How Working at a Hostel in Alaska Changed My Life
If you have ever gone on a trip and wished you had more time, you aren’t alone. I had gone on holidays and spent hours imagining what the area was like at every time of day, month, year. I wanted to know so much more about its frequent visitors or its lucky surprises. In fact, I had been saying this for years before I finally took the plunge and decided to work at a backpacking hostel in Anchorage, Alaska.
Every day I would wake up and help other backpackers with their trips, anything from how to find the nearest gas station to where to book a float plane to the Arctic Sea to how to work the coffeemaker. Most days, it didn’t feel like a job so much as a privilege. The travel community I had come to love was coming to my doorstep every day to talk to me about life and adventure. What’s not to love?
Living and working in a place that I wanted to explore meant that I didn’t have to sacrifice sleep for adventure.
Although I didn’t love rude guests or cleaning toilets but small displeasures come with every job as far as I know. Being the go-to ‘local expert’ meant that I had to dive into Anchorage life quickly. This was something I enjoyed, and the job provided the funds and motivation to go that extra mile to become familiar with nooks, crannies, and quirks I wouldn’t get to normally see.
Even better is that this exploration was highly encouraged! My coworkers and boss want to know that I was seeing more and more of the area. The support of the other staff, as well as the (small) but important incoming finances, gave many anxieties far less weight.
Working at a hostel meant that I got to explore a new place with patience, depth, and delicacy. Living and working in a place that I wanted to explore meant that I didn’t have to sacrifice sleep for adventure. And that pressure to make every moment epic? Replaced with a mentality that this a marathon, not a sprint, and not every mile will be my favorite but all of them will have something wonderful to offer.
Going on a trip allows you to experience new attitudes but living in a place allows those attitudes to influence you on a deeper level. This breath of fresh air is not just something that you can smell but something that infuses your soul. Instead of just experiencing the aroma of Alaska and going home with a hungry stomach, I got to taste every flavor that the state had to offer.
I learned from these communal discussions that there are many ways to learn and even more ways to be right.
Anchorage is a city that favors the authentic (and this is true for many places around the world), but never have I felt more myself than I did frequenting the dive bars and espresso huts littered around this unpretentious city. The surrounding independent attitude was the core of the authentic nature, and this led to personal revelations I may have never discovered without being inundated by the Alaskan way of life. There is certainly no way I would have made these discoveries after only a week or two.
Working at a hostel, as opposed to any other job, also strengthened my love for travel because of the discussions held between myriad travelers who came through my hostel home. Almost everyone that came through had opinions on what to do, how to do it, when was best to go, yet they were still in a communal discussion trying to deepen their knowledge and improve their trip.
I got to absorb all of these discussions and use them for my own experiences. I learned from these communal discussions that there are many ways to learn and even more ways to be right. My favorite thing that I learned from these bountiful backpackers, though, was that there are two miraculous things you can find anywhere in the world: adventure and generosity.
I saw a chance to go to Alaska and knew I was running towards more things than I was running from.
However, making the leap to leave my previous home was not a small decision. I would sit in coffeeshops on my breaks from work day after day making lists and looking up destinations. Dusk would come and I would look out to the colorful sky dreaming of finding more color in my life, wanting to escape. I feared that escape was a bad motivator, that I would be leaving for the wrong reasons.
As traveling has taught many a traveler, however, running from and running towards a place can look very similar. I saw a chance to go to Alaska and knew I was running towards more things than I was running from. And the decision was made.
I had stayed at many hostels before working at one and had many different experiences with them. In fact, I knew that I wanted a community that I could dedicate myself to, which meant that although I have enjoyed the hectic parties full of young, beautiful people that was not what I was looking for.
I found a hostel in Anchorage that was relaxed, safe, and focused on adventure: Spenard Hostel International. It became a home full of different nationalities and cultures, full of potential, and definitely full of great storytelling. Working at a hostel was an insightful experience in many ways, but I will always be most grateful for the platform it provided to strengthen my love for traveling.
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Have you traveled to Alaska? How was your trip? Email us at [email protected] to share your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.