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116: How this former BBC Journalist was able to escape the rat race to become a nomadic business coach with Blaire Palmer.

On this weeks episode, I speak with Blaire Palmer who is a former BBC Journalist, was one of the first accredited coaches in Europe in the early 2000s.

In her 30s she left the hustle and bustle of London for a house in the country, in her 40s she decided to let her grey hair show in all its glory. And in 2018 she set off with her own digital nomad adventure with her daughter and 2 dogs.

They sold their house and bought a 30-year-old camper van with a plan to travel full time while working and learning. The lessons her experiences taught her are now part of the ‘Brilliant Gamble’ a program she runs to help other people ditch the 9-5 midlife and find work they love that blends with the rest of their lives.

Listen on to find out how to escape the rat race and find work that you love.

 

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Show Notes:

Debbie: 

Hey everyone, thank you so much for joining us. I am here with Blaire. Hey Blaire, how are you?

Blaire: 

Really good, thank you.

Debbie: 

Thank you so much for joining us. Can you tell us a little bit more about you and why you live in offbeat life?

Blaire:  

I’ve always been a little bit unusual. I think everyone wanted to get a proper job when I was growing up, but I wanted to be a journalist, which just seemed like another planet for most people. But as a journalist, I had a pretty consistent living. I had a staff job at the BBC and I did that for nearly a decade. But I would say my first dipping my toe really into an unconventional life was when I left my job at the BBC when I was 30 years old and started my own business. And that really was the beginning of me taking more chances.

And I think probably the biggest step that I took, and the one that probably most counts as an offbeat life was when I took my daughter and our two dogs of traveling in an RV for seven months. This was last year and we sold our house and we just went off. And I think that’s when I really started to think, okay, now I am someone who does this kind of thing. This is not just an apparition this is now who I am.

Debbie: 

That is a huge step for you leaving a job that most people would consider the perfect job and a lot of people would want to have. Why did you decide to do that transition?

Blaire:  

I think when you’re studying, when you’re at school and you think about your adult life, I think you have a certain opinion about what’s going to make you happy.

And I definitely thought that working for an organization like the BBC would really be fulfilling. And you know, it seemed very glamorous. It seemed really fun. You get to be on TV or on the radio. It seemed like a great job, but the reality was a bit different. And I think a lot of people experience this, particularly if you’ve been ambitious and particularly if you really, really want something. Sometimes when you get it, you realize that it’s not what you thought it was going to be and it doesn’t feel the way that you thought it was going to be. So for me, as I was approaching 30 I really felt this, and of course, this was a long time ago, now this is 20 years ago, nearly, but I felt this kind of emptiness inside and I thought is this what I’m going to do now?

It has been quite fast track, so I’d already produced two of the three flagship programs on the network that I was working on and I was not even yet really 30 years old. And I thought, is this it then? Is this just what I’m going to do for the next 30 years, 40 years? Just do more and more. That’s when I realized, no, I had this kind of empty feeling. That’s when I discovered coaching and coaching at that time was a brand new thing and we had someone on the show that I was working on who was a coach and I just thought, oh my God, I want to do that. I want to do what she does. And within about 10 months of meeting her, I’d, I’d left the BBC and was starting my own business.

Debbie:    

Wow. So that was a huge transition for you. But obviously, it was the right one because you still do it today and it allowed you to be able to travel the world with your daughter. So that’s amazing.

Blaire:    

You never know when you take these what I call brilliant gambles, you never know where it’s going to take you. And of course at that time I wasn’t a mum, I was doing it for myself. I wanted to live a different kind of life. But when you do run your own business and particularly these days where so much of the work can be done from any location, then you realize you have a lot of choices, you have a lot of freedom. And that’s what we realized a couple of years ago when my daughter, she’d been in conventional schooling, but she wasn’t very happy and she wasn’t really thriving at school. So I took her out of school and decided to home educate her. And as soon as I did that I realized, oh my gosh, now we have all that freedom. So not only am I location independent, but she is and that means that there’s nothing really tying us to living in the house that we were living in, in the town we were living in and, and going through all the motions of every week kind of being the same as the last. There was no reason to do that because there was nothing tying us to that place.

Debbie:    

You definitely started your daughter young, with the location independent lifestyle. So she’s going to get used to that early on.

Blaire: 

I think so. I mean, she was 10 when we actually left. She was nine when we started planning it. We mainly traveled around Europe, but we also prior to the proper trip, we went to Mexico for a few weeks just to see what’s it like to be away from home for a period of time and within mind that we’ll be traveling more permanently. So we went to Mexico, we’d previously been to the states and to Canada. And so we’ve been to various places and I think to her, the world is quite a small place, a familiar place. Not terribly scary. And she has friends here who don’t even have a passport. So compared with them, she really does have a different perspective on the scale of the planet.

Debbie:    

It’s really interesting. I read somewhere that for people like us who often travel, it’s kind of a thing that we always have a passport, but most people actually don’t have it. How many people actually don’t leave their comfort zone because they really maybe love it or maybe it’s fear, but it’s pretty crazy that there are so much more people who haven’t really seen the world

Blaire:  

Yeah, that’s right. And that’s one of the reasons why when you tell someone that you’re going to do something like this, you want to take their response with a pinch of salt because to them even getting on a plane or you know, being in a country where their first language is a different language to yours. That is huge. So the idea that then you would do that for, in our case, seven months, some people’s cases permanently, it’s so foreign to them that you really don’t want to take their advice if they start offering it. I mean, for some people it’s fun and exciting and for other people, it’s really scary and daunting to do something like that. Something different and out of the norm.

escape the rat race

Debbie:  

Blaire, have you had the what now moment after you went off on your own? I’ve definitely had it after I left my nine to five. What was yours like?

Blaire:  

Well, if I think about the moment before we went traveling, I had that same feeling that I’d had 17, 18 years before this kind of empty feeling. And I think you find yourself kind of at a crossroads, and in fact some people say, oh gosh, you’re so brave. You’re so brave. I sometimes think that the bravest thing is to carry on the route that you’re on, even if you’re very, very unhappy or feeling this empty feeling. I think sometimes I almost felt like that decision to travel was the decision to run away. But it felt like running away for all the right reasons.

Why should we stay with this and put up with it when we can run away. And so we ran away. So, sometimes I think the bravest thing is to stay still and carry on with what you’re doing and tolerate it year after year, after year. That takes a huge amount of bravery. So I think that was what the moment was like for me. This is kind of empty feeling, is this really what I want? I was already running my business then I had been for a long time, but even that had become kind of predictable and you know, the business wasn’t doing very well. It’s kind of had its ups and downs over the years. But it was having a down and I just thought to myself, you know, that a change of scene, we gotta do something different. And then I think that you do things step by step. So the first thing you do is you buy the van and you think, well, now we’ve got the van, let’s do the van up. And then you do the van out and then there’s nothing stopping you. So then you clear out your house and then you haven’t got anywhere to live anyway. So then you have to go.

Debbie:

You kind of put yourself in that situation where you have no choice.

Blaire:

That’s right. That’s right. You kind of start this thing going and then it takes on its own momentum and it is too late to change your mind. I do remember that as we were doing the van out, making it our own over the winter and then we were going to set off in March. And so we’re out in the van in freezing cold temperatures. It got very, very cold that winter. Decorating this van, my fingers all seizing up and all of that kind of thing. And I did have this serious voice in my head saying, you’re completely crazy. You can’t live in this thing. This van is 30 years old. It’s not going to get you to the end of the street. I definitely had that, but it was too late at that point to change my mind. I think that’s a very good thing. I tell a lot of people that you’re doing it, put in a lot of things in place that make it impossible to change your mind. And then when you have that, that kind of moment where you want to turn around and go back and you just can’t, you have to keep going forward.

Debbie: 

I had a friend tell me a few years ago that he never gave himself a plan B or C, even though most people thought he was crazy because he didn’t see an option to fail if he didn’t have any other plans. So in a way that’s a really good thing because you have to make it work. You know, obviously it doesn’t always turn out the way you want it, but you become more creative that way.

Blaire:   

I call my company a brilliant gamble and I’m all for taking some risk, but I’m not for taking irrational crazy risks. I think that you want to look at what is my worst-case scenario and have a plan for that. But then if you have too many layers of support in a way you will rely on them. And I think you become very creative when you have to make a thing work. You know where there is a plan B, but it’s such an unpleasant plan B that you’d rather do anything than invoke it. So in my case when I left my job at the BBC, for my plan B at the time was well look, if this all goes terribly wrong, I’ll move in with my parents, you know?

Well, it’s just such an awful thing to be doing in your thirties it felt like to me like, Oh God, the shame. So really I was highly motivated to make my business work. And the same thing with travel.

Debbie:   

I think that’s the biggest gamble, as you say, is gambling on yourself on something that you’re really passionate about and love because you don’t know if it’s gonna work out or not. But honestly, even if it doesn’t, you’re going to be so proud because you actually tried instead of just wishing and hoping for something to happen and who knows what’s going to happen while you’re trying to make it work.

Blaire: 

That’s right. That’s right. You don’t know where this journey is going to take you. You think you do, but you don’t. And you don’t know what lessons you’re going to learn and those lessons that you learn, you couldn’t have learned any other way. So you’ve created more possibilities for yourself by stepping outside of that comfort zone and the world is open to you in a way that when you were just doing what you knew how to do, the options were pretty limited. And now I know that we can live in a van. I know we can live on very, very little. I know that we can get ourselves out of scrapes.

I know that my daughter is very safety conscious and she knows how to keep herself safe. She’s kind of alert to dangers. But not scared, she’s not terrified about everything, but she’s quite worldly so she knows what to look out for in a way that may be a more naive kid isn’t. So all of those means that we can then have the next adventure and the next adventure and who knows where that will take us.

Debbie:    

Blaire, one of the things that a lot of people worry about when they are trying to start this type of lifestyle is how to actually create an income and how much money to save. How much money did you actually save before you set off to start your own business and to become a location independent? And how long were you able to budget to make it last?

Blaire:  

So when I left my proper job, this was 2000 I had six months of, well, I didn’t actually have six months of money I had, I was already making a bit of money from coaching. So that was the equivalent to about half of what I was earning at the BBC. And I saw no reason why that would reduce. I had a few clients and they were signed up for a few months, so I knew that’s going to pay me half of my income. And then I had about, at the time, 6,000 pounds saved. That was going to be the other half. So I was living on about 2000 pounds a month at the time. And that was the salary that I had at the BBC. So it was no particular hardship, now I don’t know how I would do it.

But anyway, that was a long time ago. I didn’t have a kid, so that was enough. But that was only enough for six months. And I reasoned that I then have to make my income up by six months, that 6,000 pounds that I’m living on a thousand pounds a month of that, that I’m taking out. That’ll be gone in six months. So that needs to be replaced by income. And sure enough, it just about lasted. But of course the funny thing about that is if I’d have said to myself it’s four months, I probably would have made it in full. I think, you know, it lasted as long as I decided it was gonna last. And I set my goals in that way. And when we were traveling, I actually used savings to support us for the time that we were away. I wanted to not have any financial pressures and I wanted to leave whatever money was in my business account, in the business account while we were away just in case.

So it was a slightly different situation, but we had a very tight budget considering what we were trying to do. And, we made that last.

Debbie:           

It’s definitely a lot of what you’re saying to yourself and you put that pressure on yourself to work harder in order to get that income that you need. So you need to hustle this type of industry.

Blaire:

If I’d have had 18 months worth of money, it would’ve taken me 18 months and in fact, there’s a woman I know, very well. She had a very high flying job, sort of board-level job and when she left her job to start her own business, she was given a big payout.

And some sort of freelance work with her former company. So for the first year that she was outside of corporate life, she was really splashing the cash. It was a fancy website and all these courses that she went on, all these consultants to help her and all of that kind of thing. And she was feeling good cause she was getting the money and she felt like it was working because she had this contract with her former employer. And a year later, the contract with the employer came to its natural end. She’d spent almost all of her big payout. And she said to me, actually, it’s at that point that I really had to start running my business because now I don’t pay for anything. If I can teach myself to build a website, I do that. If I need to learn more about social media marketing, I learn how to do it and I do it myself. I don’t pay a consultant. But having all of that money just didn’t help her at all. You would think it would. But actually, she was in exactly the same position a year later as if she didn’t have anything to start with. And that’s when she really got creative and really had to learn about running a business.

Debbie:           

I definitely believe that. I say this all the time. When you start a business and you don’t know anything, the best thing to do, even if you have the money, is learning it yourself because then you become more creative. You understand the business more and it allows you to appreciate it and it allows you to grow even though it’s slow in the beginning and also you’re not spending money on things you don’t need because that’s really how you learn what you need and what you don’t need for your business and why to spend money on something that doesn’t really serve you and there’s no purpose for it.

Blaire:             

I’ve frequently been burned and you know, just very recently was burnt by a big promise from a consultancy that they could do something for me. And the funny thing is not only did they not deliver, and not only did I lose a lot of money as a result, but I was also left at the end in a way almost worse off. I was worse off financially and time had passed, but also worse off because getting them to share with me what they did was really, really hard. So all of that time I could’ve been generating customer insight and all of that kind of thing. I would know all that stuff. And I find myself 10 months down the line, kind of almost starting from scratch. So these are hard lessons to learn. And even 20 years into running my business, I still occasionally think, oh, wouldn’t it be great if somebody else can do this for me? And I outsource it. And I mean I have had great experiences of outsourcing and great experiences of going on courses. But I think when people when people do a really, really good job of selling you all the benefits I would be a little wary actually now.

Debbie:    

I’m a very big believer in outsourcing. I outsource all of my, well, not all, but most of the things that I have for my podcast especially. But that’s only after I actually did it for the first year and a half. And I worked ridiculous amounts and then I realized that I could be doing something else that was more worth my time. So you learn as you go, what you can outsource and what you can’t. And it’s a really bad idea to do that in the beginning because you do not know what that is yet. You don’t really know your business yet unless you’ve been doing other types of businesses for a really long time and you have a good idea of how to actually run one.

Blaire:  

Yeah, yeah, that’s right. That’s right. And that some of that stuff is the stuff that you wish you didn’t need to do. I mean, most people when they imagine working for themselves, they imagine spending their day is doing the thing that makes them their money. In my case coaching or running courses and stuff and actual fact, only a small proportion of your time is spent doing the things that bring in the money. The rest of it is your business admin, your marketing, creating content that you’re going to put out on so much time creating content these days. You know, it seems like my full-time job is as a content creator and it’s like free stuff like checklists and articles and blogs and columns for other people and all this kind of thing. So, only a small proportion of your time is doing the thing that you are selling for money and, and you’re absolutely right. You need to know how to do the rest of it. You may end up not doing it yourself, but you need to know how to do it. Yeah.

Debbie:           

Let’s fast forward to 50 years from now and you’re looking back at your life. What legacy would you like to leave and what do you want to be remembered?

Blaire:   

I love that you say 50 years. I’ll be so old. What’s the legacy? Well, you know, there’s something that I haven’t quite mastered, but I am hoping to master it in the next 50 years is to really be in the present and really enjoy the moment. I’m definitely better than I used to be and I’ve learned some good skills, but I think that for me to feel that I have really lived my life, I’d like to feel like I was really present to it.

And that seems like quite a sort of selfish legacy, but I think it has benefits for everybody because if you’re not really present to it, then you’re not really present to the people in your life and, and your clients and all those kinds of things. So I think it goes beyond me personally. But I think if I’m gonna think about a bigger legacy, I’d really love to think that that I had met and the people that I’d worked with were living lives that were a really good fit for them as a result of something that I’d said or something that they’d read or I touched someone’s life, they had made a choice to make their life more meaningful. And then maybe even bigger than that, that there were some things that I’d said that had changed.

escape the rat race

Something about how we as a culture work, work is so much a big part of everybody’s life and we’re so obsessed with work that I think it would be great if people’s experiences, whether they’re working for a company, whether they’re working for themselves, that their experiences of work were really a positive influence on them and a positive influence on the communities in which they operated. And if I had something to do with that, I think that was fantastic.

Debbie:  

That is such a great legacy to have and to be able to start that right now is even more amazing because that’s part of your life goals now.

Is there any question that you wish people asked you more of?

Blaire:

I wish they asked me more about what happens after you take the gamble.

So a lot of people ask, how should I prepare? What do I need to do in order to leave my job and go traveling? Or what do I need to do in order to leave my job and start my own business? A lot of people do that. It’s all about the preparation for the big, the big change actually is what happens after that. That’s really, really important and really hard. And that’s when people actually need support and that’s when they’re going to be growing. So that’s when they need some help to understand how they’re growing and how they need to grow. So I wish people asked me how can I prepare for the journey after I’ve made the big change?

That is definitely a good question to ask. And also we underestimate it because we’re always thinking about how we can leave and then after we leave, we don’t know what to do.

That’s right. And then we realized, oh my gosh, and you know, it doesn’t feel the way we thought it was going to feel beyond a couple of weeks. I mean, when we went traveling, the first month was fantastic. It was like a prolonged holiday. I felt so chilled and then all the normal, stresses just came back. Because life’s not different, you know, you’re not different just because you changed your circumstances. That’s when you actually need to start making sense of it and saying, okay, it turns out it’s me that it needs to change, not my circumstances. How do I do that?

Debbie: 

Yeah. And that preparation is really crucial to everything and that’s why there are so many of us that fail it the first time especially. And then we go back to our job or go to a job and we think we failed. But that’s part of the learning process. Blaire is there anything right now that you’re working on that you’re really excited about?

Blaire:  

So my podcast and you’ve been on my show and you were fantastic. My podcast, I’m really excited about it at the moment now it’s been going for a while, three or four years actually. But right now I just love the content that I’m creating there. I love the interviews that I’m doing and it’s all about helping people to deal with, to answer those questions, you know, how do I make this happen? What do I need to put in place? But also that parallel journey of who do I need to become? How do I need to grow? What are the ways that I’m getting in my own way? I’m loving creating that every week now. It’s brilliant, brilliant show. I think.

Debbie:  

Yeah, that’s a really great show. And I loved being on your show. Blair. Are there any last thoughts that you would like to share to us?

Blaire: 

Yeah, I think there’s something really important which has to do with community and something you and I’ve spoken about that it can be a lonely road to do your own thing. You know, to lead that offbeat life. You can feel strange like people can be judging you. They can be quite scared on your behalf. And I really think that it’s important to create a community. Whether that’s a group of friends that you know are going to be with you through thick and thin, who are going to tell you to keep going even when it gets tough, whether it’s an online community, of likeminded people who’ve gone there before you and can tell you this is one of the things that happen. It’s okay, it’s normal. Keep going. I think that’s so important and of course to try to meet people as you’re going or I mean in real life.

So you know, to do some networking, to go to meet new people in the new city that you’re going to be living in any opportunity to create these new networks and to have these people there to support you and of course, to offer that support to others to be generous and to help people who are a few pages behind you in the journey as well.

Debbie:  

That’s so crucial to a lot of our success is because of the people that we surround ourselves with and the help that we get from them. So it’s always good to be able to find that anywhere we live.

Blair, if our listeners are wanting to know more about you, where can they find you?

Blaire:  

I’d say the best place is two really good places to find me. The first is the website, which is a brilliantgamble.com and there are loads of posts on there.

That’s where you can find the podcast, although the podcast is also on iTunes and Spotify and all the normal places, but that’s really the hub of all the activity. And then come and join our Facebook group. We’ve got a Facebook page, which is called a brilliant gamble, but I would also come and join the group, which is called corporate escapees. And this is the gang, right? It’s new. It’s quite a new group. So, you’ll get a lot of attention from me if you come and start conversations. We’re trying to grow that and I just think it’s a great place to hang out if you’re thinking of leaving your job, whether that’s to start your own business or to do traveling or whatever it is you want to do, to take a sabbatical, or if you’ve already started and you want to surround yourself by people who get it and are going to be there for you and help you, that’s corporate escapees on Facebook.

Debbie:

Perfect. And talking about community, that’s one of the best places to go if you want to do that. Thank you so much, Blaire, for joining us today. I really appreciate the knowledge that you gave us.

GET THE EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH BLAIRE WHERE SHE SHARES HOW TO UNSTICK YOURSELF IN ORDER TO MAKE THE RIGHT CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE.

 


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Show Credits

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith


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