Four weeks ago, I dragged my overstuffed suitcase through a gaggle of hooded smokers to a battered chalet door. Someone barked the code and I clumsily punched it in, falling up the step. Loud music was vibrating the glass in the shuttered windows, six or seven guys at a curved bar in the corner looked up. I attempted a smile and walked forward to introduce myself.
SHOES! They all yelled. I stopped, and suddenly realised I was in the middle of a DCs/ Converse minefield. Dozens of shoes, almost all black or brown, thrown in a pile within varying proximity of a shoe rack. I kicked my purple trainers off – the only splash of colour – and smiled weakly in my Christmas socks at my new chalet housemates. All 36 of them.
Deciding to become a Chalet Host had been a quick decision to leave my shrinking, smoky London and start travelling again. I’d seen Chalet Girl, I reckoned it covered the basics. But like those first Sex Ed videos played on a dodgy TV at school, the film did little to prepare me for the real experience.
Cleaning was at first an arduous, demeaning job. I cursed every watermark on the shower door, begrudged every fluffball in the farthest corner under the bed. Last week I was managing major marketing projects for a top UK charity, and now I was picking post-teeth toothpaste off tiles – what had I done?
It took a whole three days for me to realise I had become a London SNOB. And it took just one humbling moment for me to drop said snob title. I was crouched on the tiled bathroom floor when it happened. I go to put the loo brush back in its stained stainless steel holder, having successfully eradicated a particularly stubborn Norway-shaped poo stain, but I miscalculate. In slow motion, I watch the brush, flecked with poo, catch the rim as it goes into the holder and spray its contents onto the nearest surfaces – my horrified face. With a shriek I scramble to the just-polished sink, rip open the brand new soap and scrub my skin raw, smudging my mascara into two nice black circles. If I got pink eye now, I’d look like a raccoon with a hangover.
And then I laughed. Laughed my head off. Because if you can get sprayed in the face with numerous guests’ poo by your own doing and laugh, you’re doing OK. So what if I’d had a good job in London, well-respected with a title and a tidy salary. Next week I could lose everything. Get cancer. Lose a leg. I’d wanted to find happiness in simplicity, I’d given up the material life in the big city for a simpler one in the mountains. And suddenly, Communications Officer slipped away, and I wore Chalet Host with a twinkle of pride in my eye.