Lessons Learned from Working at an AT Hostel

A cat stretched out on a chair

I’ll definitely miss Blaze, the world’s best Hostel Cat

As you may have previously read, I’ve been working at Above the Clouds hostel in Suches, Georgia for about 2 weeks and while I couldn’t have picked a better place for my workstay, I’m ready to start hiking again. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to meet many hikers on the start of their journey and I’ve learned a lot here. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the lessons I believe are worth sharing:
  • Everyone is battling something out here, so be kind to those you meet. Especially in the first few days, potentially half of the people you meet are ready to quit (and many of them do). We see a lot of people crying, hurting, shivering, soaked, tired, or all of the above on a daily basis.
  • Your hostel workers are exhausted, both physically and emotionally. You might think it’s polite to chat with us while we’re preparing meals, folding towels, or washing dishes, but it could be the only time during the day that we have to ourselves. Same goes for if we have our headphones in; we probably just need a damn break.
  • Stop doing whatever you’re doing to stain the white towels, including using your bath towel to clean your muddy shoes. Why would you do that???
  • Don’t take advice from other hikers as gospel. Definitely don’t take advice about shoes or other gear from anyone except a thru hiker or someone working at an outfitter. Gear and physical health issues are extremely personal and I’ve heard very bad advice exchanged in the hostel. With that being said…
  • Listen to your body and trust your gut, not others around you. If you can only do 3 miles in one day or you need to take a zero, do it. You’ll likely be off trail in a few days if you don’t.
  • You are not alone in your struggles. Almost everyone is behind the “schedule” they thought they would be on, guilty about taking a zero or town day so early, thinking about quitting, nursing an injury, or having gear problems. Hikers may be wary of talking about their troubles on trail for fear of coming off as complaining, but they open up to staff quite often.
  • Georgia is really hard. You might spend more money and time in the state than you planned.
  • Get numbers or social media accounts from hikers you meet, even this early on. You’ll miss them and wonder how they’re doing.
  • Label your smartwater bottles and check between all the crevices in your bunk for things left behind. The more places you bring your stuff, the more opportunities you have to lose it.
  • We try our best to accommodate special requests, but don’t expect hostels or hotels to have special shampoo or laundry detergent or whatever. If you need something, bring it with you.
  • There are all types of people out here and none of their personal characteristics really matter when it comes to if they’ll make it to Maine or not. I’ve seen all types of people leave trail and all types of people hike on.
  • You can be an experienced backpacker and prepared for all sorts of things on trail, but you just can’t prepare for everything.
A man with a cake and lit candles

Celebrating Nimrod’s birthday aka April Fools Day was a highlight of my stay

It’s been really hard to see a lot of hikers struggling, but also really rewarding to see the vast majority of them flip their outlook after a hot shower, putting on comfy loaner clothes, eating a delicious meal, and sleeping in a warm bed. I still haven’t met anyone with the level of bad luck that I have, so chances are you won’t need 2 weeks of working at a hostel to recover from trail. I will definitely miss the chaos and company of hostel life, especially my weird hostel family: Caddyshack, Lucky, and Nimrod. I’ll even miss our daily fights, complaining, and all of your strange quirks, but I know I’ll see you all again soon.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 2

  • pearwood : Apr 11th

    The Above the Clouds crew is first rate.

  • Jhony : Apr 12th

    What a great, down to earth, no BS posting. I really enjoyed reading.


What Do You Think?