This morning I’ve come to my local coffee shop, treated myself to a large gingerbread latte (well, it IS Christmas!), and sat down to take stock of the last two months.
As you’ll recall from my earlier posts, as well as writing about how you can reinvent work in the context of your whole life, I’m on my own work/life revolution journey. Eight weeks ago I swapped London living for the peace of the Buckinghamshire countryside. My aim is to create a business that makes me money irrespective of my physical location, so that I can spend a lot of time indulging my passion for international travel.
I had imagined that, by now, I’d be much further along than I am in my blog business development. I hadn’t reckoned on how dealing with the big and small shit of life would stand in the way.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far and how I’m dealing with it:
- Moving from city to country is culture shock.
Yes, I achieved masses in moving to my 300 year old house in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. I love the fresh air, the silence, the beautiful landscapes, the presence of farm and wild animals, the fact I can just walk out of my house and in minutes be walking along farmyard lanes. I’m enjoying the ye olde village pub, and am looking forward to Christmas carols with mulled wine and mince pies in one of the local farmer’s barns, complete with real sheep, goats and cows.
But I can no longer just pop along to Sainsbury’s Local every time it occurs to me to buy food. Nor is there an abundance of banks, dry cleaners, or even coffee shops on my doorstep. I won’t mention hairdressers, beauticians or clothes shops.
These kind of things are forcing me to be more planned and organised than really comes naturally. So, I’m now doing one big online shop each week from Tesco.Com. And I’m learning to double up coffee shop trips, where I go to work, with drop offs to dry cleaners and shoe repairers. I’ve also now got PayPal, so am going to be putting that on my site and using it for my invoices to avoid having to visit banks other than via internet.
These things might look common or garden if you’re used to them, but for me, entrenched in my city attitudes, and what I realise now was a fairly old-fashioned way of working, revolutionising my life and work is a big change. And if you’re starting from the same kind of base, don’t underestimate the scale of it or how long it’s going to take you to adjust. Just trust that you will.
- Renting out property is not necessarily a hassle free way to make money.
Part of my transition strategy was to keep my house in Wimbledon, and to let it out for more than the rental price of the cottage, giving me another income stream.
Fabulous, and yet I underestimated the time and money involved in both getting the house ready for rental and in managing it with tenants. Getting it in good decorative order was relatively easy as I’d had painters in only last year. More difficult was ensuring it complied with the UK landlord regulations on things like gas and electricity.
Get yourself a managing agent, I hear you say. Did that. Next hazard: there’s no guarantee that even with a managing agent you’ll have a hassle-free life. I’m using one of South London’s large estate agents. They did a brilliant job of finding a tenant, but have so far done a shocking job of looking after things. On each occasion that there has been a problem with the tenant, either Steve or I have had to intervene at a late stage, meaning more work than had we been managing things ourselves.
Yesterday we put a rocket up the estate agent’s bottom. Either they’ll now sort their shit out or we’ll have to fire them. Whatever, it’s a problem I could have done without.
On reflection, in our enthusiasm to move, we probably didn’t do our homework thoroughly enough on managing agents. If you want to avoid a similar scenario, take note!
- The concept of worldwide high speed broadband is as yet a myth.
On this one, I did my research thoroughly, looking at both the plumbed in broadband suppliers in the neighbourhood and their network speeds; and the availability of mobile networks in the area. I spent hours arranging the former before I even moved, and took the advice of an independent mobile phone provider on the latter. Being without internet access, given what I’m trying to do, was unthinkable.
And yet it became my reality.
It took a couple of days and many hours on the phone to BT’s call centre in India to get my telephone and primary broadband connection working.
And the 3 dongle I got from The Carphone Warehouse was completely useless. Both here, and in other locations I tried.
More research on this showed that O2 had some of the best network coverage – at least in the places I travel to in the UK. So now I have one of their pay-as-you-go dongles that works well.
My advice: the idea of the nomadic online business person is very compelling. But do your homework well, wherever you’re going, about networks and coverage. Even then, expect and prepare for times when you wont get internet access.
- The picture of an idyllic, trouble-free life is a fantasy.
Not even two weeks into our daring adventure, Steve’s mother, who lives about 150 miles away from us, took ill. As in, was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
The unpacking of boxes, the buying of new furniture, the writing of marketing plans and the development of my site suddenly took far lesser priority than being with and supporting anxious family.
Somehow, I did manage to write a post a week, except for when things were at their worst, and to keep twittering. And thank God I had already transitioned some clients to working by phone or Skype as I was able to keep a modicum of my paid work going. Proving in a way I hadn’t imagined that location independence can work!
I’m delighted to say that she’s doing okay now. The tumour, although life threatening of itself, was not cancerous. Nevertheless, brain surgery is hugely invasive and she’s still in hospital, struggling with post-op complications.
There’s a whole other post to be written at some point on my reflections of the work/life dance I’ve led during the last weeks. For now, the key lesson is not to take unexpected life stuff as evidence that your vision is wrong. Sure, I went there a couple of times, but today as I write my vision is intact.
It’s just taking longer than planned.