So this is my first blog post….ever, & hopefully one of many on this little escapade. Today, for the first day in months I can actually sit back with a bit of free time & reflect on where we are at. It’s been a hell of a long slog prepping for this ‘life changing’ decision, everyone has their own way of making such a choice & this post is brief one about mine.
First thing’s first, my DREAM, even 10 years ago: to own a catamaran of which I’ll convert the smallest room into a dive room with a compressor/cylinders/dive gear & kite surfing gear, have it anchored in a spectacular island area like Maldives, to take my son & daughter scuba-diving along with each of their friends to then come up & debrief discussing all the aquatic life encountered, while my wife sings along to her favourite tunes making delicious foods especially from the tuna caught earlier;) both doing a little dance after some good wine, tanning in the sun or kite surfing in the wind or christmas beds in the rain & being able to drive the boat to our next destination myself. Inviting friends to join on their holiday &/or head ashore to try the local restaurants & cultural experiences. A floating home of love & activities, I can’t think of anything better, & that my readers, is going to be a reality! Yes many years from now ;-D
Secondly, you need a quick life/career summary: After matric I wasn’t exactly sure of what I wanted to achieve career path wise, my champion uncle, Greg Scarles, who’s a successful business man & runs his own, advised that I do my CA degree since I had the marks to do almost whatever I wished. I’m sure he wasn’t wrong but after completing half the UCT application form I thought about the typical suit wearing/corporate/briefcase/formal attire & concluded that with the bit of farm roots still within, this was not up my alley. So I crunched up the papers & chose to coach sport at a high school in England, King’s School Canterbury, for my GAP year of 2004. At the end of this GAP year my older brother Shaun got me thinking about my career path & I specifically chose civil engineering for its reputation & roles associated with it – I could be involved in big decisions/projects based on amazing physics while also getting to be outside half the time, without being in a suit;) A bursary with Group Five, 5.5 years of cheap drinks in Stellenbosch & an Afrikaans koshuis got me through this degree I enjoyed so much, finishing in 2010. I’ve since served 4 great years with SRK Consulting, based in the Cape Town office & specialising in geotechnical engineering. In October 2014 I was asked to join a massive railway project in Malawi & I had the honour of working with some of SRK’s greats as well as a multinational engineering team on a project worth billions. 5 incredible months were spent here, on the border of Malawi & Mozambique south west of Mwanza, at a campsite deep in the bush. This time of solitude combined with hard graft changed my philosophy of life – it was so so great to be away from the ‘noise’ of Cape Town & the social scene!! I loved the intense outdoor engineering responsibilities & travelling to places off the beaten track. It was here inspiration took a new meaning & I aimed to achieve something more than what I had back home, a new plan.
“The greatest value in life is not what you get, the greatest value in life is what you become” – Jim Rohn
Important note to make is that I met Natasha just before I left for Malawi in October 2014…. The options running through my head at this point were 1) Transfer to another SRK office elsewhere in the world for the challenge, 2) Change companies for exposure somewhere overseas, 3) Leave the civil for a short period & work as an engineer on a yacht to earn non-rands & travel. To sum it up, come April 2015 after much emailing & Skyping with Ms fanTashtical, we came up with a plan that would suit both our needs/wants as well as giving us the opportunity to travel, fiercely, before ‘really growing up’ or being settled (you all know what I mean). The decision was to work on the luxury yachts…with a bon voyage date of September 2015.
Personally, my biggest worry was, “What will the impact of this decision have on me & my career going forward? Was I doing the right thing?”
After 4 years I needed this change & I needed to be confident in my decision. I’m predominantly left brain orientated: rational, practical, organised & planning for the future but gratefully my social days of trancing (amongst other things) have added a sense of freedom from the norm, wonder & joie de vivre, to my character. My mom says I live 25 hour days & exhaust her, I like this thought;)
So my “to-do” list started & my goodness did it continue for the next 4 months. Research & asking the right questions to the right people was my starting point, making sure I found out all I could know to make an intellectual decision.
- Firstly, April was spent seeing family, visiting our old farm in Melmoth for a wedding, finding a place to rent/live, get banking & personal admin up to date, & starting to see mates.
- I took 2 friends fathers, who were successful civil engineers, out to supper & covered the bill for their precious career advice.
- Consulting with as many experienced ‘yachties’ & yacht engineers as possible via Facebook, email & Skype started daily. Finding out the route they took, problems they faced, money they’re making & courses required. Continuously!
- Keeping strict financial accounts of all the money saved while working in Malawi & where this will be spent, as well as my monthly income & expenses. This was a great decision – I had several expensive courses to complete & budgeting would be the discipline to keep me from going into the red.
- Microsoft Excel was already a best friend & I kept records of ALL information, contacts, money transactions etc. I strongly encourage people to do the same because the words “I don’t know where it all goes” is not something any successful person will be saying.
- An online, interactive calendar (www.teamup.com) allowed myself & Tash to coordinate & communicate all the plans, events, courses, leave days taken etc. This was EXTREMELY helpful since we cannot trust our memory, especially in this day of short attention spans, technology & activity plans here & there. GOSH!
- Although I accumulated over 30 days of leave from working 7 days a week in Malawi, I did not use these for a holiday upon my return. Instead my plan was to continue working fulltime up until or close to our departure date. I then utilised these leave days for the several courses I needed to complete & for days I needed to get admin sorted. I then sold the rest of the days to pay off an expenses associated with going overseas.
- For the months June through to September, there was only ONE weekend Tash & I could spend fully together, relaxing or being romantic, since I was committed to the following courses & “things to organize”; 9 day STCW10, 1 day Proficiency in Security Awareness, 2 day RYA Powerboat Level 2, 1 day medical exam, 5 day Approved Engine Course, 2 day Rescue Diver, 2.5 month PADI Dive Master, taking the Zonnebloem Drifter for a service, getting new passport & ID card, my 30th birthday, moving out & selling stuff in storage, dentist appointments, obtaining a USA B1/B2 visa as well as a Schengen visa, getting my Seamans Discharge Booklet, AGM meeting & managing my rented out flat in Rondebosch, the list continues… Huge thanks to Tashels for putting up with me;)
- Since Tash was going to be leaving her permanently employed position at Pam Golding, we discussed that it was vital that she use the opportunity to borrow the banks money to purchase her first property. Since once she leaves, it’ll be a long while before the banks would lend her kroon. And we did just that, found out what the bank was happy to lend & purchased an amazing property for investment purposes who’s rental each month covers 95% of the associated expenses. I really love the property investment market & am willing to help any friends do the same as Tash, it’s really easy & faaaaar safer than the unpredictable stock markets at the moment. It actually goes into her name at the end of this month – congrats my girl!;)
- On the property note, using my Malawian payslips, I maximized my bond to the full amount. This way I had a lot more cash available for gearing & I didn’t want any hassles in the future once I’d left my permanent position with SRK.
- Since our current plan is that we’ll be away working for 2 years it was decided against keeping all my furniture in storage. It’ll inconvenience the people who may need to move it later, my taste my change & having it sit so long could lead to damages. “OLX, SELL IT!”
- Making sure we both signed up with as many of the reputable crew agents as possible (in the South Of France & USA) so that we would not have to do this upon arrival.
And quite quickly, as horizontal lines invaded my to-do list, my last day of work arrived, Friday 28th August 2015. It was really sad to leave since my team & boss Bruce Engelsman were so great to work for & I’d learnt so much. I am extremely grateful for the knowledge gained & opportunities given. But as you’re aware, my decision was final & excitingly in-tune with my dream. We flew out on the 8th September to Nice, France after a wonderful send off. Tash has shared some of our initial experiences already – mind blown.
Note: at the Zurich airport we paid R420 for 4 items; 2 waters, a yoghurt & a subroll. Ridiculous!!!
Our researched plan was to get myself a few weeks experience as the season finishes up in the South of France & catch a crossing to the Caribbean. My poor girlfriend Tashalonious has had to put up with me arriving in Antibes & still being so driven/business focused, walking the docks daily & updating online agency information until 12 at night instead of enjoying the experience. Don’t get me wrong I was loving the journey but I still needed MUCH detoxing of the busyness the last 4 months had presented, I needed to chill out. I needed to remind myself that I can let go now a little since I have PEAKED, I’d reached my goal of managing to get everything done & dusted, & to be where I am. And I am proud of both our achievements!!
To conclude, I woke up this morning after a well deserved lie-in & opened the windows of our 3rd story apartment to look down over the narrow cobbled streets of Old Town Antibes, already a hassle & bustle with restaurants tables along the edges & buskers down the way on a saxophone & guitar. I made myself my first homemade cappuccino & decided to write my first blog, at that precise moment I was encaptured by the saxophone playing Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my way”…..I couldn’t help but shed some tears of joy & appreciation, of how I had done this my way against all odds & criticism. Thanks to all who played part & most of all thanks to my amazing girlfriend, I love you x