I set up this blog when I first received news I got my new job as a Travel Consultant. It was a time filled with excitement, nerves, and pure wanderlust. The idea was that I would blog my many adventures and share the wealth of knowledge I knew about visiting the world. When everyone asked me what I loved doing, travel was the first thing that popped into my head. I had just recently got back from my first solo trip to another country, and I was vibrant and full of life. Which is exactly what the Travel Agency I worked for preyed on.
It made sense, really. I loved travel more than anything and to get to work in the industry where I would occasionally get free holidays seemed nothing less than glamorous. Right? The money seemed great, a monthly salary. Until i realised it actually worked out to below minimum wage. Which they justify by promising you’ll earn commission. Eventually.
Three weeks of intensive training initiated what I thought would be my career. On hold was my degree which I only had 18 months left of, and relationships with many important people in my life. There were 12 of us in training, mostly all in the same shoes; young twenty somethings, a desire and passion for globetrotting, and leaving footprints in all our favourite places. These three weeks were filled with discussing our favourite travel destinations, telling campfire stories, life changing moments, and professing a desire for helping people achieve their travelling goals. It seemed ideal, perfect. They honed our passion and turned it into sales skills without us even realising.
And then after three weeks they set you free, into store where you face real customers and not manufactured, automated people with perfect responses. You go from making a booking from head to toe in an hour to chasing someone for three months to get a deposit. You go from constant support and recognition, to a boss who is so slammed with enquiry that they can’t help you. And you make mistakes, and it’s frustrating. And you start to realise you no longer care about these people’s holidays anymore.
Because they’ve made it not about that anymore. It’s ‘what was your margin on that?’ or ‘you didn’t mark that up enough.’ It’s a cycle of ripping off clients and justifying it by believing we should charge for our time. But we get paid a salary. And is a Melbourne to Sydney domestic worth a $100 mark up? I know customers aren’t stupid. It’s 2017 and we’ve had access to internet searches and infinite fares for years now. They know more than we think.
The life of a Travel Consultant is not glamorous. There is nothing glamorous about chasing down people for the umpteenth time to book a flight to Adelaide. There is nothing glamorous about working 45 hours a week, and getting paid for 40. There is nothing glamorous about working below minimum wage. There is nothing glamorous about genuinely earning $3000 in commission, and having the company take 85% for themselves. You get enticed with incentive and educational trips, but they often rely on everyone around you performing well too. And they soon become a distant myth. They tantalise you with 60% off Contiki tours, but then don’t give you the time off to do them.
Soon enough, it became spirit crushing and soul destroying. My love for travel was diminishing. I hated human interaction and feared every customer that walked in; what horror they would present me with. But it was not just my love of travel that they took away, they took away my life. I was flat and empty, dreading coming in every day. Crying into my pillow at the thought of getting out of bed and putting on that uniform. My home life suffered, I blamed everyone else for my misery, almost breaking some relationships.
And the hardest thing was, people were so happy for me when I took the job. And so in not liking it I felt I was letting them down. I kept my feelings to myself for a long time, not wanting to admit that I hated it, that I had failed. Failure was the biggest thing. I had spent days convincing my parents (and myself) that this would be good for me. Their worrying looks and concerned questions let me know otherwise, and to then go back to them and admit that I had messed up was heart wrenching. I dreaded seeing the look in the eyes of everyone around me after for months telling them I loved it, that I was miserable. That took strength like I have never had to muster up before. But as soon as I told them it was like a weight lifted off of my shoulders. It was no longer my dirty little secret. It was a real problem that could call for a real solution. The realisation that I had somewhat abandoned my degree hit me hard after a few months. I was still enrolled, but in my mind it wasn’t important to me. Looking back now, that terrifies me as education is so important. I made the decision to throw myself back into it, as it was always something that inspired a true passion and drive in me.
Knowing that I was going to leave the company changed my life completely. At work, I did the minimum to get through until I could resign, and it was painfully frustrating. But my home life became so much better. To be able to talk to people at home about how shit my day was became the only thing getting me through the 9 hours I spent there. There was a light at the end of the tunnel.
I sit here now, at my desk, and it’s my last day as a Travel Consultant. I am not sad to leave, but I am sad that this company manipulated the impressionable girl who was full of life 6 months ago. I’ve lost who she is, and I’m slowly getting her back, but it’s going to take time. I squashed the feeling of giving up for a long time, as I’ve always seen giving up as a negative thing. Society portrays giving up as negative thing, as failure. And maybe it is failing, but I don’t think it’s always negative. My life over the last 6 months has taught me that this life really is too short to be unhappy, and if you are investing into something that is taking away your happiness, it is truly not worth it. It is now time to see positively again, relearn my worth as a person and as an employee, and refocus on whatever the future holds for me next. Despite how draining the last 6 months have been on myself as a person, I will never move on from anything in my life without learning a lesson. The most terrifying thing for me was to fail; and the lesson I learnt is that sometimes failing can set you free. Perhaps this blog won’t be a travel journal platform like originally intended. But perhaps it was never supposed to be that anyway. I’m happy to say that after everything this company took from me, in the end, I still love travel. And I will continue to love travel… while I stay as far away from the industry as I possibly can.