A couple of years back I met a couple who were experiencing their first year as assistant site managers and in chatting to them I discovered what had brought them to that place at that time…
Here is their story…
What made you decide to work full-time on a campsite?
For years we spent all our holidays in our caravan and loved every minute. It seemed we were looking for more and more opportunities to get away, even if it was just for a weekend. But the weekends were never enough. We talked about living the dream life, or at least the dream life for us, but we wanted to be sure before we took the final step.
How did you make sure it was what you wanted?
We decided to volunteer to work as Games Makers at London 2012. We thought it would give us an ideal insight into what it was like to be among crowds of every kind of person and every nationality. It was also a chance to see how it would feel to spend our days working outside, rather than hidden away in an office, behind a desk. We knew the accommodation wouldn’t be a problem for us, because it gave us a chance to live in our caravan for a while, which was perfect.
What was it like to be a Games Maker?
It was one of the best times of our lives. We really loved every minute. The atmosphere among the sportsmen and women was fantastic and it was just as special among the spectators. There was a real sense of community and by the end of the Games we felt as though we had known our fellow volunteers for years. It was incredible really; we discovered by chatting to others that people had more enthusiasm about performing their best at an unpaid role than they did about their usual paid work.
Why do you think that was?
Perhaps it is about choice. So many of us don’t have choice in our day-to-day lives. On the face of it we are free to choose, but many people feel constrained by what is expected of them. They are often tied down to costly mortgage repayments or rent and continue to work in a job they may not love because there is a fear that if they turn their back on that job then they will struggle to find another.
We were guides, helping people to find their way around the Olympic Park. It was so different to the paid jobs we had back then. Both of us used to worked in large organisations, which were very impersonal and the majority of the chat around the coffee machine was negative. People just talked about what was wrong with the country, the world, the organisation and their lives, but it seemed that they felt unable to do anything about it. Working as Games Makers we got back our sense of joy; we were reminded about the positive side of life and having had a taste of it, we knew we wanted more.
How long did it take you to decide to make the final move?
No time at all. As soon as we returned from the Olympics, we put our house on the market and gave in our notice at work. Our work colleagues were divided; some thought we were completely mad, others were just envious. We were lucky that the house sold quite quickly and we decided to trade our caravan in and use some of the equity to buy a motorhome. Four months after the end of the Olympics we were on the road.
Did you have definite plans about where you wanted to go?
No, for a few months we just wanted to drift. We felt that we needed to catch our breath and just get used to being free for a while. As it was winter-time we travelled down through France into Spain and enjoyed a few months of warm weather while we thought about the next step. We knew that ideally we would like to keep the rest of our savings for the inevitable ‘rainy day’ so we needed to find a way of earning enough money to live on day-to-day. In chatting to people on the various campsites we learned that there were plenty of opportunities for site managers in the UK, and we decided it was a job that would suit both of us.
Now that you are here on this site do you think you will stay?
We are pleased to be in the role of assistant managers for this first season, just so that we can learn the job thoroughly. There is a lot to learn, not just about the site and the way it works, but about the surrounding countryside too. The more we can discover locally during our days off, the more information we can give to visitors who are looking for interesting places to see and things to do.
As for whether we will stay, you’ll have to come back and ask us at the end of the season! We have a different attitude to life now; we don’t think too far ahead. We like the idea of living our life one day at a time, or at least one week at a time. No-one knows what will happen in the future, but we like it that way.