The Chronicles of a Rep in Ibiza and Charlie the cat

 

065

View of Santa Eulalia from the apartment balcony

My favourite destination in all my years being a holiday rep was Ibiza!

Prior to going, my only image was of huge nightclubs, dancing til dawn , Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs, Paris Hilton and tons of other celebs who frequented the island during the height of summer.

Ibiza is the one place that would be considered a reps dream destination! Who doesn’t want to drink and party until sun rise…or watch the world’s BEST sunset sipping sangria with hundreds and thousands of people from all over the world? Ibiza is pure heaven…and I recommend any newbie to consider a placement there at least once in their career.

All of that partying is truly wonderful…all of that sunset-watching is enjoyable…but there comes a point where all of that becomes monotonous and all you really prefer to do is rent a dvd and snuggle up with your cat….

As a rep you are definitely NOT allowed to have a pet in your accommodation. It is one of the rules that is clearly stipulated…right next to “No smoking” and “NO chewing gum” in uniform. But there are ways to get away with smoking in uniform, or chewing the odd gum or two…and strangely enough, there are ways to get around the whole “pet” thing too. *cue mischievous smile*.

During this particular season, I worked in Santa Eulalia in Ibiza and it was a great location that was a little bigger than a village, but smaller than a town. It was a mix of modern, contemporary and old. It had a great marina, cute little beach bars, fabulous restaurants from Thai to Italian, unique bars and overall, it had a wonderful feeling about it. Because there wasn’t anywhere for me to live that particular season, I had to share an apartment with the team leader in the area. For anyone who doesn’t already know this, the team leader accommodation is literally 1 step down from a manager’s accommodation…so yes…for the first time since becoming a rep, I was living in what most would call the “lap of luxury”. A 6th floor apartment overlooking the marina and the sea, within easy walking distance to all my hotels and amenities – and close enough to KFC/Pizza Hut so they could deliver!! Thats right people…KFC delivered!!! Talk about landing in paradise! My dreams had come true that season for sure – I got Ibiza as my placement (which, along with Cyprus, was damn hard to get), I got the area where I wanted to work…and as an added bonus, I got to live in a fabulously furnished apartment with a proper kitchen, comfy sofas, a TV and DVD player and the perfect view! Oh….and did I mention that the DVD rental store was 2 doors away from my apartment – right next to the little shop where my roomie and I bought all our snacks and drinks for our continual movie nights? Yeah…thats right people…I WAS IN HEAVEN!!!066

Finally having an accommodation that felt more like “home” instead of a prison cell, was certainly a refreshing change. But as anyone knows, a home never feels quite right without a pet. Do not get mistaken, I was definitely not going to go out of my way to break any rules by purchasing a pet…and I certainly was not actively looking for one under rocks and in bushes…but if one happened to stumble upon my path, I definitely wasn’t planning on thinking too hard or too long about calling it my own.

As luck would have it, this one fateful morning I headed to my usual duties in a hotel which had approximately 4 guests, and it was here that I simply sat and stared at the walls hoping and praying for the time to end. As I saw the time drawing to a close, I breathed a sigh of relief and quickly packed up and rushed out the entrance. Lo and behold, there he was! He was the sweetest, friendliest cat you could ever imagine. He was just sitting there, waiting for any random person to show him affection…so I obliged. Now of course, I did not immediately think about claiming him as my own since cats have absolutely no loyalty, and this cat probably wandered off because he was tired of his owners. I petted the little creature and I headed off in the direction of my next hotel – not giving it another thought.

After the usual afternoon siesta, I made my way back to the hotel where I had seen the cat – and as I walked up the stairs of the entrance there he was again. Just sitting there, looking all lonely and sad. I bid him hello, gave him a courteous rub on the head and walked into the hotel. My interest was piqued now…why was this cat hanging out at the entrance of this hotel that barely had any guests in it…especially any guests that would even give him the time of day. Strange I thought. And even stranger when I asked the reception staff if anyone knew who the cat belonged to and all of them said they didn’t know. Hmmmm.

Once my shift had ended I knew what I had to do…I was going to commit the ultimate sin…I was going to kidnap the cat! I knew that this was what I had to do…the cat was probably looking for a new owner…and I decided I was up for the task! I scooped the cat up, and since I didn’t have a box, I stuff the cat into my work bag…which was pretty tricky. The cat was very friendly on the ground…but funnily enough he did not take too kindly to being kidnapped and stuffed in a bag that was certainly not suited for catnapping purposes. Now this is where it got really tricky – the walk from that hotel to my apartment was a bit of a distance – about 20 mins to be exact. Try adding extra weight to that distance and having to fight with a wriggling bag and look normal in the process…that 20 minutes felt like hours! The other part of the plan I forgot to factor in was that I had to visit one more hotel before the end of my evening shift. YUP! A cat screaming from my bag, trying to act normal and praying to god that a manager didn’t decide to “pass by” had me on edge. I was obviously NOT about to finish my duties for the evening…instead I was headed back to the apartment with my furry captive and help him settle into his new home instead!

How I managed that 20 minute walk without appearing insane I am not sure…how I made it into my apartment building and in the elevator without encountering my neighbours I have no idea…and I have no clue what was going through my mind when I finally sat on the sofa and opened my bag to release my captive. All I knew is I was SUPER excited for my roommate to come home so that she could meet our new pet for the season!

Yeah…good question…how was I so sure how my roommate (my team leader, by the way) was going to feel about breaking the rules and having a cat…in an APARTMENT on the 6th floor?? Yeah…potato patato, tomato, tamato…who cared! What was there not to love about a purring ball of fluff!

Thankfully when my roommate returned home that evening she was so excited! We set about naming our new friend and eventually decided on Charlie. Charlie was our new pal and he accepted us as his new owners, friend and family. Charlie was a well trained apartment cat. He had no desire to run through the front door and make a bolt for the outside world. He was happy chilling on the sofa or perched precariously on the balcony ledge…which really made my stomach lurch. Even when the other reps came around, they were totally not bothered about Charlie either. It was as if Charlie was meant to be with us…and that was the routine of our summer season. 098

Now, the downside of any season is that it must come to an end…but before it does, certain things can occur:

  • Your roommate has an accident and the manager comes to visit
  • The owner of the apartment is selling it and must show potential buyers around

 

Ahh yes…the 2 most agonizing occasions, especially when one has broken the sacred commandment between rep and company, which of course means the company has broken that rule outlined by the owner of the property! I knew I was well and truly FUCKED! Now any sensible rep would probably have done the obvious…thank the cat for the happy memories and wonderful cuddles and then dump its ass on the street and hope that another kind soul finds it. Well, I did not do that…instead I bribed the cat with food and snacks and locked its ass in my wardrobe and prayed that it did not get frightened and start mewing. As my luck would have it, it started mewing and I started coughing! I think the owner of the apartment thought I was a frigging nutcase…or seriously ill…he did grab his potential buyer and bid a hasty retreat out of there before either of them caught my cooties.

Despite those 2 incidents, it was a happy occasion and Charlie was great comfort to me especially when my roommate had to return to Scotland for about a month and a half due to her illness. Charlie kept me company and for the first time as a rep abroad in a strange country, I finally felt like I was “home”. Saying goodbye to Charlie at the end of the season was VERY emotional, and my roommate and I made sure that he went to a good home. I still think about Charlie, and thanks to him, I will always remember my adventures in Ibiza. 068

 

Advertisements

Repping in Rhodes Island – good, the bad…the near death. 

After my first introduction to Greece I knew that I felt a connection to the people and the culture. I felt like I belonged.  I knew that my 3rd summer was going to have to be on a Greek island. Thank goodness the Travel Gods heard my prayers..rhodos island.I was headed to Rhodes for 6 months and I was chuffed to bits.

I’m not sure why I always felt I had been caught off guard when I arrive in Greece. Somehow I manage to forget that the toilet paper has to go in the bins, there are no washing machines and accommodation is as basic as a broom cupboard. I forget these major issues…yet I still want to go! Is that glutton for punishment or simply embracing a past life? Whichever it was, I was thrilled to be in Rhodes like an excited child in a candy store!

_Lindos-Streets

Lindos

“Rodos” (as the Greeks called it) is an island which has one of the most infamous places in all of Greece…Lindos! Such a beautiful picturesque whitewashed village perched on the side of a hill with its little cobbled stoned walkways, quaint shops, boutique bars interspersed with traditional tavernas. The beach located in the cove below was probably the best on the island…white sand and crystal clear water that lapped gently onto the shore line. Sounds rather glorious doesn’t it? One small, tiny, itsy little downside to Lindos…it was the HOTTEST place on earth in summer. The temperature would reach to over 100 degrees….in the shade!! If you were brave enough to withstand the heat on that side of the island… Your car tyres may not have. There were instances where the heat was so bad car tyres would literally melt. Yup…some would have said “hell”…but since I wasn’t located on that side of the island… I was in heaven!

The one time I did go to Lindos for a night out with a bunch of reps, I got so blindingly drunk in one of the bars I ended up puking all over the beautiful cobbled stone streets in front of the locals, climbed over some wall, and had to be escorted back to a reps apartment where I passed out until morning. So my one time in Lindos was scarred and I was far too embarrassed to show my face down there again.

Rhodes is a very historical island covered in huge amounts of ruins and old temples. There is amazingly dramatic scenery, picturesque views and overwhelmingly lovely people. There are trips to the nearby island of Symi – home to the worlds finest sponge divers – yes…thats right…’sponge’ which you use to bathe with, originated at the bottom of the ocean. This was a fascinating eye opener for me…learn something new everyday! Not only are they renowned for their sponge diving abilities, but also their shrimp…YUM! Symi shrimp has got to be the most delicious crustacean I have ever had the pleasure of eating in its entirety.

For those people who like cheap bargains such as cheap cigarettes and even cheaper dvd’s, then Turkey is pretty much a hop, skip and a jump away by ferry. Ok…let me rephrase that…on a map it looks like a hop, skip and a jump…in reality it is a stomach churning 1 hour journey that feels more like 3 days. That particular day we went across to Turkey was AWFUL! It was raining, the sky was dark, it was freezing and the waves were strong enough and big enough to rock and roll this giant sized catamaran/ferry boat thingy.

My first 3 months in Rhodes was definitely not hunky dory. My first couple of months was in Kalithea – where I couldn’t drive, so I had to rely on my colleague to get me to my 2 hotels. I was quite close to Falaraki – but the 2 nights I went out there for the entire summer was definitely not all it was cracked up to be. After 2 months there was a ‘rep shift around’ – which meant I was transferred to a hotel in the middle of freaking nowhere in Kolymbia…my view was a mountain.  I was actually the one to beg for a transfer…luckily one of the newbies decided she couldn’t handle the job and left…the Universe answered my prayer and I was moved closer to civilization.

For the remainder of the summer I was based near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Rhodes Old Town, in the resort town called Ixia. I was repping 4 hotels that were located along the single main road that led around the island. It was a great spot actually. My hotels were all in a row, there were reps from other companies based nearby (who I got on really well with), and there was a cafe a few doors down from my hotels that served awesome food and had English channels so we could catch up on soaps and shows like XFactor.

I lived in one of my hotels…which was pretty awesome…only from the point of view that I could sneak off to my room early and get reception to call me if guests needed me. Bonus! What wasn’t so great was being on the sane floor as guests…I would literally have to become James Bond every time I walked in and out of my room. I would come out of the elevator and pretend I was delivering a note to my door. I would pause….wait…look around…and quickly open the door and run inside. Coming out was kinda the same. I would stand at my door quietly, crack it open, take a quick peek and bolt out of there like a bat out of hell. The hotel staff used to laugh at me and my stealth moves. I’m sure I entertained them a lot.

Living in a hotel had its perks. I had a clean room. Fresh linens and towels delivered once a week, free meals available on the top floor restaurant, an abundance of friends (all the staff in the hotel), TV with a couple American channels and not very far to go once my day was finished. However the downside was major… No cooking facility…except a kettle. No place to hang wet clothes after hand washing them and absolutely no privacy since every staff member knew your comings and goings at all times during the day and night.

Rhodes

Rhodes Old Town

Life in Ixia was quite peaceful. I enjoyed having meals with my colleague (LT) once a week at a taverna that quickly became our regular dining spot. We would regale each other with stories of our guests antics and we would compare notes on our sales techniques and customer service approach. Sometimes we would go to Bar Street and have our own mini bar crawl. Life in Ixia was quiet because we were the only reps in the area since everyone was spread out across the island.

To be perfectly honest, my season in Rhodes passed without much of an issue… until the end…when I actually waved goodbye to the entire team and watched the hotel I lived in, close down for the summer. It was not by choice I was staying….I had been too much of a procrastinator when it came to to renewing my passport. Now I was literally stranded on a Greek island which was now officially closed for the summer!

For the duration of my stay on the island, I had to find somewhere else to call my temporary home. I had no idea when the passport would turn up – but I knew I needed it to arrive asap. In the meantime, I had to arrange an alternative flight to the UK via Athens (with a 6 hour layover) and I had to find a friend who could pick me up in the UK and allow me to stay with them until I could find someone else to stay with until the winter season started. Sigh!!! What a rigmarole!

Naturally I was a rep…which meant I had luggage…and lots of it! How on earth was I going to get my entire life back to the UK without incurring major costs that would require the sale of my left kidney and first born child?? Luckily enough a local friend of mine suggested a grand idea – and for anyone who doesn’t know about this – its so SIMPLE… I posted my 3 over sized suitcases to the UK for a fraction of the cost of being charged the overweight fee! (It took about 3 weeks – but if you can wait, then I definitely recommend it).

Eventually, after much panicking and worry I finally got my passport in my hand! I can barely describe the relief I felt. After spending nearly 3 weeks eating subway sandwiches in a hotel room, nothing felt greater than being able to confirm my flight out. This was no longer a holiday destination where I was living my dream – the weather had taken a turn for the worse as winter was drawing in quite fast, and it felt like I had entered a nightmare.

I went to bed the night before my flight feeling relieved that I was actually leaving… but I was quite anxious about where I was going to stay and if my friend would be able to pick me up.  I remember quite clearly that I woke up the next morning and my ear was completely blocked and hurting me! I panicked – because I knew that if this had happened to a guest I would have strongly advised they got an all clear from the doctor before flying. Here I was with liquid now draining from my ear, and the mere thought of going to a doctor to be told I couldn’t fly was NOT high on my list of priorities. There was no way in hell I was going to be told I couldn’t fly – I knew whatever I did next would have been a huge risk….

I remember landing in Athens a few hours later unable to hear a sound out of the still draining ear, and in rather excruciating pain. I went to the pharmacy got some drops and cotton, and simply prayed because there wasn’t much else I could do. The layover was the worst part of the entire journey, because this is the point when a raging fever started. I felt delirious, exhausted and so unbelievably cold. Every ounce of energy was starting to leave my body slowly as I waited patiently for my flight to be called. All I wanted to do was sleep. My eyes were burning me, my throat was dry… I knew I couldn’t fall asleep otherwise I would miss the flight. Thankfully after a torturous 6 hours the flight started boarding and I slumped into my seat like a rag doll feeling rather frightened and unsure what was going on with my ear as it continued to drain a funny colour.

I barely remember landing in the UK, waiting for my friend (RG) to pick me up or reaching her parents house. I know I made small talk but I kept dipping in and out of consciousness. I know that by the time I got to her parents house I was burning up and I literally passed out. I remained delirious for what felt like weeks. I couldn’t eat or drink anything…it made me puke. I was burning up on the inside and I had made peace with my Maker…I was just upset my mom didn’t know what was happening to me and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.

God bless RG’s mum for taking care of me with cold rags, ice, medication and a trip to the doctors….once the fever had broken. Turns out I had contracted a rather serious ear infection which had damaged my eardrum. I was lucky it hadn’t ruptured…but I was completely deaf in one ear for 2 months….worse feeling ever!

My time in Rhodes was wonderful and thoroughly enjoyable – but my procrastination proved I had to manage my time properly, get organized and stay focused. I changed a lot after that incident – I definitely made sure to check my passport expiry date every year…just in case I had another brush with death.

Holiday Rep Life…the things they fail to tell you about Greece!

Life as a holiday rep is awesome! Every 3 to 6 months you are off to an exotic location lapping up the sun and living a life that dreams are made of. Your friends are envious, your parents are excited and you feel like you are on the most fabulous adventure…and being paid for it! What more could you ask for?! As a newbie, they don’t tell you much before heading to toiletresort….to be honest I think we are too overwhelmed to even ask the right questions. The only thing truly worth caring about was getting packed and getting out of the cold, dreary, wet UK as soon as freaking possible!!

Yeah…sunshine and sun bathing all year round?…that’s only a pipe dream kids! These resorts have a winter too! On numerous occasions I got caught out believing it was going to be flip flops and sleeveless tops for 6 months. Oh heavens forbid the company should give you a heads up that it is FRIGGING FREEZING in April/May, intermittently during the summer (depending on the resort), and then totally baltic by the end of August into September! My company windbreaker was my lifesaver many times – I was grateful I had two – sometimes they had to be worn together for better effect.

What was super hilarious was that reps became acclimatised quite easily – so while guests were walking around shirt less thinking the weather was fantastic, there would be a group of reps shivering in a far corner praying their shift would end so they could defrost the icicles which had formed around them.

To be honest, prior to being a rep   I stayed in nice hotels…even nice self-catering apartments in the center of the towns. Wherever I stayed was always furnished pretty nicely (even if it was basic), everything worked, it was comfortable…but who cared…it was only somewhere to have a quick kip before spending most days on the beach and most nights checking out the nightlife. Accommodation for a week or 2 wasn’t something that registered high on the radar…until becoming a rep! As a rep you are no longer a “holidaymaker”, you are now a “local”…and that means you live how they live.

Nothing quite prepared me for my first time as a rep in Greece. I had read the guide books and learnt a bit of the language…but nothing prepared me for the most bizarre situation of my entire life….putting the toilet paper in a bin instead of flushing it!!!! What the hell??? Where the hell had I ended up and what was this nonsense!? Funny thing was even though it took some getting used to, soon you fall into a routine and it becomes quite natural…until you forget that you haven’t taken out the garbage for a while…then the smell no longer seems natural. *yuck*. Yeah – don’t play the fool and think you are going to flush the toilet like most guests did – all the pipes are connected – because the drain in the middle of the bathroom is going to remind you why you shouldn’t have flushed the toilet paper in the first place!!

Greek bathrooms are altogether quite strange, if you have never encountered one before. I will admit it was my first time having to use what is known as a ‘wet room’. For those of you who have no idea what that is – it is quite trendy to have one – but not to me. The bathroom is tiled from the floor, walls and ceiling. There is one drain and it is in the centre of the room (yes…that same one!). It means that you can shower without a shower curtain (usually because there isn’t one) or without physically stepping into a bath tray or a bath – and the entire room can get soaked! To me …that’s just not high on my agenda as trendy, considering I could slip and hurt myself…and nearly did…many times.

Despite this ‘trendy’ bathroom situation in Greece, a reps accommodation is basic. By basic…I really mean empty! I never fully understood the meaning of ‘home comforts’ until I was in Greece. I had seriously taken my flat for granted in the UK. My bed, duvet, fresh sheets of all varying colours, my telly, DVDs, my oven, pots and pans, hot water, a living room…who really thinks about these things in all their wonderful glory? Who even stops to appreciate the wonders of hot water, much less access to a telephone to chat to a few friends? My first rep accommodation was NOT what I thought it was going to be. I wasn’t expecting a palace, but I certainly wasn’t expecting a 16ftx 16ft studio with a single bed, a desk being propped up by a book, a chair, walls covered in blue tack residue, a double hob hotplate (???), 1 pot (?), 1 pan (??) and a small fridge. The sheets were off white and so starched I was afraid they were going to cut me! OH…did I fail to mention there was NO HOT WATER!!!

It was as I was sat on the razor sharp sheets staring at my 4 blue tacked walls…and shivering because I had no jacket (except my poxy windbreaker), I understood why I saw other reps with TVs, duvets and George Foreman grills! They weren’t being obnoxious – they were being serious about their home comforts! I vowed that I wouldn’t go to another resort without some form of electronic device, a few posters to hide the grossness of the walls, and winter clothes!

I believe the pain I most felt was probably the lack of TV and the total lack of English channels (even when I did have a TV). How the hell was I supposed to keep up with Eastenders and Corrie – or watch the latest season of Big Brother?? I felt quite lost – because as a self-professed TV addict I now had to find other activities to keep me entertained. I guess Quiz Nights and Greek Nights at the hotels my colleagues worked at was my highlight…but I still strongly believe it was a ploy by the company…they didn’t want you hiding away having quiet time – they wanted you out and about with the guests building a presence and getting high scores on CSQ’s. *damn them and their conniving ways*

How many of you have turned to your washing machine and give thanks for its existence? How many of you have felt lost and confused when the wonderful machine decides to kick the bucket and you have to wait a couple days for a new one? Now imagine NOT having one of those wonderful machines for 6 MONTHS!! Washing was a major hurdle! It took some getting used to in my first season. I couldn’t believe there weren’t any washing machines! Shock! Horror! I was supposed to wash my clothes for 6 months BY HAND…bent over the basin on of my sink! I remember clear as day that the trick was to only wash the armpit – because sweat and deodorant is NOT a good combination at the best of times on any type of clothing…much less the uniform shirt. Ok, ok…I will own up to my dirty little secret…I don’t think I did much washing that first season…only if it was ABSOLUTELY necessary.

Upon returning to the UK after my first 6 months away as a rep – I felt that I had returned to civilization in more ways than one. I remember standing in front of the aisle of nothing but pure sugary goodness , simply mesmerized by the beauty of the chocolates, cakes, sweets…hhmmmm. 6 months away felt like a regimented sugar-free boot camp. Don’t get me wrong – the Greeks loved their syrupy sweet desserts…but they did not compare to a good bar of Cadburys chocolate, or a gooey crème egg. *yum*. Before being a rep, simple pleasures like buying jam filled donuts at Greggs or bars of chocolate from ASDA were taken for granted. Who knew that 6 months away from such delectable goodness could be so heartbreakingly traumatic?

Despite an initial rough start in a new resort with a new lifestyle to adapt to, I was quick to realise that everywhere was indeed different. Some resorts had British supermarkets, some had English TV channels, some apartments were fabulously furnished (including a washing machine), and some were simply hotel rooms with no windows. The real test as a Holiday Rep was being able to adapt and making the best of what seemed like impossible situations.

Fellow blogger “lisalovessunlife” summarised the basic things you miss as a rep – check it out. http://lisalovesunlife.com/2015/05/19/strange-things-you-miss-when-living-in-the-sun/

The start of Summer season for all Holiday Reps

reps 2May 1st was the official start of the summer season for holiday reps dotted all over the world. It was the day that the first flights and the first load of holiday makers arrived. No amount of preparation ever prepares you for that first airport shift, that first coach transfer, or that first complaint. You are even surprised that an entire village/town that was shut for 6 months can miraculously reopen and be prepared for a deluge of pasty white holiday makers eager to see the sun and drink cocktails.

Regardless how many seasons you may work, it will still baffle you why the locals wait until the last minute to tidy up, open up and repair things. As you bring your first coach load of guests into resort you close your eyes and get prepared to make excuses for the mess – until you see that Miguel or Giannis has somehow waved a magic wand and the bar or restaurant or hotel lobby has been transformed into something majestic.

You spend your first 2 weeks trying to communicate with your hotelier by sign language because apparently he doesn’t speak English…until those first guests arrive and you realise that he speaks better English than you do!  All these things are what make a reps life a fascinating life…an envious life…a dream come true.

Life as a rep is about balance. With so many potential reps signing up every season, the turnover can be quite high as the demands of the job increase. But nothing gives you greater satisfaction that lying in the sunshine on a day off and looking out over the ocean and realising that this is your life. This is the life that people want to live every day. Here you are living the dream. A dream that is now a reality. Embrace that reality, enjoy every moment of that reality and savour all the memories the season has to offer.

I had written this blog before, but now the season has started, it’s only fair to revisit the all too familiar scene that is the airport…

You could always spot a holiday rep at the airport. They were usually pushing an overloaded trolley which had 2 grossly oversized suitcases, a brand new duvet, a small television and more often than not, a George Foreman grill perched precariously at the top of the pile. We took the term ‘creature comforts’ literally – especially if we were newbies. I can guarantee by the end of the season however, that tv was being used as a table, and the grill was probably holding up something that had fallen down…like the bed.  By the end of the season we realized that there was no need for half the things we brought – including the 20 pairs of shoes ‘just in case’. Every season that ended we vowed to NEVER carry so much stuff. Inevitably every season that started, our suitcases were heavier than before – and instead of 2 – they suddenly multiplied to 3 or 4. I don’t know about anyone else, but I envied the reps who were doing second seasons in the same place – why? They had left all their stuff behind knowing they would be back, and there they were, breezing through baggage claim with a cute little hold all. Curses my overloaded trolley and my blistered fingers!!

A newbie rep is fresh and green. Totally unaware of the perils that lie ahead. They are innocent and naïve, and they honestly have no idea that the moment they walk through the arrival doors looking all giddy and excited – their fate is sealed. No amount of training will ever prepare you for the doom that is ….. AIRPORT SHIFT!!!

A newbie rep turns up to their first airport shift looking all smart. They open the cellophane packets that have kept their uniform pristine and neat. Excitedly, each item is unfolded and put on in a sequence. The final piece to complete this fabulous look are the shoes – the oh so wonderful court shoes! Every season the instructions are the same when it pertains to the style of the shoe! Shoes on, ensemble complete and feeling great! Board the coach to the airport and the shift commences….

..… 12 hours later those same newbie reps look like they were steam rollered, bulldozed and then scraped up and thrown in the garbage. No amount of prep could have prepared them for reality of an airport shift.

Every season we were instructed to wear a specific style and shape of shoe as part of our uniform. We were told the heel should be a specific height – and yes, the height and the style of that shoe does make you look more like Daisy Duck instead of Daisy Duke. But it’s the company policy for a reason. The reason is not quite clear until you have your first airport shift and you spend roughly 12 hours…standing! Those sexy spike heeled shoes or the ones with extra length in the heel ARE NOT SUITABLE SHOES!!! At the end of the shift feet would curse obscene language, refuse point blank to take another step. Blisters developed…and mutated into at least 3 more! If you dared to make the mistake of taking those shoes off for only a second – forget it! Those feet would fight to the death to go back in. As a more senior rep at the time (after having my first, and ONLY, shoe-catastrophe), I would see the glances from the newbies as they eyed my rather unstylish and hugely unflattering footwear. The joke was on them though, because I knew they would be begging for mercy in another couple hours – *cue evil laughter*.

Airport shifts were hit or miss… and most of the time it felt like sheer chaos and mayhem! Depending on the resort and the country, it would be more senior reps trying to coordinate buses, drivers, flights, delays, guests, reps…total mess! However, if you had the pleasure of working in Tenerife, you had fallen from hell into heavens playground! Tenerife airport was managed with precision. It was structured, orderly and efficient. Every shift – even if there were delays or long hours – was a pleasure to work. The airport was a nice comfortable size. It wasn’t horrendously humungous like Mallorca airport and it wasnt a tiny tin can like Thessaloniki (Greece). It was an airport that was easy to get from point A to point B, and not feel like your feet were waving the white flag of defeat.

We become reps because we go in search of continuous sunshine… that wonderfully intense heat that could dehydrate a donkey and leave him dead on the edge of the road. However, being a rep this was how it felt wearing the full formal uniform in the height of summer…like a dehydrating donkey. The summer heat was unbearable and the sweat that flowed was unstoppable. Can you imagine, we would have to endure that heat and then present at our welcome meetings and hope to god that the sweat stains on our shirt were not off- putting to our new guests. I remember many occasions when it was time to turn the flip chart, I didn’t! I knew if I raised my arm I would only be endangering my safety. The guests sitting there in their bikinis and shorts made us look like sweating pigs in a meat shop. As lovely as that glorious sunshine was, and as much as we craved its warmth compared to the bleakness of the UK, we knew our limits when we were scared of our own sweat.

With the heat of a blistering summer sun beating down on us as we stood in the coach park directing guests to the right buses, we could feel that first bead of sweat form on the brow and start a slow descent down the forehead. Once that first sweat bead was formed it acted like a signal blower to the sweat bead army, because within seconds the entire body goes damp. But that sweat bead army had an alternative agenda. They knew we could handle a little body odour, but they knew that we couldn’t handle one thing in particular…stink shoes!! Oh man!! Rep work shoes were to be handled with caution…preferably wearing a hasmat suit. No amount of spray, sunning, baking soda or stockings/socks could rid those shoes of the funk that emanated. I remember I had a pair that was so stink – I felt embarrassed talking to guests. The stench was so bad it was like a big old elephant was sitting there staring at us. Granted, the guests did bid hasty retreats mid conversation when that elephant decided it wasn’t moving…I guess the stink shoes did have its merits after all (SMILE).

Irrespective of the burning shoes, the sweltering heat and the stink feet – Airport duty was kinda fun. It was an escape from sitting in the hotel dealing with complaints or listening to some of the guests moaning about the breakfast and why the bacon and sausage weren’t English. It was also a chance to catch up with other reps based outside of the resort. Above all it was a chance to scope out the ‘fresh meat’, potential hotties, and suss out which guests were going to be big spenders, tight wads or whinging gits.

As I had mentioned before, most of the new arrivals were gormless and lost. They confused their name with the hotel they were staying in, and they thought their name was the airport they were coming from. They were confused little creatures in need of great assistance. Problem was, reps had a practical joke side – and instead of assisting the gormless lost fools – they would often send them on a wild goose chase looking for non-existent coaches.

As the new arrivals started to come through, it was ‘’tits and teeth’’ (chest out and BIG smile) time. We were poised and ready for action. With clipboards high in the air, loud voices boomed through the airport as eager holiday makers pushed and squeezed to get to the first rep they saw. They were like prisoners making a mad dash to freedom. It was there in the arrivals hall that outlined the rest of the week for the reps. It was the arrivals hall that determined whether or not the preceding week or two, were going to be shitty. It was here that the inevitable issues would begin – and if it started with lost luggage then forget it… simply be resigned to the fact that the rest of the week was going to be a total nightmare.

No matter which flight came through those doors, the questions were always the same…

“How far is it to my hotel?”

“Will we be dropped first?”

“We are staying on a platinum package. That means we HAVE to be dropped second! Will you make sure we’re dropped off second?”

“How long do we have to sit on the coach and wait on other guests?”

“Does the bus driver speak English? Does he know where I’m staying?”

“Does the coach have air conditioning? We need to sit at the front”

No matter the resort, no matter the country, no matter where in the UK the guests arrived from – they ALL thought the same, spoke the same and behaved the same.

The airport was where every season started and ended. It was an integral part of our lives, and if we weren’t in a hurry to escape a particular resort, then it was also the place where the most tears were shed as we said good bye to strangers who had evolved into close friends.

Have a wonderful Summer 2015 to all the reps – new and old. Live the dream!

How to spot a holiday rep

You csuitcasesould always spot a holiday rep at the airport. They were usually pushing an overloaded trolley which had 2 grossly oversized suitcases, a brand new duvet, a small television and more often than not, a George Foreman grill perched precariously at the top of the pile. We took the term ‘creature comforts’ literally – especially if we were newbies. I can guarantee by the end of the season however, that TV was being used as a table, and the grill was probably holding up something that had fallen down…like the bed.  By the end of the season we realized that there was no need for half the things we brought – including the 20 pairs of shoes ‘just in case’. Every season that ended we vowed to NEVER carry so much stuff. Inevitably every season that started, our suitcases were heavier than before – and instead of 2 – they suddenly multiplied to 3 or 4. I don’t know about anyone else, but I envied the reps who were doing second seasons in the same place – why? They had left all their stuff behind knowing they would be back, and there they were, breezing through baggage claim with a cute little hold all. Curses my overloaded trolley and my blistered fingers!!

A newbie rep is fresh and green. Totally unaware of the perils that lie ahead. They are innocent and naïve, and they honestly have no idea that the moment they walk through the arrival doors looking all giddy and excited – their fate is sealed. No amount of training will ever prepare you for the doom that is ….. AIRPORT SHIFT!!!

A newbie rep turns up to their first airport shift looking all smart. They open the cellophane packets that have kept their uniform pristine and neat. Excitedly, each item is unfolded and put on in a sequence. The final piece to complete this fabulous look are the shoes – the oh so wonderful court shoes! Shoes on, ensemble complete, feeling great! Board the coach to the airport and the shift commences….

..… 12 hours later those same newbie reps look like they were steam rolled, bulldozed and then scraped up and thrown in the garbage. No amount of prep could have prepared them for the reality of an airport shift.

Every season we were instructed to wear a specific style and shape of shoe as part of our uniform. We were told the heel should be a specific height – and yes, the height and the style of that shoe does make you look more like Daisy Duck instead of Daisy Duke. But it’s the company policy for a reason. The reason is not quite clear until you have your first airport shift and you spend roughly 12 hours…standing! Those sexy spike heeled shoes or the ones with extra length in the heel ARE NOT SUITABLE SHOES!!! At the end of the shift feet would curse obscene language, refuse point blank to take another step. Blisters developed…and mutated into at least 3 more! If you dared to make the mistake of taking those shoes off for only a second – forget it! Those feet would fight to the death to go back in. As a more senior rep at the time (after having my first, and ONLY, shoe-catastrophe), I would see the glances from the newbies as they eyed my rather unstylish and hugely unflattering footwear. The joke was on them though, because I knew they would be begging for mercy in another couple hours – *cue evil laughter*.

Airport shifts were hit or miss… and most of the time it felt like sheer chaos and mayhem! Depending on the resort and the country, it would be more senior reps trying to coordinate buses, drivers, flights, delays, guests, reps…total mess! However, if you had the pleasure of working in Tenerife, you had fallen from hell into heavens playground! Tenerife airport was managed with precision. It was structured, orderly and efficient. Every shift – even if there were delays or long hours – was a pleasure to work. The airport was a nice comfortable size. It wasn’t horrendously humongous like Mallorca airport and it wasn’t a tiny tin can like Thessaloniki (Greece). It was an airport that was easy to get from point A to point B, and not feel like your feet were waving the white flag of defeat. Tenerife was by far the BEST airport to work in, and the team that operated there were amazing! The whole process was seamless. We turned up, we were assigned a specific area, once we were finished with that one, we were assigned another, and in short order the shift was over and it was time to head back to resort. And the BEST part about the Tenerife airport the year I worked – the company FINALLY decided that we came across looking too stuffy and unfriendly looking wearing our formal uniform – so they decided to trial the casual look at the airport. Trainers, polo shirts and cargo pants were the order of the day!  As you can imagine, that guinea pig project made airport shift the best experience of our lives that season! Instead of hobbling from point A to point B, there was much laughter and skipping gleefully in the sunshine.

Aaahhh yes…the sunshine. The sunshine that we go in search of. That wonderfully intense heat that could dehydrate a donkey and leave him dead on the edge of the road. That was how reps felt wearing the full formal uniform…like a dehydrating donkey. The summer heat was unbearable and the sweat that flowed was unstoppable. Can you imagine, we would have to endure that heat and then present at our welcome meetings and hope to god that the sweat stains on our shirt were not off- putting to our new guests. I remember many occasions when it was time to turn the flip chart, I didn’t! I knew if I raised my arm I would only be endangering my safety. The guests sitting there in their bikinis and shorts made us look like sweating pigs in a meat shop. As lovely as that glorious sunshine was, and as much as we craved its warmth compared to the bleakness of the UK, we knew our limits when we were scared of our own sweat.

With the heat of a blistering summer sun beating down on us as we stood in the coach park directing guests to the right buses, we could feel that first bead of sweat form on the brow and start a slow descent down the forehead. Once that first sweat bead was formed it acted like a signal blower to the sweat bead army, because within seconds the entire body goes damp. But that sweat bead army had an alternative agenda. They knew we could handle a little body odour, but they knew that we couldn’t handle one thing in particular…stink shoes!! Oh man!! Rep work shoes were to be handled with caution…preferably wearing a hasmat suit. No amount of spray, sunning, baking soda or stockings/socks could rid those shoes of the funk that emanated. I remember I had a pair that were so stink – I felt embarrassed talking to guests. The stench was so bad it was like a big old elephant was sitting there staring at us. Granted, the guests did bid hasty retreats mid conversation when that elephant decided it wasn’t moving…I guess the stink shoes did have its merits after all (SMILE).

Irrespective of the burning shoes, the sweltering heat and the stink feet – Airport duty was kinda fun. It was an escape from sitting in the hotel dealing with complaints or listening to some of the guests moaning about the breakfast and why the bacon and sausage weren’t English. It was also a chance to catch up with other reps based outside of the resort. Above all it was a chance to scope out the ‘fresh meat’, potential hotties, and suss out which guests were going to be big spenders, tight wads or whinging gits.

As I had mentioned before, most of the new arrivals were gormless and lost. They confused their name with the hotel they were staying in, and they thought their name was the airport they were coming from. They were confused little creatures in need of great assistance. Problem was, reps had a practical joke side – and instead of assisting the gormless lost fools – they would often send them on a wild goose chase looking for non-existent coaches.

As the new arrivals started to come through, it was ‘’tits and teeth’’ (chest out and BIG smile) time. We were poised and ready for action. With clipboards high in the air, loud voices boomed through the airport as eager holiday makers pushed and squeezed to get to the first rep they saw. They were like prisoners making a mad dash to freedom. It was there in the arrivals hall that outlined the rest of the week for the reps. It was the arrivals hall that determined whether or not the preceding week or two, were going to be shitty. It was here that the inevitable issues would begin – and if it started with lost luggage then forget it… simply be resigned to the fact that the rest of the week was going to be a total nightmare.

No matter which flight came through those doors, the questions were always the same…

“How far is it to my hotel?”

“Will we be dropped first?”

wpid-593dcf076a8ced0d6ce9c9309e6b53bb.jpeg

I think this sums up guests and their incessant questions

“We are staying on a platinum package. That means we HAVE to be dropped second! Will you make sure we’re dropped off second?

“How long do we have to sit on the coach and wait on other guests?”

“Does the bus driver speak English? Does he know where I’m staying?”

“Does the coach have air conditioning? We need to sit at the front”

No matter the resort, no matter the country, no matter where in the UK the guests arrived from – they ALL thought the same, spoke the same and behaved the same.

The airport was where every season started and every season ended. It was an integral part of our lives, and if we weren’t in a hurry to escape a particular hellhole, then it was also the place where the most tears were shed as we said good bye to strangers who had evolved into our closest friends.

Repping in Benidorm felt like the pits of hell! 

Benidorm…sigh. What can I say really? First impressions?… I had clearly made the biggest mistake of my life by turning down Egypt for such a complete shit pit! It was a far cry from Costa del Sol or even the Canaries. My first thought was that karma was a bitch and the company was punishing me for turning up my nose at my original placement. Don’t get me wrong…Egypt is lovely, but at the time they were having a little issue and I really didn’t want my mother to get a call saying “there’s been a slight accident…”

Once again I was the lonely old rep heading to resort late. I was travelling on my own but this time I was better equipped to face the challenges. On this occasion I really didn’t want to talk to anyone on the plane…considering that when I looked around the metal tube I saw NO one under the age of 65. My next clue as to what to expect , was overhearing snippets of conversation flowing between couples…

“This is our 43rd time here. I hope Pablo has our usual room ready”

“The last time we came we went to that market…do you remember Bob? The one that had all those gypsys. Robbing little bastards they are”

“I wonder if there are any new trips? I hated Gibraltar. That bus made me feel sick”

“Do you think we will see Sandra again. She was a nice rep. I hope she’s there. Such a caring girl…not like the other one”

I slowly slipped my headphones on and sank deeper into my seat. Clearly this was NOT going to be the easiest or best season if this was what I was facing.

Now please understand that being in a plane with nearly 200 passengers over the age of 65, i was clearly going to stick out like a freakishly giant sore thumb. It was only a matter of time before the whispers started and I could hear …

“Aye, Barbara…do you think she’s a rep? Looks a little young don’t you think? I hope she’s not ours. I want to see our Tom again…I liked him. Such a good lad”

All I knew was that I just needed that captain to step on the gas before there was an all out lynching…because once they had sussed I was a rep for sure, there was going to be no escape. I would have to listen to every complaint, every issue. I would have to nod politely, smile graciously and try to evade as many personal questions as possible.

Don’t get me wrong…I loved the older guests! They all had fascinating stories to share, full of wonderful insight and often times were the only type of guest who gave nice little gifts and relieved themselves of all their toiletries, books and magazines when they were leaving. The older guests…most of them… were totally precious…but the other half were pompous know-it-alls who were a complete pain in the arse to be around.

I finally landed in Alicante unscathed…thank god. The drive into Benidorm was not pretty. The skyline was a far cry from what I was used to. It was a jungle of skyscrapers and huge concrete structures. I couldn’t even see the beach…I wasn’t even sure where it was or how far it was. I know I had said it before…but this was NOT what I had in mind. Where were the one story buildings with cobbled stone streets? Where were the little local tavernas with old local men sat outside? Where the hell was the sea? Where was the breeze? Where was I???? Somehow I  had landed in some kind of hell.

Arriving at night definitely did not prepare me for what I saw in the day. What I saw at night was actually pretty compared to the greyness that existed. Getting my bearings was difficult at first until I realised that the entire layout of the resort was a grid system. But it felt a lot like being in a small town than it did being in an actual tourist resort. I felt more like a business woman going to work each day, instead of like a ‘holiday’ representative. That being said…the initial impression was not great and I vowed I would do my time as a prisoner and make a hasty retreat as soon as the warden set me free.

During my first month I had a stint in a little office that we shared with our German counterparts. Our company had decided to trial a new concept. For all the hotels that barely had any of our guests in there, instead of wasting man power by having a rep in these hotels, these guests could make their way to this central office and speak to a rep or they could call . Office hours were the usual repping  hours (including the break for siesta). Let’s just say that this little concept did not sit well with a huge majority of guests. You see, as I mentioned before, guests are funny creatures. They need to have their hands held and they NEED to complain about something to someone. So imagine their disgust when they arrive (for the 43rd time) and realise that Sandra the rep is gone and they are left with no one! Instead they are left with a phone number and a long walk to an office! Catastrophe!

So not only had I arrived in visual hell, but I had arrived as the guinea pig for some crazy idea…and even though I had escaped unscathed from the plane…here I was now face to face with the same blasted passengers I had tried to hide from! This was NOT a good start.

Our German counterparts in that small office kept laughing at me and my colleague. Every day they would shake their heads and  ask us why British holidaymakers were so loud and why did they complain so much…what was I supposed to say? I would just shrug and answer the phone to yet another screaming guest.

The bosses soon after moved us from that position, and moved me to another side of the ‘town’. I was given control of 3 hotels. All in walking distance and all relatively small compared to the monstrosities that were around. I was now starting to settle into life somewhat…I never had a choice though…I had to remain longer than I thought! I was trapped in this prison for another 3 months…I intended to make it bearable.

The guests in my hotels were really nice…only downside (not really)…all the guests were returning guests which meant if there was nothing new to offer them then they were not coming to my welcome meeting ,and they refused point blank to buy any trip. As one guest said,

“I could probably teach you everything you need to know about this place. I’ve been coming here 50 years…”

Once I had established that I was off the hook with having to sell, I just turned up the notch on my customer service…because old people LOVE to fill out questionnaires! I was attentive, understanding, talkative and I was a listening ear. The oldies quite liked me actually *smile*.

On one occasion I got a call from the emergency hotline to tell me that my guest was in a terrible state. She had lost her husband and needed help finding him. Naturally I wasn’t the least bit panicked. Guests have a tendency to exaggerate (known fact). I was sure when she said “lost”, she really meant he was around the hotel exploring. Well…she was half right. He was “lost”. He had ended up in the hotel bar during the night and had fallen asleep. But after finding him there he had no recollection of where he was or who his wife was. His alzheimer had kicked in and he thought his wife was some sort of temptress. He kept telling her to go away and leave him alone. He kept shouting he needed to go back home to his wife. Oh boy! That was my first encounter with something like that and it was awful. It was frightening to see the sadness and confusion in his eyes. There was nothing I could do except be gentle and try to explain that he was with his wife and everything would be Ok. Needless to say, the following day she had to book an emergency flight home. The condition had deteriorated rapidly and she knew she couldn’t manage.

Of course the wonderful Benidorm was filled with the strangest people and even stranger situations. After a rather hectic arrival day I got a call from the airport rep telling me I should expect a guest and I was to keep an eye on him. Hmmmm…ominous I thought. Well, this guest turned up and on further inspection things were a little out of character. It was an elderly gentleman travelling on his own without any suitcase. His only bag was a black supermarket shopping bag. In it, he had the following – a comb, a brush, underpants (1) and his passport. I kid you not! He had been standing at the baggage carousel until all the bags were gone and the reps had to go get him. He had forgotten that he didn’t bring a bag. When they tried to question him he kept saying he needed to get away. As you can imagine his family was called immediately and he was admitted into hospital until they arrived. Its common knowledge that Benidorm has the highest incidents of natural deaths…it is where the geriatrics go to take their last breath. Luckily I didn’t have any incidents, but my colleague did. The guest called him up to the room because she needed help waking her husband. The man had died in his sleep while she was sleeping next to him. Poor woman!

Amid all the geriatrics, deaths, “robbing gypsys” and the slips and falls (old people are frail and break easily), we had an active social life. Benidorm is one of the cheesiest resorts I have ever worked. It caters to everyone and every mood. The nightlife is active and entertainment is on every corner. There are live sex shows, comedy shows, musical acts. There’s dancing and singing performances. There’s magic acts and there’s impersonators….and then there is the infamous Sticky Vicky. A visit to Benidorm is not complete without watching a grandma completely naked, pulling things out her hoohaa. That’s right folks…this lady can create electricity with her hoohaa when she inserts a light bulb! Good old Vicky!

I learnt  a few repping tricks in Benidorm…getting home early in the morning and the shift starts in a couple hours? Put on your uniform! That way you can jump out of bed (after you’ve pressed the snooze button on the alarm at least 10 times) and head to work without being (too) late. Want to go home early from the bar but all the reps won’t let you leave? Tell them you’re heading to the bar to get a round of drinks then sneak out through the crowd.

Benidorm was the one resort where there was no tension or rift between rival companies. Every rep knew they were in hell and we all couldn’t wait to get away. Some made their getaway quicker than others…via the backdoor…under the cover of darkness. Yup! Some reps just ran away in the middle of the night. No goodbyes, no warnings, no nothing. It takes some guts to do it…(he knows who he is)…but the urge to escape was too great, and could any of us blame them.

I had served my sentence well, and with dignity at the end of winter 2. I received my badge of merit and I was renounced of my past disservice. I was free to leave the highrised ,geriatric hell hole.

As I drove away in the bus – back to the airport – I stared out at the skyline and thought about the experience. I was glad it was over, but I had learnt to deal with far more issues than I ever thought possible. I had been pushed to my limit countless times. To me, I had  completed another level in the University of Life, and for that reason I would be forever thankful to the home of Sticky Vicky.

The start of my repping adventures in Halkidiki.

I ended map of halkidikiup sitting next to a sweet old lady on the plane, who was holidaying on her own, and I had told her that it was my first time being a holiday rep and I didn’t know what to expect, and how frightened I was about starting late into the season because everyone would have arrived weeks earlier and they would all be settled and friendships would have been established. I think I literally had verbal diarrhea on this total stranger. I told her everything about my life and why I ended up being a rep and what I was running away from, what I expected to get out of the experience, where I saw myself in the future..blah…blah…blah. Jeez! At the time I was just relieved to have someone to talk to. It was all very nerve wracking. I am a control freak of the highest order, and for once in my life, I had lost total control over my life. I was being carefree and spontaneous. Yeah, whatever! Who was I kidding…I was making a terrible mistake, and I was scared shitless! I wanted to turn back. I wanted to get off. I had made the wrong choice. These were all the thoughts flying though my head as I sat on the plane 32,000 feet above sea level as this metal tube with 219 holidaymakers, plus 1 very frightened holiday rep, made its way to Thessaloniki airport in Greece!

Man, oh man. I was right for having all those initial feelings. Arriving mid-season to a destination especially if you had no clue what to expect…SUCKED!

I was met at the airport by my allocated manager, Tracy, who had on enough make up to make a clown jealous. Her eye liner, eye shadow and mascara were so thickly coated onto and around her eyes; I wasn’t sure how she was even able to see. Sweet girl though– and I say ‘girl’, because she wasn’t that much older than me. We headed off to the area known as Halkidiki – which was compromised of the 3 fingered peninsulas; Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos. I had read about this area prior to arriving, and it was supposed to be a fabulous place to live and work.

My temporary abode was in the centre of a small greek village known as Kalithea, on the peninsula of Kassandra. The balcony overlooked a little road that ran through the centre and I could watch all the goings on from up in my turret. I remember being dropped there, hauling my 2 oversized suitcases up 3 flights of stairs and feeling very overwhelmed as I looked around the place I would call home. I had been given an itinerary of my daily trips, the first of which was the following day at 6am. Tracy told me that she wouldn’t see me again for the rest of the day and I should settle in and explore my surroundings.

I decided to go for a little walk once I had unpacked, just to get my bearings and figure out where I would have to meet the bus for my trips. It soon dawned on me that everyone spoke greek – english was not a language that was universal – despite popular belief. How the hell was I supposed to communicate here? How the hell was I supposed to buy groceries or order food in a restaurant when I had NO IDEA what was written or being said? Just great! This was not what I had imagined, or signed up for. Within the space of a few hours I was pretty much ready to pack up and go back to Smallsville.

On my exploration I had not encountered any perverts or slime balls. To be honest, everyone was so polite and very friendly. Actually, most of them spoke to me in greek – which was surprising considering I looked like I had just stepped fresh off the boat with a pasty looking complexion, and the psychotic deer in headlights gaze plastered to my face. I found out the following year that I looked greek – which was why the locals spoke to me in their language, and why they were taken aback that I didn’t respond in their tongue.

The subsequent days that followed were a total blur. I went on all manner of trips to see various sights, in and around the 3 peninsulas. There were boat rides to see Mount Athos, sunset cruises from Nea Skioni, bus tours around Sithonia, city trips to Thessaloniki, market sights at Nea Moudania , and museums visits at Ouranoupolis. There was the chance to see almost every corner of Halkidiki from land and by sea. I enjoyed every single minute of it – and I even met up with the little old lady from the plane. On a couple tours she and I partnered together walking around and exploring. It was nice seeing her again, and I was even nicer to have someone to talk to and share the experiences with.

Visiting Mt. Athos was probably one of the most unique experiences of my life. It was the largest monastic state in existence and only visible by sea, and considered a world heritage site by UNESCO. Women were not allowed within a certain distance from shore, and Prince Charles (the British monarch) would retreat there. It was on this trip that I learnt that his father was actually born in Corfu – which made Prince Charles Greek orthodox by blood. The entire peninsula was dotted with monasteries’; some of them looked like they had literally been molded out of the rock walls. As the boat steered as close as we were allowed to get, a hush had fallen over the guests on board. We were hanging over the edge with our mouths open in awe, totally captivated by the dramatic scenery, as the guide spoke about the history. I could hear the gentle breeze rustling through the sails, the water as it lapped on the side of the boat and sea birds screeching high above our heads. The odd ‘’ooooh’’ and ‘’aaahh’’ could be heard amid the frantic shutter clicks of almost every camera, as everyone tried to capture the essence of what was before our eyes. We had fallen under a spell of mesmerizing tranquility.

I honestly felt like a tourist during that first week designated for excursions. But the real work was soon to follow in the second week when it was time to shadow the reps and write my sales pitches based on all the excursions I went on. I must admit, writing the sales presentations were not too hard. I enjoyed everything I saw and it was a joy for me to re-account my adventures so that they could be shared with others – even if it was for them to spend their money.  I will admit wholeheartedly that throughout my tenure as a holiday rep, the sales pitch was NOT my forte. I was not the highest seller; I was not a forceful go-getter when it came to pressuring guests to buy trips …or anything for that matter. I did not hit my sales targets…ever. And if I did, that was purely by accident, or I had a particularly active set of guests staying in the hotel that week. The joke was, the real money as a rep, was made by hitting targets and getting commission. So of course every rep was actively involved in this process because they wanted the extra funds. That was great for them, but my philosophy has always been – “I don’t do my job for money. I do it because I love it. And if I love it, then money must follow”. The one thing that I did hit target for on a weekly basis was my customer service. The reviews I received were flawless – and that was probably my only saving grace within the company since I refused to be their sales pusher.

Halkidiki was just stunning. The people were so warm and generous. The men were handsome, if slightly arrogant and the women were stunningly stylish. Life there was very laid back, yet fiercely trendy. The locals at specific times during the summer would frequent the resort in the hundreds, and the bars and restaurants would be filled with tourists and locals alike. Whether tourist of local, everyone would interact like family…and that is huge in the Greek culture. Family for them is important. So important in fact, when the first born daughter gets married, she does not move away from her family home – the father builds on top of the existing structure. There was so much about the culture and their beliefs I grew to love and accept (and still do). I learnt the language so that I could communicate with my hoteliers, staff members, the locals and of course with the bus drivers – since they were the ones who refused point blank to learn english. Many of the reps found the bus drivers cantankerous and unhelpful – but I soon realised that once they saw you trying to learn their language and at least able to communicate at the basic level, they were the sweetest men ever. There was one occasion that a bus driver who didn’t know a word of english spent an entire 2 hour journey from the airport chatting away about his life in greek. I had a basic idea of what he was talking about and could interject with the courteous peel of laughter or odd phrase – but all the guests thought that I was some kind of greek speaking genius. I didn’t let them think otherwise.

Being a holiday rep certainly had the most awesome perks! Every bar owner and restaurateur wanted to be my friend. They wanted me to eat in their restaurant for free. They all wanted to make sure that I had a fabulous time in their establishment. One catch – all this eating and drinking for free meant that they wanted me to recommend their business to my guests, my colleagues’ guests, and any random guests I came across. We weren’t supposed to show favoritism – rules of the company – but hey, some places offered specific things that others didn’t. As long as I was honest and I tailored my recommendations to the needs of the guest, then it was a win win situation.

Greece spoilt me rotten. I never paid for anything in and around the resort I worked. My company was the only holiday company in the area at the time, which meant that the 3 of us working there, had a fabulous time. My first season as a newbie rep may have started out a little scary and lonesome. By the time I was placed in Fourka, a small fishing village on the Kassandra peninsula – the place I would call home for the next 6 months – I soon became very settled into the lifestyle, and forgot about my initial terror.

Halkidiki changed my life forever! There was no turning back now. I was well and truly bitten by the travel bug.

Leaving on a jetplane…

I was finally wpid-fb_img_1429189495126.jpggoing to leave the humdrum small town life behind and head off into the sunset to start my adventures as a holiday rep for Thomson Holidays (now called TUI Travel). I was going to live the dream – a dream that so many people have, yet are afraid to follow through with.

When I told my friends that what I was going to do, they all had that envious look. They all said how lucky I was, and how much they wished they could do it too. When I told them there was nothing stopping them, everyone simply ‘’ummed’’ and ‘’aahhed’’, interspersed with a lot of, ‘’yes, but….’’

I guess travelling is ingrained in my DNA. My Great Uncle Albert (whoever he was) was a British sea captain, and my entire childhood was spent travelling around different cities to different countries. My passport at the age of 7 probably had more immigration stamps than any adult. I know what you are thinking – I was a gypsy (hence my blog name). Sorry to disappoint you all. I was simply born to a family who travelled a lot for work – and relocating was a huge part of our lifestyle.

When I was younger – and even now as an adult – nothing gave me greater pleasure than boarding a plane, buckling my seat belt and waiting anxiously for it to take off. I loved the feeling as the front wheels came off the ground and the nose of the plane was in the air and I was thrown back into my seat as the plane made the ascent. If I was fortunate enough to have a window seat – which I always prefer to have – then I would look at the cars and houses below, as they started to shrink into the distance, looking like miniature versions of the real things.

There is no greater feeling than flying. It’s such a freeing experience. I enjoy every aspect of the plane journey – including the food. Yup! I admit it. I am an airplane food fanatic! I am not quite partial to the bacon or the sausage they serve for breakfast, but the egg and hash browns are nice – and yes, everything else that is served with breakfast goes down a treat too. I would have to say that my favourite meals are lunch and dinner. No matter what I get, it’s always super yummy. It’s so yummy in fact; there have been a few times I have asked for another one. I always thought that everyone else felt the same way about airplane food – until I saw the hostesses cart go past with tons of uneaten meals, followed by quiet murmurings of how terrible the food was, why they didn’t offer better meals, and next time they are going to travel first class because that’s where the good stuff is.

I have been fortunate to travel economy, business and first class with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and Delta – believe me when I say that the food is the SAME! Only difference is how it’s served, what it’s served on, and depending on the airline, you might actually get a menu to choose from. Big whoop! Granted, I would LOVE to fly Emirates Airlines. I hear their service, food, décor and overall layout is by far the most superior to any other airline. One day (very soon), I will get that chance, and I will definitely blog about my experience…hint hint, Emirates – I’m willing to be your mystery shopper! *SMILE*

I am in awe at how people totally pass out on planes. It amazes me every time that the plane will be sitting on the tarmac waiting for boarding to be completed, and there is that one person who manages to fall dead asleep – sitting fully upright. I cannot sleep on a plane for love nor money. I am that annoying passenger who would have the light on because I’m reading or playing a game on my iPad. I make it my mission to watch at least 3 movies – and usually the movie selection is so awesome, because they show movies which only recently came out in the cinema. I don’t go to the cinema (the darkness makes me fall asleep), and I am never sitting still long enough to watch one at my house. So imagine being locked in a metal tube for 9 hours – these suckers have my undivided attention! I only wish airlines provided a never-ending supply of snacks, like popcorn, chocolates and maybe some gummy bears…then the 9 hours would pass even quicker.

Once the movie(s) are over – depending on the length of the flight – there is usually about 45mins before landing, and if you don’t time it right you will never make it to the bathroom to freshen up – why? The entire plane consisting of 200 plus people, have the same idea about 30mins before final descent. Everyone wants to comb their hair, splash water on their face, brush teeth – and I’m convinced some people actually bathe in that small space – how, I don’t have a clue. I kid you not, I have seen women striding down the walkway wearing a different set of clothes and hair looking freshly washed. I know for me, it’s a struggle to even wash my face. Water ends up down the front of my clothes instead of the intended target.

The descent is where the nerves kick in – not because I am scared of crashing – because as I look out of the window and the view comes into sight, and the cars and the houses start to get bigger and bigger – I know that this is it. This is the start of something new. What will happen next is a complete mystery. I have no control and I have no idea what to expect. I just have to hope that whatever happens, I don’t  give up and I can make at least one friend. I just need one friend to make a nerve wracking situation bearable.

Once inside the terminal and I am standing in the line for immigration to scrutinize every nook and cranny of my passport – I get a little tense. I know what is coming next, and this is the part I HATE most about flying! This is the part that can make me or break me. This is the part where grown men can be reduced to blubbering messes, and women can morph in howling banshees. This part is called… *cue the suspenseful music*…The Baggage Carousel!! That’s right folks – this is the only place where feelings can be toyed with, emotions left exposed, and luggage will either turn up…or NOT! Truthfully, that only ever happened once in my lifetime – and it happened to 20 of us – and this was because the Cessna couldn’t carry such a large load from Majorca to Ibiza, so it had to be done in stages.  Luckily the wait wasn’t too long – if my memory serves me correctly. My bag was one of the lucky ones to arrive a couple hours after we had arrived.

Once the bags have been collected (or the report for the missing luggage has been issued), that walk to the arrivals hall is the final emotional feeling – total fear. I always hope that the smile plastered to my face, as the door opens, looks more like a… ‘I’m so excited to be here’… instead of a… ‘I’m a deer trapped in headlights’ psychotic gaze. It’s hard to sum up all the thoughts that pound through my head like a herd of stampeding rhinos at this point. Happy, frightened, relieved, nervous, excited, confused, doubtful, miserable, overwhelmed, and tired – can best describe the barrage of emotions I guess. One thing is certain; this never changes, regardless of the destination.

My destiny was already planned

The turning point in my life was an argument about snacks. Snacks, of all things, were the straw that broke the camels back and caused me to reevaluate my life and the path I was walking. I no longer wanted to be living in Smallsville, living the small town dream.
9987_712467858845206_7254750430527658869_n
I didn’t want to date another one of my boss’s friends, or keep drinking in the same bars, eating at the same restaurants and talking to the same people. Suddenly I felt trapped. I felt claustrophobic and I knew I needed change…but what? That was the big question! I hated big cities and I had tried the cabin crew route – but I didn’t get called back for a second interview (besides I had got lost trying to find the place and I was an hour late – probably not a good start anyway).I needed something else – I needed another escape route.

One night I was talking to one of my staff members about travelling, and she told me that she spent 2 years travelling and it was brilliant because it was with a British company and it was her job. Every word she uttered had me hooked like a fish to a line. What on earth was this mystical, magical job? Was it designed for anyone? Was there a catch? Where could I sign up or find out more? …Then she said the magic words (in a very nonchalant tone), “just look on the internet, they are always hiring”. The sky opened and a ray of sunshine shone down on me and I heard angels singing, and cherubs playing the harp! This was it! My golden willy wonka ticket out of here! As easy as that…except I needed to update my CV (how tedious), and more importantly, I needed an internet café (since I didn’t have that luxury in my flat).

Well, to cut a long story short, I didn’t go to the internet café immediately and I certainly didn’t update my CV straight away. I guess you could say I got cold feet and the thought of taking a leap into the unknown was rather daunting, so I decided maybe I needed to sit on it for a bit – lets just say I sat on the idea for about 2 months. However, after a particularly bad day at the bar when some old man screamed foul language at me, I decided enough was enough. I was fed up, sick and tired of the crap, and this was it I was going to fill in the online application, even if it was just for the hell of it. As I was looking through the internet, I noticed there were quite a few companies offering the same role. What the hell… I applied to all  of all. I had nothing to lose, but I guessed I had a whole lot to gain. Once I was finished I didn’t think much of it after that – because my friend called me shortly after and invited me shopping – and there you had it, just like that, my terrible day/life was soon forgotten.

Out of the blue 3 months later I got a phone call from one of the companies I had applied to, and they invited me to their head office for an interview. WOW! I had totally forgotten about the day I sent out my CV in a vexed state of mind. Here I was actually being summonsed for an interview – that I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to attend. Was I a little too overzealous about wanting to escape the humdrum existence? Did I really want to pack my bags and venture into the unknown? I figured I would sleep on it and whatever I decided on the day of the interview would be the right choice.

A week later my alarm went off at 6am. I needed to catch the 8am train to London and be at the head office – which was 3 underground train rides away from the main station in the City of London. Oh boy! I had woken up and it was dark and the prospect of having to take the early morning commute dressed in interview attire was not appealing. I hated wearing stockings and shoes with heels – hence why the 9-5 office thing was and never will be for me! I lay in bed until 7am convinced that I wasn’t going – what was the point of travelling 2 hours away from home to get rejected. No! I was not going! Despite my stubbornness, deep down something stirred. A voice said, “don’t be silly. You had the day off anyway and you didn’t have any plans. Besides, you have nothing to lose. And if you do get the job, then you can tell them to stuff it, because you’ve changed your mind, and you’re not interested.” I guess that voice won me over, because I jumped out that bed so fast and I was dressed and at the train station just as the train I needed pulled into the station. Some would say that the rest of that day flowed exactly like that – totally according to plan – as if it was my destiny.

I got to the interview on time –  what would normally have been a group interview of about 20 people –  there were only 3 of us. Apparently, when the interview dates were being set, there was some kind of mix up and when the dates were changed, we were the only 3 who were not told. At the time I didn’t think anything of it because I was not getting my hopes up for love nor money. I had a rather ‘don’t -really- care- attitude’ about the whole thing if I’m totally honest. We started the group interview and it involved presenting – but it seems I got the information wrong. I assumed it was just to talk – oh no – these 2 girls came with full on cartridge paper sized presentations with pictures and leaflets. There I was with my little A-4 paper with no pictures, no leaflets and definitely no props. That was it I thought, I didn’t follow instructions and now I had just  lost my chance at happiness. We had to sit through a math and english test after that, and then we were called in one by one to have a chat with the interviewer. It was a very lighthearted chat. She asked me questions about where I wanted to be placed and why. She asked why I wanted to do this job, and what qualities did I possess in order to be successful. You know…all the usual intimidating questions they ask. At the end of the interview she said, ‘’normally we would contact you in a week or so to let you know if you are successful, but on this occasion I can definitely tell you that you are what the company is looking for and I am pleased to welcome you to the team’’. Huh? What? I am sure she said a whole lot more, but I was stunned. I was actually stunned into total delirium. Nothing was making sense. I kept asking myself is this real? Will I wake up in my bed shortly?

I was that spaced out, after I left the interviewer –  who was probably still rabbiting on about something –  I walked out of the building and straight into the road. Yes, you read correctly! I walked straight into the road without looking left or right. But as I had said before, my destiny was clearly planned , because the bus that could have squashed and killed me that morning, narrowly missed me and I was none the wiser – even though I could faintly hear a woman screaming and I man shouting. Maybe they were directed at me, but my euphoric daze was far too glorious.

There you have it folks, I was about to embark on a journey of a lifetime. I was about to escape the mundane. I was about to give up the known for the unknown. I was about to start my dream job! A job, that to this very day, I miss with all my heart and soul.

How one relationship could change the course of the future

memoriesBeing a bar supervisor  and working with a great bunch of people who were my friends, more than my staff – was indeed a  dream come true…a dream that would have to come to an end.

1 year I worked there. After the first 2 months, I had earned enough money to finally move out of my dad’s house, and get a place within walking distance to work. I pulled a second shift at the nightclub being the assistant manager every weekend, so I had extra income coming in. My life now had become a whirlwind of people, drinks, drinking and generally having a fabulous time pretending I was grown up… I guess.

During my time at the tapas bar I dated 2 guys – they were both friends – actually, they were friends with my boss…which is how I ended up hanging out with them. But the first guy I dated was actually one of my boss’s best friends. He was always hanging around, and coming out with really corny jokes – to this very day he is still cracking those corny jokes and I’m sure he’s still hanging around whichever bar is flavor of the month these days. Anyway, he was the joker of the group and he was constantly flirting with me – I guess you could say his presence (not his jokes) wore me down eventually when I decided it wouldn’t be that bad to date my boss’s friend – I was wrong actually…it wasn’t that great!

Don’t get me wrong, my boss and I got on great. He warned me that I shouldn’t get involved with his friend because he was a genuine ass, but I chose to ignore it because I was an adult and I could make my own choices – especially when it involved dating. I guess I never really expected to be blindsided when he dumped me after a month telling me the girl he really liked was coming back from working on the cruise ship. WHOA! Talk about a direct punch in the gut! Who would have thought that while I was planning our future secretly in my head, he was secretly counting down the days until another girl was hopefully his future. I guess you would tell me I was warned – and warned more than once might I add. But it didn’t matter, I was still quite devastated – I called my mum and had a good cry about it actually. I think it was the first time that I had ever cried over a guy…not because I loved him, but because my ego had been well and truly crushed and embarrassed. I will tell you this though – after that girl he liked came back and she basically told him she wasn’t interested, he came running back to me with his tail between his legs. I took him back – not because I was thrilled and relieved – but because I had my own agenda. We were back together for 1 week when I turned the tables – I dumped him! And boy did it feel great! I guess you could say I had orchestrated a karmic circle, but I would prefer to say that I was simply helping the Universe by giving a rather zealous push in the right direction.

After that fiasco of a relationship, I started dating another one of the boss’s friends. Yes, yes, you are right. Why would I go there again after the last time? But this time I wasn’t expecting anything, I didn’t intend for anything to happen and I certainly didn’t think that we would have ended up dating. But I guess the Universe had other plans – because believe it or not, he was the reason for my sudden urge to escape; to escape from the small town, to escape from the routine, to escape from a life that I saw as dead end. The walls of Smallsville felt like it was closing in on me, and I was beginning to feel like I was drowning in quicksand. This final relationship was the fire I needed to get me out – out of my comfort zone and out of the country.

You are all wondering what on earth could have happened for me to want to run away so badly. Believe me when I say that at the end of the day, it wasn’t him – it was me – cliché as it sounded. We met while I was rehearsing as a backup dancer for a Britney Spears look alike. Her dancers had quit suddenly  – (I wonder why) –  and my friend and I decided it would be a laugh to rehearse and do at least one show. Needless to say the show did not happen and neither did another rehearsal.  Anyway, during that one and only rehearsal, we needed someone to critique how we looked, so the only person we could find in the bar next door was him. He certainly didn’t mince his words that day and he certainly wasn’t in a pleasant mood – he was quick to tell us we were a pile of hot steaming sh*t, and we shouldn’t embarrass ourselves if we knew what was good for us. Let me just say this – thanks to his rude, yet honest answer, I decided then and there that he was a totally arrogant ass*@le and if he ever came in my bar  I would refuse to serve him. Yet again, my ego had been deflated – even though deep down I knew what we were doing really was embarrassingly rubbish. But who cares – how dare he!

That fateful day was the start of a very interesting friendship that was filled with romance, fighting, arguments, drunken shenanigans and a rather interesting love story. He was the one that introduced me to the idea of moving away to live somewhere exotic – and trust me – anywhere outside of the United Kingdom would be considered exotic. We looked through travel brochures and at real estate magazines. We look at Turkey and Spain. We looked at Greece and even Amsterdam. Funnily enough, we shared the same passion for the sunshine and travel. We also enjoyed being tanned – we would go on the tanning beds so that we were golden brown all year round. Out of all the guys I dated, he and I were far more compatible, even if his father was a racist. It’s hard to imagine that a guy, who loved foreign countries and obsessed with being tanned, could have had such a bigot for a father. What an awful man! My best friend said something at the time, and even though I laughed it off then – I think it took root in my mind and grew leaves of ideas, which in turn fuelled my eventual need to escape.

All in all, we dated for about 10 months, and the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was an argument about snacks! Yes, you heard right. We had a full blown destructive argument about whos’ turn it was to buy the snacks from the supermarket. I know! Every time I tell that story I get horrified, yet concerned looks – as if they expect me to tell them the hidden meaning behind the term ‘snack’ or to divulge some sordid secret which would have been far more noteworthy. Unfortunately, it was quite simple – I had decided that I had outgrown Smallsville. This guy had opened a view to other places ,and I could taste the freedom. It was calling my name on the breeze, it was whispering to me though the leaves and it was beckoning me to be part of the adventure. I wasn’t sure how, I wasn’t sure where, but one thing was certain – I was ready to go anywhere…which didn’t involve snacks!