Everyone has a favourite place they like to visit regularly or wish they could go. It could be a beachside campground that you travelled to with your parents every summer as a child; that nostalgic feeling constantly draws you back every year. It could be somewhere that necessitates a hobby you have like surfing, skiing or fishing. Or it could be a location overseas. Regardless of where it is and for what reasons, we all have one.
What happens, then, when you end up going to one of these places for work? Can you have as much fun as you normally would?
This question has plagued me for the last couple of weeks.
Travelling for work is not a new concept. It’s been going on for centuries; although I doubt soldiers in the Roman army considered spending years away, battling foreign armies, a working holiday. It’s not a new thing. People in business travel regularly to different cities around the world. Tradesmen are sent to large construction sites in different states to work. People in mining fly to obscure holes in the ground, both at home and abroad, to ply their trade.
But how many of them are in locations that they love going to?
The ability to enjoy a place you are working can be hard to come by. The key is to make sure the place doesn’t forever become tainted by the fact you are constrained by the boundaries of gainful employment. People who work in the outdoors, for example, get to work in unique locations regularly, but their job revolves around making sure other people have an enjoyable experience and avoid the chance of death.
Mount Hotham is in the Victorian Alpine region of Australia. It is in a national park and doubles as a ski resort. Over the past sixteen winter seasons I have either lived there, worked there, been educated there or been a guest. It holds a special place in my heart and to my recollection there hasn’t been a year gone by that I haven’t made the trip up the winding mountain road to visit.
This year looked like it was going to be the year I missed out until I was contacted to help out with a school group who were doing a few days downhill skiing and wondered if I would like to come along- not an offer I was going to refuse. I should clarify that I am both outdoor and education trained and this is the kind of thing I have done in the past, just not at my favourite alpine resort.
Obviously, it can’t all be fun and games. There are certain responsibilities that come with a job like this. I couldn’t just sprint off and do what I felt like. Students need to be supervised, you know, to make sure they don’t burn the lodge down at dinner time. That might seem like a strange role, but if you have ever seen a teenager attempt to cook when their mother is not present, it will entertain and scare you all at the same time. There were enough packets of 2 minute noodles to feed a small, third world country. One student only ate canned chunky soup for dinner (he called it ‘casserole’). Another had his mother pack him enough frozen lasagne to feed him for a week. This could have included breakfast, lunch and dinner, with enough left over for snacks. Curiously, he didn’t know how to reheat his meal, as if food at home magically appeared on a plate, hot each evening for no reason at all. He proceeded to ask all the staff each night how he should go about it.
“What did you do last night, Johnny?”
“Oh yeah. Can you do it for me?”
“No, Johnny. No.”
This is a usual occurrence that comes with this kind of gig. Teenagers have a similar memory capacity as that of a lost goldfish.
The students this time around were old enough that they could be allowed an element of independence. They cooked for themselves and were trusted to behave in a way that doesn’t completely embarrass themselves or the school. This meant that I was afforded the luxury of being able to ski by myself, enjoying some free time while the majority of the class were in skiing and snowboarding lessons.
Free time on a work trip is like discovering a unicorn; you know what it is but making the most of it is harder than you think. You need to make decisions based on what is most achievable. That might mean simply walking the streets and taking in a little bit of your location. For me it meant skiing to the far side of the resort, not because it was the best skiing but because if the boss called me back, I’d get to do some good runs on the return trip. Devious? Maybe. Clever? Absolutely.
Sometimes though, you cannot escape your work. Even as I skied around, enjoying my time away from students, I heard voices calling out to me from the lifts. “Baz! Baz! Wait for us!” Not that I mind chaperoning students at a ski resort in my spare time. A bit of company on the slopes is never a bad thing, even if it is a sixteen year old student, sliding on their arse, backwards down a black run. As eternally irritating as it is to have students track you down while you have some free time, let’s be honest- in terms of work trips, I had about as much right to complain as a backpacker at a free breakfast buffet. Skiing with a school group at an alpine resort is a dream gig.
I have always felt a touch of jealousy towards people who get to travel for work. It’s an opportunity to see a place you would never normally get to. The idea that someone is willing to pay you to travel is the envy of all. Not all locations people travel to for work are desirable, that’s a given, but more often than not, there is something of interest where ever you end up. Look at it as a positive.
Wayward Tip: Utilise any free time you have. You don’t have to book a tour or anything extravagant like that, but at the very least have a look around. It’ll take your mind off work and make the trip more enjoyable.