For the past few weeks I’ve been looking at ways to break the link between where I am physically based and the income I can generate. This was driven in large part by the Brexit vote prompting me to reappraise whether I want to remain in a UK I don’t believe in, but what it’s done it made me challenge some fundamental assumptions about how and where I live.
Over the past two decades I have travelled and worked abroad. I’ve spent time working on projects in the European Union and Pakistan. My ex-wife is Indian and I used to visit Mumbai and Pune regularly. My current partner is Japanese and I have to admit I’m somewhat smitten with the country. The majority of my friends and social relationships are non-Brits. In short, my worldview is more expansive and less insular than many of those I’ve come across.
I see the same in my Twins. Born to an Indian mother and surrounded by friends from across the globe they don’t see the UK as the only place to be. One is talking of emigrating to Australia after she graduates from her engineering degree. The other may remain in the UK, although she’s mentioned going overseas in her pursuit of a career in AI and gaming academia. My third, staunchly pro-UK daughter, has even started to broaden her horizons beyond these shores.
From my own perspective what is driving my plan to move overseas? Is it that I could sell my UK townhouse, pay off my mortgage and live debt free in the suburbs of Kobe? That’s certainly a compelling reason, although I could achieve the same result by moving to other parts of the U.K. What about being based in Japan gives me easier access to the evolving Pacific markets? If I achieve my goal of not having to be where I work this becomes irrelevant. Working for a client in Hong Kong is as easy to achieve from a home office in London as it is in Japan. Is my partner influencing my decision? Certainly there is a “comfort” factor of having a native Japanese partner, but she’s spent more than 20 years in the UK, so going there is still likely to be a shock for her.
There are downsides too. Not being able to jump in the car and drive a couple of hours to see my daughters on a whim is going to be a wrench. But they’re young women creating their own lives, and we communicate pretty much daily by messenger. There’s also the language. My Japanese is pretty shocking (but getting better one day at a time), plus there are cultural reasons that I’ll never be as accepted as another Japanese. That said, there are parts of the UK that have the same issues (my parents have lived in a Somerset town for 30 years and are still seen as outsiders!)
The biggest driver of this though is the opportunity the decision to leave the UK has opened up. Britain is going to change into something that means I too will have to change. If I am going to survive and thrive in this new country, if I am going to adapt my mindset and practices, then I can throw away the assumption whatever I do has to be based in Britain.
Once I removed the idea I have to live where I work I realised there is a world of opportunity out there that’s just waiting for smart, motivated people to go grasp.
And I will grasp it.