Long service leave: Just a really good idea.

When was the last time you took a break from work? I don’t mean two weeks off at Christmas, or adding a day to a long weekend, I mean really took a break from work. To the point where you are so far removed from your daily work routine that you have to check your phone to see what day it is. Can you remember what that feels like? Can you recall that feeling of being able to climb out of the morass of deadlines, and performance reviews, and endless & unnecessary meetings, and take a look at your life as a whole? To capture what drug addicts and alcoholics refer to as a ‘moment of clarity’ and make it last for hours on end.
Probably not.
In fact our lives are geared in exactly the other direction. Our work follows us everywhere on our phone. We’re working longer hours and we’re not being paid for them. Most of us are only two missed paycheques away from defaulting on our mortgage or rent. And we’re so jealous of the lives that everyone else is enjoying on social media, that we are simply resigned to putting our heads down at work and hoping that it eventually all pays off…and that the family we have neglected in order achieve this pay off, still wants to spend time with us when it does.

What we all desperately need is an escape hatch, a get out jail free card, some time to focus on the things in life we neglect because of work…and we need to get paid while we do it. In short, we need long service leave!

For those outside of Australia and New Zealand, long-service leave is basically 2 months of leave that you are entitled to after 10 years of working full-time for one organisation. It’s a throwback to when English people had to come and work in Australia. When they had worked for 10 years, they were entitled to sail back to England, stay for a few weeks to catch up with family, then sail back to Australia…all on full pay.
For any Millenials reading this, a full-time job is a bit like one of the three part-time jobs that  you’re currently working, except that you work at it all of the time and it offers some security, which is good when you want to get a mortgage. A mortgage? Well that’s when you go to the bank to borrow money to buy your own home. Your own home? Well…sorry, that’s a figment of your imagination…and did you know that we have set up an economy that means that you will be the first ever generation to earn less than your parents? You’re welcome.
But back to me. Having being made redundant from two of the three full-time jobs that I had enjoyed after leaving Uni, and absolutely hating the third. I chose to take a job with the Victorian Public Service (VPS). I promised myself that I would only be there for two years, as I was terrified of becoming an ‘institutionalised public servant’ who would never be able to find work outside of the VPS.
10 years later, I was still in the VPS. Thus proving that I am truly a man of my word. But more importantly, I was now a man with 12 weeks of long service leave available to him.

Just hanging out in Bayeux, reading ‘Madame Beaute’.
Feeling the serenity of Chateau Villarceaux

In 2016 we went for a 3 week campervan journey through Queensland, and at the moment we are spending three weeks looking after a B&B in Normandy, before heading over to the UK for two weeks. I know that, just like Queensland, this trip is going to be an incredible experience for our family. The kids will be exposed to new cultures, new languages and new ways of life. They will get to see the versions of Mum and Dad that aren’t stressed out about work (I can tell you categorically that they are a LOT more fun), we will get to bond as a family unit, I will get to spend time taking photos and making videos, and Katie gets to see the fun guy that she married, rather than the financially neurotic handbrake that gets to spend her life with normally. In short, we get to be the family that we want to be, and we get to do this because of long-service leave.

Taking in the view at Mont Saint Michel

Now I know that the more conservative voters amongst you will be saying ‘Well that’s just great Chris…but you know what? It’s not up to your employer to be providing you with this. They give you an income and annual holidays. That should be enough.’ To be honest, the Catholic guilt part of me agrees with this. Certainly the part of me that got made redundant twice, knows that a full-time job is something to cling to…especially if you actually enjoy it. But I think that these feelings are actually symptomatic of a bigger problem; we’ve all started to believe that our role in the economy is more important than our role in society. We’ve all borrowed more than we can afford, and now we’re at the whim of ‘business’. We can’t afford to be unemployed, so we keep working longer and longer hours, with no relative rise in income, while those at the top earn eye-wateringly large amounts of money, and it pisses us off. So we get angry in traffic, we retreat to our phones to see how everyone else is doing, and we see that, according to their Facebook posts, life is just peachy, and so we get pissed off again, and when the Government tells us that the real problem is refugees, we think ‘Yeah, that’s why my life isn’t what I want it to be’ and suddenly we have people like Peter Dutton in charge of Immigration and Border protection…and that’s pretty bloody bleak place to be.
But you know what could break this cycle? An extended period doing what actually makes you feel good as a human being. Some time travelling, some time following a passion, some time not in the 8-6 grind (we all know the 9-5 grind is ‘aspirational’). Some time being the person we want to be.
So yeah, maybe your job doesn’t owe you long-service leave…but  you know what? You don’t owe your job all of the work you do outside work hours…but you’re still doing them. So let’s just call long-service leave a slight re-adjustment of the ledger.

Seconds later…important lessons were learned.
French life is tough…tough I tells ya.

Now before I start to sound too much like that annoying 2nd year Uni student who has just discovered Marx. There are of course myriad reasons why taking a long break actually makes you a better employee. If you’ve travelled, you may have picked up a new language, if you’ve followed a passion, you will almost certainly have developed new skills, if you’ve spent 6 weeks painting the outside of your house…well…you’ll be a lot less likely to complain about whatever work you come back to. But I can guarantee that by doing something different for an extended period, you will have created new neural pathways. In short, you will be able to think differently, and you will be able to problem solve better.
Sure you might spend the first few days back at work weeping at your desk as you wade through a sea of unread emails…but after that, you’re going to be a better person, and therefore employee, than you were when you left.
Also, don’t ever underestimate the value of your ‘organisational knowledge’. In any organisation there is ‘the proper process’ (ie ‘what they tell new employees’)…and there is ‘the way to get things done’ (ie what you know after 10 years of working in an organisation). I know that over the course of 10 years at DHHS I have learnt how to get in contact with most of the key decision makers…and most importantly I have forged good relationships with all of their Executive Assistants, so that if I need something done in a hurry I can at least get an audience with someone who can make it happen. There are hundreds of these little communication channels that only open up after you have served your time in an organisation and shown your worth, and they save your organisation large amounts of money every year…so just see long service leave as your organisation’s way of saying ‘Thanks for making us more efficient’.

This is happiness

In an era of fewer and fewer full-time jobs, and of people moving jobs more frequently, the number of people who are actually going to work for 10 years in the one organisation is no doubt dwindling. But for those of us who do have it, for the love of God use it! You will never regret taking a holiday. You will never be as; young, energetic, enthusiastic, adventurous and capable as you are right now. Don’t put it off. Don’t sit on it like some bizarre nest-egg. Don’t worry that your job wont be there when you get back. Just do it! Book that holiday, go to that place that you always wanted go, do that thing that you always wanted to do. Be that person you’ve always wanted to be!
You’ve earned it.

Our first camper-vanning holiday

Now I know that for a lot of you, when you hear my name the first thing you probably think is ‘rugged outdoorsman’ or ‘free spirit on a permanent road-trip of self discovery’ or ‘knows his way around an engine’, in other words a person perfectly suited to driving a camper-van for two weeks through Queensland. Then I’d say ‘I think you misheard me, I said “Chris Riordan”.’ And then you’d say, ‘Oh, I thought you said “Chris the Bearded One”. You said “Chris Riordan”?…Dear God, don’t let him anywhere near a camper-vanning holiday!!’
Well it’s too late, I’ve just returned from my first ever family camper-vanning trip, and now I’m going to tell you about it.

Our home on wheels


Our trip

So our family (2 x adults and 3 x kids) flew from Melbourne to Brisbane, then collected our campervan and drove for two weeks up to Cairns. We spent our first night in the driveway of a relative in Buderim, then travelled to Noosa for two nights, then on to Hervey Bay for two nights, 1770 for two nights, Airley Beach for 3 nights, Mackay for two nights (we parked the van outside and stayed with some friends in their house), then finally to Paronella Park for one night, before returning the van in Cairns the next day.
In the interests of full disclosure, I will say that we hired the campervan through Britz, and that they reduced the price of the van hire by 35% in exchange for a video and some photos from our trip. But this blog was not part of that deal, so these are my own thoughts…untainted by financial gain, fear or favour.

Driving the campervan

The campervan is basically a VW truck that instead of having a large rectangle on the back to put things in…has a small house to put people in. So you are never going to beat anyone from a standing start at the lights, and if you’re going through a roundabout, allow for a lot of body-roll because the centre of gravity is remarkably high. But once you get out on the highway (which is where we did 90% of our driving) you’re laughing (metaphorically of course…if you laugh for 90% of your trip you will be exhausted…and possibly detained by local police.)
If you’ve ever moved house and driven the removal van, then it’s pretty much the same. And if you’ve ever ridden a bike on the road, then you will know the feeling that every single other person who is not doing the same thing as you…wishes you were dead or off the road…or ideally, both. So when you come to a passing lane and you want to get around the campervan/caravan in front of you who has been travelling at 90kms p/h for the last half hour, resist the temptation to pull out and go around them…because I can guarantee that there will be 5 cars who will want to do it first, and who have a much better chance of getting up to speed and around before the passing lane cuts out.
At the end of the day you are driving a big cumbersome vehicle, but at the literal end of the day, you get to park the big cumbersome vehicle and cook, sleep and bathe in it. So it’s a pretty sweet deal.

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There was a stove with four gas burners and a grill…so we were set for everything from coffee and hot chocolate in the morning, to pasta and pizza at night. While I may have been a tad paranoid about serving up pasta so many times, the kids didn’t seem to care. We also cooked on the BBQ’s at the various caravan parks where we stayed about every 3rd night.

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Yes there is a toilet on the van. But it’s best to see this as a last resort. If you’re a woman who can remember attending blue-light discos at the Macleod YMCA, you may remember seeing a skinny guy with greasy hair and Stussy pants who seemed to spending way too much time insisting the DJ play more Guns n Roses b-sides. You may remember looking at him at the start of the night and thinking ‘OK…I will try to kiss someone who I’m actually attracted to…but if by the end of the night nothing has happened…I’ll kiss that guy.’ Well that’s pretty much how you can view this toilet, it’s there and available…but there are plenty of better options available.

Setting up and packing up

You know those kids toys where you have to push the correct shape through the correct shape-sized hole? Well I think our first attempt at setting up the van must have looked a bit like two adults using one of those toys (‘Well I think that looks like it goes there. Hmmm, nope. Maybe if I just push it really hard?’) But once we had it sorted we were able to set up the van in about 15 minutes when we arrived at a caravan park. And our packing up took about 25 minutes.


Ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha haha ha! Tee hee hee hee hee! Bwah ha ha ha. Snort. Chuckle. Ho ho ho ha ha ha hee hee hee! Guffaw, guffaw, guffaw! LOL!
Oh wait, did  you mean finding a newfound level of intimacy with your family as a result of spending so much time in close quarters…or finding intimacy with your partner? The latter. Thought so.
Ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha haha ha! Tee hee hee hee hee! Bwah ha ha ha. Snort. Chuckle. Ho ho ho ha ha ha hee hee hee! Guffaw, guffaw, guffaw! LOL!
Ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha haha ha! Tee hee hee hee hee! Bwah ha ha ha. Snort. Chuckle. Ho ho ho ha ha ha hee hee hee! Guffaw, guffaw, guffaw! LOL!



Clearly your accomodation is your camper-van…but you have to park it somewhere, and that is invariably a caravan park. Some caravan parks will have an amazing location (beach access for example), or great staff, or great toilets/showers or a combination of these. Thanks to the work of Katie, we were a bit sad to leave every place we stayed.
We also got to meet some very interesting people. When we arrived at 1770 we had to do some driving that Ken Block would have been proud of to park the van in the designated spot. When we got out, a girl who was staying in a nearby van with her grandparents came over and offered to help us unpack our van. We said we were fine, so then she took the kids off on an adventure through the nearby bush. ‘Isn’t this nice’ we thought. Then a few hours later she knocked on the door of our van to show us the Python that she had just found in the toilet block. She was calmly holding it and offering us a go. ‘Are you sure it’s safe?’ we asked, to which she replied ‘It hasn’t bitten me yet.’ That ‘yet’ made me think that being bitten by snakes was a part of life to which she had simply adapted.

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Pros & Cons

We really started to gel as a family after the first couple of days. There is a sense that you’re in on a big adventure together, and that really brought us closer together.
We did a LOT of walking, which was great for getting the kids sufficiently tired to go sleep each night.
We got to see some amazing places that we wouldn’t have seen if we had flown, and we couldn’t have afforded to spend two weeks staying in hotels.

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There are plenty of times you will have things you want to do, that are 4-5kms away…and the thought of convincing a 4yo that a walk is a great idea seems like too much hard work. But the idea of packing up the entire van just to drive into town seems insane. It’s times like this that you wish you had a car.

Our trip from Airlie Beach to Paronella Park ended up taking 8 hours. The night tour was at 6.15pm (and we were only there for one night), and we arrived at 5.30pm. So we desperately unpacked the van and started to cook dinner, with the goal of eating by 6pm and then making the tour in time. Then the van’s power fused…and it took 15 minutes to work our how to reset everything. So we had to do the tour on an empty stomach and then eat dinner at about 8.30pm.

Reverse parking an enormous van in a confined space while caravan park yokels watch on after you’ve been driving for 6 hours, is every bit as much fun as it sounds.

But would I do it again? Yep…in a heartbeat.

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You can see some more photos here:


Moving back in with the folks

You know that dream that everyone has of being a grown adult and then moving back in with your parents…and bringing your partner and 3 kids? Sure you do…it’s right up there with that dream of having extensive dental work done, or having your brakes fail as you drive down a mountain. Well this weekend I get to live this dream, because we are moving out of our house for 6 months while we have renovations done.

This renovation has been on the cards for the last two years, so to be honest I still don’t 100% believe it is actually going to happen. But if everything goes to plan, this weekend we will pack everything into boxes and move to Ivanhoe to live for 6 months*. So what is this going to mean? Well for one thing, the ride to work is going to involve a few more hills…and significantly fewer protected bike paths. My Friday run to work may have to take a hiatus. And my wife is going to have to brave Bell St. every day to take our son to school. On the bright side it may mean we have ready access to babysitters…and Christ knows it’s a lot cheaper than renting. But what happens when you feel as though your parenting is being judged 24/7? What happens when you eat dinner at 5.30pm and your parents eat theirs at a normal grown up time? Cooking two dinners is insane…but then so is making the kids wait until 6.30pm to eat…and expecting adults to eat their dinner half an hour before they get home. What happens when you want to watch ‘Game of Thrones’ but your parents don’t like it… and there’s only one TV?!

Of course I’m seeing this from the perspective of someone who is returning to their familial home…I’ve spent more of my life in this home than anywhere else. But my wife is moving into a house she’s never lived in…and with two people she’s never lived with. And my parents have done the hard yards of parenting…they don’t want to be creeping around the house trying not to wake kids up, or living in the abject chaos of young kids (parenthood is awesome in hindsight and a nice place to visit…but no one wants to live there!).

On top of this is the joy of incurring a level of debt that could at best be described as ‘crippling’…and at worst ‘Greece’.
But like one of those poor bastards you see charging out of a trench in WWII, we are embarking on this trip together (my family that is…not you…you’re only here to feel better about yourself by reading about my misery). I am under no delusions about how hard this is going to be…and I know that there are going to be times when I just want to crawl into a corner and weep. But at the end we will have an amazing house that the entire family can grow up in, and who knows, in 30 years time one of my kids may be asking if they can move back in while they are getting their house renovated. It will be a truly wonderful and serendipitous moment when I can put my arm around them, hug them close and say ‘No…I’ve converted your room into my cycling room.’


*It is highly unlikely it will actually be 6 months…the smart money is on ‘the term of your natural life’.