Animation – An Adventure Job Abroad.

If you fancy having an adventure job in a foreign country in a beautiful location, have you heard of working in animation?

I’ve worked in this industry several times, and know many people in this field (although every country and agency is a bit different)

So now it’s time to tell the honest and sometimes brutal facts for everything you need to know about the lives on an animator.

But what is it?

Animation is the general term used to describe the staff who interact with the guests in a hotel or resort. They try to ‘animate’ the guests into to enjoyment.  I taught fitness classes.  Some my friends worked in kids club, other’s played volleyball..

The best thing about the job…  You can secure a job, food and accommodation before you even arrive. Although there’s quite a lot more to it than that…

Different Styles of Jobs

Fitness, Sports, Dancers and Kids Club are the type of entertainers you’re likely to find.. I worked as a fitness animator, so I did all the stretching and aqua gym classes,…

There are also ‘chief’ entertainers (the supervisors) in charge of the smooth (or not-so-smooth) running of the team. In many places I’ve seen ‘all-round entertainers’ which is to say they rotate all their duties whether they are good at them or not.

What kind of people work in Animation?

Most animators are 18-26, although I also know a lot older, wonderful animators. I think this is because of the living conditions and money which we’ll go into in a bit. Animators are usually bright, bubbly, confident people, they are comfortable being in the spotlight and speaking to everyone, usually they speak English and at least one other language. Although not necessarily if it’s a British hotel for example, but the chances of being hired are way better if you have a few languages under your belt.

What are the normal duties of an Animator?

The role of an animator is pretty vast, it depends on what you apply for, but expect to be searching/harassing guests to join in your tournaments, making public-relations around the pool, doing quizzes and bingo, dressing up in costumes, animating over the microphone, taking volleyball tournaments or face-painting the living daylights out of the children.

Rehearsals for shows are usually and annoyingly in the middle of the day, and for the night duties you will be performing in shows, making contests for the guests, dancing a ‘mini disco‘ for all the children to songs like ‘YMCA’ and also backstage work, like being the DJ or encouraging the guests to applaud.

What are the normal working hours.

The day is broken up into morning (3 hours) afternoon (3 more hours) and evening (4 hours or so) Average. Plus rehearsals in the middle of the day. Plus if you eat with the guests you’re kinda still working too.

If you’re lucky you might get 2 days off a week, in Spain I took one day off and in Italy I had one day – time off but had to be in 7 nights a week for evening entertainment. So no complete day off.

What CONS of the job.

Hmm… Let’s lay it on…You don’t have of control over your life, like when you rest and eat- and while we are on the subject, you may hate the hotel food. It might be really bad quality, it happened to me. You could be bunking up with colleagues in a tiny apartment (with no balcony) living out each others pockets. You could be sharing a room tinier than a crew cabin, sleeping on the top bunk with no space for your wardrobe, but that’s OK you can change in the bathroom. What? One bathroom with 6 of you? And you all work at the same time? So yeah I think it’s pretty fair to say personal time and space is limited.

The pay can be rubbish.

Bosses tend to be young previous animators, so you may find yourself being led by an inexperienced rookie (or not being led at all) You’re free time will be determined by somebody else, don’t count on it you may be doing a last-minute rehearsal. Oh yes, and a very big con for some…..

Pretending‘ to sing over a cheesy pop track in an evening performance. In front of real people. For their evening entertainment. CRINGE.

Depending on where you are it might be pretty hard to find other friends outside the hotel, which I strongly recommend.

I never minded at all, but some of my colleagues hated working under the sun all day long. In the last company I worked for, ACTTIV, don’t even let you wear sunglasses, which in my opinion is terrible for the long-term protection of your eyesight. They also give you second-hand uniform, and not a lot of it either. It’s ok you can just do your laundry 3 times a week.

Somedays you are just knackered but you have to give 100% under any conditions.. especially if you find yourself with a power hungry boss that loves to crack the whip.

But worst of all, when you meet amazing guests and friends and make really good friendships, they leave…

But if that doesn’t scare you….

The PROS of the job.

Working in a new exciting location, meeting some really cool people, if you have a great team you’ll have a blast! Time off you do get could be spent on the beach. If you love being around people, and talking and entertaining, you will love your job!

You haven’t got to worry about your rent or your bills, and your food is taken care of. There is often a party vibe around hotels so lots of time to have fun!

Usually people are the happiest on their holidays so you get to share in the happiness! You will meet so many people, this is what I love the most, getting paid to ‘chat’ to people, learn about their lives and share stories. New people every week!

It will teach you so many skills you didn’t know you had, like thinking on the spot when disasters and a last-minute changes happen which you have to manoeuvre. You’ll be on your feet a lot and possibly doing lot of dancing, so it’s a great job to keep fit. Actually in Italy I was probably at my all time fittest with all the exercise!

You can work your way up the ladder, as the more contracts you do as an animator, the more chance you have to become ‘chief’. A supervisor would teach you a whole new angle and look great on a CV.

I’m sure there are a lot more, depending on the person and how you look at it.

What’s the pay like?

You are often ranked by how many seasons you’ve done. But this always depends on the country and of course, the agency. I know people who have worked in animation in Egypt for €300 a month. In Italy I was on €500 although most first timers were €300-€400 and in Spain I negotiated for €840 before tax. That’s the top end of the scale without being a chief. From what I’ve heard a chief rarely makes more than €1000 a month.

How to get a job

Where your passport is from will be a factor in working abroad in Animation. First of all, research all the countries that you can move to without too much hassle visa wise, is it easier for your citizenship to enter Egypt? North America? The Caribbean? Asia? Europeans will be able to move to other European countries swiftly and easily, so you have many places to look.

Agencies are the best way to find the work quickly, you can get a detailed job description and they will help you with visa and residency issues and advice, bank accounts, transportation to the resort and answer any questions you have about the job. It’s as simple as googling the country, animation and jobs or agencies.

I worked for Enjoyland in Italy

and ACTTIV in Spain. Please do not take this as a personal reference in any shape or form. It’s not.

Please make sure you read my personal account in Italy before you consider applying.

TIP. Agencies will give you an idea of how much you get paid (don’t be afraid to ask) I have never settled for the first offer they’ve given me. I negotiate armed with my skills and qualities until I believe I am getting the maximum pay for my band.

So, something to consider!

Good Luck!

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So what is Spiritual Ecology anyway?

Spiritual Ecology is working in unison with nature and the spiritual realms in relation to farming, respecting all and working collectively in harmony.. When I arrived in India in 2010, I had never even heard of the term and oh how my mind was opened…

It promotes a deep respect for the earth and our heritage by producing organically with the smallest environmental footprint possible, it’s also about being conscious of the spiritual realms that interact in nature, through blessings of the land, and daily ceremonies it invites the spiritual world to help with the growth and protection of the area.

I came across this new exciting concept during some wwoofing (volunteering) time at an organic farm in Rural India, This farm is no ordinary farm, not only is it run by two incredible people that have dedicated their lives and all their funds to create an organic, eco-friendly farm, Saha Asititva is located in a spiritual vortex where I can honestly say I have never ever felt or been anywhere like it.

The farm is located next to the pilgrimage destination of Ganeshpuri, a tiny village full of fascinating and mystical temples with an uncommercial and authentic off-the-beaten-track vibe…

I was blown away by the whole philosophy of the two founders of the farm, Kalyani, British, married to Daniel of the USA. These guys are unbelievably inspiring, living as pure and simple as possible, they lead their lives 100% by their principles and ideologies. They do what they believe in and they believe in what they do.

That’s why the farm is so successful, and that’s why the term spiritual ecology is so intriguing …

The energy of this farm is overwhelming, Agni Hotra (a daily spiritual ceremony) is performed on the farm by the volunteers or staff who live there full-time, it’s a chanting ritual performed exactly at sunrise and sunset to ask for protection and blessings for the land. These sacred prayers are offered whilst burning ghee, cow excrement and rice.

When I started to learn more about spiritual ecology and ‘spiritual beings’ in nature, I couldn’t help put picture fairies and pixies, quite like the imagination of a child, but the more time I spent there, the more I felt the ever presence of magical vibrations. Unfortunately I didn’t see cutely dressed elves and gnomes, but the evidence I started to see and feel was really impressive...

During my time there I was pretty snap happy with my camera, the setting on this garden-like farm is stunning. After reviewing the photos with Kalyani, we began to see many beautiful lights and orbs in many of the pictures.

This is when I began to read even more into Spiritual ecology and learn from Kalyani’s insightful teachings.

We started getting more excited as time went on when more of these mystical lights appeared in the photos. One evening me and Kalyani stood in front of a tree, calling out for the spiritual beings to come into our photo and it was here a multi-coloured transparent circle with ‘wings’ outshone all the other orbs in the black darkness of the fields as we took a few snaps.

With all these wonderful photos of the farm, I began to make a video on this spiritual ecology at Saha Astitva, where you can see some of the photos.

Buying barren land and literally starting a farm from scratch, Saha Asitiva aims to peacefully demonstrate the benefits of organic farming by working in harmony alongside Mother Nature and create jobs for local tribesmen. This is a link to their page, going there to volunteer was one of the best things I have ever done. I even broke my rule to never return to the same place went back a year later.

http://thankindia.org/

 

 

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An Animator in Italy…

To be clear, and Animator is an entertainer usually seasonal, in hotels and resorts worldwide. I always preferred being called entertainer but have had to resort to wearing a t-shirt labelled ‘I am animator‘ classic Foreign English jokes aside, I had an amazing summer in my Italian Animation episode.

When I flew to Venice with my €50 euro budget in 2009 with no Italian language, I had no idea what was in store for me. I’d gone there to ‘find work‘ and learn some of the lingo too. My Italian friend, Riccardo, who I’d met in Honduras had said I could live with him for a bit, after a random phone call from me wondering what he was up to that summer. He was going to move to Lignano Sabbiadoro ‘Cool, I’ll go too’ I thought…

The next thing I know, I’m in Italy, jobless, skint and no idea how to speak the language. Oops. I move in to Riccardo’s place -there were quite a few of us there, maybe 6. But people were coming and going all the time I never really knew… I had to start adjusting to the lifestyle. These guys were ‘highly animated’ and at the beginning I didn’t understand a word of what was going on, there was a lot of raised voices though, needless to say I did understand the gist of the daily arguments between Riccardo and his fiery girlfriend Clarissa.

So as money was pretty tight I had to roam the streets straight away and ask for jobs. Not only is this soul destroying anyway, but try asking for a job in Italy– in English or Spanish! Lignano was perfect place for me to learn Italian- there were no British people there whatsoever, it’s a tourist location catering for Italians, Germans and Austrians, so my English and Spanish language skills were seemingly not useful in the slightest. I was getting blown out everywhere.

So after walking around for about a week, asking in ice cream parlours, pizzerias, whatever I could, a friend I’d made accompanied me to some hotels to ask in those too.

After 10 days and now borrowing money from Riccardo – Jackpot! One hotel said I can come back later in the afternoon as they were looking for someone in the Animation team.

Enzo, my supervisor to-be, spoke Spanish too. Perfect, I could finally communicate with someone other than Riccardo (who also spoke Spanish) Enzo told me all too briskly it was a hard job, not everyone can do it, if I’m lucky enough to get the work I’ll have to prove myself, he needed a fitness animator, in charge of aqua gym and stretching/yoga among many other duties we’ll go into later. Ah the joys of working for Italians…

Obviously I told him I was perfect for the job and I would come in the next day for my trial…

Animation is hard. Especially when you first start. Especially if you have no idea of what to expect. Especially if you don’t understand what’s going on, and definitely when you have to dance in front of a room full of children to dances you don’t know…

Deary me, I struggled, but I got through my trial and got the job. I focused on what I would be getting out of this, I’d be learning to teach aqua aerobics and stretching, dancing in the evenings (we worked 7 evenings a week) so I could keep fit, and in my spare time at work, ‘public relations’ making sure the guests were happy by chatting to them. So I got to practise Italian all day (as part of my job) and I got free food and accommodation! Right from the word go my classes had to be in Italian, and communicating across a busy pool with loud music in a new language definitely leads to some laughs… With that in mind I struggled through those first few weeks and moved out of the crazy house into another crazier one. Seven of us in a three bedroom place. Obviously the boss got the largest room to himself. He did need his space after all… 🙂

It took a while for my body to adjust with all the exercise but not as long as it took to adjust to the Italian way of working. The bosses were demanding and at times completely unreasonable. Hours were so long and we lived like sardines in our house nearby and a lot of our spare time was taken up with rehearsals for our dancing shows. I negotiated my pay as a first time animator I managed to get it up from  €300  a month to  €500. It turned out even with this terrible wage I was getting more than some of the others on my team (who I didn’t mention that to) Ouch. But more importantly, I knew this experience was going to help me get my contract on the cruise ship I wanted so much and I’ll be able to negotiate a fair chunk of the language by the end of the summer. Working in animation is notorious for taking advantage of young people’s desires for working away experiences.

Animation includes dancing in shows in the evenings, dressing up like a clown and dancing 7 nights a week for the children plus more activities. Tournaments, dancing in the water, volleyball, speaking on the microphone across the pool, rehearsing in the middle of the day under the sun were some of the usual delights. Our work budgets were next to nothing, our boss was stingy with uniforms and equipment for our jobs, most of what I did was a blag, especially when I was in mini-club for a day, I basically had to ‘amuse the kids for a good few hours.’ Children really help to teach you a language. They don’t mind explaining and I never felt stupid asking the kids to explain to me what things meant. Bonus…

We were in a team of about 20 animators over two resorts, I didn’t hang out much with work pals after work because I got the coolest bike ever, Andrea, and made great friends with Maria the lifeguard from my pool, who later got fired because we spoke too much. Also Riccardo and some of my old housemates meant that I had a social activity every night after I finished work at 11pm, resulting in very, very little sleep, as I was up at 8:30am but heaps of fun!

Maria got her next lifeguard job on the beach, always handy for us to check out all the lovely Italian men, and take advantage of all the ‘free’ activities, such as paddle boats, wind surfing and the canoes. Until that all fatal moment towards the end of the summer, when I damaged my rotatory cuff trying to make a 360° turn in the speeding canoe. Maria’s idea.

After 4 days of not being able to raise my arm or work properly under the severe annoyance of my boss, I went for X-rays at the hospital. From there I was put into a sling and although I didn’t mention to my boss that it was an accident in fact self-inflicted, he wanted to sack me anyway. I was useless to him. He didn’t mind telling me that either. Haha! Being the end of the summer I couldn’t care less, I was loving my job but it was coming to the end of the summer, so I packed my bags that night and me and Maria drove the 2 hour drive to her family’s house, where her parents would soon discover I was going to be staying for the next month…

Another blessing staying with Maria and her family while my arm got better and a great rest after the long, hard days working in animation. They live in the most traditional beautiful Italian house in a tiny village surrounded by vineyards and fields. We ate amazing food and by now I was able to grasp a fair amount of the language to observe this cool Italian family.

We always found things to do, Maria ‘borrowed’ the keys from the local priest to climb the bell tower and cover the lights with shiny coloured paper, and there were secret lakes and long bike rides, hiking the mountains through Italy to Austria, wine tasting, grape stealing and Maria’s family’s 60th wedding anniversary party, where I got to watch male opera singing live- it made my eyes water, there was an amazing medieval festival in the next village for a whole weekend of fun and I also took a trip to Bologna and Venezia.

By the end of the Summer I finally got my interview I wanted for the Cruise Ships back in the UK so after an extra-ordinary episode in Bella Italia I flew back to England.. I was really sad to leave Italy but had enjoyed a wonderful summer there. Love Italy.

 

 

I’ve moved house! Evolve and Express is now located at a different domain. Check it out!

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How to get a job on a Cruise

Working on Cruise ships is demanding. You get a lot of drop-outs in the first few months, you could be working more than 12 hours a day and days off? What was that again – a day off? Nope! But it can have some amazing advantages for sure, meeting great people, getting off in ports, a great social buzz and of course the wages and being able to save!

If I was to apply from scratch for work on cruise ships here´s what I would do… Continue reading

Working on a Cruise Ship. Number 1

February 2010 – September 2010

Ship Name; Oasis of the Seas

Position; Sports Staff.

Sails: Caribbean.

If you want to know how to get a job on a cruise, read this first.

My Cruise ship episode was intense! I was thinking of a word to sum it up, I’m not even sure if ‘intense’ cuts it..

When I got the idea to work on a cruise ship, it just seemed to make so much sense, I managed to get hold of the email for the UK agency for Royal Caribbean International from a friend. Well I thought I did, I actually spent the first few weeks sending emails to a misspelt email instead (thanks Andy) and only then did I really start to bombard them with my emails and CV’s and reasons to hire me.

It paid off because I finally got a reply from the lady saying we could have a chat over Skype. Continue reading