The Gypsy Lifestyle
by Ann van Engelen
Wayne and Sharon George have moved from working in stable careers to travelling in their bus taking on various roles such as fruit picking, relief milking and creating possibilities for others to enjoy a lifestyle while travelling.
Wayne was working in forestry and truck driving and Sharon, a former bank manager, was employed at a geotech surveying company when she had an accident which encouraged them to re-evaluate their lifestyle.
“I love how life gives people the ability to think about what they are doing. I lost my first husband at 23 years old, and life wasn’t easy. Just when we got to a point where things were going great I tripped over a shoe at work and smashed my head into a wall,” says Sharon.
“When I tripped I had my handbag in one hand and laptop in the other and didn’t want to drop either so broke my fall with my head. The doctors thought I had broken my neck but I hadn’t. It was the worst phone call I had to make to Wayne who was in the forest with hardly any cellphone reception.”
Sharon ended up in a neck brace but didn’t realise she had a concussion.
“I flew to Wellington in an unpressurised plane two days later for work.
This ended with me being very unwell, and we went from hoping to travel one day to making it happen.”
Wayne said it left him with a hollow feeling and he was helpless being so far away.
“Who knows if you have six days, six months or six years left to live. We decided to do what makes us happy as we had been constantly putting off our plans to travel the country in our bus.”
Wayne and Sharon have been keeping a record of places where they had previously found work while on adventures.
“We have been up to Russell and worked in a holiday park. We have packed kiwifruit in Katikati, milked cows and painted houses to name a few things mixing with completely different types of people.
“We went to Fiji with toys and books for schools and kindergartens in outback villages. There was no power — we slept on planks and washed with minimal water in a bucket due to the water shortage. We learnt what was really important as we helped and socialised with the locals who don’t have a lot but are happy.”
Wayne and Sharon put photos and videos on a website to show others what they were doing in life and out of this came Seasonal Staff.
“Our blog created interest from employers and job seekers as we don’t just pick apples. There are opportunities for cleaners, restaurant staff, strawberry and cherry pickers, ski season and tractor operators.
“Every employer has to give their permanent staff four weeks annual leave, and we can now help reduce pressure as we have engineers, builders, teachers, nurses, accountants, IT people, and unskilled people who just want to get the odd job as they travel. Our Seasonal Staff website allows people to look at the profiles available.
“We never had the intention of building a seasonal work business, but there was a huge need as employers couldn’t find staff and travellers we met couldn’t find jobs. We would send emails to the businesses in areas we were travelling to and pre-booked a year’s work. We thought everyone did this, but they don’t.
“The older generation has skills and wants to travel, and we help facilitate their opportunities. We have given people wings to follow their dream by pointing them in the right direction and giving them the ability to connect and do so much more.
“We have some 700 workers registered and had more than one million website hits since June 7. It has taken off like a rocket — we are having 50 people join per day. Farmers who need a break can register and see who is available. They come up on a map around New Zealand, and most are mobile and will travel to you. We have fencing contractors, and painters — there are so many CVs with different skills.
“We have travelled the country from the Far North to Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, Taranaki, Taupo, Whakatane, Canterbury and Southland looking at farming, market gardeners and the ski lodges.
“We have picked avocados, milked and done odd jobs on farms. We have people who can relief milk for people, harvest kumaras, a photographer and administrator.
“The variety is amazing with beekeepers and vet clinic helpers for debudding. We even met up with a structural engineer. It is not the same as being a contractor so people can step right into jobs, and this is fantastic with the staffing shortage we have at present across the country.
“The NZ Motorhome Association love the idea, and the most amazing part is we inspire others. We are loving the shift to the gypsy lifestyle and helping people in the various rural community roles.”