A Brilliant Gamble — Why I’m Selling my House and Buying a Van
Next Spring my family and I will embark on a new adventure.
We will move out of our house and locate ourselves in different European cities and regions for about a year. We will travel around in a 30 year old VW camper van and base ourselves in AirBnBs for a month at a time per location (approximately!).
For a decade I’ve lived in rural England. My clients have been in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Basel, Toulouse, Madrid, Amsterdam, New York…well, everywhere.
No one really cares that my office is hundreds or thousands of miles away from theirs.
Technology (and a good airport network) has meant that anyone can work with me if they want to.
So why does it matter if I live in one house all the time or 12 houses in a year?
The growth of location independent businesses and digital nomads is an underground movement right now. It’s possible you don’t even know that some of the freelancers you work with are “digital nomads” or that some of the businesses you partner with are “location independent” unless they make a big deal about it…as I am here!
But this growing trend is interesting for a number of reasons.
20 or 30 years ago most people worked in the same way as each other. Whatever their industry they probably went to an office or a plant at a specific time, took lunch at a specific time, clocked off at a specific time and went home. Once home most left their work behind them unless they had papers to mark or reports to read.
Today this isn’t the case, of course. Work is with us 24/7. It seeps in to our personal lives. We check our emails, we work at weekends, we tweet while we are on holiday. AND we still rock up at the office or plant and take our breaks and go home roughly the same time as each other (although it’s now more like 6pm or 7pm than 5pm).
This is true for me too. And I don’t mind. I love my work. I don’t need to switch off from it just because it’s 6pm or because it’s Saturday.
But if work has changed this much then we need to rethink the middle bit — the 9–5 bit. If we’re going to be tuned in to work out of hours, sometimes we need to tune out of work during the day.
For the last 4 months I’ve been home schooling my daughter. The first stage of home schooling is to “de-school”. The idea is that you take a few weeks or months to get school out of your system so that you (it’s just as important for the parent as the child) can rethink learning as something that comes out of curiosity, a hunger to discover, a joy it itself, rather than education as something that is done to you whether you like it or not, whether you have any interest or not, whether you can see the relevance of it to your life or not, or whether you understand it or not.
Watching my daughter’s fascination with pre-history over these few months, for instance (something I had no idea she was interested in and nor did she!) and how that interest links with what she sees around her, how we live today, the language we use, the food we eat…I could go on (!) got me thinking about “de-working”.
So in tandem with her “de-schooling” I’ve been trying to get “work” out of my system and see my contribution to my clients’ businesses not as work but as something else — a calling, or a service, or just something I love to do because it interests me and it helps them.
Disconnecting from the constraints of conventional work — a fixed base, working hours, family time only after all the work of the day was done, holidays when I switch off etc etc — was the logical next step and opened up the possibility of living and working in a different way.
I don’t believe clients will notice any difference.
If I need to be in London for a meeting, or Frankfurt for a workshop I can be there. I coach most of my clients on the phone or skype. And for those I work with face to face the only difference will be the train station I depart from when I make my way to see them.
However, the change for me and my family is significant. Work and home will be far more blended (as it already is with a child at home all day). I will probably record my podcasts in the evening if my daughter and I spent the day in Rome learning about the ancient city. I will probably do my emails before 9am if we have to drive from Lisbon to Bilboa that week because that’s where our next AirBnB is and I need to be in Spain to coincide with a speaking engagement there anyway.
In the past — way, way in the past — work and life was blended. In fact people were often home workers, bringing in wool to work in their own homes, or having their forge out the back of their farm or a bakery in the kitchen of their cottage. Children were part of that life — integrated in to their parents’ work, seeing the adult world first hand rather than reading about it in books.
I’m not suggesting we go back to child labour, the poverty that most people endured in those days or that we close the schools and hope that children get a proper education at the feet of their parents!
But our experiment over the coming months is an attempt to see whether work and life can blend far better than we’ve allowed for the past 200 years; whether new technology means we can re-think work (and education) and let go of some of the constraints we’ve taken for granted; whether it’s necessary to acquire a mortgage, all the costs of a permanent home, the predictability of life in one location and save the rest of the world for the odd business trip or annual vacation; and whether, for us at least, there’s a way to organise all the different facets of our life in a way that works perfectly for us even if it would never work for anyone else.
As a coach and speaker whose job is to inspire others to change and who has to believe 100% that her clients can achieve amazing things in their work and their life, it’s only right that I take this gamble. And it is a gamble. But it’s a brilliant one!
Oh, and I’m writing this from Mexico. Could you tell?
You can follow our travel adventures, including our preparations, reviews of co-working spaces, the realities of a location independent business and how well our VW holds up on Instagram @abrilliantgamble and on our A Brilliant Gamble Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/abrilliantgamble/
Twitter Blaire Palmer
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