The backpacker

I have for the last couple of years been working my way around the world, a little work here, a little sightseeing or entertainment and moving on. On the latest leg, I got a working passage on a yacht, and having called at a number of places arrived at the floating kingdom. With so many backpackers moving through here, it was easy for the people I was working for to get replacement staff here and I was able to leave without having to let them down.

I had earned enough that I could have stayed for a couple of weeks in one of the cheaper holiday hotels, but instead decided to stay on an island that mostly formed a large backpackers hostel with a variety of types of accommodation. To start with I wanted to work out what the options were, so chose the cheapest a fairly simple staggered vertical bunk arrangement with walls, a bit like a dog kennel with a ledge outside. Bathroom and all other facilities were shared. 

On one level within the island was cafe's, which generally are  a good place to find other backpackers and find out both the rules and opportunities and this was no exception.

This place has fewer rules than most, and quite a lot of types of work are open to people moving through, but not some like the water transport people as they have to be members of an organization.

I was able to spend a few days doing the tourist thing and meeting people, and to think about what I was going to do next. There were far more choices here than you normally get when working abroad, and it was a toss up between getting a gardening job for a firm that maintained the large parks and gardens on many of the islands or something in the pleasure industry. I was still considering these and other options when I heard from one of the others in the hostel of an opening with a water bus company for a combination of porter, guide and translator, and having picked up several languages on my travels I thought this could be for me.

I went to meet the company and got on well with them, starting the following morning. The first few days shadowing another backpacker doing the same job and then moving to act as a pool person filling in wherever there was a need. Part of the role we did within the pool, was to help out the team they called shadows, this was where you were asked by a hotel or travel company to go to the port area and meet someone from the  arrivals and take them via the water bus service to the hotel, complete with their luggage. This was not only fun, but also well rewarded as many, but especially the Americans, would appreciate the service you gave them and tip well.

I managed to get transferred from the reserve pool to the shadows full time, which meant that my income was now much higher and within the hostel I moved to a small apartment. Short of a kitchen or other cooking facilities it had everything you would find in a flat including its own bathroom. I also joined a group of people with these apartments who jointly paid one of the latest arrivals at the hostel to clean our rooms and do a few chores for us, there was not enough to do to each justify someone, but between us, it was an ideal arrangement.

Life within the floating kingdom was good, nice weather, friendly people, loads to do, and plenty of work. 

My only problem was I started to think about the future and wanting to settle down there, it was so tempting and it was the hardest place for me to leave.

I haven't yet seen all the parts of the world that I want to, but so far it is the place I think I will end up long term.

Quite a few of the people in the hostel are in the gap year before going to university, and I have heard that a new island is being built specifically for this group, and also has some employment arrangements with local companies so that it is available to a wider group.  It would be really fun to get involved in setting up such a venture and save many of these younger people from many of the problems they encounter when traveling around in other countries. Perhaps if its built I will go back and work there. I have spoken to the project managers and they have shown an interest in offering me a managers job which would be part organizing and part counseling, what's more it has a family home with it in the part on the top of the island. Maybe its time for me to put down permanent roots.


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Last updated: May 10, 2002.