Hold on to the ‘driftwood’

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There are moments in your life when the fog rolls in, and you have no idea why or where it came from. The thickness is so stifling you can’t see or think straight. There is nothing you can do except wait…wait for it to pass…wait for clarity…just wait.

It’s in these dark moments that you feel that all your hard work and your perseverance thus far was in vain. You were convinced you were making headway along the Journey of Life… the days were bright and the optimism was high. The path was clear of obstacles, and the climb to the top seemed so easy. Until…until something flipped a switch which causes great storm clouds to start rolling in. The thunderstorm begins and heavy rains cause landslides along your path. You go from joy to unbelievable anger and confusion because you had no idea it was sitting on the horizon waiting for an opportunity to strike.

These dark moments seem unnatural in the grand scheme. You begin to question if self sabotage is the root. You start to wonder if there are old wounds that need healing in order to continue. You begin to wonder if life is simply a cruel trickster who lulls you into a false sense of joy…only to then pull the rug from under your feet as a reminder: earth is a horrid, painful place where struggling is the norm.

Whichever it is…whichever answer you arrive at…one thing is certain…you cannot face those dark days alone. You need someone to reach out a hand so you can simply hold on for dear life as you ride the tumultuous wave, frightened and lost. That ‘hand’ cannot shield you from your thoughts or your pain… it cannot ride the wave for you…it cannot, and will never, be on the same journey as you. That ‘hand’ can only serve as a reminder that the storm will pass, the fog will clear and the sun has to shine again. That ‘hand’ is that piece of driftwood bobbing on the harsh sea which you must cling to in an effort to keep your head above water. It is the stability when you cannot touch the bottom… or clueless as to the direction you will drift next. That ‘hand’ is the reason you keep breathing, keep fighting…

It doesn’t matter who we are, where we are going, or what journey we are on…these dark stormy days will take a hold of us and cause us to evaluate our every thought, our decisions, and even our direction. None of it will make sense! You will feel helpless, tired…you will want to give up. You will want to allow the water to consume you and allow the fog to envelope you in its arms…you will become frustrated by the stream of consciousness that creates havoc in your normally organized mind. There comes a point when you will convince yourself that you just can’t go on. Why continue? Why bother? Who cares?

You have a choice in that moment…let go of the driftwood and sink to the depths, or cling to it for dear life and trust that it will play its part in the storm…which is to  keep you afloat and provide that feeling of security and safety.

When those dark days descend (which they will), don’t be afraid to hold onto your piece of ‘driftwood’…we all have one.

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Divine Feminine

feminineThroughout my 35 years on this planet I have come to the realization that women can be devious, conniving, jealous little minxes.

We as a species, have the destructive capacity to tear each other apart with one look or one snide remark. We can spend our lives attacking each other and assigning blame before looking in the mirror at our own faults. We can judge each other based on looks and we are quick to hate because the other person is different. We can spend our days dissecting our bodies and pointing out our flaws to anyone who will listen.

I’m so fat

My face is full of acne

My hair isn’t straight/curly enough

I have cellulite

My breasts are too small/big

My bottom is too wobbly

We have a tendency to look at ourselves with ridicule and disdain, all the while seeing beauty on the other side of the fence – and hating them for it. We are constantly comparing our bodies and our accomplishments with the woman next door. We often display signs of disgust if we are confronted by someone who appears to be “better” than us.

Women have the potential to be evil little beings having lost sight of what makes us unique and beautifully imperfect. We have forgotten that we are the glue that holds the balance in the universe. We have discarded the fact that we are healers, nurturers, carers, peacemakers, creators. We have turned our back on our true inheritance from Life and become destroyers, fighters, haters, war mongers.

As nations look at the events taking place all over the world…wars, destruction, racism, murders, rapes and total mayhem, we sit glued to our TVs asking ourselves how did this happen? Where did we go wrong? How did mankind become so evil? When will it all change?
The answer is quite simple…and it is staring every woman in her face as she looks in the mirror…we are the true key to renewal and restoration. We are ‘Mother Earth’ incarnate in flesh and blood.

For centuries men have been the fighters, the hunters, the gatherers. However, even though they will reluctantly be at the forefront of wars, they will easily turn around and be the best of friends with their so called enemy. Men do not harbour grudges with their brethren. They do not exhibit jealous tendencies. They are quick to praise and raise their colleague knowing they desire to aspire to the highest heights. They do not engage in idle gossip. Men respect the ‘bro code’ and are happy being a wing man if a friend needs help. They happily keep deep dark secrets in order to protect their friend.

Men are content and secure in their own bodies and everything they do to attain physical changes is for the betterment of their health or their own psyche. Men bond over their passions and can engage in idle chatter with a total stranger with ease and confidence (even if they are the shy and retiring type).

Men relish simple pleasures and feel proud when they can provide for their family based on their hard work and perseverance.

Women are none of those things. We are quick to bicker, back stab and claw at anyone who we feel is standing in our way. We are quick to anger and blame it on hormones. We are vindictive and conspire to annihilate any other woman who dares to stand in our way or look in our direction for too long. We are jealous and suspicious of friendships and we trust no one – not even our so-called best friends.

How and when did women morph into such beasts? What caused us to feel the need to become crabs in a barrel and eat each other alive simply to prove we are better, stronger, prettier and skinnier than another?

Women have lost sight of their role in the universe and have tried to be men with very little success. They have caused men to feel belittled and emasculated. They have turned themselves into warriors instead of being the heart that men try hard to woo. Women have abandoned their compassion fofemininityr cruelty, they have traded their creativity for sterility and their understanding for indifference.

I’m not saying that women  should be strapped to the kitchen sink and open their legs in the bedroom. I’m not saying that women are only good to birth a football team and do nothing except to be on the PTA. Women are strong, ingenious multi-taskers. They possess the innate ability to create something from nothing. They are teachers, guidance counselors, nurses and dedicated to the cause they believe in. Women are the epitome of perseverance.

Being a single mother, I am trying to plow my way through the minefield of balance – from parenting, working, building and maintaining a social life. I surprise myself how dedicated I can be and how much power I possess. I juggle a part time job, freelancing gigs, wedding planning and being a mom. When I am asked how I do it…I simple say “I just do”. I have to play the role of both a man and a woman, all the while finding that perfect balance – I do it with ease without sacrificing my creativity, my tenderness, my compassion and above all without relinquishing my dignity.

I guess you could say I am too busy to look in the mirror and critique my looks, or bitch about anyone elses’ looks. As far as I am concerned my cellulite and baby belly doesn’t control my creative abilities to plan a wedding for a complete stranger. My acne doesn’t  make me a bad nurturer
to my daughter, nor does my bad hair day ruin my forgiving nature. It really boils down to the fact that I refuse to partake in the bitching and backbiting. I refuse to allow myself to degrade a fellow woman who has her own insecurities, her own demons and her own ambitions. I refuse to allow myself to add to the pain and suffering of this planet. We were not created to judge anyone. We were put here to be what a man CANNOT be…a Divine Feminine.

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What is a ‘holiday rep’ and what does that mean?

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Final goodbyes before taking them to the airport

There has always been some misconception with the term ‘holiday rep’ and the type of lifestyle they lead. Thanks to TV shows in the UK, such as ‘Club Reps’ – holiday reps were thought to be drunken disorderly reprobates who worked overseas fueling alcoholism and debauchery among the youths who vacationed in groups during the summer season.

When I first told my friends and family I was going to be a rep their initial reaction was a stifle of laughter and a look of concern. They asked if I was sure I thought it would be a good idea since they didn’t want to see me on TV. Naturally I was a little taken aback, which just proves that the media only highlights what they feel makes for good viewing. I knew from talking to a number of past reps that the job I had signed up for was a FAR cry from what was seen on TV. I knew I was not going to end up on a TV show caught in any compromising situation.

A Holiday Rep is rather boring by comparison to a 18-30’s Club Rep. The club reps are the lively, crazy social butterflies whose only task is to ensure that their guests have the most amazing week or two weeks of their life. The concept behind club reps was to try and separate the boisterous party loving youngsters from the families and older guests who were simply looking for something quieter and more relaxed. Being a club rep involves a LOT of partying, late nights, early mornings and lots of mishaps. To be a club rep it takes a certain kind of mentality and strength to keep nearly 100 young people entertained, yet safe. And as most of us are well aware, once alcohol is involved, then just about anything can happen.

A holiday rep on the other hand, is someone who is responsible for the well-being of everyone else that hasn’t booked a boisterous party filled week away. The holiday rep is the one who has to contend with moaning old people and miserable families who hate their hotel. The holiday rep is the one who has to deal with the most bizarre situations and complaints with a polite smile stuck to their face. The club rep, because they are dealing with only young people, can deal with them just as they would if it was their friends. So for a club rep, even if the days and nights merge into one, and life is a constant party, at least if problems do arise, they don’t have to grit their teeth and bear anything with a smile…they can say exactly what’s on their mind.

Despite having tons of perks, like free food and drink from various businesses that want to be recommended, outings on boats or shows to build team spirit, being treated like a VIP 100% of the time (depending on the country and the resort), a reps life can be tedious. The hours are long and irregular. There is no such thing as public holidays – every day is just one big work day with a day and a half off once a week. Depending on ones position and location in resort, they could be issued with the ‘emergency’ phone – which is on rotation each week. This phone is the bane of anyones’ existence. It is the one implement that will give you night terrors and cold sweats. I’ve convinced myself it is the reason I can’t sleep at night anymore, and why every time the phone rings, I jump out of my sleep as if I was being chased by a herd of wild rhinos.

The ‘emergency’ phone was meant for guests who had a problem in the middle of the night and needed emergency assistance…notice the word ‘emergency’. I wish guests had taken note of what that meant. The amount of phone calls I received which were utter nonsense was ridiculous. There was one night I got a call at about 3am. This couple had just arrived at their hotel (their flight was delayed), and they were not happy with their room, the location and the general look of the hotel. They wanted to be moved immediately! I calmly explained that nothing could have been done at that hour in the morning – the companys reservation centre was obviously closed, and all the hotel reservations departments were closed as well. They would have to wait until morning when the rep on duty would assist them with their issues. I assumed that was the end of that when I hung up. 30mins later the phone rang and I thought that it was going to be a long night if this kept happening. Turns out it was the same couple. I had spoken to the husband first, who was totally fine with my explanation and was quite happy with my response. However…this time it was the wife! She on the other hand, was not so understanding. The blood curdling scream which emitted from the phone was eye watering. The foul language interspersed with crying, screaming and coughing, was more than enough for one person to handle at 3.30am. I hung up the phone mid cough and turned it off until 6am. Wrong I know…I wasn’t supposed to turn it off…but that crazy bitch would have spent the next 3 hours of my precious sleep tormenting me with her devil scream. No thanks! I had put up with enough crap during the day…I needed my rest.

The days, weeks and months all flow into one as a rep. Yes, each day is different, but there is no such thing as a weekend or a holiday. Each day is the same – the only day recognized on any reps calendar is that singularly most precious day – the day off! I shouldn’t be so cruel – we all had siestas every afternoon. We followed the locals with that ritual – every afternoon from about 2pm to 5pm we got to have a little rest. Rest being the operative word – because if we had stuff to do at the office, or got stuck dealing with a complaint with a guest – we could kiss that siesta goodbye. Don’t even mention airport shift day – especially if we were pulling a double shift. By the time we got home late in the night, after being there from 8am, everywhere ached – included our throats, from talking so much.

Reps are hilarious creatures though. When it came time to select the preferred destinations for the next season, everyone looked at the flight plans for the various resorts. If we had a particularly bad summer with airport duty almost every day – or having to face late night flights and/or early morning flights – we definitely didn’t want to endure that again. So I would try to find a destination I liked, I wanted to work, but had the least amount of flight days… This leads me to my next topic…Presentation days.

The day following a flight arrival day is the most crucial day of any reps career. It’s the day that ‘fresh meat’ pass by to say hi. Eager, excitable holidaymakers who might not have been to that destination before, look forward to meeting the person who they will complain to, annoy with ridiculous queries, and ask probing questions  – and if they are feeling up to it, they may consider going on a few trips. Bright and early the morning after a flight arrival, the meeting room is prepared with welcome drinks and information packs highlighting the trips that are on offer are laid out. This is either the worst or best day of any reps life…and for me…it was the WORST! I HATED selling trips. I hated trying to convince people that they had to buy trips otherwise their holiday wouldn’t be the same. I just wasn’t a hard seller, or a persuasive seller. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all the trips on our itinerary and I would recommended all of them, but I just couldn’t force anyone if they told me point blank they weren’t interested. I always put myself in their shoes – and I knew that if I was on holiday I wouldn’t want to be harassed about going anywhere if I didn’t want to. I was definitely not considered a top selling rep – but when it came to a crisis, I was definitely up for dealing with the challenge – like the time the little girl ran straight through the glass patio doors (which had no identifying sticker on it). Yeah, that was a great start to their holiday, and a great start to my welcome meeting day.

There may have been downsides to the job; the long hours, the sore feet, incidents and accidents, just to name a couple – but as any rep would tell you – which job doesn’t? One thing for sure though, when we all got together as a team, we would regale each other with the most outrageous antics our guests had got up to, disturbing sights we had faced, and the most stupid questions that were ever directed at us. It was common knowledge that once a holiday maker closed the door to their house, they left every ounce of their brain tucked up in the kitchen cupboard until their return.

On separate occasions, in different countries, there were guests who complained that the holiday brochure lied – it didn’t mention there would be fish in the sea. In Rhodes (a Greek island), a couple accosted me in the dining room of the hotel and demanded to be moved immediately! Why? They had no idea it would have greek people staying in it. One day I was selling a trip in Tenerife (one of the Canary Islands) to go into the mountains to stargaze, and a lady asked me if the island had ever had a full moon. She was curious because she had been there (all of 2 days) she hadn’t seen one. There was a young family in Benidorm (Costa Blanca, on mainland Spain) who had hated the apartment they had stayed in, so right before they departed, they left a huge pile of sh*t in the microwave – yes, yes. You can imagine what happened after they set the microwave for 3mins…that microwave had to be thrown out and the apartment fumigated (for a few days).

It baffled all of us how half of these guests ever made it through the airport and boarded a plane. By the time the arrival doors opened and a sea of pasty white descended upon us, every single one had either the ‘gormless lost’ look, or the ‘haughty know-it-all’ look. Whichever one we were greeted with, the response was always the same:

“Where are you staying?”

“UK”

“Excuse me sir? We don’t have that hotel on our list. Can you repeat?”

“I just landed from the UK”

“No sir. Which hotel are you staying in?”

“Mr. Jones”

…And that was when we would look down at the fabulous little tag on their bag (god bless whoever came up with that lifesaving idea – utter genius)which had their name and the hotel they are staying in. I would sigh in indignation, shake your head and direct them to the coach waiting outside to take them to the resort – all the while hoping and praying they actually make it to the coach and didn’t get lost.

Every guest on holiday has to have their hand held, they have to be spoon fed information and common sense disappears. I am sure it remains at home tucked up beside the brain. There were a number of occasions that a guest would complain that they had their wallet stolen. On further probing, I found out that he had stopped to play a betting game on the side of the promenade…he had to guess which cup was hiding the ball. *Shakes head*. Why oh why oh why?? We tell these people at the start, in the middle and at the end of their holiday – “don’t do what you wouldn’t do at home. Stay away from the street side con artists”. What do they do – ignore every word that is said, get their wallet stolen and then make a formal complaint that the rep was rubbish, she didn’t tell them anything, she didn’t care…blah, blah, blah. As a rep, our skins had to be thick and our backs had to be broad.

Rep life was hard work, but it was full of memories and lots of laughter. The friendships that were cemented are eternal. There is something special about sharing a journey with a set of complete strangers, thrown together in the middle of total chaos. We united as a team, we drank as a team, we partied as a team, and as a team we were an unstoppable force.

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Our mid season outing – my DREAM team

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.

Strangers connected through blogs

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Today I have chosen to digress from how my travelling adventures began. This afternoon I had the time to read other blogs (since its the weekend) and one thing hit me…we are all complete strangers on separate journeys, but totally connected by our form of expression.

We all started blogging for various reasons, but each of us had the same reservations. We didn’t know where to begin or if we would be judged. We were all unsure if anyone would like – or even relate to – our stories or adventures. We were all wary of what to say or how to say it. One thing is for sure though…once we started, it became the most exhilarating experience.

It is a form of artistry in black and white. It is a form of cleansing and a rebirth. It is an opportunity to be a voice for people who may still be afraid to let their truth be heard.

I’m not sure why I really started to blog. My entire life my mother told me I should be a writer…who listens to their mother anyway, right? Then I used to have crazy experiences on my travels, and when I regaled my family with stories, they would laugh, and tell me I should write a book. Again, who listens to family…they are probably humoring you anyway. There were those quiet moments when I had lot on my mind and Facebook status updates were not always the appropriate medium to air them. So they would remain locked in my head bubbling away like a volcano about to erupt.
It was a work colleague that told me about blogging, because she had started, and for her it was liberating. I was a little skeptical at first, but I signed up, totally unsure of what I should or shouldn’t say. What was the correct “blogging etiquette”? Were there rules to follow? Were there codes of ethics or guidelines? Wonder if I sounded retarded, and total strangers didn’t think I was witty, or humorous or sensible enough? Lets face it, a blog is a public diary. A diary where all your thoughts, beliefs, pains, experiences, failures, ups and downs are aired like dirty laundry. You are leaving yourself open for ridicule and judgement. Who really has the guts to do that??

However… once you say “fuck it! This is me, take it or leave it”, then you have accepted the challenge to allow every stranger into the darkest recesses of your mind – to scrutinize as they see fit. But in doing so, you are standing proudly with your dirty laundry waving it like a white flag saying to the world, “look at me! I am perfectly flawed and beautifully created. We are all the same, and I am happy for you to join in my travels – physically, emotionally or spiritually- so that you can be part of my magical experiences”.

As far as my story goes, I’m pleased I started. My mum was right (as usual), it is such a liberating experience to recall your memories or to share your passion with people who ‘get it’. To be part of a community of like minded strangers who suddenly aren’t strangers anymore because they have welcomed you into their world like long lost friends.
My blog is recalling my travels in my late twenties, it will be interspersed with reblogs from fellow writers who have hit a chord

and I’m sure I shall digress a few times with my personal rantings.

Blogging is beautiful! Namaste fellow bloggers and future friends! 

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.