First brushstrokes in the art of non-conformity

I don’t usually go in for make yourself happy airport paperbacks, but The $100 Start Up by Chris Guillebeau turned out to be a pretty interesting read. He calls it The Art Of Non Conformity

I’m strictly an amateur in the subject, but here’s my version, and the next stage of my plan…

First, I found a mechanism…

Four years ago I decided to find a mechanism to work and travel. Sailing yachts quickly emerged as an option that met my criteria, whilst appealing to a rather less defined sense of how I would like to travel. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue, but this was obvious:

– travel is a fundamental part of the work
– potential for a stable and sustainable income, with scope to save
– inherent flexibility, with good scope for freelance work
– a sector that attracts positive people with a different, positive outlook

Not knowing how to sail and having never been on a sailing yacht before was a small obstacle to overcome. I enrolled on an intensive course, followed by back to back crewing on yacht deliveries to build my miles and experience. In the process, I visited France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, USA, Bermuda, The Azores, Slovenia, Greece, and Italy to name a few. These deliveries as crew were for expenses only, not a solid income, but in the long run would prove to pay back. Most importantly, I was already travelling and learning.

The following summer I got a gig skippering yachts for a charter company in Croatia, followed by my first full time job on a yacht heading to the Caribbean, via my second transatlantic crossing, since then I’ve been pretty busy…

…then I took control…

Once I had built solid references (good freelance prospects) I invested some of the money earned in additional qualifications, a professionally built website, and some decent business cards.

Having found a niche, I made a conscious decision to specialise in it, learning as much as possible about boats built by British yacht builders Oyster Yachts . Oysters are at the luxury end of the market, beautiful, and built for long trips to interesting places. Their owners tend to be an interesting sort. In yachting, owners vary from charming to devil incarnate- so those with a love for a similar style of cruising make for a good start as an employment prospect.

Next year, 32 Oysters are sailing together on the Oyster World Rally, a complete circumnavigation of the globe. That’s the kind of thing they do. One couple I work for run their business employing hundreds from their yacht by satellite link, wherever they happen to be sailing, including mid-atlantic. Non-conformist pensioner entrepreneurs bucking the trend. I digress, but I am in awe of their retirement option. 

….making sure it allowed me to do more of what I like…

At the end of last summer, my plan was to hand the yacht I run over to a company that would look after her over the winter. My boss, hearing of my plans to spend much of the winter writing, taking freelance sailing gigs, and building my qualifications, decided to put a different proposition to me. He would much rather have me managing the boat as I knew it well, but didn’t need me on board all the time. He would pay me a healthy retainer to visit once a week and allow a lot of flexibility. Therein, a basic income for the winter and accommodation in one of my favourite European cities was secured.

The big upshot- a winter where I have still been paid a good income, time to develop my writing into something profitable, and a lot of time to travel. Winner.

Before agreeing to stay on for the winter I had already booked a yacht charter gig in The British Virgin Islands, combined with visits on the way over there to New York and Iceland. An added bonus.

Over the winter I had my first few articles published and developed my writing by taking an online course with the London School Of Journalism. This has expanded my capacity to work from any location considerably.

Combining all the above with a discount a friend got me on flights meant I spent the winter living between Palma, my girlfriends flat in London, and various travels. It worked well.

…the next move…

Having established myself in yachting, it’s time to leave temporarily, take the skills with me and learn another trade to travel and work. I have handed in my notice and next month start an intensive, five week long, English teaching course.

The idea? I have always wanted to live in Japan, an understanding of how to teach is a life skill, and I will bring more back to yachting on my return. Did I mention the Asian yachting market is growing rapidly? I intend to carry on sailing over (or is it down?) there as well, but that part of the plan is a bit of a secret, you’ll hear about it here first.

So, there you have it, my first (albeit crude) brushstrokes in the art of non-conformity.

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