My podcast launches next week and this week was more than a little hectic, so sharing an unpublished story from Travels Without Charlie.
“You’re a long way from home,” I said looking at the man I’d just overheard talking.
“Not really,” he said. “I live just around the corner.” … looking me straight in the eyes and smiling right back.
We both laughed. He knew what I was talking about. We were thousands of miles away from England, the country where we both hailed from and here we were talking to each other as if we were in an English pub. I guess like all people we pick up our accent in others when we hear it - sometimes trying to nail the region of origin, if not the county or even city.
I nailed the region. I failed the city. Turns out he moved here 12 years ago, in that time I guess his regional accent had been ‘smoothed over’.
“No, with my wife and 4 children.”
“Wow … I guess someone made you an offer you couldn’t refuse? I mean that is a big move.”
“It was. A lot bigger than either of us had foreseen - and no - there was no corporate pull, no job waiting. We both just felt that the time had come. We wanted our children to see another part of the world. So we made the decision to jump.
I sometimes wonder if we knew then what we came to learn whether we would have had the courage to make that jump. It was nerve-racking.
You forget the importance of connections. Back in England, I was a known quantity. People called me up with contract opportunities. After we moved here I spent what seemed like an eternity in a wilderness. The only calls were when I made them, introducing myself, hustling. I mean, even when somebody calls you there’s always an element of that - but this was different. Half of the conversations over here were explaining who I was. I was unknown, In the end, I got work but spent the first 4 years on success contracts only - no fixed payment of any kind. Nerve-racking doesn’t even get to it. My oldest was 7 years old, my youngest was 7 months old and my wife was not allowed to work.
The early contracts started paying off in year 5. In year 6 - I started getting the calls.
By then I’d proved myself. It didn’t matter what I’d done somewhere else. What mattered was that I could do it on their turf. I did. I had - in spades. The shoe was now on the other foot. Now they wanted me.
In the next few years, I took fixed fee-only, just so that I could fill-up the bank account again and the early contracts were paying out, so I could invest on top of working the contracts.
That’s been the way now for the past 4 years. Funny third - third - third - never thought of that before.
Would I do it again? I’m not sure. It turned out well in the end - really well - but the journey was gruelling. It was hard on the children. Even harder on my wife.
I guess if you really want something, you should just go for it. That wasn’t me. I wanted something different. I wanted adventures for my family, but ….”
… his voice trailed away as he was shaking his head. He looked up.
“BUT at the end of the day, here I am. In the past 4 years, I have achieved what would only have been a dream back home - and I still have a lot of life in me, so really - I shouldn’t regret it. Had I stayed there, I wouldn’t have known that I’d missed this. Then again, I wouldn’t have missed being close to bankruptcy and the poverty line.
The fact is, you just don’t know. You pick your route through life and live with the consequences.”
‘Regrets’ is a story from the ‘
Travels Without Charlie
’ series. A recurring theme in the series is one of picking up and starting again. It seems so easy. If you're young, you have nothing to lose. If you are older, but the corporate expat package protects you ... no problem. If it all works out - the stories get told. But when it doesn’t - where are those stories? How do we learn? Keith isn't his real name, but I thank him for opening up his heart and telling his story. In the end it worked for him, but the journey was hard.
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