About two weeks ago I lugged my over-sized duffle bag up a gravel trail to Chalet Martin, the hostel that would become my home for the next three weeks…or two months. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I had “met” the owners via WorkAway and we’d both agreed to commit to at least three weeks of a volunteer exchange — I helped out around the hostel [changing beds, basic housekeeping, etc] in exchange for a place to stay. As I walked in the hostel reminded me of the farm house I grew up in — a mud room for shoes + gear and cement stairs that led up to the creaky wood floors of the main level. I was home.
The Chalet Martin hostel is a huge house — three stories of dorms, private bedrooms and cozy living nooks — nestled into the mountainside, overlooking a valley, and gazing out at a rugged mountain range. Turns out this little town of Gryon is basically the Silverthorne of Switzerland and just a short drive up the mountain is Switzerland’s version of Keystone. Like I said, I found home. Almost literally.
And what have I been doing here, in my new version of home? I’ve been changing beds, eating Thai food, bouncing babies, washing dishes and baking cookies. Oh, and I’ve been running straight up and down mountains, trekking up to remote mountain huts, taking 45 minutes hikes to the grocery store and eating breakfast + dinner while staring at this view…
Back when I was a college kid [which is actually quite a long time ago, contrary to what I’ve let a few people assume] my entrepreneurship capstone project revolved around a small hotel in the mountains catering to snowboarders and mountain adventurers. In my mind it would be a casual setting without stringent rules, run primarily by mutual respect and shared goals. I had no idea how to make it happen, I just knew it has to be possible, some how. Nearly 10 years ago that was my dream job, the life I wanted. Today I’m living in that setting.
— if you’ve ever been to the Erratic Rock Hostel in southern Chile…Chalet Martin has a very similar feeling, just slightly more laid back —
Chalet Martin doesn’t quite fit all the original parameters of the imaginary hotel in my capstone project [granted, at that time I’d never been to a hostel and had years of very corporate, franchised hotel experience] but in my version of today’s world, it’s perfect. It has character and personality. It’s run by two amazing people [Merlin + Gemma] who are balancing the responsibilities of hostel management and raising two children. It’s perched above a tiny town with cute cafes and ancient stone churches.
— oh, and Cafe Pomme is just down the street…where you can get lattes + cold shoulders from a cafe cat! —
There is a basement gear room full of snowboards, skis, snowshoes and everything needed for wintry fun. The backyard has a play house, a fire pit, a massive deck and a slack line. The kitchen has all the fixings for baking cookies and pies and cupcakes. There is a movie room and a cozy living room and a bright sun room.
Oh, and it is literally 5 minutes away from miles and miles of trails. Trails that lead up mountains, trails that run along deep gorges, trails that weave through mini mountain towns. The nearby ski resort is maybe 15 minutes away on the local train. Not to mention the rock climbing just down the road.
— the annual “walking of the cows” through the town of Gryon, a Swiss tradition of sorts —
In short, I’m kind of in love. I only committed to three weeks of work before I arrived…but it took only two days for me to realize three weeks would not be enough. Luckily they don’t hate me [something to do with my ability to bounce the baby to sleep] and they are letting me hang out, er help out, for another six weeks. And I keep toying with the idea of returning for the snowy season. Yea, it’s been that great, even with the odd tourists.