We’re back with another post in our Stepabroad Stories series! Today we’re featuring Geneviève Latour who is currently working abroad on a working holiday in Chile.
What is a working holiday exactly? It’s the name for the type of visa that grants young travellers a work permit to supplement travel funds with employment, usually in a casual job. After spending some time experiencing local life in a pretty seaside town, Genevieve has moved on to explore the big city life of one of South America’s largest cities, Santiago!
“Alright here’s the deal about working abroad: you still have to work. Here’s the good part: the job isn’t half bad. Here’s the even better part: living in a country you don’t know means you can always find something to amaze you in any sliver of free time you have. I’m working in a wonderful little hostel in Santiago. It’s an old building with extremely tall ceilings, cool architecture, super creaky floors, lots of pink walls and enough porches to enjoy the sunny days or occasional pink sunsets. It’s in a cool part of town, right next to a subway station, which means I can get pretty much anywhere by walking or taking the train.
I work the front desk of this quaint little hostel which has varying shifts. So far, I’ve been blessed with the ‘tarde,’ or the afternoon shift from 3 pm to 10 pm (give or take since Chileans aren’t known for their punctuality… it takes a bit of getting used to). This shift allows me a decent amount of liberty. Obviously, days off are for adventure, but why shouldn’t I enjoy my morning downtime?
Receiving breakfast is part of the working deal, so I wake up early and enjoy dulce de leche pancakes, huevos (eggs) and whatever fruits I can get my hands on. From there, the world is my oyster for a couple of hours. I can go hang out at Plaza de Armas, shop for some fruits and veggies at La Vega (1 kilo of strawberries is about $2, yes please!), visit one of Santiago’s many museums, hike up Cerro Santa Lucia, shop in the thrift store of Bandera street or just hang out on the patio out back.
When 3 pm hits, I’m back at the hostel’s front desk ready for my shift. Chileans might tend to be late, but, sue me, I like being on time. From there, it’s probably the kind of work you would expect at a front desk. Lot’s of paperwork and computer work and procedures that would be oh-so-easy if I didn’t have to do it in my fairly mediocre Spanish. I like a challenge and my Spanish has been improving, so overall, it’s still manageable. Trust me – if I can do it, you can do it! Then it’s just a couple of hours of going through the reservation emails that booking sends us and picking what room or dorm I’ll put the new guest in depending on what they want and what’s available, kind of like a hospitality-centered puzzle.
“Apart from my great Chilean coworkers who give me endless suggestions of places to explore, the best part of the job is checking in guests. I always get excited when it’s another girl travelling solo or someone from Canada or another country I’ve lived in. And if I can use French, even better!”
It’s tiny interactions with a plethora of cultures that leads to greater connections and adventures down the road. For that reason, checkouts can be a bit sad sometimes – or a total blessing if it’s a guest who keeps leaving dirty dishes everywhere!
Sometimes there is downtime where you wait for someone to come in asking if they can borrow a hairdryer or if you have a suggestion for dinner (Buffalo Waffle is my current answer to the last question). Personally, I like to look up things to do in the area so I can do it later and help out fellow travellers checking in. Other times I’ll read. I’m on book number eight of this trip (it’s not that there is THAT much down time, I just like reading a lot).
Working the front desk at a hostel in Santiago is a job almost like any other job. Except for the language, the people, and the setting. I treat it like any job I’ve had, pretty professionally. My Spanish isn’t perfect, and my knowledge of Santiago isn’t complete yet, but I do my very best, and so far, there have been no complaints. I’m having a pretty good time working a normal job in an abnormal, yet amazing country.”
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