I stumbled upon Chalet Martin, a quaint hostel in the Swiss Alps that is full of love + personality, in the fall of 2015. I was on my first stint of truly solo travel + on a mission to spend the least amount of money possible. Partly because I’ve also been a bit ‘cheap’ by nature but mostly because I was essentially unemployed + roaming Europe without a game plan. I had three months in Europe where my only mission was to follow my impulses, flitting from one whim to another. Chalet Martin was one of my first stops + this cozy community changed everything.
Tucked up on a steep hillside I was mildly terrified when I first rocked up at the hostel. It was a huge chalet + I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself when I arrived. The family — Merlin + Gemma — were out climbing with some of the guests, while everyone else was exploring the beauty of the Swiss Alps surrounding us. I pretended I was confident in my choice to be traveling alone while I hunkered down into the living room sofa. Everyone rolled into the hostel at about the same time — dinner time, the most cordial + chatty time in the hostel.
As I sat back + watch the controlled chaos unfold my feelings of apprehension left, replaced with a sense of belonging. I didn’t know these people, but something about them + the atmosphere they created made me feel like they were my people. Or, more appropriately, that I was one of them.
When I first committed to my stay at Chalet Martin I was hesitant to commit to more than the required 7-10 day stint as a WorkAway volunteer. I wanted to get a feel for the area, the people, the responsibilities. Within 48 hours of arriving I had fully committed myself to the staying at the hostel throughout the family’s fall holiday + beyond.
I was in love. I am in love.
With the area, with the people + with the chalet itself.
My last day crept closer for weeks, then bam!…it was time to pack my life back into my backpack + head toward the Geneva airport to move onto my semi-responsible life in the States. I had lined up a job in the US, but only for the winter. I wasn’t ready to say ‘good bye’ to Chalet Martin, I wanted to keep it a ‘see ya later’.
It took me nearly 18 months to return, but when I came back it was with gusto. I booked flights that gave me a solid 3 months in Switzerland. In Gryon, in my Swiss Alps home. It was glorious, even as I worked more than I played. I got to show off my favorite trails of Switzerland to Robb + to Tanya, among a handful of other travelers passing through. That’s what Chalet Martin has always been about — sharing the love + passion that the great outdoors stirs up in all of us.
As I write this I am on a train, making my way toward Chalet Martin. My stay will be shorter this time, but I know my heart will be as full as ever when I return to the sunshine of Colorado next month. There is something really special about Chalet Martin — something that is brought together + nurtured by the building + the family + the travelers + the mountains. Something that is hard to come by + impossible to forget.
I am telling you all of this because there is a chance Chalet Martin won’t be here for me [or for you!] in the coming years. The property is going on the market within the next two years…unless Merlin + Gemma can purchase the land + building.
Why does Chalet Martin matter so much?
Well, Merlin does an excellent job of explaining the true importance of Chalet Martin in the video on their GoFundMe page. He hits the nail on the head — it is a community that gives people of all walks of life a chance to light up their own passion for the mountains.
For me, it’s a bit more than that. I consider Chalet Martin to be my heart’s home away from home. As I’ve been traveling around other parts of Europe I always find myself daydreaming about the day-to-day life of Chalet Martin. The quiet mornings, the mountain hikes, the evening meals. The family managing the hostel, the other volunteers, the travelers passing through. The mountain views, the touchable clouds, the yard of wildflowers.
As someone who had the opportunity to take on the responsibilities of this comfy hostel for weeks at a time — it is a charming place + it gives people [myself included!] an opportunity to try something new. Within our selves + out on the trails winding through the Swiss Alps.
So, if you have been to Chalet Martin or if you want a chance to experience the wonders of Chalet Martin…pop over to their GoFundMe [Chalet Martin: The Last Resort], get a bit more information + do what you can to help make this cosy chalet community in the Swiss Alps stay alive.