Duncan Milligan runs Tour de Force, specialising in Adventure Logistics (www.tourdeforceuk.com) He has spent more than 10 years getting involved in ridiculous travel projects and events. He has no illusions about being a rufty, tufty rugged explorer, instead rather someone who makes a living from travelling the world.
I always pause whenever anyone asks me what I do for a living, I take a deep breath and very quickly have to decide which answer I am going to give.
-The quick one- “I work in travel and events.”
-The facetious one -” Whatever anyone will pay me to do”
-The honest one-” I have no idea and I just make it up as I go along”
I have spent my entire professional life avoiding the 9 to 5 like the plague. Whenever I have been stuck in an office, the urge to get out is almost overpowering, this plus the hell of a commute has proved too much -on occasion, when stuck on a crowded train, I have to fight the urge to shout “What are you all doing??”
So, how have I managed to avoid this fate worse than death? No idea really, it’s been totally organic. However, there are certain ‘rules’ to the game.
Reduce your costs to a minimum
• If you don’t spend much, you don’t need to earn much.
• Because you don’t need to earn much, you are not forever caught in the vicious cycle of doing a job ‘just for the money’
• Pare down your life to the bare essentials. I went through this process about 10 years ago when I started working as a tour leader for an adventure travel company. The feeling of freedom when I chucked my rucksack over my shoulder, knowing I had no flat / mortgage / council tax / phone bill / to deal with was awesome.
This is then when the possibilities arise… take a job that doesn’t pay well-the travel industry is a great example of this! It relies on the knowledge that you will travel for free, have some incredible experiences and meet amazing people, this in itself is the best renumeration.
Therefore look for an industry poor in finances, but rich in experiences.
Be willing to not have a clue what you will be doing next week / month / year
• This can be tough, especially if you have been used to a paycheck at the end of ever month and paid holidays.
• There will be many ‘dark nights of the soul’ as you worry about where the next job is coming from but, to quote a certain G. Michael, “you gotta have faith”.
• Look for any and every opportunity that arises (again, remember money ain’t important) and seize it.
• Contact the companies you want to work for and tell them what you are good at and why you should work for them. If they are the right company, they’ll give you a job, even if they didn’t have one available.
• Put lots of fingers in lots of pies, one of them will happen.
Enjoy the “how did I get here” moments
• I have had few of these, most memorably sitting on the roof of a mobile carnival float in Cameroon, trying to stop a group of drunken pygmies from falling off as they danced around the lurching vehicle as we paraded around town- it’s a long story…
• In the past 12 months I have driven from London to Cape Town and Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, helped organized the Mototaxi Junket for The Adventurists in Peru, taken 20 students from Rotherham to work with a remote mountain community in Lesotho and toured with a circus around Europe.
• If you find yourself in one of these weird and wonderful moments, wondering how on earth you ended up in this situation, chances are you are doing the right thing.
Be prepared to be the odd one out
• Friends, family and work-mates may well think you’re mad- after all they have no desire to do it themselves.
• Therefore gravitate towards the people who have the same lifestyle and values that you are drawn towards, then you won’t feel so ‘weird’- let’s face it, that’s how Escape the City started!
It’s not easy–if it was everyone would be doing it
A common response when I tell people what I do is “I wish I could do that”.
Sometimes, I wonder what they mean. Do they mean they want my job? My lifestyle? Or is it more about what they think I represent-often a romanticized version of a ‘carefree and happy’ life, which of course it isn’t all the time.
Sometimes my job is shit, sometimes I don’t have much money, or I can’t see where the next gig is coming from. But it’s my choice to live this way and, by surrounding myself with other people who share the same lifestyle, makes me realize I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But, here is the best kept secret out there. (It’s a cliché I know, but as with all clichés, they are based upon a truth)
Anyone can do it.