The Highlander: Banavie, Banavie

I have never thought that it would be a great idea to be out of town for a while. This is the story:

Living in Glasgow, somehow, is tedious. The monotone life from my flat to the library, walking in the same road (it’s just an excuse!), looking at the same view (another excuse!) and having homogenous things every single day has pushed me to do something different. Despite all classes for semester two has already over and I have at least a month off before starting to work on my summer project, I could just run away for a wee bit. And I did! I signed in my HelpX account and searched for a nice place to stay somewhere in the Scottish Highland. I always always always and always wish I could stay longer in the Highland, the most beautiful part of Scotland. And here I go to Banavie…

Traveling within Scotland, I must say, is expensive. It’s so pretty, but too bad the renting price for B&B or hostel is extravagant. The last time I went to Isle of Skye in January, it cost me at least £30 for dormitory room in a B&B and I could only afford to stay for 2 nights. It was such a shame that I didn’t do so much exploring while in Skye but it was a great visit.

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The picture was taken from the bus on my way to Fort William. A casual view of Scottish Highland.

HelpX Helps Me

The first time I came across HelpX or Help Exchange was on 2013 when I met a very humble Germans lady on a trip home from Manila, the Philippines. I thought it would be an excellent idea to HelpX-ing while traveling because it could save so much money for accommodation, the most expensive budgeting. And this is how it goes:

HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farm stays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation. HelpX is provided primarily as a cultural exchange for working holiday makers who would like the opportunity during their travels abroad, to stay with local people and gain practical experience. In the typical arrangement, the helper works an average of 4 hours per day and receives free accommodation and meals for their efforts (works durations, jobs, and accommodation arrangement can vary).

That’s it. As soon as I finished with classes at uni, I decided to host hunting on HelpX and found one exciting hostel 20 minutes from Fort William (Gaelic: An Gearasdan). It is Chase the Wild Goose Hostel. Fort William is only three and half hours away from Glasgow and the hostel is in Banavie, a small village in Highland, situated by the Caledonian Canal. I got in touch with the host and received a warm and positive respond immediately. They agreed to welcome me for a two-week stay in a shared dorm and bathroom with free breakfast, in exchange for working for 4 hours per day. Mostly cleaning, laundering, and helping with day-to-day stuff. I packed my bags a day before and ready for weeks away in the Highland.

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Welcome to The Parade in Fort William

Day #1: Glasgow to Banavie

I took a 10am bus from Glasgow to Fort William, a town in the western of Scottish Highland. I arrived on a beautiful sunny day and everyone was out in the park and eating ice cream. I sat with people enjoying blue skies while I was waiting for the train which was gonna take me to Banavie (Gaelic: Banbhaidh), a small village in the northeast. The weather was super warm I even took off my jacket! I was so excited when I found out that Banavie is a pretty village with a park just steps away from the hostel. The host is Jo and Daniel, friendly couple that helps me so much with everything. On my first day of working, they taught me how to do the housekeeping: Bed changing, bathroom cleaning, vacuuming, and sheet washing. I worked for 3 to 4 hours with my volunteer-mate as well as my roommate, Pablo, a Spanish guy who has been staying here for a month and a half long.

I thought that housekeeping for a hostel is pretty easy but then I was wrong! But I like it a lot, though. It is nice that I can learn so many things about cleaning and hospitality business. I tried to put myself as a guess when I cleaned the room. I have always stayed in a hostel everytime I travel, so it is easier for me to think about what is my expectation when I check in, what do I want from the staff, what do I want the room and kitchen look like, and so forth. After finished with my job today, I stayed a little longer to finish some work and took a walk to the Neptune’s Staircase next to the village. It was such a good walk because the sun shine longer and the Caledonian Canal is decent. People here are super friendly. They said hi while walking pass by. They even so much nicer than Glaswegian!

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Chase the Wild Goose Hostel
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Just across the front door
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Warm and friendly neighborhood

I am so much excited about what I am currently doing. I have meeting travelers from around U.K who also stays in the hostel. We talk briefly during breakfast and dinner. Most of them are outdoor-enthusiast as Fort William is the U.K capital for adventure sport from skiing to hiking, as well as home to Ben Nevis (1,345 mdpl), the highest mountain in Britain. There is one other volunteer who works at this time. His name is Brad. He lives in a caravan parked in the backyard. Unlike me and Pablo, most of the time he works at the reception desk and biking along the road in the afternoon, while Pablo is off to work in McDonald in Fort William after finish with cleaning the hostel.

Even though the nearest groceries and cash machine are 30 minutes away by walk, I truly enjoy my first day in Banavie. And it is gonna be an exciting 2-week! Probably mostly because the sun was shining so bright for the past three days and everybody is such in a good mood. I hope the weather stays sunny (please, it is spring!). But no one could guarantee the weather in Scotland, though. I just need to lower down my expectation on it and just embracing whatever it takes. Rain or shine!

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Walking path along the Caledonian Canal
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Boats along the canal
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