Sea of clouds - Chamonix - France - © Claire Blumenfeld

Summary of my stay in Chamonix

Focus about the Chamonix experience and what it allowed me to understand. Why I give up hospitality jobs (or not), my idea for the next five months and what I’m planning for the future.

End of April arrived and it the end of my contract at the Alpina hotel in Chamonix. The long-awaited end. That’s it, I finally leave behind me this hotel full of problems, this crazy and toxic work environment. After seven months working at the Alpina, I was just waiting for one thing: to leave. Yet it was not a catastrophic experience. Not really. But the disastrous organisation, the permanent change of staff, a money focused direction (rather than quality focused) and the negative gossip took away all my motivation and interest.

In early October 2018 I arrived, just back from Australia a few days ago, in Chamonix decided to make my winter season a success. Not like my previous work experiences in Australia and New Zealand. This time I was going to succeed, I was going to do my full contract as assistant manager, I was going to learn and progress on my personal goals.

The first two months were relatively good. Despite the evidence before my eyes, a little blinded by my desire to have a successful experience at any cost. I wanted to believe that I could change the Alpina, that I could organise and supervise it without too many problems. To realise the obvious was to realise that I was wrong, that I made a bad choice when leaving Australia and that, I could not. I could not think of telling myself that I had made a bad decision leaving Australia so quickly leaving behind almost a year of unused visa. No, I did not wanted to accept that.

And then the environment is splendid. Chamonix, the valley, the Mont Blanc range and the Alps, no need to discuss, it is one of the most beautiful place in France. Taking advantage of Autumn I went hiking and bivouac enjoying at every moment the landscape. I started running and went back to Yoga. I resumed meditation and focused on my personal projects. I had in a corner of my head the wobbly organisation of the hotel and the restaurant but it was ok. I was almost happy in my little room of “Beaulieu” in a Chamonix still empty of tourists.

And then December arrived and with it winter, snow, tourists and holidays. I think the first sword stroke, the one that really hurt me was the Christmas week. Still lacking staff, the restaurant had gone from about twenty seats in the evening to sixty. Normal for a restaurant in tourist season. But difficult to hold and bear (when you like a job well done) in a facility lacking staff and without any organisation. Christmas night was a disaster. More than half of the clients were unhappy and I was trying in vain to keep my head above the water. The Christmas holidays hurt me strong in the guts, which was followed by a kind of winter depression and widespread fatigue. I was doing tons of overtime, the service was catastrophic and the team more and more irritable.

To this was added the months of February-March where the madness did not stop a second and I finished end of March on the kneecaps about to ask for a work stoppage. I had gave up all my sports activities (skiing, running, yoga), I had almost written nothing or not taken a photo in three months and I had no motivation. The month of April was slightly less disastrous because following my repeated requests, my working hours were changed (I was doing the mornings).

In early October I had in my mind eventually that if it went well, I would consider staying for the summer season or even ask for a CDI. At the end of April the idea of staying made me run away. After seven months of working as a assistant manager trying to manage a dysfunctional team and restaurant, I give up. No thanks. End of April 2019, I am at the same point where I was late August 2018. I have not progressed in my personal and creative goals and I still have no idea what I want to do for the future.

Well, that’s not totally true. My stay at the Alpina allowed me, at least I hope, to open my eyes to certain things:

I always do the same mistakes. I tell myself that never again would I fall into the same trap or behave in such a way, I always end up doing it again. I always tell myself when I arrive in a new place that I will thoroughly enjoy the place, the landscape, the activities, that I will be open, social and make friends. That I will finally succeed in devoting myself to photography, to my site, to the practice of my drone. That I will really focus on meditation and a healthier and simpler way of life, etc. Well, no, it’s systematic. For four years (since I went on a trip, before it was different), it’s still the same thing and my stay in Chamonix has proved it again: I always end up being depressed, without any motivation to work on my personal and creative projects, I am systematically disappointed with my jobs and the people I work with, isolated and without friends. And with only one idea in mind, run away to go elsewhere where it will necessarily be better than here. So the main problem, the common denominator, is me. I have to change my way of thinking and living. It destroys me and prevents me from seeing reality. I do not know how to do it but I know it’s a vital change to make.

The hospitality jobs I’m not sure to continue. In any case, never again, in an establishment like the Alpina. I realised that service is very repetitive and boring (at least in a badly organised place) and that managing teams may not be for me, despite what I though. I am too perfectionist, I expect too much from others and despite a desire to do well it translates or feels too much by a somewhat dictatorial behavior. And by a mental and motivational exhaustion from my part. The work hours (lunch and dinner service) are not for me, especially if the service finished late at night because it upsets all my will to want to go to bed early in the evening to get up early in the morning. I want to follow healthy living and sleeping schedules and late evening schedules do not allow that. So here, hospitality, I would rather not go back. But as I do not know what to do with my life, I must earn hard cash unfortunately. And the field of catering is one of the only areas that employs permanently and all around the world. So if I have to go back to catering in the near future I will be very careful to choose a place that suits me.

At the end of March, I had a flash of creativity that led me to completely rethink my website and the content I wanted to publish. I talk about it in this article. It also led me to set up two “travel-projects” which will be for me the “validators” of my future professional choices. The first project is a six-week trip from June to mid-July through the Alps in four countries: Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France. I envision it as a rebirth, a physical and mental fitness training and a return to creation. The second project is a trip of three months, from August to October, in Iceland, by bicycle. This is the continuity of the previous project focusing on a physical, creative and mental confrontation.

If I can achieve what I have in mind during these two “travel-projects” then it will be for me the confirmation that I must launch myself body and soul into the creative and explorative future that I have in mind. If I do not succeed, it will be necessary to face the evidence once and for all and to choose a professional future a little simpler. In both cases, I give myself the time for these two projects, five months about, to change me, confront me and evaluate me and then take, once and for all, the final decisions concerning the path I want to follow during twenty / thirty years after.

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Gonna be honest, this end of October and beginning of November months, were not the best. Big hours, lots of disappointments at work, stupid troubles with staff people, 10 days straight of bad weather... and as usual a feeling of depression, failure and losing myself.