by Jeffery Corey Locke
Luanda, Angola – Travelling or relocating for work almost seems to be a right-of-passage for many of us Newfoundlanders, as, it seems for as long as I can remember, there has been an exodus from our province by our young people to find steady and gainful employment. For me it was no different. I graduated from high school in 1993 and immediately travelled across Canada; looking for work, going to college, and trying to find a career path where I would feel both success and satisfaction as well as having the ability to provide for myself and my family.
For the last twenty years or so, I have been working in the offshore industry. This work has taken me everywhere from just off the coast of our dear province of Newfoundland to numerous countries in Africa, and everywhere else in between.
Working offshore globally can seem like a very tempting job for many people; it pays well, it is stable, and one gets to travel. It is difficult for people who are not in the industry to understand the dynamic and the sacrifices made to have this career. Most notably, the time away from family can be very taxing. The jobs require workers to be away for weeks at a time, often with low-quality methods of communication. The travel to certain countries can be very complicated and stressful even before the onset of COVID. The pandemic alone has made travelling now so much more complicated and time-consuming. Workers in this field pay the cost – the cost that one pays with a little bit of their soul, every time they leave their families to go earn a living to support that very same family.
The planning and journey starts as soon as your itinerary arrives in your inbox. There are pages and pages instructions that need to be followed precisely to both travel and to join life on the offshore rigs. The count down begins at that same time, and preparation often can take weeks. The paperwork is immense and there is a lot of it. It takes so much time – time that would be much better spent with loved ones before departure. It is easy to get trapped in all of the work that comes with the preparation and that work can often overshadow every-day home issues, so it is not uncommon to leave for the journey with arguments unresolved, words left unsaid or said too much, or even just a leaky faucet. The very people that will benefit from a worker going away are often the ones who can be the unfortunate recipients of the associated stress of leaving. Even with the elevated stress, each night then seems more precious in spending time with your families, your friends, or whoever your loved ones are. In my case, I even start to spend more time with the family cat!
When my day comes to head to the airport, I always feel a sense of excitement and if I were to be honest, a healthy dose of trepidation. I love travelling, seeing different people, and seeing new sights, but the excitement often gets interrupted by all of the various checkpoints, x rays, temperature checks, ID checks, and on occasion, a visit to the random screening booth. It seems though, I tend to encounter this screening more than what the word “random” would imply.
Throughout my years in the offshore industry, I have travelled many places, but I am still relatively new to the international travel on a regular basis. Many of the veterans of the industry, folks who have been doing this for many years, all tend to have that same look, same attitude, and same desire that I am slowly starting to develop. They each know that every time they leave home for work, there is a cost – a sacrifice they need to make in order to provide for their families. It can be seen in their eyes; the pain of being away, of missing their child’s birthday, missing that family holiday, that special day – every day / any day.
Here I am, I just got off the plane, and just finished anywhere between 3 to 14 days of quarantine, and I am only now just arriving on site. This time, my journey from Newfoundland to my new home for the next number of weeks took six days. Soon though, I will start to smile as I see some familiar faces, I am with others, who share the similar challenges to get here, who all share the similar reasons why we are here. There is a tangible camaraderie and we all feel it. We all have the drive to provide for those we care for. Those sacrifices are somehow a little easier to face when there are others working side by side who are paying that similar price.
Once my weeks are done (often 6-8 weeks or maybe even longer) I will get home and soon after it’s time to start this whole process again of paying this cost again.
It’s a hard thing to describe, but when us Newfoundlanders find each other (and I have never worked one that didn’t have at least one other Newfoundlander), its seems to be in our nature to band together and to support each other, even if we are from up the shore, from around the bay, or from town – we are all from home, and away from home. And we are together, willing to pay that cost to support those we care for.
I am proud to be a Newfoundlander, and I feel prouder every time I go to work, knowing that what I am there with other people doing what we ultimately want to be doing. Supporting those we care for, the best way we know how. Working.