Why would you leave a bar you may have been in for years? Why leave the house that you’re comfy in? And the friends you’re comfortable with? And lastly why would you leave a place where you are familiar with everything, you know what I mean? You learn that the ice machine turns off for some reason after 8 hours, you know just how long it takes to juice those limes for a Friday service and you know what customer is going to give you that tip that covers a serious amount of your rent. Or if you’re in Australia, knowing the hours that are going to get you by, week by week. I can’t tell you why or what reason you’re going travelling to work in another country. Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, whatever your age, once you start it’s hard to stop.
So to start, you have made the decision to visit another country and potentially work there. There are 2 ways of doing this: organise yourself before you go and set yourself up with a place to live, a job and a start date. Or just wing it: buy the plane ticket, stay in a hostel, do the resume drop thing and buy a drink in every bar…. Trust me I recommend breaking that up with water, as you would be surprised how many venues are in a very small space. I think by the 10th bar I had forgotten that I was even trying to apply for jobs. Or you can do what I did which was a mix of both. It really depends on the type of person you are. Option A is for the more organised people, those that get stressed if they don’t know what’s happening. Option B is for those who don’t like much structure and would rather get up and decide what they want to do each day.
Avenues of information are everywhere for the wandering bartender, inspiration of places to travel and/or move too can be found in many forms. Cocktail books can leave one dreaming of the bars in London or New York. Travel books are a dime a dozen and the same goes for travel shows. Bartender Atlas is making the bartending world a smaller place and for the better! I’ve always been a bit of an extreme sports fan so Canada had been on my mind since I was young which lead to one of the reasons I chose it as my first stop. This is just the inspiration though.
Once you’ve committed it’s time to start looking more in depth. If you’re not fussed where or what work you’re doing many student and normal travel companies can set you up with flight, accommodation and a job. If you’re going and want to do something in particular like cocktail bartending a little more creativeness and networking might be needed. Many people have traveled and often are quite willing to give information and contacts of people who can help, specially in the hospitality industry. Ask around and find some contacts and form some relationships and see where it leads. Through Competitions such as World Class I had come to know and revere many names and Canada was a place I had always wanted to visit so I had been paying attention to a lot of what was going on over there. I contacted some people in the Vancouver hospo scene and they sent me in the right direction.
It doesn’t really matter in terms of employment where you decide to go. We as a bartending community are a part of an industry that stretches the globe and the basis of our job doesn’t change, which means our drink slinging skills are transferable all over the world, making us a desirable commodity. The styles of bar may vary but your skills whether you’re an all-rounder or specialize in a particular spirit or culture are transferable to most major cities of the world. Add in if you can (I can’t) speak multiple languages and the world is your oyster.
Travelling, in terms of my understanding of the hospitality industry was furthered more than I could imagine, simply by working in a different community of people with different rules, regulations and customers. Styles and trends will be forever different in every culture and whilst we may be behind in some trends in others ways we are in front. It is by travelling the world, that can help develop and learn these trends and again further the industries in our homelands. The networking that is so important to our industry I believe comes a little bit easier and more natural in your travels. I feel it brings an even playing field more so than it does when meeting the more notorious people of the industry in your home country. You are the “traveler”, you’re interesting and often people will come and talk to you.
I would hope that by reading this some bartenders may feel the need to broaden their horizons, I’m not saying travel is for everyone but I certainly found it helped me.
I travelled through 12 different countries from Portland brew houses to Scottish whisky distilleries; I went to as many of the Top 50 Bars as I could. Along the way I experienced hospitality in the strangest, most abstract bars that I loved and some I didn’t so much love.
I started off the adventure with the idea of broadening my horizons. Myself and one of my best mates Ryan Cook (you can find him working for the Donnelly group in Vancouver) set off for Vancouver, both having wanted to travel to Canada and experience Whistler’s skiing/ snowboarding and the Canadian culture. We decided to live in Vancouver as, except for the snow, living in Whistler felt like being in an Australian city. The idea was to remove ourselves from our everyday comfort zones and living in the city gave us that, along with that one time in Mexico where a 2 week bout of food poisoning almost derailed the whole trip.
This is an introduction in this little mini series of blog posts, to gain an idea of what to look out for. In the next few posts I’ll be talking about tipping culture, Vancouver, America, all the amazing bars I saw and all the great people I met along the way.
If there are any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.