When John and Kay U decided that doing a spot of occasional work as they travelled would be a perfect Big Lap mix, they had no idea how their lives were about to change.
The couple was only a few months into their travels after retiring from full-time jobs when they put their names down to be relief caravan park managers.
After a short stint at a park in New South Wales, they were invited to work at the Figtree Holiday Village in Warrnambool, Victoria … and ended up spending six months a year there for the next eight years!
Now, with a change of ownership at the park, they are back on the road full-time but look back with nothing but amazing memories.
“We were working for really great people, had a place for our van, lived in an apartment near reception and had two receptionists and a great roster with days off each week,” said Kay. “I just loved reception work and had lots of fun with people on holidays … they are not all happy, but most of them are!”
She says that the biggest thing about being relief managers is to remember that it is very much a full-time job.
“You cannot leave the park as so many things happen,” she said. “People lose power because they try to use too many appliances at once, there are toilet blockages, people arrive for cabin bookings without bedding, late check-ins can arrive any time of the night, taps leak, doors won’t shut, and fridges stop working.”
Kay says that as she and John sat down for their dinner in the evening, the doorbell would inevitably ring and a customer would want a ping pong ball or change for the games room.
“The opening and closing times are on the front door, but people will still ring the after-hours bell,” she said wryly. “We did it all with a smile as they are the customers, and we made the effort to run the park with style … it wasn’t all about the money, it was the love of the job in a great environment.”
Despite being pretty busy, Kay said she did find the time to knit and sell some of her handiwork in reception … but John was not quite so fortunate.
“It’s not so easy for a man as they get the nasty jobs!” she laughs. “Plus, the man closes up the park each and every night and cabins need to be checked when guests depart as many leave lights on, air conditioners and fans going, heaters going and heaps of rubbish even though there are numerous bins around the park!”
When away from Warrnambool, the couple has worked at many other parks including Wangaratta, Charters Towers, Alice Springs, Albury and Torquay … but it’s the open road which beckons now rather than another gig.
“Who knows? The park’s new owners may have actually done us a favour,” said Kay. “As one door closes another opens, and we are travelling now and loving it again!”