t want to go out everyday spending money on stuff I have already done. Now, if I do really like the guest, I definitely will go out my way to spend time with them, but otherwise, I am good.
But I also don’t find it necessary to speak with everyone that comes in and out of the hostel. It’s too much honestly. The energy you have to put in to talk to people is something worth noting when working in hospitality. Dealing with the guests and chatting with them is enough while on duty. Like who gots time to talk with every single person that walks in the door? I don’t need to know everyone. If they spark my interest, I will start a convo with them, but otherwise, I don’t feel the need. There’s way too many people that come in the door to keep up with. It’s like meeting someone new every day and giving your whole life story away. Do you know how old that gets? But that’s all part of working in this type of environment: the transient lifestyle.
Overall, it was fun working here. Every day was a different day, a new set of people and something different happened every day. You never knew what was coming, but something was coming for sure.
The people that come and go in this hostel are from all over of all kinds. They are witty, some are super cringy, the interesting, shy, fun, adventurous, wise… you come across them all.
Some of my favorites were of those who are much older than me, who shared their stories of traveling, of adversity, or was able to give me good advice on moving forward in life.
Some were just fun to be around, to drink with, to converse with, to joke with, to play a game of cards, or exchange life stories.
When you stay in a hostel long enough, you begin to notice a lot of things. Behaviors of not only coworkers but guests as well. Their daily routine, what time they get up, the people they interact with, the questions they ask, their movements, the body language, etc. There are also quite a few people that come and stay for long periods of time. These the people I prefer to sit down and get to know since they will be around for a while, I have more opportunities to sit down and connect with them.
You also notice certain people’s travel styles, some people jam-pack their days and come back just to sleep, some people come with no plans and take it day by day, some drink their lives away, others spend more time staying in the hostel than going out hitting the sites. Everyone is different. There is no one way in how to travel. It’s all about preference.
But with this kind of work as well, comes a lot of demanding guests wanting everything catered to their own needs. For example, this hostel has many private rooms and I wasn’t very familiar with the rooms. So one guest came by wanting someone to deliver water bottles in the private room. I had no idea they placed such a thing in the room. But they asked in Chinese and I did not understand what they fully said so I had a guest translate for me. I was so confused for we have water filters both on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th floors. They could easily take one of the empty bottles and refill them. So I shared this info with them and they were not too happy with what I said. They came back and insisted that they need new water and did not want to take water from the machine. I was just thinking to myself There are so many convenient stores nearby that they could easily buy water. We even have a vending machine that sells water. And this is not a hotel. Go fetch your own water. At this point, I was the only staff at the desk so I gave them the water anyway and found out the next day that they have to pay extra if they want more water. At the end of the day, this is a hostel, not a hotel. If you wanted these kinds of amenities, you should’ve booked a hotel.
The full-time staff working at the hostel there were the absolute best. Most of them if not all of them love to travel, know everything and anything about Taipei to the T and they most importantly can communicate and speak in a variety of languages. These people can speak English and Mandarin, but some of them could also speak Korean and even Japanese. Shook.
Then there’s the housekeeping staff who are just there for room cleaning. I did not converse with them much, but they seemed nice and I saw quite a few come and go within the two months.
And finally, the volunteer workaway/work exchange peeps like myself who came and worked there. Most were women, but all of them were very friendly, open-minded, and cool to hang out with. Within the two months working there, I think I saw around 8 people come and go. I even trained a few after learning the ropes of the work and all.
This is definitely one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in. The staff at the hostel is super attentive, their English speaking skills are superb, always green guests when they come in, available to chat at all hours of the day and night, and overall super friendly and make your stay feel very welcoming. On top of that, the room facilities are up to date, very modern, neat and simple style yet perfect for my needs. And the guests/ volunteers who I met here really made my summer. I am not sure how my summer would’ve turned out if I did not work here.