• Laura Greenland

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Those are words of Gandalf - from J.R.R Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.

Never has a truer word been spoken. If I had to choose a phrase of the year for 2020 - then the insight uttered by Gandalf to Frodo would have been high up on my list.

As the clock rolled past midnight on 31st December 2019, fireworks went off across the globe, the world bursting with anticipation about the year to come. I don’t think a single person could have predicted what lay ahead of us.

It’s a funny thing - New Year's Eve. We set ourselves what feel like bold, brave resolutions that are often forgotten by 17th January - the day that people most commonly abandon their ambitious plans. We were going to get fitter, create a new morning routine, learn to ski, run a marathon... But, how many of us actually sit down at that reflective time of year and question if we’re truly, genuinely happy?

I rolled into the beginning of 2020 (largely due to the vast amount of chocolate I’d consumed at Christmas) with that mundane sense of the familiar. Back to work. Back to my desk. Back to the inbox of doom. It’s not that I hated my job. But I’d be lying to you if I said I hadn’t got to a point where I was just going through the motions.

Deep down, I’d known something was little… off. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but I’d been inspired enough to start freelancing in the evenings - long before the pandemic was even a possibility. I’d been seeking creative fulfillment. That’s the trouble with progressing up the corporate ladder. It’s great being the Marketing Manager - but that often means that you’re doing far more management than marketing.

So there I was. Juggling a few clients alongside an exceedingly big and busy job. Plodding my way through the monotony of the 9-5. Renting a house with my husband that was nice enough, but combined with our other bills, was eating up a terrifying proportion of our salaries. And we were saddled with the best part of £15,000 in credit card debt that has accumulated throughout our 20’s. I didn’t think I was desperately miserable but I didn’t exactly catapult myself out of bed each morning with a spring in my step!

Then along came COVID. Working in travel pre-pandemic had its perks, don’t get me wrong. I was incredibly lucky to have travelled out to Mauritius, just weeks before the global lockdowns came into force. But even then, in early March, it just didn’t feel like it could possibly be as scary or as serious as everyone was making out.

It turned out that working in travel mid-pandemic wasn’t quite as rosy. As my colleagues sat around enjoying furlough, baking banana bread and basking in the sunshine, I threw myself into launching a proper business. I had a gut feeling that my job wasn’t going to be there to go back to. My instincts were right, so when redundancy followed in June, I was left at a crossroads. Did I continue trying to build a completely new brand and business, in the middle of a major global catastrophe? Or, did I play it safe and see if I could find another “stable” job?

By that point, we’d already made another fairly life-altering decision. We were so tired of paying someone else’s mortgage. We wanted a home of our own but with mounting debt, mediocre household income and sky-high bills, it felt like it was never going to happen for us. The time had come to make a radical change. When the dreaded letter landed with the “Your role is being made redundant” message inside, we were already in the process of turning our entire way of living on its head.

We had decided to buy a campervan. We were going to sell or donate what ended up being about 90% of our belongings, to move into the van full-time. We’d run the numbers. We knew that if we lived and travelled in the van for a couple of years, we’d finally be able to make some progress financially. It was scary - it meant investing money we didn’t really have to get the van. We also wanted to convert it to be a completely off-grid solution, to give us the freedom and flexibility we so craved.

I guess the route to take at those crossroads was perhaps a little clearer than it seemed at the time. Conventional living and conventional working go hand in hand. An office job and a nomadic lifestyle? Not so much. It’s been an absolute blast since we hit the road last July. We get to wake up to a new view every single morning and as soon as the restrictions ease, we intend to head off further afield to see more of the UK and Europe.

On paper, it probably looked mad. Walking away from regular monthly income, starting a business in the most unpredictable year on record and moving into a van with a rather large German Shepherd. I’m sure our friends and family thought we’d gone entirely crackers.

But, the results speak for themselves though. My business is thriving. I now have two VAs in my team and my husband was able to quit his job in December. The business is now funding him to retrain in a new sector. I’ve worked with over 60 phenomenal businesses in the last 12 months. I get so much enjoyment working with soulful, creative entrepreneurs on their marketing and brand strategies - and I’ve just launched a brand new membership. Oh, and our credit card debt? It’s finally gone!

To achieve what we did in 2020 required an unwavering commitment to make a change, sheer dedication to ensure progress happened quickly and the courage to throw the rulebook out of the window. We only get one shot at life, as far as science suggests. One fleeting opportunity to live your life to its full potential. What you choose to do with your brief time on this beautiful planet is entirely in your hands. You just have to be brave enough to take a leap of faith every now and again. Trust me - you won’t regret it.

Laura Greenland - Marketing & Brand Strategist

Ebb, Flow & Grow

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