Volunteering For Free Food In A Foreign Country

Broke In Amsterdam – Day 4

My fifth day of being stranded in a foreign country and so far the hospitality had been incredible. Like most journeys, this one started out with a fair amount of uncertainty and doubt, but over time it really managed to straighten itself out.

One of the most unexpected aspects of the whole thing was that Tinder, not Couchsurfing, turned out to be the best place for me to find people who were willing to give me a place to stay the night. Go figure.

It was time to start my day once more. As usual, I’d be sneaking onto a train to get where I needed to go, but this time I’d be a lot more careful. A second 53 euro ticket was absolutely the last thing I needed, especially so close to the finish line.


[Video Timestamp 4:06]


The previous day I’d signed up to be a volunteer at one of the Taste Before You Waste workshops, since there’s nothing quite like free food and good vibes. They had managed to save a large amount of food from being thrown out by their respective wholesalers, which we were now going to clean and prepare for our pay-as-you-feel dinner.

The people were great, the music was perfect, and the common goal to which we all worked tied everything together wonderfully. Everything was ready by the time the room started filling, which was a nice feeling. Even though we weren’t flooded by hundreds of hungry and sustainably conscious customers I still found to inspiring to see people making an effort in this way. As someone who’s experienced, more than a few times, the pains of going to bed hungry, it’s hard to articulate what the true value of initiatives like these can be to someone who’s on their last leg.

Once everything was set, all the volunteers grabbed plates for themselves, a couple of cold beers and took some time to bask in the atmospheric fruits of their labour.

It really was the perfect way to end my trip. I arrived in Amsterdam (in a manner of speaking) as someone in need, but I was going to leave as someone who had served. It all comes full-circle in the end, I suppose.


[Video Timestamp8:21]


In the end, I left the workshop with a banana brownie and a sizable packet of diced mangos. It’s really hard to believe how good Amsterdam was to me. It was my 5th day with no money, and yet I wound up sitting in the airport, waiting for my flight, with a full belly and nothing bad to say. It wasn’t exactly easy, but I’m hoping that whoever reads this series is able to come away with, at least a few ideas for how to best tackle seemingly hopeless situations. From my side, there are only five major takeaways to remember:

  • Tinder is full of surprises! I definitely think Couchsurfing is worth a try, maybe even more so in certain places, but Tinder really was the secret hero of this story. Start by trying to make a connection with whoever you meet up with first. Just try to make a friend, the rest will follow.
  • Sneaking onto trains is a big risk for those who can’t afford to pay the fine, so be careful. Try and find other means of getting around if there are some available to you.
  • Look online for initiatives such as Taste Before You Waste. There are all kinds of wonderful people in this world, doing all kinds of wonderful things. If you’re in a pinch, chances are there’s someone out there trying to help you.
  • Be helpful to those around you and the world will, more often than not, return the favour. If you have some kind of skill that can be useful to someone, even if it’s just sweeping a restaurant floor, chances are there’s going to be someone out there who would be very grateful for your help.
  • Finally, don’t shy away from connecting with those around you! If you’re having trouble interacting with locals, hostels are full of people who probably know what it’s like to be in your shoes, so reach out. You might even end up with a memorable adventure or two.

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