People on vacation, walking around half-naked and drinking all day—life at Club Med was relaxing and perverted at the same time.
This article originally appeared on VICE France.
I started working at Club Med somewhat by chance, at the beginning of the 1990s. I ended up being a vacation rep (what in French we called a "Gentil Organisateur" or "GO") for the company for seven years. My job was to entertain guests by suggesting sports programs and other kind of activities to them. Despite what you may think, it was far from an easy job. Looking back at it however, I have to say those were the best years of my life.
The concept of the holiday village was invented after the Second World War—in the 1950s. The Club Méditerranée, also known as Club Med, was one of the first hotel chains to invest in the idea of an all-inclusive holiday. It was a vacationers dream: essentially, one big open bar on a dreamy beach in a sunny destination. The chain was well aware of what can happen when you combine free drinks and summertime sex, and invented a new kind of tourism mainly revolving around these two sources of happiness.
My part in it began on a coach in Marseille. I was taking the shuttle to the Old Port, when I saw my cousin hopping in. I hadn't seen him for almost a year. We chatted, and he told me he was working as a GO in a Club Med somewhere in Greece and that it was, according to him, "the perfect hideout."
The coach ride lasted about 30 minutes, during which he explained what his job entailed—looking after tourists when they went out on excursions and organizing beach activities in the day, and putting on shows to entertain the guests in the evenings. He kept going on about what a great a time he was having, and about all the girls he was hooking up with, and the heavenly beaches he was sunbathing on. My cousin always had a talent for exaggeration, but this story seemed very detailed and true. If only a third of what he was describing was true, I had get a piece of that life for myself.
To be fair, up until that point, my life wasn't going great. I was 22 and still living with my parents. I had studied to become a PE teacher, and ending up as a PE teacher in a paradise-like hotel in a developing European economy was probably my best bet at a life worth living. I had already traveled around a bit, but not much outside of France, so it was high time that I did. The more I thought about it, the more I told myself that my cousin was right.
A couple of weeks later, I found myself in Paris for a job interview at Club Med's headquarters. The morning of the interview, I was given a presentation on the company's history and operations—its spirit and its rules. I was introduced to life in the village and informed that I would have to work the usual number of six days a week for a monthly wage of about $900. GOs were housed, fed and provided for, so that salary—coupled with inflation—was more than enough. In the afternoon, the one-on-one chat went well too. Calling the interview questions "basic" would be generous, and apparently, I had the required physical abilities to fit their standards, too. I got the job.
I left for Spain the following week. I was officially "land sports leader" for the chain, and took this very seriously. It was my first job and it completely suited me: Life in the Club Med was relaxing and perverted at the same time.
As everything is standardized at Club Med—outfits, wages, lifestyle—the only way to compare yourself to other vacation reps is through the number of girls you bring back to your room.
The Spanish coast is gorgeous. The hotel was majestic too, made of one big main building and several barracks. When I got there, I was given my work uniform and was assigned a room. Then I met my future co-workers: a lot of Belgians, some French people, and a few Germans. I was introduced to a few GMs ( Gentils Membres—our clients), and then was taken to the concert hall to learn some mandatory dance routines.
In every Club Med Village, every evening, the holiday reps are supposed to perform a show for the guests. This shitty performance took about 30 to 45 minutes, and was perhaps the only thing that pissed me off, when I signed the contract. I told myself that I had to go through this to be able to pick up girls up in the hotel's nightclub.
In those days, a typical working day at the Club Med went like this: wake up at 9 AM, have breakfast, prepare daily activities, games and coffee, have lunch on the go, organize the afternoon sporting events, start games, have a drink, take part in the evening show, and round out the day by vibing up the club for an hour—six days a week. It was intense. On the busiest days, I'd go to bed around 1 AM to sleep as long as possible. But most of the time—like any self-respecting 22-year-old—I stayed in the nightclub into the wee hours and used my GO status to chat up girls and bring them back to my hut.
It was during those days that I understood that men and women are fuck machines. It's very easy to get laid at Club Med—everyone is on vacation and drunk all the time. It is the definition of sex for sex's sake. On top of that, people walk around half-naked in the sun all day, which makes everyone's blood boil faster.
I had never seen so many people shagging—especially on the beach. As for me, I think I broke all records during my seven years there: two girls a week, on average. Spread over seven seasons, that amounted to a lot of girls—I think about 750 in total. As everything is standardized at the Club Med—outfits, wages, lifestyle—the only way to compare yourself to other vacation reps is through the number of girls you bring back to your room.
Life in the Club Med made me realize another thing too: Cash really doesn't buy happiness. Firstly, money doesn't buy you anything there, as everything is included in the main price. As the days go by, you realize that when money is taken out of the daily equation, everyone starts feeling genuinely freer.
After a while, the pace of the work became hard to keep up with. Given the dreamy setting, I wanted to make the most of my days off, but when I wasn't working, I was so tired I couldn't do much. My activities were limited to sleeping, going to the pool, and hanging out on the beach. I learned very little about the history of the places where the holiday villages were based.
A vacation rep will usually stay in one place for about four to seven months before changing locations. After Spain, I went to Greece. Then to Turkey, the Bahamas, and Senegal, before swinging back to Turkey to end on a high note.
Turkey in 1997 was the most insane time of my life. The hotel I worked at was in Bodrum, which is the Turkish equivalent of Saint Tropez. The guests were very open, and in the evenings, everybody wanted to party. For my part, after six years in the sector, I knew all the different types of holiday makers; I knew how to entertain the kids in the day and get with their single mothers in the evening. I was brining happiness to two generations over the course of 24 hours. I stayed there for a total of nine months.
Despite the fact that I don't entirely recognize myself in the things I did back then, just thinking about those times brings a smile to my face. After seven years as a GO, I decided to move on. If you live in a bubble like the Club Med for too long, it's not that easy to come out after. I was 29 and had to find a long-term job. When I got a job offer in Paris, I didn't think twice.
Going back to normal life was hard, especially since I had been completely looked after at the Club Med for seven years. It took me some time to heal from the GO lifestyle and find some sense of stability. I haven't stepped foot in a Club Med ever since.
Visit Felix's website for more of his work.