So I’ve been working on Koh Rong for about a week now and have settled into life as a part-time waitress/sun soaker-upper. I’m getting a taste of island life – which is often wonderful, occasionally frustrating, and always unique. Let’s start with the good, shall we?
Pro: I get to wake up to THIS.
Obviously, Koh Rong is beautiful. The weather is awesome. There aren’t too many mosquitos. It’s impossible to feel stressed out. And, below is where I have coffee in the morning.
Pro: You meet people from all over the world.
In the restaurant, I work with people from Turkey, Canada, Greece, Poland, Germany, the UK, and (obviously) Cambodia. The guests come from all over the place too, and since this is not a luxury island, there are more backpackers and fewer honeymooners. What I mean by saying this is that backpackers are generally more interested in hanging out with other people than honeymooners are, so I think this is more fun than working in a resort on, say, Koh Samui would be. The variety is great because I love hearing peoples’ stories and deciphering mystery languages!
Pro: You spend almost nothing.
Most of the jobs to be found here don’t pay actual money, but trade free accommodation and food in exchange for work. With the essentials covered, you can spend next to nothing. I spend about three bucks a day, mostly on stuff I don’t actually need (like overpriced chocolate bars from the only place on the island that sells them). That’s less than $100 for a whole month of being here! Activities (read: hanging out on the beach) are mostly free too, so you don’t have that many chances to spend money (though it’s a different story if you’re here for scuba diving).
Pro: You stay occupied.
I adore it here, but I can only do so much sitting on the beach. Hartley is somehow able to read for about eight hours in a stretch without getting bored and stir-crazy, but after an hour or two I’m about to crawl out of my skin. I need something to keep me busy, and this does the trick.
Pro: It’s chill.
Working here I spend half my time just chatting with people, and if it’s slow I can even sit down with people and have a drink. I don’t even have to wear shoes.
But of course, it’s not always perfect! There are some annoying things too. Such as:
Con: Water and electricity are irregular.
At first, being without regular electricity and using less water – living nearly off the grid – sounds adventurous and wild and all that jazz. And sometimes it is. I don’t mind that there’s no hot water here, and I like living more simply, but damn it, I hate when I go to take a shower or wash my hands and no water comes out of any of the taps. And it happens ALL THE TIME. When there’s no water, the only way to wash yourself is with the toilet bucket.
Allow me to explain: the toilets here look normal, but they don’t flush. Instead, there’s a big tank of water and a scoop in each stall, and you throw the water into the bowl when you’re done. Using this bucket to splash yourself off when there’s no running water can get old fast – and when that water’s gone, trust me: things can get disgusting.
Similarly, less electricity is fine most of the time, but sometimes that gets old too. Like when the power cuts off in the restaurant and we have to carry on like normal, only in the dark. I hate fumbling around with plates of food and calculating bills by the light of an iPod.
Con: Days off can be hard to come by.
With a lot of short-term workers and a high turnover rate, regular days off aren’t included in many of the jobs here. Of course, if you have some reason to need one, you can get figure one out – but I’ve talked to a lot of people who have gotten burned out because they’re expected to work every single day for weeks on end. After enough time, that can squeeze the fun out of the situation, and if you’re unhappy, the food/accommodation trade will no longer be worth it. If you decide to take a job like this, tell them before you start that you need one day off a week.
Overall, though? It’s awesome.
Have you ever stopped and worked to extend your backpacking trip? What did you end up doing?