I spent almost 14 years as a coach driver.
In that time I worked with people from all over the world. It was a job I enjoyed immensely, travelling round mainly the South Island of NZ, working with people who were on holiday. I considered my job was to work with the Tour Escort to give people a great experience in their visit to NZ.
I loved the responsibility of getting people safely from one destination to the next. Along the way I met some great people. I found travellers are generally interested in other cultures and people. It seemed many of them had done some research on NZ and were keen to know more.
The tours where I did commentary were the ones I enjoyed the most. My background as a farmer, then a stock agent, had given me a wealth of knowledge and experiences to share with the passengers. If I was just driving it felt like I was a part of the coach and there felt like a bit of a disconnect between me and the the group. This was probably mainly in my mind.
Connecting with people was the main motivation for me in doing the job.
When I was doing commentary there was more of a connection – people would come up to me at breaks and ask questions. I felt part of the group. If I was driver/guide that was the ultimate for me. It involved much more work, but, I was responsible for checking in at hotels, fixing problems, ringing ahead to check on meal times and helicopter rides etc. It was a buzzy role, I loved the responsibility. Time seemed to go much faster.
We did regular routes round the South Island – there was the danger it could all become a bit ho-hum if you were just driving. Guiding as well was completely different, every trip had different people, new issues to deal with. I got to know many of the people who worked in the hotels, the helicopters, jetboats, the places we stopped for meals and breaks.
As I became more experienced I began to get to drive newer and bigger coaches, I began to get some of the special trips, private trips that had itineraries planned by the travellers themselves rather than the run-of-the-mill trips.
There were of course some downsides to the job.
I felt like I handed my life to the coach company from October – April. I missed many family functions and Xmas was very rarely spent at home. It was difficult to plan to attend social functions as I could never be sure where I was going to be or whether it was possible to get time off.
Gradually with costs increasing the itineraries became tighter as the tour company seemed to try to squeeze more into the day. This made for tired tourists and tired drivers which began to detract a little from the enjoyment of the job. Living out of a suitcase and staying even in nice hotel rooms began to lose its appeal – the transient lifestyle that I had loved so much initially lost some of its appeal.
Overall my 14 years as a coach driver was a very enjoyable time. I met many people, and have made some good friends. My confidence grew as I took on new tasks and realised that I had the ability but more importantly, I loved the responsibility that came with the step up to new roles.
I still have the love of meeting people and seeing them have a great time. Now I get to stay home and have tourists come to see me at Waipuna Estate.