The Blog

The Life and Times of a Long-time Rep

Standing knee-deep in snow during a 3am blizzard, waiting for an overdue bus and placating a hotel reception-full of grumbling guests, I forced myself to remember what I thought would be so great about working as a winter holiday rep.

Standing knee-deep in snow during a 3am blizzard, waiting for an overdue bus and placating a hotel reception-full of grumbling guests, I forced myself to remember what I thought would be so great about working as a winter holiday rep.**

Ok, so the weather wasn't that bad all season (Andorra, in case you were wondering), but that torturous weekly wake-up to ferry guests to/from the airport was test enough to prove that an always-on-the-move career in tourism would be a bit much for me.

But there were some reps who had been in the industry for years, surviving season after season with only a week or two break in between, and always with a hand to spare for newbies in need (usually me). Months afterwards, one such veteran - Stoke-born Katie Jenkins (now 30) - was still happy to have her brains picked...

For Katie, the travel bug didn't start itching until she left school but it never started as a career plan.

Nevertheless, after a degree in graphic design and a rejected first application, almost-22-year-old Katie finally touched down as a brand new rep in her first resort: Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria.

Note: to get into a holiday mind-set, she switches on some reggae music as. Do feel free to do the same.

"I'd been so caught up in making arrangements that it was only on the plane that I began questioning what I might be letting myself in for." The fact that she was replacing someone who had already been fired did not help the nerves.

"But I left that season as the highest preforming rep and that settled it: I wanted better resorts and to keep being the best I could!

"My following summer in Mexico, however, was different. The reps were older, my manager was difficult and I felt very lonely. But knowing that hard work would earn me new resorts kept me going.

"I felt I could burst with excitement and ambition thinking of all the places I could visit. Even through the really difficult times - accidents, fires, even deaths - I always felt I had the best job in the world."

The best friends Katie made in Florida, Summer 2012

In one season I didn't accrue quite as much trauma as Katy - I probably would have lost a good quantity of marbles if I had - but I did enjoy the perks that came with being welcomed as a local abroad.

But I also remember how it felt to miss family events, my boyfriend's 21st and to spend my first Christmas away from home.

"Naturally there was homesickness," Katy agrees. "Sometimes it would just be one bad day, other times it lasted longer. But knowing your colleagues are in the same boat strengthens friendships. Some of them are still my best friends today!"

On that note, the subject inevitably turns to sex. Sex and boys. Sometimes girls.

My season saw my own relationship fail to be replaced with experiences that shook up a few previously-held values. But I never had that flinging free-spiritedness that you tend to expect from your average rep.

At the mention of romance, Katie had plenty to contribute:

"Relationships are intense when you live in that goldfish bowl environment...but where's the fun in normality?

"With the freedom, temptation and alcohol around the road can get rocky and I've seen my fair share of dramas. But the great thing about the guys I've dated - four in total, ranging from three months to three years - is that they naturally have the same sense of adventure and love for overseas life as me.

"For some couples everything just fits, but it gets tough if one of you gets promoted to a different resort - as I've experienced. In this job, making choices to accommodate partners rarely works for long."

Katie catching some winter rays last year in Andorra

Katie reflects on her current well-earned position as resort manager.

"The dynamics of the job have definitely changed and the responsibility has somewhat diluted the fun and carefree element. Now I want to be in a position where my reps respect my authority and value my experience."

So despite a much-needed summer off in Stoke - her first in years - Katie will be back in Andorra this winter. But the future is still to be determined.

"I could still go for a total career change, but that first rep job started the biggest love affair of my life! Getting married and having kids is still the long-term plan, but I'll always have an itch for the jet-set life."

With only a minute left before Katie had to disappear for a holiday of her own, I ask if anything remains constant throughout years of jetting, jobs and juicy jollies.

"Packing!" She instantly replies, "Packing will always be done at the last moment...but that just adds to the excitement!"

**The answer came back later, in the bar.