Some reflections 2.5 months after having escaped London

After quitting my job in March I had a couple of weeks to sort everything out before flying to South Africa with Chloe for a short holiday to check out some meerkats. After that we travelled to Namibia by bus (Intercape buses are a great way to get around southern Africa).

In Namibia we have spent two months volunteering with a local NGO: Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation, helping a bushman community in Bwabwata National Park, in the north-east of Namibia, to set up a college for trackers. We were doing a mix of spending time with the trackers to learn what they are doing, business planning (writing concept notes for potential donors, drawing up financial projections etc) for the tracking college, and also developing and delivering a training program to help trackers develop a specific experience they could offer to tourists and help them get paid work (there is about 97% unemployment in the community). We both found supporting and coaching people who don’t have a job but have a lot of potential is incredibly rewarding. It was hard work but it made a massive impression on us. Despite leaving Bwabwata a couple of weeks ago we are staying in contact with people there and continuing to help from a distance. Key reflections from this work include:

  • Working directly with people is more fun than staring at a screen
  • Coaching is great fun
  • Working outdoors in such a beautiful setting is fantastic
  • Don’t come to a community with a preconceived idea about how to work with them and what they might want – they will have their own ideas
  • Making a difference requires follow up and a long term relationship – don’t be too outcome focussed in the short term as people may not fit your plans
  • Your local contact is crucial – make sure you can get on well with them.

We had also arranged to do some research work for WWF – on the back of our previous experience of working on climate change in the UK. We spent two weeks working intensively to develop a report and prepare a presentation. We worked harder on this than we worked in London (no break in evenings or weekends). We had no big name of an organisation to fall back on – just the quality of our work – so it had to be good. It was an interesting introduction to independent consultancy work. My key reflections on it were:

  • The deadline nature of the work really makes you focus
  • It allows you to learn through focussed research
  • There is freedom in that you can work when you want to and are more geographically free – you can take projects wherever you want
  • Make sure you have a clear brief and terms of reference before you start
  • It can make you feel like you are having an impact
  • Really focus on the areas of knowledge that will be of use to your clients – not just of interest
  • There is a lot of interesting work out there if you can find it.

So that is where I am now. It is June 12 and it feels like a long time since I was dragging myself out of bed everyday to catch the 159 bus to go to work in London. So much has happened, I have met so many people, made new friends and tracked further down a different mental pathway.

Current thoughts on what I might want to do next:

  • There are three areas I am currently interested in:
    • Coaching individuals
    • Energy access – we saw directly the impact this makes to people
    • Large scale renewables
  • Consultancy is something to think about
  • I’m interested in starting something – not sure what or how or where though.
  • Location - ? No idea – but want to be part of the action

So, no real conclusions. More reflection time needed. We are thinking of kite-surfing down the Quirimbas Archipeligo off the coast of Mozambique next, so hopefully we can work it through in our heads then!

Best blogs and books on working and living differently

For anyone who has worked in an office job for a while and is interested in finding out about a different approach to working, here some sources of info, ideas and inspiration you might want to check out:

Blogs

1. Experiments in Lifestyle Design: the blog of Tim Ferriss
This blog provides some interesting ideas on how to split out how you make money from how you spend your time although take some of it with a pinch of salt.

2. Escape the City

ETC matches up city workers fed up with their jobs with those offering a very different alternative.

3. The Career Break Site

This site provides some great ideas and opportunities for things to do on a career break.

4. The Freedom Business Blog
A new site being set up to provide tips and advice on how to set up a location-independent business.

Books:

The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich

Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills

And What Do You Do?: 10 steps to creating a portfolio career

- The Suitcase Entrepreneur: Create freedom in business and adventure in life.

The Escape Manifesto: Quit Your Corporate Job. Do Something Different!

- Start a Freedom Business<

The $100 Startup

Intro Blog

I have started this blog because I want to bring together all the best info from around the web on how to work differently and because I think it might be fun and useful to chart my own transition from working for a big organisation in London to having a more independent existance. I’m going to be researching all the options for how to work more independetly and cataloguing all the lessons I learn along the way. That’s the basic idea.

I left my job working for a big organisation in London on Friday. Today is Monday. All my colleagues will be sitting at their desks right now, while I am putting the final pieces in place for the next stage of my life. Together with my girlfriend I am heading off to Africa in 11 days time, first to Namibia to work on a conservation project in Bwabwata National Park, and then to Kenya to work on renewable energy projects, and after that who knows…
We have six months of adventures mapped out and I want to use the time to reflect on how I can arrange my life slightly differently.

You see, I am not someone who shuns office life completely. I was doing what I considered to be an important job - working on climate change and energy policy for the government. But after 6 years working at a strategic level, staring at a screen all day and using my opposable thumbs for nothing more than tapping the space bar I felt like I wanted to do something slightly different. In the short term I wanted a break, an adventure, an antidote from office life, and also do something useful where I can see the benefit slightly more directly. Beyond that I don’t know but I think I want to explore some alternative ways of working and living.

Like many people in my situation I have talked about this feeling with friends for some time. Three months ago however I took the plunge and handed in my notice. I have enough money to get by for a bit and by renting my flat I can cover my mortgage payments. This blog will chart my experiences and experiments in my transition to a different way of working and living.