One of the many wonderful and unexpected side effects of blasting away the cobwebs for a couple of years of life on the open road was the opportunity to meet incredible people. Folks we’d never normally be exposed to. People who had opted to deliberately live their lives in unusual ways, extra-ordinary ways. Fabulous people.
Each of them influenced me, left their mark, in different ways.
The French couple who’d sold their supermarket at home, and were uprooting their lives, nippers and all, to go live in the Caribbean. The chap offered me his last beer, a cold one at that, as we sat and mangled our way through French conversation under an oasis in Morocco (as you do). “Why are you doing this?” I asked, at least I think I did. “For the adventure” came the reply, with a sort of confused “of course??” intonation, “why wouldn’t we?”
Chris and Catherine, the British couple who’d sold everything and shifted wholesale into their motorhome to visit all 47 countries in Europe (www.theworldisourlobster.com amusingly records the result and is well worth reading). Chris worked for the first two years as a finance director, using a satellite internet connection. Their travels took three years to complete, and after returning they turned their hands to campsite wardens, livng full time in their van and vowing never to return to corporatedom.
A much-loved parrot called Ozzie, who’s huge cage took up a significant portion of Alastair and Joyce’s full time motorhome’s lounge. These guys had been travelling pretty much for ever, working for a few months at a time to build up funds, before hitting the road for another spell of footlooseness. I pondered the way they funded their life, as we sat drinking wine high up on a Sicilian hillside, wondering at the precarious nature of it. They cared not a hoot, I was mighty impressed at their zest for life.
The ex-pats who’d moved out to Spain and renovated a villa, more ex-pats renovating property and others running a campsite in Bulgaria. Jules and Phil, testing out motorhoming in the Glambulance, and who’s goal was to make themselves homeless (they’ve since succeeded, and are now free). The South African couple whose ‘stuck under a tree’ predicament drew together an instant community of campsite folks to release them, and who gratefully fed us beers later on, telling stories of gated communities, 80 hour work weeks and sleeping with a gun under their pillows. The list isn’t endless, but it’s too long to put out here.
But the folks who had the biggest impact on the way I think were Chris and Tina, Chris in particular (a different Chris to the Lobster crew mentioned above). Early on in our trip we had the good fortune to be at the same aire on the outskirts of San Sebastian one night as their tandom-adorned motorhome, named, wait for it, Christina. Noshing pinxos and sinking round after round of delightfully cheap Rioja we started to get to know them. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was the student, I was ready and the teacher had appeared.
Our paths criss-crossed over the coming months as we pootled through Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Chris was fairly tight-lipped about his views on the world to start off, but it was pretty clear from the off this guy was a disgustingly relentless optimist. His email signature was no shandy ‘kind regards’ or ‘cheers’, but ‘The Fabulous Chris Williams‘. Yep, I leaned backwards too, “who does this guy think he is?”. Took me a long, long while to work out he thinks, nope he truly believes, every last one of us is fabulous.
Coming off the back of eight years in a multi-national corporate IT department, on top of another decade of politics and shenanigans in other cubicled offices, I was shall we say, jaded. This guy was the polar opposite, and at first I trusted him as far as I could throw him. I naturally distrusted most folks thinking about it, but him even more so. No-one could be this positive, this outgoing, without being a fake.
I was wrong, and I’ll be for ever grateful for that.
This stuff all started getting on for four years ago, and the lessons learned from simply watching Chris operate, the way he acted, the way he pushed himself and, very gently, pushed others, his openness, all slowly rubbed off on me. But the biggest influence didn’t come from Chris himself, but from the books he suggested to me. I baulked of course. I didn’t need all this weird self-help shit (yes, this from a man who’d just about had a nervous breakdown a few months before). Guess what? That self-help shit, written by some of the most successful minds in the 20th and 21st centuries, turned out to be rather good. It changed me.
Obsessed with finding a way to never go back to the corporate world (yeah, I went back I know, and don’t regret it, but at the time I was in a different place), the first stuff I was fascinated by was passive income. He suggested Rich Dad Poor Dad. It took me months to get around to reading it, and never looked back. Julie and I are on the verge of being financially free these few years later, and this book was the catalyst to make it happen. It completely opened my eyes to the way in which we think about wonga. Along with a shit load of hard work and more financial education (starting with Chris’ copy of The 4 Laws of Financial Prosperity) it’s given me the freedom I desperately craved.
Some old classics came next. How to Win Friends and Influence People. Right, there’s no way before this point I’d have lowered myself to reading something obviously so self-helpy. I read it, devoured it. I blushed at my own stupidity and wondered why the hell this wasn’t taught at school. I’ve read it twice since, and listened to the audio version to remind me how not to be a fool.
Newer books, but surely bound to be classics, were suggested and attacked. The Slight Edge: Secret to a Successful Life and The Compound Effect are both absolute gems. The Secret is more hard-core, but by the time I’d gotten around to it, so was I. I’d recommend Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway to anyone who can read.
We’ve since ploughed through more books, realising that this type of book is about developing yourself, the way you view your world, your friends, relationships. money, opportunity, challenges, habits, everything, and to think you’ve got this all sussed out is, well, just madness. If I could do 1% of what Chris has done for me, I’d love it, so I’m putting it out there to anyone willing to listen: read these books, any of them.
Get them on audio and listen to them on your commute. Check out your local library (although our local libraries don’t seem to have this kind of good stuff, and are instead packed with Mills&Boon and other such gumf) or search for them on You Tube. Hell, splash out a few quid on eBay on one of them. I doubt you’ll regret it, and it may just help you get whatever you crave in life.
Chris: when you read this, thanks mate. I’m a gnat’s whisker from endless freedom, the opportunity of an extra-ordinary life, and you’ve made it happen for me. I owe you a weißbier, hopefully we’ll sink it in a fancy car park somewhere high in the Alps.