Before starting life as a consultant, one of the key factors we (my wife Rachel and I) had to consider was the requirement for me to spend periods of time working away from home.
It was an unknown entity, which could potentially have left Rachel to cope with two young boys during the week for a lengthy amount of time. In fifteen years as a consultant, we have been fortunate that I have only spent two years of that time working away from home, something we both felt has been the right balance with a young family.
A large contributing factor to this can be put down to the fact that for 15 years we lived close to Milton Keynes. Often misrepresented in the media*, the town offers a variety of local business opportunities to the consultant as well as having great rail and road access, bringing many cities and towns to within a reasonable commuting distance. The downside of living near Milton Keynes however, is that when your heart lies by the sea, it is just about the farthest place from the ocean you can get in the UK!**
In a visit to Cornwall last summer whilst flicking through the local property papers Rachel and I joked that we could sell our house in Milton Keynes, relocate to Cornwall, and substantially reducing our mortgage in the process. Neither of us took it seriously at the time but the conversation cropped up more and more frequently in the following weeks.
A seed it seemed, had been planted.
As hearts started to rule heads and the idea of relocating closer to the sea grew legs (sea legs?), it brought up several salient questions. Cornwall for all its majesty would it seemed offer limited business opportunities for a consultant and, far inferior transport links when compared to the South East. After all there’s nothing to the north, west nor south of Cornwall bar water! Whilst this was the coastal life we were yearning for; relocation would inevitably mean a huge increase in the time I would spend working away from home.
Opportunity knocks but once
This was however something that we firmly believed change our family’s life for the better and, as the proverb goes, ‘opportunity knocks but once’. We have all at some point wished we could be somewhere else and for us Cornwall was that place so, rather than continue to dream we made the decision to live the dream despite any potential downsides.
This is week four of our adventure and although my current assignment in East London takes me away from home for three days a week, as I write this on my laptop overlooking the Atlantic from a café in the little village of Portreath on the Cornish north coast (half an hour’s drive north of St Ives), it makes the initial decision to move more than worthwhile.
For our venture to be a qualified success however we will need to integrate ourselves more into the area. The requirement to network and build relationships with local consultants, businesses and groups is the next point of focus with a view to restoring the right balance of local versus remote working. I am not sure I will achieve the same split but living here makes working away less of a compromise and there’s very little that beats the sight and the sound of waves hitting the shore as you type.
March 17, 2016
*Yes, the town DOES have Concrete Cows and the residents are very fond of them! Donated as a leaving present from the Milton Keynes Development Corporation (which was in charge of constructing the new town from the mid-1960s) the sculpture was created in 1978 by Canadian artist Liz Leyh. The half life-sized herd depicts three cows and three calves. Made from scrap, their skin was formed from fibre glass reinforced concrete, that was gifted to the artist by a local builder.
**The nearest beach is Bell Wharf, in Leigh-on-Sea, 68 miles away as the crow flies (85.7 miles if you prefer driving). And yes, there are places a little further from coastal waters in the UK, but not that many!