The Truth About Flighty Life

People ask me about my job all the time. Usually all I can muster is an ‘I love it’ or ‘it’s amazing’ and we don’t really delve in to it further.

In this post I’m going to try my best to explain it to you! Maybe some of you are reading to know how I can afford to travel as much as I do and others may be curious to join the gang themselves. The rest are because they want to make sure I’m not talking shit 😉 Either way, I hope this answers your questions.

Here are the truth bombs about choosing a career in the travel industry:

Truth 1: You need to be passionate.

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Love travel? Awesome. Have you travelled much? We can work on that. Can you reel off the top 5 most popular hotels in the Goldie? Of course you can’t and neither could I when I started. But do you care about these places? Can you tell a story about that time you visited Paris and had a picnic by the Eiffel Tower or spent a weekend drinking in Port Douglas? Fantastic.

In our industry you will be talking to people; constantly. Do you know what people respond to most? Passion. Think about your favourite customer service experience. I bet you don’t think of the grumpy ones who made no effort to connect with you. Was it a sales girl who told you about her own intention to buy the dress you just nabbed or gentleman who described the smooth ride as you gazed longingly at your new car? Those people told a story and you loved them for it. They were passionate about what they were selling. You need to love the world and be able to talk about her all day every day. It’s as simple as that!

Truth 2: It’s all sales.

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I’m not a competitive person in the slightest. What am I doing in sales? Good question. I wasn’t a particularly outstanding retail consultant. I was good, but not amazing. I’ll be the first to admit it! I had the passion but struggled to get out of my comfort zone and connect with my customers at the time. I often felt intimidated by the general public.

There are some really mean people out there. It’s generally directed at the uniform or their misunderstanding of your company and their preconceived ideas of what you represent but it’s hard to remember this sometimes, especially as they growl down the phone at you or walk out as you’re mid sentence. Some of the guys are incredible at turning people around. They love a challenge! I didn’t. I do love being able to give my agents over the phone cuddles and pep talks when I hear these things go down. We all have bad days.

So I have moved in to wholesale. My job now entails putting together holidays for agents who call through to me. They’re all Flight Centre group kids and I absolutely love it. I’m a very loyal family girl and I take such pride in taking care of my guys. We have a shared passion and I can get excited with them. I can swear (a little) and mess around and it’s such a fun environment. I try to better my call count every day and that’s about as competitive as I get.

I came to Infinity and in 6 months got my personal best figure to higher than most agents who have been there for years have ever hit. I’m super proud of that! I’ve made a name for myself and I intent to keep it that way.

I love wholesale because the enquiries come to me too. I don’t have to wait for people to walk in. There’s almost always calls! So I just pick up the phone, listen, make recommendations, sell my shit and if I’ve done a good job hopefully we get the booking!

At the end of the day, it’s your job to sell stuff. We each have our strong points and preferences. Mine just so happens to be in wholesale.

Truth 3: You work a lot.

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At the moment I’m doing 12 hour days with my hour each way commute. I get in to work at 815, get organised, attend our morning meeting and get on the phones at 9. We get an hour lunch break and officially we close at 6. Usually you’ll be finishing up a call and will leave a bit after.

It’s a long day, but I love it. I love the people around me, my team, my agents. I get to talk about travel all bloody day. I get to gush about my memories and help people create their own. Every single day is different too. There’s no such thing as boredom! It’s incredibly easy to keep yourself busy.

Our systems are amazing once you wrap your head around them, which usually takes a few months. In retail I’d say it’s 3 months to be able to do your job and 6 months to do it well. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination but I’ve always been the type to love a challenge. Even when you know it inside and out there’s still a lot of reports and procedures to stay on top of to ensure you don’t fuck up!

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There’s also commitments like our monthly buzz nights which is essentially an awards night with free food and booze where we get to celebrate being awesome. There’s a ball twice a year which is the same thing on a huge scale. One is a formal affair and the other is a theme. Last year it was zombies…

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Another perk is team getaway! Some do dinner, some go away for a long weekend. It all depends on your teams performance through the year. At Rocky it was always Bali Bali Bali! Those were the greatest weekends with my old second family. In A Team, my first wholesale team, we headed up to Noosa and again made some incredible memories.

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Truth 4: You will meet the greatest people of all time.

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My best friends in the entire world were brought to me by Flight Centre. I’ve worked with all of them at a time and they are my sisters. We are all similar kinds of people. It takes a certain something to be a Flighty! It’s not an easy lifestyle but it’s so worth it. There’s nothing better than blowing off steam with your incredible colleagues/best friends after a long day. They understand what you’re going on about when you mention TTLs and allotments and they’ll hold your hair when you puke in the toilets after a boozey team dinner. Legends!

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Truth 5: You get what you give.

There’s a high turnover in our industry. I think a lot of people come in with an idea of what it will be like, free travel, desk job etc. but don’t understand that there’s a lot of hard work and responsibility that comes with that.

You need to be good with systems, you need a good memory, you need to be friendly 100% of the time even when being yelled at. You especially need to be good at negotiating and giving people what they want (or make them want what you can give). All we ever do is multitask. The work trips come when you work hard and they are not a right, they’re a privilege.

The pay isn’t steady. We are commission based after all. Some months are hard and some are awesome. Keeping your attitude in check is the hardest thing in this world, but if you can still serve every single person to the best of your ability despite how quiet it has been or how stressed you are, you’ll be okay.

You’ll work some weekends. They’re great because that’s when people book anyway 😉

Truth 6: It’s fucking awesome.

The perks in this job are sickeningly good. I’ve already mentioned buzz night and balls, but did I tell you about global?

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I was blessed enough to be able to attend our global ball the last two years while working at Rocky. The first was Macau. Our team hitched a limo to the airport as treated by our incredible leader Mark. We flew Cathay to Hong Kong and caught a ferry across to the Vegas of Asia. What ensued were three of the wildest days of my life. We raved in onesies with Will.I.Am. Rove hosted our awards. Jessie J and Havana Brown performed. It was ridiculous. We had a  pool party; I passed out in the wrong tower of the Palazzo.

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The following year it was Vegas. For the weekend. No biggie. Now THAT was a pool party. This time Gwyneth Paltrow was our guest speaker, Carrot Top was out host. One Republic performed. We rode the rollercoaster at New York New York. I didn’t pass out in the wrong tower but I did get lost on the Strip.

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This year it was in Singapore and though I forfeited my chances of earning my spot by darting to the US for three months, I can’t put in to words how proud I am of every single person who was over there. You guys earned it. The performers this time were Peking Duk, Basement Jaxx, Jason Derulo and Fat Boy Slim. Hamish and Andy hosted the awards.

Global is reserved for the absolute best of the best. There are people who have been in the company for 10 years and never qualified and others who have been every year. You set your own limits. You’re only restricted by your own beliefs of your capabilities.

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Two weeks ago I was flown to New Zealand for four days to learn to ski. For free. In the last few years I’ve seen Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Cambodia, Macau, Vegas, Cairns, Port Douglas, Sydney, Noosa and Bali many times all through work. Not every agent is as lucky as I have been. Sometimes staffing doesn’t allow for us to take these trips when they come up and sometimes people haven’t done the figures to justify it either. You just have to roll with the punches, work hard and know it’ll come back around.

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I love my job. I love that all it took was some sales and travel experience to get me in. This is my career and I didn’t need a Uni degree to get here.

My advice?

If you live and breathe travel like I do, why the hell wouldn’t you?

If you’re interested, send me a message and I’ll hook you up!

Harleigh Q

xo

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The Adventures of Snow Bun

Okay cats, first thing’s first.

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Dear snow, I’m so sorry for all the nasty things I said about you. I’m sorry I declared my hate for you based on negative experiences in my youth. I don’t hate you; in fact, I might like you a little bit… But don’t get too carried away. I won’t be hopping on the next plane to Banff. I remember vividly how awful living with you can be. But you sure are fun for a long weekend.

~

While still in America, somewhere around Memphis, I got a very exciting message from my new boss. A Queenstown ski famil was offered to me!

For those unfamiliar with the term, a famil is a trip through my work where suppliers send us to different destinations to check them out. They usually involve a lot of hotel inspections and activities to better our selling abilities. They’re amazing and you get about one a year, if you’re good and you’re lucky. My last was to Cambodia so I was very ready for it!

What I didn’t absorb at the time was just how much snow would be involved. On a ski trip. I know, but was in Memphis and drunk on life, what can I say?

If you’ve ever spoken to me about a cooler climate you’ve probably heard me utter the words ‘I hate snow’. I’d proudly announce it because after living in it for the first thirteen years of my life, walking to school in foot-deep sludge because the bus was at a stand still or having ice balls slipped down the back of my shirt, were not the fondest of memories.

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You probably also know just how horrendously accident prone I am. I don’t really have spatial awareness. I’ve always got my blinkers on, as Rooch says. But I’m a yes girl! I love new challenges! Come at me snow!

It was such a good decision.

I did feel a little guilty at first when I accepted it and then thought about those who love to ski that might have taken it in my place, but after evaluating the amazing opportunity I’ve been given to try something new, for free no less, and really challenge myself, I knew I’d do them proud. If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s ungrateful. I know so many people spend so much money to do this and I’m one of the luckiest people ever to get the opportunities I do. Hard work really does pay off in my job!

My last experience with snow was on my NZ Contiki three years ago. The Gods did not want us to go that day. When it turned out it was an optional I firmly shook my head but being the good kid I am I did bend in the end. When we slept through the alarm it really seemed like a sign. Then within five minutes of being there my ex broke his collarbone. I had just got my skis on. I proceeded to slide on my bum down the slope after him and spent the rest of the day in the medical bay. Better him than me… 😉

So! I printed my docs and packed an hour before heading to the airport for my overnight flight to Melbourne. I had a four hour layover in which I slept snuggled on a bench near my gate, in true traveller style, hogging the socket next to me. The flights were fine. I was in the middle each time but I was pretty small compared to the people around me so I didn’t mind. I have my routine of comedy show, eat, sleep until landing down now anyway.

We landed and my jaw fell open. What a ridiculously beautiful airport Queenstown is. The view as you fly between mountains is spectacular.

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What I slowly began to realise is that our group was infiltrating a Haka Tour (typical travel agent not reading my docs). Haka are basically backpacker Contiki. We stayed at the Haka Lodge which is definitely my favourite hostel to date. It was barely a block from the centre of town. We had curtains and night lights and a heater!

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On our first night we got acquainted with our group and headed to the ski shop to hire our gear. Boots are hard. I knew I’d be layering upon layering so ended up with the most flatteringly large outfit ever. I loved my snazzy new skis though.

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With the practical stuff sorted we made our way to the best ice breaker ever (eyyyy) Minus 5 Bar! I’d been here previously with Contiki and it’s just a fun as I remembered. The cocktails go down a treat. Exhibit A:

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We then proceeded to eat more pizza than anyone could ever need and I began to realise we were essentially on a mini group tour. I was over the moon. My favourite thing! Not to mention the rest of our group were just awesome.

The next day was the big one: Cardrona. Two lessons. One day to become a ski master. Bring it on.

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I loved it there. I giggled as I made my way past the scene of my previous experience and, now knowing how to put skis on, was ready to learn the rest.

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I was really surprised at how quickly I picked it up. I put it down to years of being obsessed with my rollerblades. The one thing I couldn’t quite get the hang of was slowing myself down. Ever the speed demon.

Cardrona is the perfect all-rounder mountain. Their beginner section is just perfect and they’ve got slopes for all skill levels.

After completing both lessons we decided we were ready for the big boy slope.

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The visibility was really bad by the afternoon but we really wanted to give it a go before we left. What I hadn’t expected was just how quickly I could gain speed up there, and for some reason I lost all ability to stop myself. Several times I flew past our instructor and after a couple of stacks and a nice scenic shot, I did the damage.

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After a pretty aggressive turn with no slowing in sight I was now heading straight for a wall so decided to fall back on my butt. The only problem was I still wasn’t stopping. A few boarders were coming down the hill towards me so I decided grabbing to ground would be a good idea and sadly I was going a bit quick for that and my arm pulled backwards. It hurt but not enough to worry with all the adrenalin and I got myself all the way down before realising, hmm… I’ve done something here.

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But I made it all the way through the day! I didn’t fall at all! I was bitterly disappointed. I had the most incredible day, and now I could barely hold a pint.

We had a local beverage and some toasted marshmallows at the only pub in Cardrona before heading back to town.

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Dinner was a clear choice.

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Still the best burger I’ve ever had.

The next day was a tap out on my behalf. I’m pretty upset about not making it up to Remarkables as they look just that, but after a restless and painfilled night I just couldn’t do it.  So I watched a couple of series on Netflix including Obsessed (chillingly great) and Lovesick (fantastically British) and I was brought food by the incredible Kate and Al. I mean honestly, who goes on a backpacker famil and gets lunch and dinner in bed? Spoilt! But getting dressed wasn’t much of an option.

We tried Devil Burger and no, Ferg really is better.

Day three and our final snow day: Coronet Peak.

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I was Mumma that day and set up shop in the food court with a spectacular view and Mad Love to keep me company. The guys flitted in and out and I was so happy just to be up a mountain again, even if I couldn’t get out there.

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For our last night we headed out for a group dinner and a little taste of home at the Pig and Whistle! What followed was a mixing of all types of alcohol, an awesome dive bar, a terrible club and not remembering how I got home. Good job team!

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Our last morning Kate and I weren’t flying out until later so we recruited our beautiful new friend and fellow Haka tourist Nikki and went out for breakfast at Joe’s Garage. I sure love my quirky cafes and the food and coffee were delicious!

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We followed it with a walk along the lake and one last look at that breathtaking view. It’s just unreal.

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Then, with a heavy sigh, to the airport we ventured.

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I’m incredibly glad a sore arm is all that happened, and I am so so thankful for the opportunity I had to go on this trip. Not only do I now love and know how to sell the shit out of Haka Tours, but I’ve completely changed my mind about an activity I thought I would hate. I can’t wait to hit the snow again one day. Next time I might spend a little longer on the baby slope; at least until I’ve mastered the art of stopping.

Also, when did all the hot guys start snow boarding? My god…

Thank you Infinity Holidays for being the best company in the world, and Al for being the best host.

What a great adventure.

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Now just one more month until Melbourne and Adelaide!

Harleigh Q

xo