For backpackers travelling the world a hostel or guesthouse abroad can feel like home.
For Christy Allen, after backpacking the United Kingdom with her grandma and staying at hostels, she decided to turn travelling into a lifestyle while also planting roots.
“I was 21 at the time and I was like, I can do this. This is amazing, so I did,” she said with her pixie curled brown hair and a warm smile.
Allen grew up in Prince Rupert and when she was a teenager, her parents ran the Eagle Bluff Bed and Breakfast. Part-time work was always available for Allen who cleaned guest rooms. After high school, Allen went to Prince George to get her business degree.
She was only 24-years-old when she bought the Pioneer Guesthouse where she has brought the world to her. She’s met travellers from Europe and even from Israel and Korea. Sometimes in the off-season she would find someone to look after the place while she spent time exploring the world on her own.
For a while she kept up a long distance relationship with a New Zealander, and she spent a total of nine months going back and forth to the Christchurch on the South Island. But she didn’t find love abroad — it found her in Prince Rupert.
This August, Allen’s guesthouse will be transformed into a wedding party. She’s tying the knot with Sebastien Paquet, a Quebec resident who came to stay at her guesthouse in 2010 and didn’t quite leave.
“He loved how friendly the town is. He’s never experienced that anywhere else,” she said adding that Prince Rupert is magical when it’s sunny. Rain or shine, they’re getting married outside with a tent setup and around 100 family and friends from across the country.
Allen is another example of a clever entrepreneur in the city who has an eye for opportunity. She had a room at the front of the guesthouse at ground-level that was too noisy for guests. She found other uses for the space.
“We didn’t have a specialty yarn store at the time and I know there’s lots of knitters in town so I thought, ‘I’m going to open a yarn store’ — and I didn’t know how to knit,” she said.
Then she learned to knit and for three years she’s hosted a drop-in knitting social on Thursdays evenings during the darker months.
Not knowing how to do a hobby or sport has never slowed Allen down. In Prince George she joined the rugby team in her last year of university, and then continued to practice with the men for five years when she moved back to the North Coast.
She also joined the women’s hockey team when she was 25 even though she’d never played before. The only experience she had was a couple years of figure skating when she was nine-years-old.
“I was a Bambi on the ice,” she said, but still plays today with what she calls a “tight-knit” team.
Being her own boss gives her also gives her a sense of accomplishment. Growing up she saw how hard her parents worked and it has formed the person she is today. Many of the renovations done at the 50-occupancy guesthouse on Cow Bay Road she completed on her own.
“I love working with my hands,” she said.
In 2008, she went back to school to get pre-apprenticeship training in electrical. “While I didn’t pursue it, just being able to be at home and wire a light and not have to phone someone to do it is awesome,” she said.
Nothing seemed to slow Allen down in her many ventures until 2010. She was building an addition to her guesthouse, a two bedroom apartment so she could live on-site, she met her future fiancé that year — and then she was in a car accident that left her with a broken back.
Allen downplays the incident, but it did halt her rough and tumble rugby practices. She still plays hockey.
The wedding plans this summer haven’t prevented her from diving deeper into another business venture.
She owns one of the buildings on Third Avenue and recently had a tenant leave abruptly, and she thought, “What am I going to do with a building in a town full of empty buildings?”
Allen is back working with her hands and creating a new social enterprise space for crafters, artists and knitters. With only a few weeks to redesign the space, Allen will open the doors to the e’Klek Tik Trading shop for Seafest weekend.