You know you have made a decision that is right for you, when your heart sings, you feel a dance in your step and the world has a lot more colour. Is this about finding your path? Or just about accepting that at this moment in time, you need to accept and follow your path.
As a child, I was always really jealous of my friends who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. And you know, many of them became what they dreamed of – teachers, lawyers, singers. I had no idea and to a large degree I still don’t.
In our final year of high school, my friends again, had all applied for university, college, planned their travels or found a job. I still had no idea what I was going to do. But, I don’t remember being concerned about it at all. I just shrugged my shoulder and let the Universe decide for me. And it did!
Our career guidance teacher, Miss McLaughlin, had taught my mother at the same school, 30 years before. What did she know about careers? She had spent her adult life in a classroom. She did recommend I get tested for career opportunities and it came out that I needed to work in computers. Ha! Computers in 1989….and with a low maths grade, it seemed a bit unrealistic. But Miss McLaughlin knew young people.
She knew I loved sport, and suggested I go and find out more about the Higher Diploma in Education at the Pretoria College of Education as they still have places available for 1990. So, I dropped my CV in on our way on holiday and popped back on the way home a week later to be asked in for an interview.
I Became a Teacher
So, my teaching career began. To be honest, I didn’t actually realise that I was becoming a teacher until I was sitting in a convent 3 months later on a teaching practical experience. I thought I was just studying sport!
But teaching was not my true calling. I was okay at it, but the days of LOVING it were few. When I arrived in London in 1995 for a backpacking 2 years of fun, I did stints working in pubs, selling pots and pans and went door-to-door signing people up to have Coca Cola and potatoes delivered weekly. But the money lay in supply teaching, so I signed up. Well, it was horrendous and a long story. Let’s just say I got very depressed and wanted to do anything besides putting myself through the daily abuse. I was hit on the head with a cricket bat, locked in a cupboard and generally treated like dirt.
The Travel Bug
But then I saw an advert to work in Europe – ‘Do you love to travel?’ it asked.
“Well” I thought, “If I had travelled, I am sure I would love it.” So, I applied. This experience unlocked my true passion as I trained to lead tour groups around Europe. I fell in love with the history, the art, food, architecture, the people, the landscape – everything!
My love of learning exploded. I learnt more and more about different cultures and I loved sharing this with my guests. But in 2003 I felt a need to leave my toothbrush in one place for more than 48 hours and took a middle management job in the company. I had a vibrant team of Aussies, Kiwis, South Africans and English young adults working for me and I learnt so much about corporate culture, how to lead a team and inspire others.
I trained as a City of London guide and started taking walking tours around the Square Mile. London became my new passion! I bought every book and spent every moment I could exploring. What an incredible city!
I was in a really fulfilling role, but I felt a pull to return to the classroom.
In the Classroom
With new skills I found myself teaching mostly vocational subjects at A-Level, which included Travel and Tourism, Leisure Studies and Event Planning.
I filled my timetable with History, Geography and World Development. I loved my colleagues, I loved the teenagers, but the system strangled me. After 6 years and two Sixth Form Colleges my feet were itching to get back out on the road.
Back on the Road
I still had many friends in the industry and landed myself a Tour Director role to lead tours around the UK and Ireland. It was a tough summer. I had so much to learn about the history of Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Every morning I was up before 5am to learn my talks and walking tours before we set off for the day. I was up really late researching for the following day. And I was incredibly stressed and completely overwhelmed.
But my respite came in the form of an application I put in over 7 years previously. My application was approved to volunteer at the London Olympic Games. In 2011 I started training to take up my role supporting the South African National Olympic Committee. I got advanced driver training, teamwork techniques, learnt about the structure of the Games, was involved in the ‘insider knowledge’ and was completely blown away by the whole experience. I think to this day, it was the best ‘job’ I have ever had!
When the Olympics ended, I needed to find something that would excite me as much as my experience at the ‘greatest show on earth’. I was approached by a European river cruising company and lead my first group, blindly (as we call it in the industry if you have never been somewhere) from Dubrovnik to Budapest before they boarded their cruise to Amsterdam. My passion for travel was ignited and I fell in love with the Balkans.
I also had the most incredible opportunity of accompanying a group on a river cruise from St Petersburg to Moscow and ticked off quite a few of my ‘bucket list’.
Back to Studying
But something was nagging in the back of my mind – I had an unfinished degree. I am great at starting things, but rubbish at seeing them to the end. That degree I had not finished – I needed to complete it. I could not help thinking about this as an indication to follow my path. So I decided to take 18 months off and focus on getting my International Relations and Diplomacy degree ‘in the bag’. I love love love studying! I was really very sad when it ended, but it was time to find and follow my path.
The Life I Fell Into
For the past 5 years I have rekindled my love of writing and have explored other avenues to make money. But what I have ended up doing to pay the bills is not fulfilling me. After people asked me question on how to do things, I have created courses, workshop and delivered training.
I am after all a qualified teacher and love sharing knowledge, but I have drifted further and further away from my love of travel and our amazing world.
I have shed many tears, created many mindmaps, listened to many podcasts and think I may, for the first time ever, feel I am moving towards what I love.
‘What Colour is my Parachute’ is an amazing book that walks you through the process of marrying what you love to carve a niche out for yourself. And that is exactly what I have done. I am bringing together my love of travel with my love of writing.
What Do I Want?
I want to create, I want to share, I want to tell stories, I want to research, and I want to do what I love! Is that about me, finding and then creating the opportunity to follow my path? I am inspired and excited for the the first time in many many years. Finally I feel that I am heading towards that path I need to follow.
I invite you to join me on this journey. This is that journey, that in so many ways started in my English lessons in 1986. Mrs van Aswegen helped me devleop a ‘taste for writing’. This journey included me stepping out of teaching and onto the road as a tour director. And the journey allowed to stumble, fall and lose confidence in myself.
But I think I have found my path. I am ready to move all the obstacles out of the way to follow the path that the Universe intended for me.
Travel and writing – I am excited! I have a song in my heart, a dance in my step and colour in my world!