If you work in the travel industry, you will know that August is crazy! This is the time of year when all the accommodation is full, it feels like hoards of customers are arriving every day, staff are getting tired and the roads are jam packed with foreign tourists and French holiday makers. Most people in the travel industry will be working long hours during August and it can be difficult to remember exactly why you’re here.
I thought this would be a good time to reflect on why I am now in my fifth season of doing seasonal work. When I started work in the travel industry, I was probably a little older than most people as I was (and still am!) in my thirties. However, this job isn’t just for young people and there are so many benefits to doing this job when you already have some life experience. Many people do this job as a career break, which was initially my plan, or even after they have retired. Most people think of seasonal work as something to do when you are a student, but I did my first season overseas when I was 34 and I’m so glad I did.
If you’re asking yourself “Am I too old to work abroad” or “Am I too old to travel”, then I can assure you that you most definitely are not. Here are some of my reasons why it’s far better to work abroad when you have a little more life experience!
You will meet people, all the time!
If I had to sum up work in the travel industry in one word, it would be sociable. The main reason for this is that when you’re working away from your family and friends, your colleagues become your family. They have to. It is however, very easy to be sociable with people when you live and work in the same place. Spending time outside and socialising is the norm and as a result of this, I haven’t watched TV properly for years! At home, most people are so busy in their day to day lives that it can be difficult to meet new people. As an adult, I found it was much more difficult to make friends than when I was younger. Not in this job! I have made some amazing friends over the last few years and it’s opened my mind to the kind of people I’m friends with. One of my favourite people in this industry is about 15 years younger than me (I’m being generous to myself here!). I’ve worked with her since my first season, when she had already worked in this industry for a year and had a lot more knowledge than I did about the job. Before starting this job, I wouldn’t have expected that I could have learnt so much and received so much support from someone so much younger than me. Over the next few years we went through many different, sometimes difficult situations together, and I was able to recipricate this support. It’s not just about your colleagues, in this job, it is imperative that you provide a warm welcome to your customers and this involves chatting to them when they arrive and possibly later on the decking over a glass of a wine. The families that holiday on French campsites are predominantly English, Irish and Dutch with some German, Italian and Polish customers, so it’s a great opportunity to speak to people from all over Europe.
You will get physically fit
If you’re not physically fit when you start work in this industry, you definitely will be by the end of the season! For most people in this industry, the working day starts with cleaning accommodation for customers. Commercial cleaning in 30 degree heat for between 3 to 5 hours a day, yep, that will get you fit. I’ve found that while I’m overseas, I spend a lot more time outside and it’s so much easier to get outside and exercise when the weather is good. Cycling to the beach, walking around Chateaux and swimming in the campsite pool are all things you can do regularly when you’re working a seasonal job. I completed my first half marathon while working overseas and although the training wasn’t easy, running along the banks of the Loire River made my training runs a lot more pleasurable than running on a treadmill or around the streets of Manchester.
So many life skills!
As someone who has already lived a little and possibly had a few different jobs, you will bring many skills to this job. The people that start seasonal work when they already have some life and work experience are usually fantastic at the job. This is because they are able to deal with customers confidently, understand how important family holidays are and have experience of running a house, so preparing customer accommodation to an exceptionally high standard doesn’t phase them. You will also gain a lot of skills while you are working overseas. Everything that can happen, most likely will happen on a campsite during the season. You will become more flexible, resilient, adaptable and able to solve problems effectively. Every skill you need to succeed in life, you need in this job! It’s varied, it’s demanding, it’s busy, but can also really fun and rewarding. No matter how confident you are when you first arrive, you will definitely become more confident during the season. This is now my fourth year working as a trainer overseas, so my job involves looking after and training new staff. If you’d have asked me to stand up and speak in front of a group of people five years ago, I would have struggled. Now, this is something that I find easy, so much so that I chose to make a speech at our wedding. Being able to stand up and speak confidently in public is a direct result of my work overseas.
You will learn about different cultures
If you’d have asked me five years ago what Quatorze Juillet was, I would have had no idea. Now, having celebrated Bastille Day for the last five years, I know the history of this important French holiday, how it is celebrated and it’s current significance to French people (you can read my blog post on Bastille Day here). It’s impossible not to learn more about the culture of the country you live in and it never fails to surprise me how different the French lifestyle is to that n the UK. Experiencing and learning about another culture will help you to be more open minded and this can only ever be a good thing. I haven’t only learnt about French culture while working in France. In the camping industry many staff members are Dutch and we have a lot of Dutch customers too. I now have a lot of knowledge, respect and appreciation of the Dutch culture. I am also slightly in awe of how almost a whole nation can be bilingual. If you’re lucky, you might also learn to speak another language, but be aware that this will be more difficult than you think when all of your colleagues and customers speak English.
You will live in a beautiful place
You will get chance to do all of these things while living in the most beautiful parts of Europe. If I haven’t already mentioned it, I currently live round the corner from St Tropez. Sorry, I’m still a little bit excited about this!! However, before this I lived ten minutes away from Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley, in my first season I spent a few months based near Ile d’Oleron on the west coast of France and last year I spent some time working near Bordeaux. The company I work for has campsites in France (obviously!), Italy, Spain, Germany and more. Wherever you are based, you will be living and working where most people pay to go on holiday. While you may not be able to guarantee where you will be based, you can guarantee that it will be somewhere that is charming and picturesque.
If you’re thinking of working abroad, just take the chance and go for it. Yes, you will be busy and you will definitely work hard, but unfortunately I don’t know any employer that pays you to go on holiday. I was very lucky in my first season as the company I was working for before I started work overseas agreed to keep my job open for me. This was perfect for me because I had a safety net for the end of the season. If you are interested in doing seasonal work, but are worried about the long term financial implications (this is the real world, right!) just ask the company you are working for if you can take a career break. I’m a big fan of just asking for things and really believe in two things; the first is that if you don’t ask you wont get and the second is that the worst thing someone will say is no, but you won’t have the regret of not asking. Most employers don’t want to lose good staff, so just ask and you never know what they will say.
You literally never know what will happen! I took my first seasonal job fully expecting to go back to my old job and settle down once I’d got the travel bug out of my system. About six weeks in to the season, I met my future husband and have lived and worked in France ever since. Instead of asking yourself, “Am I too old to work abroad?”, start asking yourself how you can make this happen.
You can contact me or leave a message below if you want to know more about how to apply for seasonal work.