How To Get Paid To Chill By The Beach In A Campervan
“You’re brown; have you been away?” Says pretty much everybody I see, including random strangers who have zero point of reference for my average daily melanin status at the moment. This is my most heard phrase from roughly May onwards; every year for the past ten years. And yes, I’m brown. Not just because I’m one of those people who tan within about ten minutes of being outside (that is kind of true) but because I genuinely am outside a lot.
What you can’t hear in this description is the tone of voice and the suspicious squint that typically accompany these words. It’s less of a compliment and more of an accusation. They’re telling me I look tanned but their eyes suggest something more like “How dare you be brown, are you even working at them moment?” possibly even “Don’t stand next to me with your summer glow; I don’t need that kind of juxtaposition with my pale, office trapped pallor”. Or at least, that’s what I’m picking up. Honestly, you should see the squints.
You can always just tell when somebody is having a better time of it than you; not just the skin colour but the shorts and tee-shirt, the flip-flops, the easy going grin and the relaxed demeanour. It’s easy to despise. Especially at this time of year and in this country. If we get a few good weeks of sunshine in the UK then it’s sod’s law that it won’t coincide with our booked annual leave. I used to live in South Australia and my ex father in law always said the good thing about sitting in dull board meetings in Australia was that you could look out the window, see the blue sky and know that it would still be blue when you finished work. And warm, BBQ time, every time. But not here; here you need the universe to put some seriously sunny ducks in a row for you to align your time off with warm, sunny daylight hours. So there’s something to be said for finding yourself outside of that particular set of rules; the card punching, four office walls malarky. Not for me, no thanks
But why me? Why do I get to mince about on sunny days, working from my back garden, driving my camper van to the beach or the riverside and tethering my laptop to my phone so I can set up office pretty much wherever I like and watch waves roll in or trees sway or salmon leap majestically out of the water (that one not so much actually) whilst I shuffle numbers about a spreadsheet instead of staring at an office wall adorned with some lifeless motivational poster (composing unfeasibly long questions)?
Because I’ve worked hard to engineer my life that way. My ‘career path’ has costed in the things that I’ve found to be valuable to me. A traditional route to career success or even just job satisfaction (whatever they mean – it’s subjective) might be weighted towards education, the right network, CV box ticking, ascribed, industry recognised training course and relevant experience. Of course, all of that is valid depending on the desired outcome. If however the desired outcome has goals that are ‘adjacent’ to, rather than aligned with the typical definition of success (usually salary + bonus + the right car and the nice house) then the path can justifiably look a little different.
Don’t be defined by somebody else’s definition of ‘winning’
Success is simply what winning looks like for you. It should never be defined by somebody else’s definition of winning. My definition of success is probably something like Financial tranquility + time + camper van + happy home. I value the time just as much as I do the money. I’m pretty sure that wanting less and being grateful for what I have is FAR closer to being happy than constantly striving for the next house, new car/TV/whatever. It’s certainly way less stressful. But being able to finish early a few days a week, pick up my kids from school and hang out with them while they are still young and actually enjoy hanging out with me (increasingly debatable but I remain hopeful)? That is time I’ll never get back. I can always earn more money.
Here’s a fact – this is true and inarguable. On my deathbed, if I have a regret, it won’t be “I spent too little time in an office and way too much time being with, and there for, my children as they grew up”. Knowing that to be true then I really don’t have a strong argument for a ‘traditional’ career path right now.
And just to clarify; Financial Tranquility means enough money. By nobody’s definition would that be a lot; it means enough to pay the bills, do what I enjoy with people I love (explore/play/travel/learn) and (and I’m not there yet) be in a position of not worrying about being able to do either of those. It is NOT about having more. I don’t need more. Less if anything – but that’s a different story…
Design your life
So given that I know what I want (and have for a long time), I have chosen to engineer or ‘design’ a life with those objectives in mind. Not a million miles away from a more common approach but instead of asking “Will this decision lead to a pay rise, a more prestigious job title, a cooler office etc?” I asked “Will this decision make financial sense without impacting the time I need to spend with the kids?”. What it came down to was a fairly simple formula:
- Decide how much money I need to earn every month and divide that by the number of hours I want to work. Somewhere in there is a balance that dictates my hourly rate.
- Once I have my hourly rate and the number of hours I need to fill I can start to figure out the plan
I’m skilled in digital media and enjoy training people to use social media platforms, develop their digital marketing and generally work the geek vibe, so I started a company that allows me to do exactly that, at the rate I desire.
I’m also pretty passionate about paddle boarding and being outside, so one of my goals over the next 12 months is to become a qualified paddle board instructor with a view to developing some cool paddle board tours in the UK and in add places overseas. I’m stupidly excited about it and if I hadn’t done the first thing I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had the time to start developing that plan. Basically I’m aiming to work the digital training and the paddle board instructing side by side. Maybe one will take off and negate the other, perhaps the other will not work out and I’ll need to weight towards the former, or find something else entirely. Either way, it’s me, my plan, my time and I’ll get out of it what I put in. You are skilled in what you are skilled at, and you may well have passions, hobbies or interests that are just waiting for you to turn into your desired hourly rate.
The bottom line is that I decided not to pursue a job that already existed but rather create the job I wanted that gave me the income and the TIME that allowed me to focus on exactly what was/is important to me at any given time.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a rollercoaster. You need reasonably sized kahoonas to give up the sanity saving salary. I still haven’t found the perfect way to do everything and there probably isn’t one but I enjoy the freedom to evolve or change what I’m doing if the need arises. Which it often does. Money can be tight, and sometimes it can be rad, but over time it generally works out OK.
This week has been tough; a relationship ended and there’s never any quick fix for grief (no slush today – go here if you want some more on that). But it reminded me of the importance of focusing on the plan. Saying NO to the drains, or to anything less than deserves a HELL YES. There’s something cool about clearing the clutter, making a little space and remembering where you are going, and why. For me it’s parenting, being healthy, finding peace of mind, travel and adventure, people I love. For you it may be different, but for us all I think it’s important to remember what’s important; time is more valuable than money, it really is. You can always make more money.
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