“You can always give your time to get more money...
...but no amount of money will buy back
As the words circled my mind,
the ergonomic, pneumatic, fully adjustable reclining office chair I worked from just didn't seem so comfortable any more.
The precious 28 days of freedom I enjoyed so much no longer justified the 48 weeks of thankless work I had to do to earn them.
All the material things I was supposed to want to work for just seemed like distractions from what was important. I knew there was a simpler, uncluttered life beyond the consumer driven world I had grown up in.
All I really wanted was to go places and do stuff, out there somewhere.......
This was in fact nothing new for me. Throughout my adult life, I have had jobs that have filled me with a sense of doom. I've tried flipping burgers, pouring drinks and packing cardboard boxes into other cardboard boxes, I even tried some fun stuff and thought I had got it worked out when I got a job running a climbing wall.
But as I stared into the future and saw where each one would take me, I always saw myself stuck there in years to come, tied down by the comforting choke hold of job security and financial commitment.
When I started climbing I gained a new found drive for adventure. I decided I would just go off and climb the world. I talked about it, I planned it, I dreamed.
But seven years later I still woke up in the morning and went to work just like everybody else on every other day.
Then, in 2011, I finally met someone who was equally frustrated, and together we found the confidence to do something about it.
I had about £300 in savings and no real plan. The girl I had only recently met was now to live in a tent with me and we had no idea if that would work. But we bought a ferry ticket out of England, packed up our lives in the back of the car and started driving.
We came up with a few ways to make a little money and simplified our needs until we could afford to provide for them. Through luck, charm, and really being sure that we did not want to go back, we found a way and we made it work.
|The Olive Branch team enjoying the quiet at the end of the season|
We climb as many days as we want, get outside every day, work for much less time than we play, and have time to spend cooking and eating well with our friends.
For the rest of the year we travel to new places, visit home or whatever else we feel like doing.
Charlotte turned out to be the best tent buddy I could ever have hoped for, and we are now engaged to be married.
We have learnt a lot of lessons on the way, and there are certainly a few things I wish I had been told before we left, so I have put together a list of seven important things to keep in mind when planning an exit strategy.
If you are on the verge of leaving, then hopefully they will help you set off a little more prepared than we were, and if you are already on your way then maybe there will be a couple of things you don’t mind being reminded about.
1. Set a date
At some point I became aware of the harsh reality of setting up a new life:- I would never have enough money. There would always dates on the calendar I could not miss. There would always be some reason for me to wait longer, and more ties and responsibilities waiting to attach themselves in the meantime.
|Mucking about in Paris with no money|
but a new found freedom!
We set a date, November 23rd. Because I like the number 23. We gave ourselves three months to work our notice and prepare ourselves, and that was plenty of time. I have no doubt we could have done more to prepare if we had waited longer, but we got the essentials done and kept our enthusiasm going til we were on the road.
Whatever date you pick, just go book a ticket. Plane, train, ferry or whatever, just book it. That date will become golden, unchangeable. The rest will follow, and when the time comes you will be as ready as you need to be.
In fact we did miss our date because I really was incredibly badly organised on the day before, but we sailed out four days later and all was well!
2. If it doesn't fit, lose it
Your chosen means of transportation will dictate what you can bring.
We took a decent size family car but I packed way too much stuff and it meant it was a long time before we could pick up a hitchhiker or even recline our seats to snooze.
Even with my overly generous packing, there were still many things left over. I was pretty ruthless. I sold them, binned them or donated them to charity until I was down to the things I really didn’t want to lose. These things I mostly gave to my friends and family. Better that they are enjoyed than sitting in a box gathering dust somewhere.
Go through the essentials, the stuff you really cannot do without. And throw in a few comforts too. It gets lonely out in the wide world sometimes, and everybody gets a little homesick now and again. A laptop and some music is not such a bad idea.
But be ruthless with everything else and pack light.
|Some heavy things are worth taking - that Dutch oven has provided us with many a free meal on our travels!|
3. Tools are good, skills will grow
For every item I have that is repairable, I have at least a basic tool set. Sockets for the car, screwdrivers for the gadgets, needle and thread for my clothes, and gaffer tape for just about everything else.
When we set off I didn't know how to use all of them, but I learned through doing, and finding people who could show me.
I even got a few carving tools and taught myself how to make a love spoon to propose with!
|A notepad and pen goes a long way too.....|
4. Find something you can do and get good at it
Since we left, we have done so many different jobs to keep ourselves afloat. Grape picking, gardening, cleaning, driving and labouring are all on the list when we can get them, and jobs pretty much anyone can do. But by finding a specialism we have managed to save a little where we may not have otherwise.
|From humble beginnings, Charly's Cakes have now become world famous |
thanks to the unprecedented amount of love she puts into every bake!
I do some freelance guiding and our friend Roy has been painting portraits for a living. We all have our little things we do to get by.
Whatever it is you can do, take pride in it and do it well. A good reputation is everything when you are working for yourself.
|An incredible portrait painted on the wall of the Olive Branch in Acrylic by Roy Goddard|
5. Make your peace
Once we had made our plans, I got very itchy feet. Everywhere I looked I saw things I would be happy to leave behind.
But I tried to remind myself each day to think of the people I would miss when I was sitting in a tent in the middle of nowhere eating lentils. There would be friends and family who I would not see for months, years maybe. Maybe never again.
The nomadic nature of our new life means that we are constantly having to leave friends behind and say goodbyes, and that is always hard. But I always try to make some fresh, happy memories together so that we leave on good terms.
If you are making plans to get away, then now is the time to make up with the old friend you don't talk to, the brother you fell out with, and the neighbour you avoid. There really is nothing to be lost from this but pride.
6. Friends are your most important resource
I knew from the start that I could not make this journey alone. I need all my friends - old ones, new ones, close ones and passing ones.
No object I could own, no skill I possess and no amount of searching will ever bring such incredible opportunities as those my friends have brought me.
So I look after everyone as best as I can, I try hard to stay in contact, and I make sure to always share the love. It may not come back directly from the person I gave it to, but it always comes back somehow. And in abundance.
|Staying in contact with my good friend Craig from VeloVentoux brought us a whole season's work in sunny Provence, an opportunity we would never have got if weren't for a couple of beers in Camp 4....|
7. Keep it simple, and open your mind
Some things should stay fixed. For me it is being together with my fiancee and staying as close as we can get to good rock climbing. But everything else is flexible, replaceable and disposable - where we are, what we eat, how we get by and where we will be next week, All of this is open to change.
I always have big plans of where I want to go and what I want to do, but I try to keep my expectations simple and flexible so that my eyes are open to things I had never thought of.
We say yes to lots of things. Not everything will work out, but the best experiences are almost always unexpected ones.
We still haven’t made it to most of the places we intended to go in our first year, but we’ll get to see them all someday and even if we don’t it doesn't matter, we’re having fun trying!
|Thanks for this wonderful picture go to Mark Haley|
So good luck with your adventure, and I hope it leads to many great places, doing many great things with many wonderful people. By running away to follow your dreams you are already doing more than most people ever will, and even if you never catch up with them you are sure to enjoy the journey.
The world is out there, waiting.
And now is as good a time as any.