Is it brave or stupid to up sticks, sell everything and simplify your life?
The problem with the rat race is it doesn’t matter if you win or lose; you’re still a rat. I remember reading this once and it stayed with me. Am I a small, smelly, hairy mammal? Well, yes. But a rat? I think not. It was about 2002 and I was working as an Associate Director for a global market research organisation. I loved my job, but it could be stressful and sometimes meant working until 11pm if it looked as if a deadline was in jeopardy. The market research interviewers were mostly resting actors so I could camp it up at work and have a laugh. The money was good enough for me to be able to afford a nice little two bedroom house next to Victoria Park in Hackney so I had no complaints.
My partner and I sat talking over breakfast one Saturday about moving to the country when we were old(er) and grey(er). A bona latty with a bit of land. Chickens, haystacks, homemade jam, rainbows and glitter. It all sounded so perfect. I was in my thirties, my partner in his forties, that’s over a hundred in gay years. That Monday we put our houses on the market and gave our notice at work. Why wait for retirement?
Four months later we moved into a cottage with two acres of garden on the Lincolnshire Fens. It was all very Tom and Barbara. We had chickens, we had ducks, we had our own orchard, we started a business selling make-up and perfume on local markets. The only thing we didn’t have was an income. We’d seen so many pig-ugly people we were sure make-up would be a best seller. Wrong. I was a market researcher who hadn’t researched his market. Stupid boy.
Before going into market research I had had all sort of jobs from settling bets at a bookmakers to packing frocks in a warehouse to managing nightclubs in Soho, but they weren’t exactly transferable skills so I started work as a part time shelf stacker at B&Q. I went through a few low paying part time and zero hours jobs before landing an ok paying ‘proper’ job with the local council.
A job with the council. Security. Pension. Sorted. I looked forward to growing a fat bum and getting lazy.
Ah, but no, it turns out working for the council actually does involve hard work. Who knew? And then along comes credit crunch, followed by recession followed by austerity. With these demons came restructures and redundancies. I was very lucky. I ran two business centres and five industrial estates for the council.
My team bought in revenue so it was unlikely that we would be closed down altogether like so many other non-statutory service areas. Despite this, I had 5 years of stress wondering if we would hit our revenue targets, wondering if I or any of my team would find our jobs made redundant but still making sure our customers were happy and well looked after with no budget, no resources and nowhere near enough staff.
Was the good life in the country what we had been looking for? All things considered, yes. Once we left work, got home and slipped into something more comfortable we didn’t really think about work until the next day. I could look out of our living room window at a big field with no houses in sight. Even better, it was our field. We had a nice big motorhome and went off for weekends and holidays with our friends. Life was good.
And then it happened again.
My partner from London was now my husband. He and I were talking about one day, when the house and garden become too big for us, selling up, buying a little flat to rent out and travelling around in our motorhome until we are ready to settle down again. We really need to stop talking, it always leads to upheaval. A week later we had a cash buyer for the house and we’d handed in our notice at work.
So, here we are less than a year later. We bought a seaside bungalow which we rent out by the week as a holiday let. It pays for itself and we’ll live in it eventually. We now live in our motorhome and work as wardens on a small camp site on the shore of Bala Lake in rural Wales.
We’re a fifty minute drive from the nearest supermarket. We work ten hours a day if it’s busy, maybe one hour if it’s not. We please ourselves. We’re here until the end of October and then who knows? We sold or gave away all our possessions except the few bits we carry in the van with us and some treasures stored in the lofts of friends and family. We feel liberated and happy.
My day used to begin with noise, people and fighting to get on the 26 bus along Hackney Rd. This morning I let the chickens out and escorted an escaped sheep back into the field next door.
So, is it brave or stupid to up sticks, sell everything and simplify your life? I don’t know yet, ask me in a year.
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.