WORDS by Roy Weavers
Published Friday 13 May 2016
In 1997 at just 22yrs old Nicole Szalek, our next guest as a Woman of Douglas arrived in Port Douglas from the suburbs of Melbourne.
She had qualified with a Bachelor of Business in Hotel management so it wasn’t difficult to get a job in the fast developing Port Douglas tourist mecca. She left Hotel Management for the lure of Quicksilver Great Barrier Reef Tours for 6 years in their reservations office. She then went overseas for 2 years, where she enjoyed super yachting around the Mediterranean, hopping mainly between Spain, Italy and France.
Now that her children Hayley and Jack have started school, Nicole is pushing herself again by studying to be a registered nurse and registered midwife, whilst also working at Cairns Hospital as a student nurse. It is not surprising to hear that she describes herself as capable, or she smiles, perhaps it should be an organised juggler!
She loves nothing more than catching up with friends or paddleboarding when she can get a few moments to relax. Her favourite parties are BBQs at the beach or camping, where the kids can safely run around while the adults catch up. Her treasured possession is her skill at making an espresso martini. I don’t know whether that is any use at the beach, but it certainly would help finish up a perfect day back at home. While we’re talking cocktails, Nicole says that if she could select three guests to dinner, she would invite actor River Phoenix, Frank Camorra (chef and owner of Spanish restaurant MoVida) to cook and for drinks any of the bartenders from Salsa restaurant. Then it's just dinner with River! I think we’ll leave it there!
It doesn’t come as any surprise with such a hectic life that her secret indulgence is ‘sleep’. “I just don’t get to enjoy my indulgence very often!” Her next challenge is to continue the evolution of Port Shorts, the Port Douglas Film Festival that she helped to found some 15 years ago. There is so much creativity in the region that seeing the finished short movies on the big screen is so exciting. We try to make it bigger and better every year.
Her personality is very warm and inclusive. She says she gets that from her hero, her Polish dad, who was displaced from his homeland during the Second World War. “Despite all the horror he experienced he was always so full of love, full of happiness. His whole life was about us, the family. He had so much time for friends and family. I hope I am just like that with my own family.”
She says that, ”Life is not a dress rehearsal. So don’t delay, do what makes you happy and don’t sweat the small stuff”. Her tropical tip is on a similar vein, ‘Go see everything, the reef, the rainforest. You’ll love it! Even though I’ve been here for almost 20 yrs, the place still regularly leaves me inspired!”