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How We Work and Travel

We have been asked many times over the years about how we work and travel.

The question we get is more like “How can you afford to travel the way you do?”.

Some say: “You must be ‘trust baby’s’, you don’t know how hard it is for the rest of us!”.

There are other even more ridiculous ones like that too. I recently had a former friend, more an associate actually, named Jolon Cook, message me on Facebook, saying that not all of us were born with a silver spoon up their arses…

hmmm…

People make big assumptions and sometimes they can be rather hurtful, but I do understand that this is mostly their reaction to something they see in you that reminds them of something they don’t like about themselves. They wouldn’t have a go at you about it if it weren’t a part of who they see themselves as.  Thankfully those people are few and far between and they can be blocked easily nowadays.

My oldest son has often marvelled at how we manage to get by. When he has asked me, I have actually found it rather difficult to answer. The reality is that we mostly just muddle our way through. Both Vero and I have skills and cone do a bunch of things really well. Mine are listed below. Her great talents are photography and videography, but she is turning into a really good editor as well it seems. She is also a teacher who runs courses on photography and videography for adults and kids. They can be in person or remotely. She will probably write about work and travel for her separately, so keep an eye out, if you want to know more.

For some reason, this last week or so, the questions about work and travel keep cropping up, actually a few times a day this last week. The frequency of it popping up has made me realise I need to address it directly and now.

About 13 years years ago I lost everything I had, family, money, home everything. I was in all ways destroyed and I had to completely start again from scratch. It took me about 3 years to come to terms with, those were the darkest years of my life, but that’s another story altogether. I finally turned the corner and…

For the last 10 years I have focused on two approaches to making money:

Approach 1- the Big Deals

Over the course of many years, I  have developed a network of friends and business associates. People doing all sorts of wonderful things. I discovered that I could actually make some money by introducing one of them to another of them with the sole purpose of helping each of them to fulfil an objective they have. For example, one might have a project, another might be looking for quality investment opportunities.

This was exactly the first ‘deal’ of this type I did. I had one friend with a great business idea that he had developed it up into a proven concept. Another friend was looking to invest money into that exact type of business. I set up a lunch, inviting them both, told them each they needed to meet and helped them to get to know each other. They did some business and paid me a commission for getting them together. The thing was it was a big deal and I made a great commission.

And I was hooked. To this day I spend 50-60% of my workday putting together these sorts of ‘big deals’. Unfortunately, my track record is about 1 in 100 of these ‘big deals’ actually work out. While those odds would suggest I could spend my time more constructively, the reality is they give me a much higher return than anything else I have ever done. The drawback is it can sometimes be years between hits.

Last year I didn’t close one of them. I should qualify this by saying that one deal is hanging over from last year and we are expecting it to close any day now. Contracts were signed in April last year and we have been up and down and in and out and it has taken 7 months longer than anyone could have possibly thought to get it closed. Frankly, it was a disaster for us as a family. I still don’t know when it will close and as I sit here writing this post, I am nervous as hell about it, as I am 100% counting on it closing this week!

Approach 1 is nerve-racking, to say the least, but the pay-offs are epic. This current ‘big deal’ we are waiting on will pay for our yacht and then some!

Approach 2

This has been a mixture of many types of work. The common threads have been that this work mostly with smaller companies or individuals and startups, it is focused around assisting with the development of a business opportunity or the development of a strategic plan for entering into a new business area or market. I have sometimes worked as a consultant, with a fixed fee over a fixed time period or fees tied to KPI’s.

The work has included:

  • Researching a market for a new product or product concept,
  • Providing an implementation plan
  • Creating strategic business plans
  • Web and marketing plan development
  • Brand development for Startups (this includes Website and market positioning plans)
  • Implementation of a marketing plan (actually set it up and running it)
  • Development of legal and operational documentation for a new business
  • Team leader for International corporate structuring of a new business
  • Role out planning and implementation.
  • Designing and implementing the creation of ‘zero footprint’ business models (businesses that operate without and operational office)
Another way to look at it

I guess all that sounds rather professional. I do take my work very seriously and like to work, but It’s really not as fancy as it sounds. So I could also describe my work as:

  • Advising people not to hire me, 5 times out of 10,
  • Helping people to reconsider what they are doing or how they want to do it.
  • Mostly helping those same people to take a more realistic look at what they are doing from their potential customers’ point of view.
  • Taking their complicated ideas and carving them down into simple workable ways to get their products out to their customers
  • Working on helping people see the wood for the trees
  • Talking some sense into them and try to steer them in the right direction
  • Giving them workable plans
  • Sometimes helping them carry out those plans
  • bringing a sober eye to a project or business concept
  • Helping people to see the customers perspective (this one probably being the most important)
What does it all mean for us?

It basically means that sometimes we run out of money while we are travelling. Other times I make a packet. We run out sometimes, mostly because i am not so great at planning my own personal finances. I think this is mostly due to me being way too optimistic about timelines and trusting of people in general. For an insight into how we have dealt with running out of money on the road while travelling with our kids, have a read of one of those times that we experienced in India, We were penniless with no clue what to do next.

You are possibly wondering why we keep travelling when this sort of thing can happen to us. Perhaps we are a little insane too, but we all love being on the move. As an example, after two months of staying put in Malta late last year, we had to do a rip up to St Petersberg to take care of some family stuff. It was really bad timing, we did really have the funds to do it and cover our bills and it meant having to. do have of the trip by road, to pick up warm enough clothes for a stay there as it was -11c the whole time we were there (we also wanted to grab other things we had in storage besides our winter clothes).

Before coming to Malta we left the car in Sicily and to get those things from storage, we needed to take a ferry and then drive 1650km to Innsbruck to our storage. Then on to Munich and then fly to St Petersburg. It all sounds rather arduous doesn’t it, but you can’t imagine how excited and happy the kids were when we got back into that car and started driving. They were practically jumping out of their skin!

And…

On that drive, we stopped at Terma Di Satornia (feel free to read the post) and had a wonderful time.

To finally answer the question

So, I set out to answer the question, how do you make money while you are travelling. We do whatever we can while respecting the law of the land we are in. I write about the technical aspects of working abroad separately in another post. We do not advocate working without a work permit or appropriate visa anywhere you travel to.

But How do we get by? I thought I had a simple and easy answer, but after this last year, I don’t. Writing this post I am still not sure how we get through. In 2018, we ran out of money more times than I can actually remember.

We are all a bit exhausted by it, but then I remind myself what we did while we were so busy running out of money. We:

  • Went skiing in Austria for a month before winter properly hit (Hintertux)
  • Lived half the winter in  Lithuania
  • Spent a few weeks on the shores of Lake Como
  • Had a wonderful weekend in Venice
  • Enjoyed the rest of the Winter in London after a month in Sweden in between
  • Spent the fall (autumn) by the beach in Portugal, Touring France on the way.
  • Created gardens in the  spring on a farm in the mountains of Italy
  • Lived on and work on a Beautiful Vinyard in Switzerland
  • Spent a chunk of last summer on the beach in Croatia
  • Drove 44,000km around Europe visiting almost every country in the EU

I made small to medium sums doing the consulting work and some work for a startup. This was partially remotely from where we actually were and partly on location (I could have made more if I wasn’t so determined to make sure people really did need my help before taking on a job) and…

We scrapped by.

I continue to strive for the big payoffs that the ‘big deals’ bring, but they are so very far and few between, that it gets really punishing sometimes.

Somehow I get us through, well it’s more like we get us through because Vero does her work too. As i mentioned above, she will write about that better than I could.

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