False Start #3. America

We were moving to New York! We knew the drill pretty well by this time, the order of things. We knew when to notify the schools (never), how to spot the psychos on the ex-pat forums (exclamation marks!), when to hand in Menna’s notice (last moment), how to sell it to the kids (‘listen, you’ve both heard about cowboys right?’).

We flew to New York as a family in Easter 2019. We met the relocation people and spent a couple of fairly depressing days looking around heinously expensive apartments in Brooklyn, creaky mansions in New Jersey, posh villages in Connecticut. We found the gushing realtors extremely irritating and had to reassure ourselves that many Americans weren’t like that. We dined out with all the company execs. I had the kids on best behaviour and looking angelic for dinner with my boss and his family, and I listened in awe while Menna spun a finely calibrated sob story about how she would be forced to leave her beloved career to move to the US, and tried to pump up the relocation package.

Guess what? After nearly a year of visa application delays (Trump!), this one fell through too. Shift of focus to Asia..[bleep]…maintain balance of executive team across key hubs…[static hiss]… investors want stability prior to transaction year…[click]… the general direction of overheads being inverse to desired trajectory… [system overloading] safeguarding P&L in a transaction phase… [error, CRASH, malfunction, death!]

This is when we started cooking something new. Screw the corporate relocation. Screw business generally. I needed to extricate myself from high-stress leadership positions that suck the hours out of your soul and then screw you like a wingnut. Menna needed to take a break from her all-consuming hospital work. We needed to spend more time together as a family and we needed to do it somewhere that wasn’t South London.

That’s when we hatched project Global Domination. We would simply quit our jobs, rent out our house and remove the kids from school. We would raid the rainy day fund. We would get primitive and nomadic for a year or so. Become masters of our own destiny again!

We would start in Capetown and then spend some months under canvas, off-roading our way up to Nairobi, where we had friends who would give us refuge. Then a boat across to Goa where we knew people who owned a yoga retreat. We would ride the railways up through India, trek the Himalayas in Nepal and work our way overland to South East Asia. After Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam we would hit Australia, probably about nine months or so into the trip, and then stay there for a while crashing with all the people we knew out there before onwards to New Zealand, Japan, home…

(…or maybe not. Menna needed the reassurance of a well ordered itinerary and a clean endpoint. I liked the ambiguity of an open-ended trip that could conceivably go on for years. Decades even!)

The beauty of this plan was that we were totally in control of all the elements at last. There was no relocation schedule, no corporate investment, no sign-off from the board. We had no timelines or outside dependencies. Barring some major unseen disaster, nothing could go wrong. We booked our flights for Capetown on April 15th 2020.

It felt like just the right moment to do this. I could see some clouds on the horizon that didn’t look great for business – there had been some kind of virus coming out of Wuhan which looked like it might impact our China revenues for a month or two. It could make it harder to hit our targets next year.

It was time to get out. Time to fly!

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