Graduating high school and figuring out what direction you want your life to take seems like one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make. There’s a sense of urgency to get it all figured out, and in that rush, it’s easy to forget to enjoy the ride out of fear of losing time. If you asked me six months ago where I’d be in September, I probably would have said something like “sitting in a desk, working to finish my degree, and waiting for the snow to fall so I can go skiing”, I never would have guessed that I’d be living in London, working as an intern at Hostelworld, making friends from all of over the world, or heading to Cornwall to go surfing for the first time. In all honesty, I wouldn’t have even known where Cornwall was… But, looking back, I don’t think I’ll ever regret taking the time to get out of Canada for a bit, push my degree back a semester, and gain experience that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
I had a couple of friends from Canada that had been living in London for over a year by the time I came over, which was a huge help, but I still had no idea what to expect. The first few days were spent trying to get over the jet-lag and figure out how exactly London worked. I knew it was going to be an adjustment, but I wasn’t prepared for the shock of going from the spacious city of Calgary, to bustling streets of London, where no space is wasted, and everyone has somewhere to be to be All. The. Time.
Meeting the Hostelworld team and my fellow interns was when it all started looking up. I met people from all over the world that had all dealt with similar issues to what I was facing. I’d arrived a bit later than the rest of the other interns (#visaproblems) but was instantly welcomed by everyone and began to form friendships from the get-go. Canada prides itself on being multicultural, and it really is, but I’d never worked with so many people from so many different places before; it’s an eye-opening experience that everyone should pursue in their lifetime. No amount of reading or research will substitute actually meeting people from different cultures, and the Hostelworld office brought us all together in one place rather than doing it the long way and travelling from Canada, to Brazil, to Australia, to Angola, to Spain, etc. As different as everyone is, there were also tons of commonalities that brought us together and helped me deal with the big move.
One of the biggest reasons I wanted to come to London is that it’s an unreal gateway to the rest of Europe. The concept of being able to jump on an aeroplane and, two hours and £40 later, be in an entirely new country with an entirely new culture and language was absolutely crazy to me; it takes the same amount of time and at least three times the money to fly to Vancouver from my city! Getting away every now and then for some from fresh air and a break from the London rush became a coping mechanism, and I was lucky enough to see amazing places like Copenhagen and Budapest that had long been on my bucket list. With all of Europe at my doorstep, it only made sense that I would choose to go to Newquay, right?
We started talking about going surfing early in the internship, but it’s always difficult to find the time and to balance everyone’s schedules. We decided that the only time we’d be free to go was the last week of September, which also seemed a bit crazy because of how cold we anticipated the water to be. We had no idea how many different places you could surf in Cornwall, but after a bit of research we decided that Newquay would be the most accessible for us. We booked the cheapest transport options we could find (travelling within the UK isn’t exactly a low-cost endeavour) and began the mental preparation for the long overnight bus ride we had coming up. A month later, I was packing every piece of warm clothing that I’d brought to London into a massive bag so that I could share it out with my friends who were… less acclimatised to the cold.
My night bus ride was about three hours of staring out the front window of the bus, two hours of sleeping upright, fifteen seconds of sleeping on the stranger’s shoulder beside me (awkward), and another two hours of staring out the window. It was rough. We were all a bit out of it when we arrived in Newquay, but we were greeted by a sunrise that set the sky on fire. We dropped our bags off at St. Christopher’s Inn hostel and chilled out on the hostel’s patio for a bit to watch the rest of the light show over Towan Beach. Essentially every crossroad in Newquay gives you a view of the rugged coastline and vast expanse of ocean, so wandering around to get our bearings while we waited for a breakfast place to open was a welcome break from the tall streets of London.
We were staying in St. Christopher’s Inn, which is a short walk from the bus station and sits above Towan Beach with an amazing view of Newquay Bay and The Island. We knew the view would be breath-taking from the photos we saw on the Hostelworld website, but even those didn’t do it justice. We spent our mornings eating the St. Christopher’s Inn breakfast on the patio, feeling the morning sunlight warm up the brisk ocean breeze as the sound of the waves crashed below us; it’s the sort of place you could sit all day and not feel the least bit guilty about it. Our room was also exactly what we were hoping for, we had a four-bed dorm with a private bathroom and an unforgettable view over Newquay Bay, which is a pretty unreal thing to wake up to in the morning.
St. Christopher’s Inn room views
One of the best things about St. Christopher’s Inn is that it’s also in the same building as an outstanding surf school and the best nightlife in Newquay. The whole point of the trip was to try surfing, so it was really a no-brainer to choose a hostel that would book us into lessons and was only thirty seconds from the surf school. We had a couple hours in the morning before our surf lesson started, so we took a short walk to Fistral Beach – it’s a must-see! The sky reflected off the wet sand and made it look like we were walking on clouds, perfect for any of the Instagrammers out there .
After a couple hours of walking in the water, jumping around on the beach, and taking plenty of photos, it was time time to head back to St. Christopher’s Inn for our surf lesson! It was the perfect lesson for beginners; our instructor efficiently went over the basic safety and technique information before getting us into the water and helping us out one on one. We were all really stoked to catch our first waves, and the water was actually super warm; you couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces! We were pretty ready to get some food and celebrate after our successful surfing experience, so we had dinner and headed to Belushi’s, which is also conveniently located in St. Christopher’s Inn. The other hostel guests that were at Belushi’s made for an even more comfortable vibe, and it has awesome outdoor spaces with heat lamps, so we could keep enjoying the fresh ocean air. We were even lucky enough to watch a massive full moon rise over Towan Beach from Belushi’s patio . After our night of festivities, we simply walked up the stairs to our room and crawled in to bed – no muss, no fuss!
Surf lesson with Escape Surf School
We wanted to go surfing again the next day, but our night out meant that we accidentally slept in a bit later than we would have liked. We instead packed up our stuff and stored it in the hostel before setting out to explore the Pentire Headland. We came across two abandoned hotels on our way, one of which looked like it was right out of The Great Gatsby, and had some pretty creepy vibes. Standing on the Pentire Headland was a crazy experience; we were surrounded by craggy rock and rough sea, and the Atlantic Ocean stretched out as far as the eye could see. I realised that there wasn’t a single piece of land between Canada and myself at that point, it’s the closest I’d been to home in over four months (although, still about 7050km away lol). We spent the rest of the day exploring Newquay’s (surprisingly extensive) café scene and indulging in famous Cornish pastries before hoping on our train home.
It was a bit of an unorthodox trip, after all, we probably could have gone to Portugal to surf for a similar price, but that wasn’t really the point. The point was that we won’t ever be in the UK all together ever again, and we probably won’t ever be in a situation where going surfing in a place like Newquay with a group from Brazil, Germany, Italy, and Canada will be feasible either. So, it was more about going somewhere unique and doing something different with a group of people who never thought they’d be together in the first place; and hopefully, we’ll all remember it as a highlight from our time together at Hostelworld and as a reminder that sometimes the non-traditional, nonsensical path can end up being the best.
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