Peter Welcome to our travel podcast. We’re specialist travel writers and we’ve spent half a lifetime exploring every corner of the world.
Felice We want to share with you some of our extraordinary experiences and the amazing people we’ve met along the way.
Peter This week, we’re taking a look at how you can make travel – exotic or otherwise – work for you in the long term by combining it with an enviable job. Now this could be in the Mediterranean, on a Caribbean island or a luxury private chalet in St Moritz or Megève. From her office with sheep grazing outside the window on a farm in rural Wiltshire in the south of England, Izzy Boland runs a worldwide recruitment enterprise. WandrLust matches jobseekers with high-flying clients in every corner of the world. So whatever your personal skills, this could be the place where you realise your dreams. We started by asking Izzy what was the most glamorous job in the most glamorous place that she had on her books right now.
Izzy The one that I quite often talk about is: we’ve got a client who lives in Switzerland and she has three dog nannies to look after each of her chow chows, and they are accommodated in their own flat and their job is to look after the dog and they are paid an astronomical amount of money to do so.
Peter And that is one nanny per dog?
Izzy One nanny per dog and they travel all around the world with her, and their requirements are….they obviously they have a background in looking after animals, so they either come from a veterinary or a show dog situation, but they they have to look the part as they sit with Madame in her café. Travel the world looking after a chow chow – it’s a wonderful job.
Felice The dogs can’t give a reference at the end though.
Izzy I think they probably could, actually! They’re quite vocal. But yes, aside from that, we work with Hollywood royalty in placing travelling nannies, film set staff, we’ve also got wonderful hotels that you can come and work with, beautiful restaurants, fabulous places in the Alps, Caribbean islands, all sorts of different things. My real recommendation to candidates when they ask is even if you go and do a mixology course, even if you can do a yoga course, even if you can do something that adds to your skill set that makes you more employable, and then that world of luxury lifestyle and luxury travel, it can become open to you. By giving yourself extra brownie points there are huge opportunities.
Peter So most of your job applicants are British, or are they all nationalities?
Izzy All nationalities.
Peter Any nationality in particular? Obviously, you’re British, so probably more British?
Izzy Well, it depends on the clientele actually. We work with some clients who request specific languages, for obvious reasons.
Felice Have you had any disasters and things that have gone wrong when people are abroad? You’ve had to get them home…
Peter …or fill a job at short notice?
Izzy We had a client last summer who decided at the very last minute – they’re from the Middle East – that they were opening their South of France residence for the three months of the summer and therefore required 15 members of staff to start on Tuesday next week. This was on Thursday, which was a bit of a scramble to find private chefs, chauffeurs, security, housekeepers…to be ready to start the following week, which normally actually would have been even more of a problem – because of Covid there were not that many of the large residences being opened last summer, so we were fortunate enough to be able to find people quite quickly. But it was a weekend of non-stop work.
Felice Do you advertise to get staff?
Izzy Yes, to a point; it depends on the client. Some clients have quite specific needs as well. If you consider Hollywood or high-profile clients, their staff have to match their brand. You can advertise some things but you can’t advertise others.
Peter So it all comes down to personal interview?
Felice You interview those people in your office or nowadays on Zoom?
Izzy Nowadays on Zoom. I mean, previously I had offices in London and we’d interview them face-to-face unless they were abroad. And that’s the thing about global private staffing and a lot of these travelling jobs…the client isn’t necessarily in London and therefore the candidate necessarily isn’t in London. So interviewing on Skype pre-Zoom has been the norm for the last 10 years or so. I’d say I try and meet – certainly on the senior level – everyone.
Peter You spend a lot of time travelling around the world; you’re a fluent French speaker and you’ve worked in France for many years and you had the idea of setting up WandrLust. Tell us exactly what WandrLust is and how it works?
Izzy Well, it’s quite a convoluted story, actually, but I’ve worked in recruitment and travel and hospitality since 2000. In my last year at Oxford, I had applied to get into the Foreign Office, and it’s quite long process because you have to do a weekend selection processes, etc. I got a letter in April 2000 saying that they felt that having gone from school and straight up to Oxford University, I could have done with some life experience before going into the intelligence services. Their recommendation was to go and get a job for a couple of years and then reapply.
At the time I was sitting in a bar in Val d’Isère and my mother was on the phone telling me that I had failed to get into the Foreign Office and I think I literally sat there going, ‘I’m just not quite sure what to do.’ And Guffy, who owned the bar, said, ‘Why don’t you come and work for me for a season?’ And so that’s what I did. At the end of my first season, I came back and went travelling, worked on the yachts for a couple of months, which I absolutely hated. At the end of that winter, I decided that I didn’t want to go back to London. I loved the life out in the Alps.
I eventually left Val d’Isère in 2008/2009, and I walked into a recruitment agency on the King’s Road and I said, ‘I’ve got no idea what I can do. I can speak French and English.’ The recruitment agency that I was talking to said, ‘Well, have you ever thought about doing recruitment, more mainstream recruitment?’ But I decided to stick it out for three months just to see what the recession was going to do. And that ended up being my career from there.
Having started off doing private PA, when I had my first son I set up Cora Partners, which is a 360 private recruitment service where we take the individual as the client, and recruit in all manner of positions around that client’s needs. So it could be that they have a polo yard in Hampshire, they’ve got a yacht in the Med, they’ve got a villa in the South of France, they’ve got a property in Gstaad…and we look after every element of recruitment that goes around them.
We’ve been doing that since 2013, 2014, and the idea from WandrLust really was born from a frustration with traditional job boards. Having worked with luxury hospitality in my time in the Alps and also now working with 0.1% of the world’s global wealth, our clients at Cora are Russian, then Middle Eastern, they’re hedge fund managers, they’re aristocracy, they’re global wealth. And actually, there’s no way on job boards at the moment to really sell the appeal of working within this sector. You could be working as someone’s private PA and you could be on a helicopter down to Nice in half an hour’s notice, then spending three months on board a yacht that’s going around the Med, then going off to New York for Fashion Week and then going to Milan for an opera performance.
WandrLust is designed as a job board, which is geared specifically towards luxury hospitality both in the UK and abroad. What it was born of was actually a conversation with some guys in a pub in Dartmouth, which is a very famous fish and chip joint called Rockfish. And the tradition at Rockfish is you go and you order your fish and chips, and whilst you’re waiting for it to be cooked, you have a pint in the Dartmouth Arms, which is next door, and it’s on this beautiful cobbled quayside with the cannons which are all pointed towards France, interestingly enough, just in case they invade, which they might do.
The kids are crabbing and you’re having your pint in the afternoon sunshine whilst waiting for your fish and chips to cook. And I was talking to the owner there, who I’ve got to know over the years because my brother has a property there. He was saying that one of the hardest things about recruiting for places like that is that you can’t sell the property on the traditional job boards like Gumtree, like Indeed. You can write: ‘Pretty keyside pub in Dartmouth requires new bar staff,’ but there’s no way to really sell how beautiful this location is and what a beautiful place it is as well, in terms of the environs around it.
And say that very much gave me the idea of the fact that these job boards that we work with at the moment are very two-dimensional. And what hospitality is about, particularly in rural parts of the world or rural Britain, Scotland, Ireland etc. and then going abroad – is that you can’t sell the aesthetic on just on just a piece of paper. And what I really wanted to do was create a job site where you could be sitting in the rain on the number 11 bus going down the Fulham Road on a dreary November evening and be able to look on your phone and see these images of stunning seaside restaurants or alpine lodges or beach clubs in Necker, you know, all of that range of opportunity that’s out there for people to work in and actually go, ‘You know what? I don’t need to be sitting on the number 11 bus. Why don’t I apply to this job and see where it takes me?’
And the idea of it being that it’s a very simple, very gentle process or creating a profile – rather like a dating site, rather like Tinder, where you have to put in your biography, you put a couple of photographs up, and then you can slide through the jobs and slide right if you want to apply and then left if you don’t. But when you do apply because you’ve already uploaded your profile and everything into the system, that profile goes straight through to the end end user.
So as a way for the higher end of hospitality, or it doesn’t have to be the higher end it can be anyone in hospitality, can actually sell their their jobs and sell their establishment in a very sort of visceral, in a very aesthetic manner that is appealing to a much broader sense of of people. And I think that travel and hospitality in many ways go hand in hand. Certainly in this country for many years, we have used a largely foreign labour force for a lot of the front of house, a lot of the kitchen roles. So that whole idea that you go abroad for a year, for a couple of years and you work in a hotel or you work in a restaurant to really imbue yourself within that culture. They come together, they tie together very, very tightly.
So the idea of WandrLust is opening up the world in a sense that you can be looking for opportunities at the same time as looking for adventures. You can be enhancing your skill set by by finding a job in another part of the world, which will give you a real enhancement to both your CV, but also yourself and your broader skill set and your broader experience.
Felice So typically, what sort of jobs are they that you’re talking about?
Izzy Well, we’ve got anything from private client roles – so things like travelling valets, butlers, domestic couples, yacht staff and then through to…at the moment we’ve got a beautiful restaurant on the south coast of Dorset, called Shell Bay, which are staffing up for their next summer season. We’ve also got Alpine stuff, we’ve got major hotels in the UK. And since we started properly, which was September last year, we’re really trying to build up a portfolio as broad and as deep as possible so that clients coming on board can see what opportunities there are out there.
Felice How do you get the employers to sign up with you? How do you find the properties?
Izzy Networking; word of mouth. From the Alpine side, it’s been very much just getting in contact with people that I’ve known in the industry for a long time. The wonderful thing about the winter sports industry is that they’re very established characters who’ve been in it for a very long time. And even though it’s been some years since you’ve been out of that specific industry, it’s quite easy to get back in touch with people. And then certainly in the UK, it’s been a case of just tapping people up. I think it’s a universally…there’s a serious problem within hospitality in this country at the moment in that there are hundreds of thousands of job vacancies without the people to fill them. And this has been an unfortunate combination of both Brexit and COVID – and actually more so COVID than Brexit.
I think that in March 2020, a lot of the foreign labour force that were established in this country went home to see out lockdowns wherever they had come from. And then, of course, missed the December 30th deadline last year for redoing their work visas because they didn’t have the jobs, having been let go by hotels, by restaurants. So it’s left a gaping hole within this industry, which people need to plug. And how we do that is a conversation that has to be established over the next 12 months. Therefore as a job site what we really sell into is the fact is that you have the opportunity to sell your jobs in this very aesthetic manner. We’re using imagery, we’re using copy to try and sell your establishment in a very enticing manner to try and bring people back into this industry, because Britain as a country can’t really function properly without hospitality industry.
Felice What about other countries? Do you deal with those as well?
Izzy We do, and it’s been a perennial problem, certainly in the alpine nations with this winter season. They are horribly short-staffed as well. And that’s not just in terms of the traditional British chalet holiday and the problems that they have had getting visas and things. But if you look across the board, and I’ve really noticed this winter in a way that I’ve never seen before, the number of big luxury five-star establishments that are Swiss, that are Austrian, that are French, who have been crying out for all manner of staff. So it’s not just a British issue, this has been an issue which has certainly gone across Europe this winter.
So by trying to create a job site which is accessible for all, to advertise your jobs, to easily sign up as a candidate, to try and get that movement of people going on a little bit more. I think there has been a reticence where the people have been worried about more lockdowns leaving their countries, or they’ve just discovered that they’re being paid almost as much to work down the road in their home country and a hotel there…rather than coming across and doing a winter season in Courchevel or in Verbier.
I really hope…obviously there’s no way of guarantee of knowing whether it’s more than a hope, but I really hope that that conversation about working visas is something that will be brought up after this COVID thing has died down a little bit. We need a foreign labour force in this country. We’ve always been reliant on hospitality, on those people who have come over for a year, a couple of years, three years or stayed very much in the private household side of things…housekeepers, butlers, nannies, etc… a lot of those come from foreign shores, and without those, it’s beginning to fall apart at the seams.
Felice What about if someone from America wanted to take up one of the job offers? Could they do that?
Izzy It’s a tricky one. Yes, you can. If you can prove that they have certain skill sets that you as an individual really need. And again, I think it is a conversation that needs to be had in the upper echelons of power at some stage about how we do plug that skills gap. And I know that they were talking about Indians getting visas for, I think, health care positions quite recently. But ever since time immemorial, we’ve always imported a labour force for the functions that we don’t necessarily want to do – be it within health care, be it with housekeepers in private households, be it Filipino nannies. Then it was Indians and Bangladeshis, and more recently it’s been Eastern Europeans.
Hotel kitchens, restaurant kitchens, they’ve always relied on those people and I just think that is a political conversation that has to be, because we need to start having that visa conversation, which will work both ways. Travel and hospitality has been in my blood for so long. It’s a really natural progression. I remember as a child, I was the daughter of two teachers, so we had eight- or nine-week holidays in the summer. So at the end of term, after Dad had packed up his classroom for the year, we’d throw a few bags in the back of the car and just take a ferry and meander our way through France until we got to my grandfather’s house in Spain. And so literally every summer he’d take a little different route through France, and I think we visited every cathedral, every market hilltop town, and all of that as we sort of chose our different routes.
And then after the three weeks we spent at my grandfather’s, we come back and we’d visit every vineyard on the way back and the car got more and more full of boxes of wine. And at the end of it, we’d be sitting on our little bags whilst the rest of the car was stuffed full of booze. And so my childhood was very much spent with these very gentle sights and smells of Western Europe, the smells of Iberian pine. And in those days we were very young, you’d be waving at all the British cars as you went across the Pyrenees, because there weren’t huge number of them and you’d be stopping at campsites and they’d be Dutch next to you and they’d be Germans and we’d go into the kids club.
So it was quite an international childhood, a very fortunate childhood that we had these summer holidays, which had no fixed itinerary. And Dad’s whole premise was that wherever we were at four o’clock in the afternoon, we’d find a campsite and that is where we would stay for the night, because that gave him time to unpack tents, go and find a restaurant to have some supper in. Then we’d meander off the next day. We never went on motorways, we always went on back roads and it was a very free, adventurous childhood. I think that really gave me a love of being abroad, a love of not just visiting a country but just spending time in a country and exploring maybe off the beaten track a little bit.
And as I got older, that then expanded into the Far East, which I spent some time in when I was slightly older. And one of my most endearing memories is of being on a fishing boat off the east coast of Malaysia, going off to a tiny island and seeing the coast of Malaysia being lit up by electric storms and having flying fish coming over the back of the boat. And it’s so evocative. And then we stayed on this tiny island for a couple of weeks, just snorkelling, and the owners of the island they had about three huts on there, and it was one of those very typical holiday brochure palm-fringed white sandy beaches with these three huts that we stayed in, and it had a shower that was a waterfall and it had a bucket that you could shower on.
The owners had a monitor lizard, one of those enormous beasts. I was in the shower once and it poked its nose around the wall and it’s like a dinosaur. And I went running off down the beach completely naked with this terrified monitor lizard following me whilst I was waving the bucket in my hand. That was when I was about 18. The adventurous childhood that I was given a love of exploring different places, which has gone into my adulthood. Which is why, having worked in very, very high level private staffing for the last number of years, combining it with a job site that really sells the aesthetics of opportunities globally for travel, is quite a natural symbiosis for me.
Peter It’s very interesting because out of the nearly 100 interviews we’ve done, there are at least four interviews I can remember where people have ended up doing what they’re doing – which is what we’re interviewing them about – because of having spent their childhoods meandering around Europe with their parents. Personally, for me, it was much the same, and you, we both did the same thing in long, long summers and indeed winters travelling with our parents and seeing Europe first of all and then other countries in such detail and in such a diverse way.
Felice In places like France, Italy and Spain.
Izzy…and in Switzerland, we did a lot of Alpine. My father is a big mountaineer, and so at least five days of every journey down to Spain, we spent somewhere walking up and down hills. But I remember particularly one summer, I think we were in the Pyrenees and it had been pouring torrential rain on the French side. And then you got to the border and this beautiful sunshine of Spain was dipping down in front of you. And it’s these little snippets that really stay with you for life, actually. And that’s one of the things that I’m so passionate about travel and work as well is that those opportunities really make you as a person. And therefore, I’m such a massive advocate of promoting working in far flung places, really.
Peter I agree, and I’m fascinated by how it’s so difficult for the client to explain what a property is and indeed for the person who is applying for the job to actually understand what it is. It can sounds so bland when it’s just on a job advert.
Izzy I had a client last year – they live in Tashkent, and they were looking for two nannies for their 18-month-old child. And they wanted one who was a fluent English speaker, preferably from an Oxbridge college. And at the same time, they also wanted one who was Mandarin. And it hadn’t occurred to me that when you get to the Central Asian belt of the Stans that they look…their cultures are so diverse in the sense that they really look towards the East as well.
There were two girls who were sent out there and one of them was like, ‘You know, I’d never even thought about this part of the world as being as beautiful as it is and having this phenomenal mix of both east meets west cultures and what that means in terms of architecture, in terms of cuisine, in terms of cultures and the sort of people that it brings out.’ And you would never think about things like that as being a viable career opportunity. But you know, that’s what she does. She specialises in going out and doing year placements with children all over the world to teach them English and spends extraordinary time on yachts and private jets and in beautiful properties with staff accommodation.
Peter And with staff accommodation that’s presumably a bit better than some of the staff accommodation you had when you were first setting out?
Izzy I won’t mention any names, but yes.
Felice So would you provide tutors as well?
Izzy Yes. Tutors, nannies, governesses. We’ve done Hong Kong; we’ve done Russia. The Russians are really keen on very highly educated British tutors. We work very closely with other providers as well. One in particular called Heritage Education, who goes out and advises foreign nationals on which public schools their kids can get into. So that’s a really big market as well, and that really gives opportunity for people to go and work in foreign places.
Peter So do you have to travel yourself out to see clients in far-flung places?
Izzy I do. I try to. Obviously pre-March 2020 it was easier, and New York, Middle East, South of France they’d be the regular stops. I certainly try to spend as much time in the South of France as possible every year, just seeing people usually around the Monaco Boat Show time because there tends to be a lot of people around and then the Middle East would be once or twice to stopover to see clients. But then a lot of those clients that we have have multiple properties around the world. And one of those bases would be in London. So quite often it’s as easy to catch them when they’re here.
Felice If people want to get in touch, what’s your website?
Izzy The two websites – on the private staffing side of things, it’s CoraPartners.com. So our partners for WandrLust, which is the growing job site that is WandrLust-jobs.com and that displays all of the jobs that actually across both sites on it as well and all the other ones that we’re recruiting for at the same time.
Peter And finally, do you regret not having joined the Foreign Office and perhaps going to work for the intelligence services?
Izzy Do you know I was on the Eurostar in August coming back from Val d’Isère, actually, and on the Eurostar they’ve got the two seats facing forwards where you’ve got the fold-down tables. I was trying to work and it’s just really clunky with the laptop, and there was a guy sitting on one of the table seats just up the carriage and I went up and said, ‘I’m really sorry. Obviously, you’re happy to say no, but would it be OK if I sat diagonally opposite you so I can work?’
We eventually got chatting, as you do on these things, and he was asking me about what I did. And so I explained a little bit about Cora Partners and the private staffing side of things, and it transpired that he had worked for a department of the Foreign Office for a very long time and now worked in a consultancy basis and was actually consulting one of my clients about risk and asset management.
And he turned around and he said to me, ‘Would you ever consider coming back into the fold given who we work with?’ One: I’ve got three children and a very settled life in Wiltshire and Two: I really enjoy what we do. I enjoy the matchmaking process. I enjoy the the relationship-building process with people from all walks of life and all nationalities. There are times when I really regret not reapplying, but actually I’ve got a very multinational desk as it is.
Peter Thank you very much indeed for coming on the show, we really enjoyed having you and we wish you the very best of luck in the future with your various enterprises.
Izzy Thank you. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.
Felice That’s all for now. If you’ve enjoyed the show, please share this episode with at least one other person! Do also subscribe on Spotify, i-Tunes or any of the many podcast providers – where you can give us a rating. You can subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or any of the many podcast platforms. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We’d love you to sign up for our regular emails to [email protected]. Until next week, stay safe.
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