Escaping the rat race

There was a documentary series some years ago called something like ‘Escaping the Rat Race’. The series followed a number of families who had decided to give up their stressful lives in the UK for something more rewarding.

One episode followed a young family from Hampshire. The husband ran his own building firm and was earning good money, but he was working all hours and seemed to have less and less time at home with his wife and young children. The family decided to sell their modern four-bedroom home and use the money to buy a slightly run down property in France. The house came with a piece of land and, importantly, a fishing lake full of carp. They planned to do up the house and market fishing holidays to UK anglers. This was a significant undertaking, not least because the family spoke little French. But they set about the work with huge energy, all members of the family doing their bit. They immersed themselves in the community, working on their language skills, and were quickly accepted and embraced. The lifestyle was not easier than the life they had left in Hampshire – in some ways it was tougher – but it was clearly far more rewarding. The family had meals together every day, and came together to make the business work. At one point they had to drain the lake – quite a challenge – but found that locals from the village were happy to join in and lend a hand. They ended the day with beer, cider and a barbecue to thank the villagers. By the end of the documentary, you got the impression that they were going to make things work and that the move would be a success.

A second episode from the same series followed a family of four in a similar position, but this couple had decided to sell up and buy a tiny island off the coast of Nicaragua. They planned to build a collection of chalets and set themselves up as a small diving resort. It sounded idyllic. Unfortunately, their mindset was quite different to the first couple’s. It soon became clear they had none of the skills necessary, but, more seriously, they were completely unprepared for the hardships of living on a remote island and did not have the energy or drive needed to make the venture work. I think they were expecting a life of leisure. Everything went wrong. They employed builders from the mainland to help put up the chalets, but that led to a colossal fall out over fees, with the builders eventually kidnapping the husband and demanding a ransom for his release. This was resolved, but, understandably, left the husband with a serious nervous condition. This was exacerbated when they discovered the island was on the drug running route to Mexico, with a regular procession of little boats passing within sight of the island on their way north. Eventually, the husband was admitted to hospital on the mainland but later died, I guess from sheer nervous exhaustion. She had to abandon the island and return to the UK with their kids, presumably at a great financial loss.

I think the message from the two episodes was that it is not about running away from the challenges. If you run away, the challenges will come looking for you. Rather, it is about finding the challenges that suit you and your skill set – and embracing them.

Published by Peter Runkel

"Work hard and be nice to people." Anthony Burrill

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