Refunds. Walks. Regrowth. My year of 2020.
For 18 years I was a Travel Consultant, living happily, advising on and planning travel itineraries. 2020 was different from the start.
One of the major wholesale companies that our travel company partnered with collapsed at the start of the year. We were working through this as a company when we started to hear murmurs of a disruptive virus. Up until mid-March, many of us in the travel industry thought the response to Coronavirus was going to be similar to that of the SARS – pop on a mask, avoid the hotspots, and get on with travel. But by the end of March, it was suddenly all about trying to get refunds for our customers.
The work was demanding and emotionally taxing. The stressful environment was compounded as the company I worked for was also trying to figure out how they were going to keep afloat. A lot of people were made redundant initially however most were then reinstated when the Job Keeper wage support was bought in. I managed to keep my position.
I knew that it would just be a matter of time before my role disintegrated and so I began applying for jobs. At the time, there were a lot of the hotel quarantine jobs available however I couldn’t face wearing PPE all day, and I was also worried about being around people with COVID and the potential of bringing the virus home to my family.
Last year was really tough. Looking back, I was just surviving, and I really couldn’t see the wood for the trees. I was trying to motivate everyone at home and deal with home schooling. I need to put Food and Beverage Manager on my resume – I swear I was being asked ‘what’s for dinner’ at breakfast time! Yet at the same time, my world as I knew it was slipping and changing before my eyes.
My whole life works like an itinerary; I map out each day from morning to night. When things don’t go to plan or to time, I feel very out of control. Even throughout the lockdowns, each day ran to a schedule. After getting up, and getting the kids up, it would be breakfast by 8am, kids online for school by 8.45am, finish work and school at 3.45pm, walk for two hours, dinner at 6pm, one game of family Uno, showers, and finally children to bed by 8pm.
Regrowth. Bay dips. My year of 2021.
I was made redundant as a Travel Consultant in March 2021, by mutual agreement; it came to a natural ending. The travel company was happy to keep me on however I felt that my role had reached an expiration point and more importantly, I started to think that it was time I did something for me. Our family values are centred around taking chances, giving things a go, and believing in yourself. I felt that I had an opportunity to practice what we teach our children every day.
I remember talking to my neighbour up the road who had just written a book and it inspired me. I started to think that you really can do anything if you put your mind to it. I’ve always been interested in performing arts and film making. That day, I went home and told my husband that it was more than an idea and that I was going to enrol in the film school in St. Kilda, Melbourne.
I was always the clown growing up, dancing around the lounge room with a microphone. Being involved in plays has been a love and passion of mine since my school days. I wasn’t necessarily encouraged as a child to pursue performing arts as a vocation; it was positioned more as a ‘hobby’ and something that shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
Going to film school opened my heart and mind. I almost felt like a child again; being taken back to a time in my life when I just did what I loved doing. I met new people, ones with a shared passion, and that was an amazing experience. I had to write a script for a short film which was a totally new challenge. I put it off for a while, but then it just started flowing once I started writing. Even though many of the extra activities were voluntary, I took it upon myself to take on responsibilities, which gave me confidence and a sense of achievement.
We were able to attend a screening night in between two of the lockdowns; it felt fantastic and oddly ‘normal’ to be out and about again. Whilst my film didn’t bring home the winning prize, I learnt many new skills – from directing and casting, to production book development. I received really positive feedback on my script, and this made me proud. I noticed a change in myself during this time; a small part of me returned. My mental and physical health also changed, and my stress levels reduced significantly. I loved going up to St. Kilda once a week, and for this one day, I didn’t define myself as a mum.
Through my life, I had always been known as the travel person; it was my identity and I had to learn to let go of that. Things that I held onto as my identity are now lifting. I realise the importance of relationships and how friends can really shape you. It feels like the start of a new chapter for me, actually it’s bigger than that, it’s a new part – Part 2!
My husband, Nath, has a background in marketing and was working in the Sports Management industry when COVID hit. He has always wanted to own his own company and is an entrepreneur at heart – he is the man with 1000 ideas! As the sports industry crumbled, this also became the catalyst for Nath to plan out one of his business ideas, bringing it to life in 2021 with the launch of the Digital Butcher Co. It was the right time to just have a go!
Together we launched into a whole new field, researching the way we eat meat, how livestock is grown and humanely processed, and learning about packaging that can be put back into the ground. Our focus is on sustainability and ethically produced produce. We have identified a niche need in the market – to have good quality protein that is sustainable and delivered to the customer’s door!
With the new lease on life I had due to my film studies, I now found myself in the position of needing to decide what I really wanted. Did I want to be the person who supported my husband and gave ideas, or did I want to jump in with both feet and go in as an equal partner? I’ve never been able to sit still, and so I decided to be a partner in the Digital Butcher Co., focusing on the customer-facing side of the business. I am the salesperson and Nath is the marketing person.
I am using a blend of my skills in this new venture; from sales and relationship building to being organised. Sales for me has never been about the numbers; it’s about talking to people to understand the customer’s needs and developing trust. My work also involves building relationships with butchers and primary producers, and sourcing packaging.
As a couple, Nath and I are Yin and Yang. In our business partnership, our differences complement each other; it just works! I see a spreadsheet and have convulsions, whereas Nath loves numbers! I love to chat to people and Nath is more introverted. My creative side also complements his marketing side.
I have learnt through this time that I am much more resilient than I thought, and that I like to surround myself with similar-minded individuals. I have unleased my passions and surrounded myself with different people. It’s a risk when you take a chance and go out on your own. I have found it interesting, and a little surprising, to see who has gotten behind us and who hasn’t. I feel extremely supported by family and much happier in myself. I’m much calmer now, and that’s a good thing for everyone.
Last year I was swimming with a small group on a regular basis however it became increasingly difficult to be consistent with the lockdowns and government restrictions. I missed swimming, as well as being part of a team. My neighbours were part of the Frankston Mermaids, a group of women that dip in the bay each night. I decided to go one night and then I was hooked!
Whilst many of the Mermaids don’t know one another, they are united. I feel part of a team, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. I have seen women in the water frustrated, angry, happy, crying and laughing. There are people who have talked of their struggles financially and emotionally. I enjoy going as I am able to support people, lift them up and make them laugh.
The ocean dips are incredibly rewarding for me. It’s the only time that I don’t check the time! I love being surrounded by these strong women, and trying to recognise how they are feeling so that I can best support them. I often take some of the girls from other families in my street with me, so that they too can share in the same positive experience. It’s also an important lesson for them that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
This year I have made a conscious effort to surround myself with positive, good people so that I feel uplifted, even though we are living through this crappy situation. The incidental friends that I have made along the COVID journey have gotten me through this – they are the people who live in my street, the people I have met through the film school, the Frankie Mermaids, and my new Digital Butcher Co. customers.
Of course, I miss the travel industry, I miss being excited about my travel plans, being excited about other people’s travel plans. My heart remains with travel; I love talking about it and I can’t wait to get on a plane again someday soon.