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.
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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 my wanderlust adventures began

never give upEveryone decides to travel for many reasons. But usually the main reasons are they are running away from something or someone. Sometimes they are running from bad relationships, bad debt and maybe just a bad life. Sometimes people travel because of genetics – their DNA is comprised of the travel bug. Whatever the reason, the eclectic hodge podge of persons that end up becoming friends thanks to their mutual interest and a similar lifestyle, makes for amazing memories and great stories.

My adventures started after living in the United Kingdom for 5 years. I was working two jobs – one was a typical 9-5 preparing personal pension plan annual reports, and my evening job was working behind the bar in a nightclub. I really hated my day job. It was so boring. It was so boring that I had the most sick days ever – so much so, I was summoned to head office in London to explain if there was something wrong with me. It was at that point that I knew I was not destined for a life behind a desk, behaving like a robot. Every other day I was being reprimanded for being too loud, laughing too raucously or talking too much.

I decided it was time to quit! Enough was enough. I wasn’t going to allow my personality to be beaten out of me. I would find a job that would allow my personality to shine…problem was…there was none! I had to move back in with my dad to try catch my feet in the meantime. While I was home I was still bartending at night just to keep me going, but I was actively job hunting on the internet. I applied to hotels in London, I applied to be cabin crew for Virgin Atlantic, I researched working in the US as a camp counselor, and I was even tempted to try my hand in a travel agency.

After a couple of weeks of actively trawling and emailing CV’s to no avail – I finally got a response! It was as an assistant concierge in a VERY affluent hotel London. The job requirements sounded pretty snazzy and it definitely suited my personality – I could talk, laugh and be personable and engaging – that was after all, the job of a concierge. My family was pretty thrilled that I found what was going to be my dream job. I would be in the heart of the city, meeting and greeting, schmoozing with the big wigs and generally having a blast as a 20 something young woman just starting out in life….one small problem though…where was I going to live?

In that instant of trying to figure out where I would live, my beautiful dream started to unravel. Something so simple as a roof over my head was quite a daunting idea. Where did I begin? How could I afford accommodation in London plus transportation costs and food ? Oh dear – it wasn’t looking very promising. Until my knight in shining armour swooped in and saved the day….ok, well he didn’t swoop in, he definitely wasn’t wearing armour…and he wasn’t a knight…he was my grandpa! He called to tell me that he had a friend who lived one commute on the tube train away from the hotel. It was a great location. I could lodge with his friend and pay her a little sum for a month until I found my feet and found somewhere of my own. This was it! My dream was back on! I started seeing myself touring museums, eating in trendy restaurants, meeting famous people and simply feeling like a Carrie Bradshaw out of ‘Sex and the City’. Heaven!

The day had finally arrived! I was going to become a real woman! I was going to live the dream in the city! When I turned up at my temporary new home I was thrilled. It felt like something out of Oliver Twist – and not the slum part where Oliver lived with Fagan – but where he lived with the kind old man who ended up being his grandfather. Oh yes! Talk about landing on my feet – great location, nice comfortable house – I could have gotten used to that lifestyle easily. It was certainly where I felt I belonged. As I lay in bed that night – I was excited about my first day – I knew was going to be just perfect!

I woke up the following morning bright and early to catch the 6am train. Luckily the train station was around the corner and the hotel was one stop away. It was all really convenient – I couldn’t have asked for anything better – or could I?

I was taken on a tour of the hotel, and shown the ropes as best as possible in a couple hours. Little did I realise I was about to thrown into the deep end…without a safety device. Until that moment, I had no idea that the bowels of a hotel was where it all happened.

Beneath the hotel it was a sea of passageways, exits and entry points, where hundreds of staff traversed on a minute by minute basis. It was a whirlwind of faces as news traveled that there was a ‘new kid on the block’, there was ‘fresh meat in the market’, or whatever term of reference was used. I will be honest, I felt very intimidated – I felt like I was the freak at the circus that everyone wanted to look at. I didn’t realise I could have felt so alone, lost and frightened. The first couple of hours were daunting – my immediate thoughts were – “if this is how I felt now, how was I going to get through the rest of the day, much less the first week?”

My first day was certainly eventful. I answered questions, booked reservations, delivered packages and newspapers to rooms , and I was sent on a mission to find stockings, insoles and some kind of perfume. I accompanied the concierge assistant manager – who I was shadowing – and he was quick to warn me that next day, I was on my own. As result, I was told to pay attention to the road signs, the landmarks, the stores and above all, I was to make special note of where the hotel was so I didn’t get lost. Now, if anyone knows London (which is similar to New York), every road looks the same, there are people, more people and cars. If you don’t keep your wits about you, you can go for a stroll and end up MILES and MILES away from where you really need to be. My first day was definitely filled with lots of movement. By the time I got home at 6pm, I was pooped…no trendy restaurant for me…a box of Kentucky Fried chicken and bed was as trendy as I could manage that night.

Day 2 and 3 took on a similar feel. Concierge I came to learn, is actually a nice term for a ‘slave’. A concierge does nothing except be at the beck and call of the guests 24/7. Concierge must have a permanent smile plastered to their face and they must always be at their station and paying full attention. They can’t be seen idly chatting to other members of staff. There were a ton of rules and regulations to adhere to, and even though I didn’t feel like my personality was being stifled – just yet – I was beginning to wonder if I had made the right career choice after all.

The hotel staff was comprised of a rainbow nation – there were Africans, Serbians, Russians, and tons of eastern Europeans. On this particular day however, day 4 to be exact, a pretty high profile guest needed a job done urgently – a job I thought was VERY simple, but turned out that no one volunteered for – either because they didn’t know how, or because they knew something I didn’t – either way, I volunteered.  Even though I had to stay 5 hours after my shift had ended to complete it, I got it done –  and I was given a tip of 100 pounds (US$145) – not bad I thought.

By day 5 I was starting to feel comfortable maneuvering through the underground passageways of the hotel, and had even made a few friends in various areas – from housekeeping to maintenance. I was definitely feeling more ‘at home’ – for want of another word. But day 5 was not going to start out as an ordinary day – and it sure wasn’t going to end like one – it was going to be the catalyst for change!

I woke at 5am as usual, to catch the 1st train to work. As I had said before, the hotel was only one stop away from where I was staying. Which is great, because there are same crazy whackos that seem to venture out at all sorts of hours – and the longer you are trapped on the train, the more opportunity they have to approach you. I guess this particular morning was just not my morning to escape the loonies. As I was sat on the train that fateful morning I was approached by a very friendly young man who told me I was very beautiful and if I had ever thought about modelling. I thought to myself this could be my big chance to be discovered by a model scout – I would become the next Naomi Campbell, or someone equally as fabulous. How wrong was I! This young man kept going on about the virtues of a beautiful woman and asking me if I would model for him – in my naive mind I thought he was probably a new up and coming designer, trying to proposition potential models to work for free – be broke my meandering mind when he  said – ‘I’m a student, and I am looking for models to paint… posing nude’.

Gasp! Shock! Horror! I think he saw the look on my face which was one of complete disgust because he laughed, and told me in a very assertive tone I shouldn’t look so shocked. Thank goodness my stop was next – I darted out of that train and ran as fast as my little legs could carry me. My day had got off to a rocky start but little did I know it was gonna take a turn for the worse.

I had finished work at a reasonable hour that day and after such a shocking start, I decided I was feeling very homesick and missing my friends. I had been in London 5 days and I hadn’t seen a museum, spotted a celebrity or had a drink in a fancy bar like the girls on ‘Sex and the City’. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself so I decided that I was going to pop into the internet cafe near the house and catch up with emails and hopefully if any of my friends were on instant messenger, I could have a little laugh and a giggle.

I was in this nice internet cafe for about an hour – I had sent emails and I was gossiping with my friend, and feeling much better than I did earlier. I started to notice that the noise level had intensified a little, and I looked up from my computer and scanned the area. There were a group of guys by the door and they were laughing and joking around, but their decibel level was a little on the high side, especially for a quiet internet cafe where heads are bent in concentration. I was a little annoyed that they didn’t have much consideration – until it happened….

I looked down for what seems like a split second and the next thing I knew, 25 guys had circled my little cubicle and they were leering at me. After what felt like an eternity, the crowd parted like the biblical reference to the Red Sea, and this short guy (not a midget), with gold chains hanging around his neck, gold bracelets around his wrists and gold rings on almost all his fingers, came and perched on the end of my table. He looked me straight in the eye – considering that wasn’t too difficult given his height – and asked me what a beautiful girl like me was hanging in a place like this. Please remember that while this gold-dripping-short-man had cornered me in my cubicle, this friends/bodyguards/minions were still surrounding us like a protective barrier. My first thought was I needed to escape, while my second thought was not to offend goldman in the process. I will admit, I turned on my charm and I used the timeless classic , “I’m sorry, I just need to pop to the bathroom real quick. I will be right back”. The only back he saw was mine, as I hightailed it out the door and ran as fast as my little legs could carry me (for the second time that day).

Lets just say that my time in London was short-lived. That night I called my dad and told him the city life wasn’t for me – I was a small town girl, with small demands. Who needed trendy restaurants and cool bars anyway.