Life working in the hotel industry; secrets from behind the scenes…

IMG_3464

We’ve all had to stay somewhere other than the comfort of our own home before, whether it be at a friend’s place, an Airbnb rental or a nice hotel. So we all know the feeling of being slightly displaced, dealing with impossible shower gadgets and freezing air conditioners, wondering if we’ll get woken up by a random guest busting into our room in the middle of the night or a fire alarm going off. After studying Hotel and Tourism Management at University, and having worked in the hotel industry for 4 years now, I can’t exactly call myself a veteran – but trust me, I’ve seen some things. From the lady who left her personal toy in the room and actually came back to collect it (seriously, just go buy another one!), to the obvious one-night stands and hookers dressed as cowgirls, to the oldies who just love a good chat, it’s certainly been an eye-opening experience.

Something that I’ll always remember was the day MH370 went missing. We had the Malaysian Air Crew stay with us every day, and I remember them arriving at the hotel that night after being briefed on the situation. They huddled in the foyer in a small circle, all holding hands and said a solemn prayer. It was very eerie and quite moving. We were obviously told not to mention it to them and to maintain our professionalism, but looking into their crying eyes was extremely difficult, for they had most likely lost friends and colleagues. Another interesting experience was working through the G20 Summit, where our hotel hosted the Japanese Prime Minister – Shinzo Abe. As police and security forces descended on the city and hotels went into extreme lockdown, whispers of who was staying where became the talk of the town. Of course we were disappointed not to get POTUS himself, the one and only Barack Obama, but it was still a great experience overall.

These examples were just the big things, but the mundane day-to-day stuff could get pretty hilarious as well. From redneck weekend guests trying to get EVERYTHING for free, to the arrogant business men from fancier places like Melbourne who couldn’t even show decency by ending their phone calls to check in, to inter-department ‘relationships’ (hello hot foreigners working in the bar), I have a lifetime of memories to tide me over. Now that I’m working in a much smaller hotel for the time being, it’s all flooding back to me. You have to be constantly ‘on’ as the face of a hotel brand, smiling through your frustration and finding the yes in every situation. Yes Ma’am, I’ll arrange for your dirty knickers to be express-posted back home. Sure Sir, I’d love to book your international flight right here and now whilst I’ve got a line of people waiting to check in. YES YES YES.

So next time you’re staying in a hotel, spare a thought for the people on the other side of the desk working tirelessly to ensure your ‘home away from home’ is a delightful experience. Cheers 🙂

img_2782

Photo credits – acottagegirl & ratedmodernart

When patting yourself on the back is well deserved.

img_2681

As you might know I’ve written about facing fears and overcoming anxiety in previous posts… well, today I’ve done just that so excuse me for taking a minute to feel proud as punch. It was a fairly small feat – I completed my first shift at work solo, fresh out of training and naturally worried that something would go wrong. And it did, of course. BUT – I didn’t panic, I handled the situation calmly with poise and professionalism, and that makes me feel bloody fantastic (excuse my language).

In the wake of Tropical Cyclone Debbie, the drive to work was incredibly dangerous – fallen trees and power lines, broken traffic lights and pelting rain. A few months ago this would have been enough to rattle me so badly I wouldn’t get in a car for days, but I powered through and arrived at work safely. Then the roller door for the hotel garage wasn’t working due to water damage, so I had a line of guests trying to drive out at 6:30am with no way of opening this door. Again, I handled the situation calmly and didn’t work myself into a ball of stress – something that would have left me literally shaking a couple of months ago, at a time when simple tasks like writing an email seemed like a huge obstacle.

After an extremely busy day of phone calls, room cancellations, new bookings and constant enquiries, I’m pretty exhausted but I’m not riddled with anxiety, and for that – I’m happy. Happy with the self-progress I’ve made so far, for facing my fears and for taking each day at a time. Last night I watched a fantastic video by Zoella, a British blogger who bravely describes her experiences in coping with years of panic attacks :

Her description of the physical symptoms of anxiety is incredibly accurate and (I think), easy to understand for loved ones struggling to comprehend what people like myself have gone through. For someone who often struggles with shyness and speaking out loud, having resources like this which break the feelings down into understandable, relatable symptoms is great. I’ve also used my own blog as a tool for managing my feelings and expressing myself, when talking to people is sometimes difficult and hard to articulate.

Hoping you have had a good day and thanks for reading my stories. Here’s a picture of a cute bunny to put a smile on your dial 🙂

IMG_3389

Photo credits – sistergoldenshop & babyanimalstagram

Waiting for the eye to pass…

image

As I sit here in the midst of Tropical Cyclone Debbie crossing the Queensland Coast, bunkered down with my Nana and Pop in our 1960’s (and probably asbestos ridden) house, a few things have come to mind. With the ferocious wind roaring outside and ripping the yard to bits, I can’t help but feel a little shaken, and stirred. It was a long, tense night tossing and turning in bed, trying to drown out the noise of our home rattling amidst various bangs and brief silences. We had our emergency bags packed and ready with the essentials – tea, coffee and sugar being of the outmost importance. For what crisis in life can’t be aided and slightly sweetened by a good, hot brew?

The reality of losing our home is something that’s hard to think about, but ever so possible. This is where I came home to after being born 27 years ago in the Mackay Base Hospital. I had my first birthday here, multiple Christmas lunches, BBQ’s, family memories and happy times. This house has been in our family since 1966 and has seen a lot of things. Despite my Nana and Pop never officially owning their own dog, there have been over 8 wonderful dogs pass through their doors (and 3 resting at peace in the back yard). They have always opened their doors to family and friends, with the promise of a hearty meal and warm cup of tea at regular intervals during the day. This is where I’ve come back to every school and university holiday break, with nothing beating the smell of Nana cooking scrambled eggs in the morning to wake me up.

I’m so lucky and blessed to have grown up with these wonderful family memories, and wish I could pause time to keep my grandparents in this moment forever. But as we all know, life goes on and one day I must inevitably accept that they won’t be here. Until then though, I’ll cherish my time with them, and rest peacefully knowing I’ve got somewhere to call home.

image

Photo credits – airpixels & theophelia_

When you can (finally) see the light

img_2673

If you’ve been through some difficult times but are finally starting to see a reprieve from the storm, then congratulations. It takes a great deal of mental strength, patience, time and setbacks to see a way forward from whatever you’ve been dealing with (in my case, managing what has sometimes been overwhelming anxiety). My personal storm has lasted about a year, but was probably building and building for many years prior before unleashing with a furious intensity. I can now finally say that I’m starting to see the light at the end of this tunnel, and learning ways to manage the thoughts that can rapidly descend into full blown panic.

Everyone is dealing with their own set of issues, and more often than not issues that cannot be seen on the surface. Sometimes I think that more obvious and visual issues would be easier to deal with, but then I remember that we are all on our own journey and have our own challenges to overcome. For too long I was hiding what I was really going through, pretending I was okay but barely functioning. On the inside I was in turmoil just trying to get through a day at work without freaking out and running to the bathroom, where I could at least be alone if a panic attack came on. I don’t think my colleagues had any idea of the extent of my anxiety, and how it was making simple tasks seem like huge hurdles in my mind. I’d go to bed thinking about work, dream about it, wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air and dread the next morning where I’d have to face it all again. I knew I was rapidly spiralling out of control, but I couldn’t see a way out from this hell. It was only when I nearly fainted at my desk one day from the overwhelming panic running through my body, and dizzily made my way outside for fresh air that I knew something needed to be done. And so I quit my job, somewhere I’d been for four years after doing a degree just to get there. I quit my life as I knew it, and silently moved home without really telling anyone the truth.

I expected things to get better from Day 1 of freedom, but I was a fool. It’s now been 4 months and I’m only finally starting to feel better, after going through some really stormy days where simply getting out of bed was a challenge. I’ve recently started working again, something that in my eyes seemed like a huge hurdle to overcome. I couldn’t imagine going back into a workplace, meeting new people, learning new systems and maintaining my cool, but I’ve done it and I’m proud. Of course, some days are still really hard and sometimes anxiety descends on me with no warning or apparent reason. This is what’s so frustrating about it – not having any obvious trigger can make simple tasks like going grocery shopping or driving seem like a trap. You live in constant fear of feeling anxious, wondering when it will hit you. Will you have an easy escape? Will you be in front of people? It’s not easy changing your mindset, working on different thinking patterns and focusing on your breathing to bring you back to ground, but it IS possible.

I’ve read everything there is to read about anxiety issues and armed myself with the facts. Panic attacks can’t kill you – yes, the physical symptoms may seem life threatening (tight chest, tingling hands and feet, racing heart, dizziness), but they are just the body going into flight or fight mode when it senses danger. For people suffering from anxiety though, the body is constantly going into this flight or fight mode for no reason – and this is the crux of the issue. For anyone reading this and feeling the same, I would say try everything you can. Meditation, exercise, cutting out caffeine, talking to somebody, slow breathing practise.. the list goes on and I’ve tried them all. I think a combination of healing techniques, mindfulness and motivation has slowly led to a change in my thinking. I know there is still a long road ahead but at least I can say I’m committed and I’m going to get through this, and so will you 🙂

IMG_3376

Photo credit – rose_and_heart

I used to call you on my telephone…

IMG_3356

Remember the days when your phone would ring, and you’d run to it with anticipation, wondering who it might be and what stories they might tell? We used to spend hours going through the mundane details of our lives with intense scrutiny, our wrists getting stiff from standing there so long, but still we endured. Nowadays when my phone rings (or more accurately, when I’m notified of a missed call because my phone is always on silent for the precise reason of not wanting to hear it ring), I dread returning their call. What do they want? Will I have to explain why I always miss their call, pretending I’m super busy and important? Can’t you just message me?

It is with a sad and brutal honesty that I admit I’ve become one of those people who simply do not enjoy long phone calls. Get to the point already! Why do we have to waste our time chit chatting about everything that’s happened in the last 24 hours, when you could wrap it up neatly in a message that I can either choose to reply to straight away, or dwell on for a few hours before exchanging my equally un-exciting news? If we can’t organise a catch up in real time for lack of being in the same city, then of course I’m happy to chat now and then on the phone at a pre-organised time. Let’s face it though, whenever your phone rings it’s usually the WORST possible time to drop everything you’re doing and dedicate yourself solely to this person for half an hour. I’m all for keeping in touch with friends, but I’m not happy to admit that today’s technology has made me an incredibly lazy communicator. I don’t like how things have become, but they are what they are.

On a slight tangent, why can’t we bring back the lost art of letter writing? I’m clearly more inclined to write down my feelings, thoughts and happenings, and would thoroughly enjoy penning a long letter to my friends (and receiving one in exchange). The trouble is that everything is so instant these days. If a photo isn’t shared within 24 hours of happening, it’s yesterday’s news. If our friends aren’t in the loop of what’s happening this week, then they sure as hell aren’t going to care what I did two weeks ago, by the time my letter arrives. I guess I’m just frustrated at how we have lost the ability to genuinely communicate, with the advent of such technologies designed to keep us up to date in real time with loved ones all over the world.

Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.

Robert Frost. 

IMG_3338

Photo credits – awhimsywonderland & tv_stilllife

An open letter to women who belittle women.

img_2700

I’m truly sick of having to interact with women who are nasty, competitive and downright NOT about the sisterhood, whether it be through work circumstances or friendship circles. We all know one (or many). They’re typically insecure and mask it through being perfectionists, enjoy making you look bad, ‘dobbing’ you in for things, and always appear switched on at the right moments. They’d do anything to climb the ladder, manipulate the truth to frame themselves in a good light, and pull you up on tiny (un-important) things, while you meanwhile bite your tongue because really – who cares whether a document is folded this way or that in the grand scheme of things? Who cares whether a sentence is written in bold, italics or CAPITAL LETTERS? Absolutely nobody cares. What matters is that you are a kind person, do your job with honesty and integrity, and look out for each other. What would Beyonce think of your petty attitude? She’d see through that fake smile in a heartbeat and smite you down, that’s what!

I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet some truly beautiful women in my working life, both inside and out. These are the ones who won’t tell the boss when you make a small mistake, who’ll have your back when you’re feeling upset, who’ll be there with you at the end of a long day to have a glass of wine and tell each other tomorrow will be better. These are the ones you’d be happy to catch up with outside of work, and who you genuinely care about. Thank God for these women! They lift you up on hard days, they understand when you’re not feeling up to it, and they make those long days slightly more bearable. We spend a lot of our lives at work, so we need a strong sisterhood to hold our heads above water.

I’ve worked in some incredibly strong teams, and some incredibly fractured teams. The fractures usually intensify in time, making for an unpleasant mixture of tension and baited breath, waiting for the storm to explode. I know what I prefer, and I’m not going to play stupid games with two-faced personality types. Life is way too short to spend it competing with each other. There are enough problems in the world so give it a break and think about what actually matters!

‘There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.’

Madeleine K Albright. 

img_3021

Photo credits – popmyeyes & naydafernandez

Good old fashioned fun, did it get lost along the way?

IMG_3276

This weekend I’ve taken a real step back to simple, old school activities – something that’s been a real delight, and led to a feeling of contentment not often felt on Sunday evenings. From running around the yard with Audrey (our little sausage dog), to reading the weekend newspaper, capped off with a leisurely bike ride through the Botanic Gardens, I can truly go back to work tomorrow feeling refreshed. I used to spend my weekends hungover for the most part, wasting those precious non-working hours in bed wallowing in self pity and greasy food, with Sunday evenings approaching far too soon. This being my ‘gap year’ from what life had become over the past few years, I am truly grateful for wholesome weekends at home with nothing but my family for company.

A simple night in with my step-dad last night with a home cooked Thai curry, Lord of the Rings movie marathon and gourmet ice cream, led to a feeling of gratitude for the simple things in life. I don’t need to be out socialising with friends every weekend, wasting my time trying to hear each other over the thud of techno music. Sure – catching up with loved ones is important and we need those relationships for support and networking. But more often than not I’d stumble home in the morning hours clutching my bag of Macca’s, wishing I’d never gone out in the first place. Since when did that become the norm?

Taking a big step back from what a normal weekend had become for me, has been a real eye-opener for what I actually gain enjoyment from. I’m not saying the occasional night out with friends isn’t fun – of course it can be. As long as you’re in the right frame of mind and haven’t been pressured to go out, then having a few drinks and a dance is great. I’m just at a point where I know that for my own sanity, happiness and contentment, then a quiet, simple weekend is the answer for me. What better way to start a Monday than feeling refreshed and like I’ve made the most of my time off, doing things that make my soul sing?

‘If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.’

Eleonora Duse

img_3024

Photo credits – brittnimehlhoff & nhodjin