If your front line is your bottom line, spend some quality time on it

Posted on the 4th June 2019

Working for YHA (England & Wales) has plenty of perks, but one of the best employee benefits has to be the five days paid leave per year to volunteer. In the summer of 2016, Marketing teammate Hannah and I snapped up the opportunity to spend a week volunteer managing newly-refurbished YHA Tintagel.

The hostel sits solitary on a cliff above the boom and blast of the wild Atlantic. It’s a magical place, with Tintagel Castle and Merlin’s Cave a stroll away along the South West Coast Path. The attraction of the location was obvious. But we’re not here to talk about that.


This was more than a holiday getaway for us. This was a chance to find out what life’s like on the front line. Time to get out from behind our desks and onto the hostel floor.

On a wet January weekend, we attended the volunteer managers training course at lovely YHA London Lee Valley. What an insight! We didn’t let on that we worked for YHA, so we got to see the charity through the eyes of its most invested supporters: those willing to give their time and energy to its successful running.

It was amazing to learn lots from listening to long-time members with wide-ranging perspectives on the organisation and what’s best for its future.

A few months later with check-in processes rehearsed and cleaning standards studied, we set off to the South Coast to put theory into practice. What a week it was. Surprising, inspiring and truly rewarding, it more than surpassed my expectations.

YHA Tintagel is a hostel for adventurers and we met so many different people, from first-time hostellers, delighted by their discovery, to veteran explorers and long-distance walkers. Beyond the welcomes, shower cleans, and pride in a job well done, the real payoff was being a part of people’s journeys, holidays and happy experiences. The experience made us better marketeers.

We found out first-hand what matters to our members and supporters – why they stay, what makes YHA special, and what they’d like to see more (and less) of. We truly understood the value of communal spaces, and how they fostered new friendships and goodwill amongst strangers. From the mature gent who relayed tall tales of places travelled, to the women on a hen party whose dress-code was ‘King Arthur’, we met a few legends during our time at Tintagel.

A memorable, much-reminisced about week that marked a watershed in my career here, I loved volunteer managing and can’t recommend it highly enough. Hostelling as a movement has always been about offering access to perception-shifting experiences in new places.

I got mine by swapping a computer keyboard for hostel keys and, in turn, gaining a brand-new perspective on this time-honoured brand.

Sally Nutland

Brand & Communications Manager YHA England & Wales.

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