One of the things I wanted to do in Canada on my “work & travel” visa was working at a hostel. By now I’ve stayed in so many different hostels around the world that I wanted to have a look behind the scenes. However, I quickly realized that most hostels only hire for the full season, which wouldn’t work for me. But then I found the “work for stay” program of the HI (Hostelling International) Banff Alpine Centre, which requires a minimum stay of two weeks and a valid work visa.
This seemed to be the perfect thing for me to do. What is even better, is the fact that the hostel is located in the Banff National Park, surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains. With my hopes high for spring time being just around the corner, I applied for the program and got on a night bus back through Edmonton and Calgary and on to Banff. The hostel itself is located a bit outside of town, which is ideal for hiking, as the trails start right at the front door. A free bus connects the hostel to downtown, which is helpful for shopping and going out at night.
When I arrived at the hostel there were several other volunteers or “volleys” as we are called. There were Christian and Anne (Germany), Izzy (Quebec) and Alejandra (Chile). We were soon joined by Henry and Sid (Ireland), Maketa (Czech Republic), Tristan (Australia), Simon (New Zealand) and Endija (Spain). Everyone was looking for work in the area or traveling and working to keep the expenses low. We were all living in the same room and everyone had to work four hours per day in exchange for accommodation.
Most of the time we had to help with the housekeeping, which also consists of a very international group of people. Most of them have been here since the fall and have been skiing quite a lot. We would clean the bathrooms, keep the kitchens tidy or help with the laundry. It wasn’t always the best job that we had to do, but it gave me back the feeling of a working routine and a new appreciation of free time, which I had been lacking over the last few months.
The best shift was of course helping out in the café. Here we had to keep the kitchen clean, do the dishes, refill the containers, making coffee or roll up the silverware in napkins. And sometimes it would happen that a guest ordered a meal and would only notice that it’s not vegetarian once it was sitting in front of him. So Kate (Australia) or Nathan (Ontario) would have to make a new, vegetarian version and instead of throwing away the other food, we could have it.
The hostel has also two fully equipped kitchens, which we also made good use of. Sometimes some of the volleys cooked for the others and another time we made an international potluck dinner, where everyone contributed one dish to the meal. And on other nights we went over to the bar to join one of the weekly activities, such as the pool tournament or karaoke night.