If you are reading this slumped over a computer and wondering if you like your job, you should probably stop reading right now. Roz, Joey and Daisy used to have jobs they hated. Jobs involving sitting down at computers. But not anymore. Roz now rows the oceans, Joey bounces around on space hoppers for a living and Daisy bought a classic campervan so she could serve cake with a vintage twist. They are all so much happier now, because they took a risk and changed their lives. The beaming smiles say it all! We placed this story in Woman’s Own.
We earn less now but we’re happier…
As the evening sun poured through the classroom window, I knew all my friends would be leaving work and making their way to a beer garden, while I was busy guiding a classroom of children through their maths homework.
I became a partner in my mum’s tutoring school shortly after leaving university. For nearly eight years, I worked full time and earned £35,000 a year. It was a great income but it was unsocial. I only tutored once the children came out of school, so it meant my day began in the afternoon and finished in the evening.
One of the well-known perks of teaching is the long holidays. However, the reality of being restricted to holidaying when schools did meant my holidays were always really expensive. I’d also miss out on group trips planned by friends at quieter times of the year. During most holidays we’d hold extra revision courses anyway, making it hard to find the right time to get away.
Then there was the added drawback of working with my parents. It had its fair share of challenges for us all.
I have always loved cooking but became more serious about baking five years ago. Friends said how much they loved my cakes. I always used fresh fruit and real cream – I didn’t like the sickly, sweet icing on cupcakes.
Then, two years ago, I met James Learmond, 29, at a wedding. We had a whirlwind romance – he came to the wedding in Chichester from Yorkshire but left it to come back to Kent with me. Seeing how easily and spontaneously he left everything he knew to come and live with me, I realised anything was possible if you just made the decision to go for it.
Knowing I wasn’t satisfied in my work, James and I began throwing business ideas around. We could tell that together we could make anything work. We decided a mobile catering van would suit us very well and at first started planning to set up a falafel business.
However, we eventually came up with The Cream Tease Bus. We invested all of our savings into a converting a 1964 split screen campervan, which we could take to a variety of events, like weddings, festivals and parties. We could sell my unique cream teas with ingredients such as rose, lemon, rhubarb, elderflower and poppy seeds with a modern twist.
Cream Tease was my chance to put the teacher cardigan away, share my passion for baking and show my adventurous side. It meant I could wear a saucy apron, style my hair and wear vintage makeup to work whilst listening to swing music and being a bit silly. We didn’t want it to be just another catering van but more like a party on wheels.
I watched my parents become slaves to their business. It taught me that lifestyle and spending time with friends and the people you love is worth so much more than making buckets of money – though I appreciate it is the very business they worked so hard to create that has enabled me to save and take this step in the first place. Hopefully we will be successful enough to help our own children follow their dreams one day.
I’ve used the money I’ve earned over the years to get firmly on the property ladder and I don’t have any debts. So as I leave behind the comfort of a high wage, I know that if I keep my expenditure small, I will be able to live on a lot less.
I had begun to feel so trapped in my job. Now that I have a mobile business, which I run with a man I love so much, I feel like my job is more like a holiday. We launched in June this year and I don’t miss the money because I’m too busy having fun.
Daisy Downes, 30, from Rochester, Kent. Visit Daisy’s website www.thecreamteasebus.com
Roz Savage: ‘It took me a long time to realise money wouldn’t make me happy.’
Flicking through another lifestyle magazine, I dreamed about owning a house as big as the ones in the pictures. I grew up in a poor family and I thought if only I was rich, I’d be happy.
I graduated in 1989 from Oxford University and got a job as a management consultant at an investment bank. I was a yuppie, working in London, earning a decent wage. I knew from day one it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing with my life, but I carried on because I aspired to have a big house and all the nice things to put in it.
All my friends were doing similar jobs, and they seemed not to mind. I wondered what was wrong with me. I was earning good money – why wasn’t I happy? I tried to muffle out the screams of the girl inside telling me to get out there and do something more interesting with my life.
Often I’d have to work long hours – up to 15 hour days – and it was soul destroying. Then my then-husband and I moved into a big house in Kew, London, and I expected to feel happy at last, but I still didn’t. It was supposed to be the final part of the jigsaw but instead of feeling like a palace, the house felt like a coffin.
I began to realise that it didn’t matter how big my house was. It was what was going on in my heart that mattered. In an attempt to figure out what I really wanted, I imagine that I was at the other end of my life, an old lady, writing my own obituary. I wrote two versions. One was the reality – carrying on as I was. The other was the fantasy – doing something dramatically different. I didn’t know what, but something, anything, else, whether I succeeded or failed. Just something fun.
The two were so dramatically different. I knew my life needed purpose and passion, I needed adventure. As I headed back to the office, every fibre of my being wanted to head back out.
It still took me several years to pluck up the courage to change. By 2004, I was divorced, had moved out of the house and quit my job. I spent a year learning how to row a solo-helmed boat and decided to do something no other woman had every done. I wanted to row across the three big oceans – the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian. I put my life’s savings into it, and when that money ran out, the rest was mostly crowd funded. People were so generous.
I wrote a blog every day from the ocean. I wanted to teach people about the environment and the impact each and every one of us has on the world we live in. By raising my profile, giving talks and writing articles, I was able to voice my environmental concerns. I’d always wanted to feel passionate about something and now, finally, I did.
Since then, I’ve successfully rowed the world’s oceans and hold four world records. And the funny thing is, I’m not even a naturally adventurous person. I’d sooner stay indoors and read a good book. I just felt I had to push myself to do something totally different. I needed to get out of my comfort zone because office life was driving me mad.
The security of a salary is long gone for me. My income is wobbly but I keep my overheads low – I didn’t pay rent for ten years, thanks to the kindness of the thousands of people who’ve helped me achieve my dreams. I didn’t know what I’d be doing one month to the next and it was exhilarating.
Now, I’m retiring from rowing to focus on helping other people who are dissatisfied with their lives to realise their potential. People like me, ten years ago. I’m only 5ft 4in, I’m not athletic – I can inspire people to do something unusual with their lives, because if I can do it, anyone can.
Now, if I was to write my obituary, I’d be so much more proud of my achievements and decisions in life. I realised the long way round that even if I’d won the rat race, I’d still be a rat. Now, I’m homeless and penniless, but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
Roz Savage, 45, from Cheshire.
Roz’s new book, Stop Drifting, Start Rowing: One Woman’s Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific, is now available for pre-order on Amazon, and comes out on 15th October.
‘Having fun makes people happy – that’s more important than my bank balance.’
Joey, 33 Mitchell, from Stratham, London.
As I put the finishing touches to the mini festival I’d just created in someone’s garden, I couldn’t help but smile. In that moment, I knew that I’d made the right choice and this was the only way I wanted to make a living.
I first met Simon Desborough, 31, at the Secret Garden Party festival two years ago. From the word go it was obvious we shared a love of fun. I had my face painted like a cat and we spent the rest of the weekend bumbling about the festival talking to strangers and making each other laugh.
Back in the reality of life in London, I was a catering operations manager for the Barbican. I worked 70 hours a week and barely saw the light of day. I was in charge of all the catering for the corporate events and conferences during the day and all the theatre, cinema and music department concerts at night.
Not only was it long hours but it was high pressure too. If anything went wrong, it fell on my shoulders. I enjoyed the job but it didn’t leave much time for anything else.
Once I started seeing Simon, my life took a different turn. Our dates were like nothing I’d ever done before – he once sent me on a magical treasure hunt around London on a Boris Bike. We realised that having fun made us happy and started thinking about how having fun could make other people happy too.
But I didn’t have time to develop the ideas we were having. I didn’t realise how much my stressful job was affecting my life until I was out of it.
In December 2011, I decided to quit my job and spent a few months in India on a much needed break.
There, I saw people living on a lot less money than I earned and they were happy. It made me want to change my lifestyle for good. There was more to life than work and I was going to find out what it was.
Simon and I wanted to get involved with the festival scene and create something which anyone and everyone could enjoy. Then we had an idea – space hopping racing.
Wonky Races was born. Our ethos was that everyone should have more fun. We proposed the idea to a festival and they loved it. I went from paying nearly £200 to be at a festival, to being paid to be there.
This summer we’ve done lots more festivals and the Wonky Races has grown in many ways. We also do team building exercises, private parties and kid’s parties – anywhere where a bit of light entertainment is required.
I love it when we’ve discussed themes with a client then gone and built some crazy props out of old bits of furniture people leave out in the street, newspapers, wooden crates. We love things other people are throwing away. We watch guests come alive as they bounce around our crazy obstacle courses. It’s a far cry from my old life but that’s exactly why I love it.
Everything we do has its roots in inclusivity and creativity. The ethos behind Wonky is to bring together the collective to create a great atmosphere from start to finish, creating costumes, building props and obstacles and getting people involved in the process of doing silly, energetic, imaginative things.
We are now the proud owners of 60 space hoppers, one tandem hopper and one baby hopper for our little girl, Eva, four months.
I earn a lot less these days and making ends meet is more of a challenge, but I manage. I have learned to streamline and be more creative in how I live – I make presents for people now rather than buying. I don’t go out as much and I don’t buy as many clothes, but it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.
I’d never go back to a well-paid, high pressure job now because I realised there is more to life than money. I earn peanuts now but I love what I do and I’ve never been happier.
Joey Mitchell, 33, from Stratham, London. Visit Joey’s website www.bewonky.com