Saturday, 21 October 2017

I can't sleep

I've been awake since 8am. That's not too bad. But I didn't get to sleep until 3.30am.

My phone is bursting with notes I just HAD to write down before I could sleep. Business ideas, blog ideas, where we could live, what car we could get, how to explain this to friends and family, what we will be giving up, whether we want this anyway.

You see, for a while now I've been stuck.

I've got a lovely life. I love my work. I love my family. I love where we live.

But something isn't right.

I'm stressed most of the time. I worry about being able to provide for my daughter year after year.  Running your own business is always a roller-coaster and, even after 20 years in business, I still have quiet times, times when I think no one will ever want to work with me again or times when I'm tempted to take work just because it will pay the bills.

I'm really busy. Who knows why?! But there's never enough time. We've got 2 dogs, 3 rabbits and a couple of gerbils. I'm a single mum running a business that requires a fair bit of travel. I've got a house to look after, a band I sing in, friends I wish I could see more of and I'm home schooling. I'm stretched very thin. But really, is it necessary?

Life has become very expensive. What with the car payments, and the insurance policies, and the riding lessons, and the mortgage, and the bills, and the charitable donations, and the magazine subscriptions, and whatever else, our fixed outgoings are in the thousands of £s every month. That's before we've eaten or bought any clothes or had a holiday. It's always tight. We've accumulated a lot of overhead. And it's literally a full time job keeping up with it.

My daughter is wide open to learning. As home schoolers it's my responsibility to create a rich environment for learning. I'm inspired by families who take their kids on the road, by children who have a broader perspective about life than gymnastics class and Toys R Us and spending money on material things. Right now she's obsessed with YouTube videos of people "unboxing" toys and then slicing them open to see what's inside. To me that represents everything that's wrong in this world. Could shaking up our lives expose her to a world she's never experienced and maybe change her perspective for the better?

There's a big world out there and yet our lives are a bit predictable (despite the roller coaster of the business, of course). Days are spent working, driving, making appointments, keeping appoitments, picking up stuff from the floor, doing the laundry, watching TV, eating. Does it have to be that way?

Which is why I couldn't sleep last night.

I know in my heart that it's time to shake things up. It's time to live in a lighter way - to have less stuff, to be less static, to be more adventurous. With a child at home and no school we're not tied to term times and school runs. With a business that entails a lot of phone, skype and email and only occassionally the need for me to physically be in a place in person, we could be less location dependant. With a family home we can sell and a relatively small mortgage to pay off we could have very few overheads.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not going to throw caution to the wind. We're not planning (not yet anyway) to sell all our worldly goods and drop out of society.

But there are a few things I'm ready for -

1. I want to travel. I don't want to wake up in the same place month after month. I want to explore, learn about new places, be surprised, have an adventure. Without a mortgage and all the bills to pay we could explore the world...and our own country.

2. I want to create time. I want to work but I want that work to blend with my life, giving me time to spend with my daughter, to play, to relax, to look out at the view without fidgeting because I should be doing something else.

3. I want to live NOW. I don't want to wait until retirement to start living. I want to feel like my life is happening right now, not at some point in the future when I have more money, or when I have more time, or when I have fewer commitments. I want to start today.

Sometime between 10pm last night and 3.30am this morning I became clear about what I want our lives to look like in the next few months (the timescale is a little fuzzy right now).

I want us to be basically homeless. I want us to move out of this house and be temporarily living somewhere with just the belongings we can fit in to the back of a car and perhaps a small trailer. We have the dogs of course and they would travel with us, most of the time at least. And I want to be comfortably working on my business 4 hours a day at most so that I have time for other adventures.

Where we will start that adventure I'm not sure yet. Maybe we'll get an AirBnB somewhere for a month, maybe we'll start near where my parents live or closer to friends. Maybe France. But these are questions we don't have to answer yet. I tried to get the answers in the wee small hours but clarity eluded me. I know from previous life upheavals that you can't answer all the questions at the start. You just have to decide what questions you need to answer first.

What I was able to do was get clear on the first few practical steps -

Revamp the business - My business is high maintenance. I need to step back from it and work out how to make it much more simple. It really shouldn't require 8-10 hours a day of complete focus (plus all the hours I'm supposed to be doing something else but really just thinking some more about the business). This means some strategic businessy stuff which I'm sure you aren't interested in! But somehow I have to get my business ready for the road and a new lifestlye.

Get some money - All my money is tied up in my house and in investments. I'm not loaded! But I could live on my savings for a year if we were careful. Next week I'm meeting a financial advisor and one of my questions will be whether we could use that money to support our change of lifestyle. It's hard to disrupt your life if you're worried about where the money will come from and while I'm confident that I can continue to work, to find new business, to bring money in, removing the pressure of HAVING TO for a year could really help me do the revamping required without worrying about cashflow.

Get out of this house - It's a bit complicated but my house is rented to tenants and we're living in a house my parents own. It's fine but it's full of their junk, the garden is too small, it's not really configured for how we live and my parents want to sell it. If we can get out of here, stick our stuff in storage and find places to stay for a month at a time (or so) we'll be on our way with our adventure. My parents can sell this house. I can sell my house. My overheads will drop. My responsibilities will reduce. We will have choices.

Clear the clutter, lighten the load - I've got to start getting rid of some stuff. There are cupboards and cupboards of old towels and sheets here and who knows what's under the eaves in the attic?! I pared down my belongings when I rented out my old house and what's left is now sitting in a storage container for some future date when I need furniture. But there's plenty of rubbish in this house too. I brought ALL my work related books and ALL my back issues of Harvard Business Review. Given that anything I want to find is online and that I've read all of the books anyway, I should just get rid of them. I've got clothes I don't wear and paperwork I really don't need. I need to get the contents of this house down to one storage unit (which will mean I have two, I know, it's still a lot) plus the stuff we'll travel with. And that means convincing my daughter that she doesn't need everything she's collected too.

Oh, a word about her.

At some point in my mid-night musings it did occur to me that she may not be fully on board with this plan.

When she realises she'll have to leave behind most of her toys, especially all of her cuddly animals, she may not be as thrilled as she was when I suggested we do more traveling together.  When she realises it means not seeing her friends so easily or going to her clubs or getting a pig right now (Yes, we want a pig!) she may not be enthused. It's all very well having great plans but you've got to get the other key players on board.

Maybe that's step one. Or maybe there's no way she can be fully on board until she's out there living it with me. I'll let you know!

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