Every trip has its up and down moments. One day you could be hiking mountains that seem to hold up the sky, drinking mulled wine with cheery locals into the night and the next you might find yourself on mind numbingly boring, sterile, public transport for 10 hours trying to get to the next city.
When you are working whilst travelling it is no different.
People tell me I have the best job in the world (no, not the waitressing job I’m doing over the Australian summer, my one with Topdeck in Europe), and they are right. But whilst it is a job that takes me to cool places every other day and sets me up with fun people to do it with, it is also very easy to just portray a glamorous jet setting life on Facebook and Instagram (and this blog!) and leave out the days that are a struggle.
Let me tell you about two very different days I had this year.
The first one was a classic. The sort of day you do the job for. We were in Greece having just finished 3 days sailing our own boats around some Grecian islands. We woke in the port of a sleepy little seaside village and as the chef I provided breakfast for everyone, pastries from the local bakery! We had the whole day to ourselves and our Driver, Ioannis was Greek and knew just where to take us. The island of Lefkada had a beach that he said we just had to see. Rather than preparing all the passengers a packed lunch from the meager supplies at local corner stores, I gave them all €10 each to spend on lunch at our beach stop. A win/win situation as I didn’t have to make lunch and they were able to buy food for much less than €10 and got to keep the rest!
When we got to the beach it was a gorgeous as Ioannis had said. The water was the kind of baby blue colour that is normally not seen in nature and the sun was shining like it always seems to do in Greece. We had several hours at this idyllic site to eat ice-cream, sunbake and play in the waves.
This particular day at ‘work’ ended with a ferry back to Italy. It was running a bit late so the passengers ate dinner from restaurants at the ferry terminal and when the ferry came in at about 10pm I went straight to bed, lulled to sleep by the thrumming of the engine.
That day felt like I wasn’t even working, no cooking? Getting to partake in all the activities the passengers do? I might have been on holidays myself!
In opposition, I had a day on my first trip which was by no means my worst day, it was merely what I would call ‘work’. We were driving to Vienna in solid rain and there was a lot of flooding happening in the area. The flooding slowed us down and we arrived into a very sparse campsite later than we had hoped to. The rain was still sprinkling as the passengers set up their tents and my trip leader turned to me to ask if we had enough money in our food budget to take them out to dinner. Luckily we did and we went to a local theme park and had delicious schnitzels and strudel for dinner. It was early in the season and the park was only partially open but we still went on the rides we could and I loved getting a bird’s eye view of Vienna from the top of the tallest ride.
Back at the campsite the passengers went to bed to the sound of rain still pattering on their tents whilst the other crew stayed up to help me prepare breakfast and lunch for the next day. It was then that we discovered how many gypsys there were in this campsite, they started to buzz around us, checking out what we were doing. I was apprehensive of them and when we finished, I packed as much of my cooking gear back under the coach for safe keeping. This particular campsite had no cabins to offer us crew as accommodation and so we chose to blow up some lie lows and sleep the three of us head to tail down the aisle of the bus, just what you want after a big day.
I woke at 7 the next morning and had only just sat up when I saw a passenger, almost in tears, at the door of the coach (lucky I had gone to sleep prepared e.g. already in uniform). She had woken up in a partially collapsed, wet tent and found that she was locked in. I’m still not sure how she got out because when I got over there I found that someone (or someone’s) had during the night attacked our passenger’s tents, pulling out their pegs and cable tying the zippers shut. My first job of the morning was to take my pocket knife around and cut everyone free and locate their tent pegs. And yes, it was the neighboring but already departed contiki group that had done this.
That day I served a hot breakfast up to disgruntled and wet passengers and tried to make them feel better about this annoying turn of events (EVERYTHING was wet) and then stayed at camp to prepare lunch and tried to clean as much as was possible in the muddy situation whilst they went off to see Vienna. Thankfully the rain stopped for most of this day, and I was able to get into the city for dinner before coming back to my bed on the bus again.
These events are not actually polar opposites in my mind. When you are travelling you have to take the good with the bad and appreciate that it will make a good story one day. Travel doesn’t let you get big headed, because whilst one day you might be buying the rounds for all your friends at the bar and everyone is calling your name and the next night you might be the one they all are laughing at because you don’t know the language and just ordered ‘a tub of monkeys’ not the beer you had hoped for. I always remind myself that it is the journey and not the destination that matters and if today is really that bad, then tomorrow can only be better.