As told to Elisabeth Easther
My parents were both great fisher people and every May school holidays we'd go to the eastern side of Lake Taupō. My parents, my sister and me packed into the Morris 1100 with a trailer loaded with a sheep, a sack of potatoes and enough food to last two or three weeks. Mum used to take the preserver - she was always bottling things, apricots, peaches, tomato relish – and she also bottled trout. She'd do 40 or so Agee jars and opening them was like opening a tin of salmon today.
I wanted to be a nurse and in my last year of school I did two weeks' work experience at a hospital. I enjoyed it but I also did a stint at AA Travel. I applied to several technical institutes to study nursing with a February start but in the meantime, in November, AA Travel offered me a job on reception. I worked there, thinking I'd head off in February to go nursing, but I thoroughly enjoyed travel, and deferred nursing for a year - then I deferred it forever.
My OE was a bit wimpy, just a six-week stint in the UK in a campervan with my husband Geoff. We started in London and mapped a journey up to Scotland, generally stopping overnight in caravan parks because they all had pubs where you could get dinner and meet the locals. It was 1990 during the Rugby World Cup but we couldn't afford to go to the games. One game, the All Blacks were playing Wales and we raced into a caravan park near Cardiff Arms Park to check in and get to the bar in time to watch the game. We got a drink, the rugby was just about to start and the barmaid changed the channel to Coronation Street . Geoff protested vigorously but the bar woman wasn't having a bar of the rugby, so we had to listen on the radio which was all in Welsh. I was in hysterics but poor Geoff was beside himself.
As a travel agent, you do lots of trips for work. My first trip overseas, I was 18 and went to Rarotonga with a group of 50 travel agents. I remember my parents dropping me off at Masterton Airport for a Wairarapa Airlines flight to Auckland for an 8pm departure. My father wasn't sure he'd ever see me again, and they were quite nervous. It was rather rowdy, travel agents are notorious for enjoying good food and wine, and it was a real eye-opener for a young girl from Wairarapa.
In 1985 Geoff and I had a holiday in Fiji. We weren't engaged so in those days it was a bit of a scandal. My boss even checked that my parents knew we were going, which is hilarious when you think about it now. But Masterton was a small town. At the end of our trip, we had a few nights in Suva. We were walking through town one afternoon when two men came either side of me and picked me up and ran away with me. I can still recall my feet trying to get traction on the ground. They took me into a shop and locked the door. I was yelling "let me go" when out come all these diamonds and sapphires. Geoff is banging like crazy on the front door and they're saying I can't leave until I buy something. It was very intimidating. Eventually they let me out and we were so stunned, we went straight back to the hotel. We never thought to call authorities. But that's the only time I've ever felt unsafe travelling the world.
I've been at Tranzit Coachlines Wairarapa for about 16 years now. I started looking after their wine tours and now I'm more involved with their domestic and international senior market. This job has given me some wonderful opportunities to travel to places I'd never have gone like the Chatham Islands. We stay at the hotel on the main island, and they organise our days which are a little bit fluid depending on the weather. We visit beautiful gardens and monuments. We go to Stone Cottage and a place called Rat-A-Tat, which is like the island's Repco but completely Chathams flavoured. I love the isolation and the fishing there is fantastic.
The travel industry is crying out for good people. Personality is what it's all about, being able to chat with people and while it's not the most well-paid career, the benefits and rewards are huge. You get to travel to all these wonderful places and your days are spent helping fulfill people's dreams, whether it's the family holiday they've saved 10 years for or they're regular travellers with a bit more money going on their annual trip to Europe. You play such an important role in ensuring people have the trip of a lifetime.
Robin Corbett is tour manager, Tranzit Tours and Sightsee Wellington www.tranzittours.co.nz