• Living the Dream – 9. Nero

    Nero. The Easiest Decision.

    I wrote last week about the Hassle Hurricane and my coping strategy. The to-do lists are still growing but light is discernible at the end of the tunnel. One of our first decisions, which I have not covered in an earlier post, was our easiest. What to do with Nero.

    Nero is our miniature schnauzer, and there was absolutely no way that Mags and I were going anywhere without him.

    As there are no longer ferries to Cyprus, like us Nero need to travel to by air. Technically, he is cargo, but we don’t say that when he’s within earshot. Cargo costs are remarkably reasonable, however when the cargo is a beloved family pet, the ‘extras’ come thick and fast. Overall, Nero’s one-way travel will cost considerably more than two human return tickets.

    The little guy won’t be flying with us. In part, this is because we are flying at a weekend, and in part because I would rather not deal with lots of luggage and him at the same time. Wrangling the luggage to the car hire desk, and then to the hire car is bothersome enough, with a disoriented dog desperate to mark his territory, explore every nook and cranny of the airport and make everyone aware of his presence with a persistent bark.

    Reservation

    So he will spend a few days in kennels in England, where he will undergo his pre-flight medical checks and will fly to us on the Tuesday. (We fly the previous Saturday.)

    In my experience, dogs are sanguine creatures, and Nero will adapt easily to the flight, first enjoying the new sounds and smells, then opting for his usual coping mechanisms of a hearty bark, and then a good snooze. That knowledge won’t stop Mags and I worrying about him. If you have a dog – you know.

    Nero, always a puppy to us, is a senior citizen now. The vet predicts that the warmer weather will do his arthritis the world of good. Quite what he’ll make of the wildlife, I’ve no idea. Small lizards and snakes will be entirely new to him, I imagine.

    For Mags and I, the sight of Nero in the house will be significant, I think.

    Where Nero is, is home.

     

  • Living the Dream – 8. Hassle Hurricane

    In six weeks or so, we will be waking up in Cyprus. As my home. Oh, how I anticipate that day! Right now however, we are in the midst of a hassle hurricane.

    Hassle

    Each day, I wake to long to-do lists, endless dependencies and unforeseen complications. There’s a skip on the drive, bundles of paperwork to complete and the small matter of valuing every single thing that we own still outstanding. The garage needs partitioning, the fridge ‘un-plumbing’, the list goes on.

    There are plenty of people who offer to take away this hassle. At a price. More than once, my legendary patience and laid-back approach to life has been tested by ambitious quotes.

    “How much?!” I have spluttered.

    Fortunately, I married a very smart woman, who has calmly sourced alternative solutions, leaving me snorting and shouting ineffectively into the wind.

    Ultimately, the sheer volume of tasks can be stress-inducing and overwhelming. Often, changing one arrangement has a knock-on effect requiring several other things to be adjusted.

    Solution

    Staying on top of these hassles requires a notebook. That might sound silly, but it isn’t: Writing lists asserts control over the tasks, ticking them off creates a feeling of progress. Referring to the book calms any mounting nerves and anxieties.

    For those of geeky disposition (like me), the notebook is a Great Barrier Reef by Dingbats, from my store, Nero’s Notes. I got the pencil from there too, and it is a Palomino Forest Choice.

    Have no illusion, the notebook completes no tasks and lowers no prices, the hassle hurricane remains. However – using the notebook helps me plan my days and navigate the bureaucratic nonsense, arrangements and dependencies. Suddenly, I can spy glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. Some lists are completed, some can only be completed nearer to departure date.

  • Living the Dream – 7. Mobile phone

    Mobile Phone

    “It’s time to renew your mobile phone contract.”

    Music to my ears. The mobile contract for Mags and I was expiring a couple of months before we are due to leave. Once or twice in the past I have retained contracts made useless by a change of country.

    Once, it was important. Changing your phone number was a hassle. I went to great lengths to ensure that that everybody knew how to contact me. Partly this was driven by an inflated sense of self-importance, and partly because it was true. A lot of business was done and organised on the phone.

    I have just checked my phone log. Statistics for the last week.

    • 11 calls over 7 days. 1 of which was a missed call
    • 5 were between Mags and I
    • 3 were between my Mum and I
    • 1 was a friend
    • 1 was a company looking to sell me stationery

    The majority of my communication these days is not over the phone. It is on e-mail or other electronic channels. Even when communication is by voice, it is often over the internet (VOIP). Were I in Cyprus, I suspect that the three calls with my Mum would have been over the internet. The stationer wouldn’t call me internationally either. As I’ll be working from home, Mags is likely to put her head around the door rather than call me.

    By any reasonable measure then, I don’t actually need a mobile phone for phone calls.

    Decision

    Great. I won’t get one.

    Oh, but it is handy to have internet access on the road. Social media is after all the shop window for my businesses. Actually, having an incredible camera in the pocket is pretty cool too. What about emergencies? Good point. Looks like I’m stuck with a mobile phone.

    I converted the UK phones to Pay as You Go, mobile phone companies won’t simply extend a contract to a determined date, largely because phone companies are rivalled only by airlines in paucity of service. My intention was to simply let the UK number run until we go, and then simply let people know the new number. There are so many ways to get in touch now, I doubt it would be a problem.

    2FA

    Then, by chance, I discovered a hidden hassle. Over the last year, I have almost drowned in recommendations to implement additional security online. One element of this is two-factor authentication (2FA). There are lots of websites, that when I log on, send a code to my mobile phone, which I need to enter on the website to gain access.

    Ah.

    I’m doing my best to remember which sites I have set this up on, and turning off or changing the method. I wonder how many I will not discover until after the UK number no longer works? What joy that will be.

  • Living the Dream – 6. Clearing Out

    Clearing Out

    I love working out how much golf I will be able to play, (a lot), how often I will be able to swim in my own pool, (whenever I want). I muse on how nice it will be to go to the beach with a notebook and plan a novel. These are the fun, exciting things to think about.

    I am less keen on the more prosaic. The clearing out, packing up and getting things ready for the move. These are the essential things, that need to be done to make the dream a reality.

    It’s only when you actually start thinking packing things up that you realise how much ‘stuff’ there is. It was immediately clear that before packing up, there needed to be a whole lot of clearing out. I stood in the garage the other day, entirely overwhelmed. Quite literally, I could not decide where to start, where to put the ‘to go’ pile and where to put the ‘to stay’ pile.

    Actually, we could simply stand back and watch. I have done some international moves in the past – and removal specialists in full-flow are a sight to behold. In what seems like minutes, they speed through a property, wrapping up and packing as they go. Anything not prominently marked ‘LEAVE’ is gone.

    There’s plenty of room in the container, but I’m determined that we should take this opportunity to work through our possessions and make deliberate decisions as to the future of those things. Should they be gifted? Taken away? Thrown away?

    Consequently, we have a mini-skip outside of our garage, which is getting alarmingly full, surprisingly quickly.

    Essential for clearing out

    A mini-skip

    Liberation

    There is a catharsis in the process. I start with an inclination to perceive things in terms of their monetary value or their past value. Then my inner-declutterer shouts: “It has sat unloved in the garage for five years! How much do you really need it?” Eventually, I settle into a comfortable middle-ground, rediscovering things that I wish to involve more in my life and being honest about things that need to move on.

    Far from being a chore, clearing out has got me more excited, anticipating a new life in the sun.

  • Living the Dream – 5. Making a living

    In posts 2 & 3, I wrote how we were lucky enough to be able to assume zero revenue for the beginning of our adventure. Short-term, making a living is not a priority.

    Of course, in the longer term, that’s not sustainable.

    Where the time goes

    Since 2003, I have been offering training and business consultancy through Lime Training and Consultancy. Latterly, this has involved increasing work in anti money laundering (AML) compliance. The UK and Cyprus are ostensibly at least, governed by the same European regulation, so my knowledge should travel well. Cyprus is an offshore financial centre, and has recently attracted increasing volumes of both Russian citizens and Russian cash. One doesn’t like to cast aspersions, but I suspect there might be some demand for AML expertise.

    The Dog's Head

    Neros Notes Logo

    I invest a lot of time working for Nero, our miniature schnauzer, at Nero’s Notes. All work that can be done from a computer anywhere.

    I write, here, and elsewhere. There remains my novel, which languishes in draft form on my hard drive and beside my desk. I plan to get that finished and published. I also intend to write and publish more.

    My newest project is 1857, a podcast, that I co-host with the awesome TJ Cosgrove.

    Making a living

    Ultimately , I hope to be making a living from some or all of these activities.

    Mags has recently launched a new venture, pursuing a long-held desire to help others. I will tell you more about that in another post.

    All of our projects translate to the new home. Much of my work can be completed remotely, and Mags feels confident that she will find market locally.

    Will making a living in a new country be easy? No, of course, it won’t. Just like anywhere else, making money is hard work and the challenge is not diminished by being in a foreign country and culture.

    Still. It wouldn’t be any fun without a challenge, would it?

  • Living the Dream – 4. Ship or Store?

    Ship or Store?

    The house in Cyprus is sparsely furnished; mostly by a well-known Swedish furniture retailer. We felt this was perfectly adequate for a holiday home, and why not for our full-time home? We resolved to store our UK furniture, rather than ship it, and obtained several quotes.

    Wow!

    Once revived, I resolved to consider alternatives. I had no idea that storage space was so expensive.

    Having decided that the car was coming with us, the alternative was clear. We could combine space for the furniture and ship it with the car. We obtained quotes to ship some, or all of our furniture. Not cheap, but as we had discovered, storing furniture was not cheap either.

    There began a process of frantic measuring. Would our bed fit? What about our giant American fridge-freezer? Where would that live?

    Reality Check

    Accidentally, we had arrived at a new place emotionally. Initially, coming to Cyprus was ‘an experiment‘. An extended sabbatical, if you will. Mags had agreed a nine month career break from her employer. This gave us a nice escape clause. We could go, and then, as a nine month deadline approached, make a decision as to whether we came home to resume “normal” life, or continue to build a new normal for ourselves in the sun.

    Then, Mags’ employer announced that they were closing the store where she worked. Subtly, this changed the dynamic. Of course, if we are not enjoying life in Cyprus, we can come home. However – with the nine month clause gone, we could look at expenses a bit differently. Shipping our furniture out and back within a year would be very expensive. If we stayed longer however, well, it became progressively better value, the longer that we stayed.

    Both in terms of the spreadsheet and on the emotional ledger, shipping our furniture changed the calculation.

  • Living the Dream – 3. Making a Budget

    Making a budget

    Regrettably, life in the sun still has pretty much the same bills as life in the rain.

    In ‘Living the Dream – 2. Paying the Bills‘, I explained that we were assuming zero revenue to start. Hopefully, we will both be generating something, but budgets are all about worse-case scenarios.

    How much will life cost us?

    There are no shortcuts here. It was time to break out a spreadsheet, cold towels and start entering in numbers.

    What are the major costs? Accommodation, transport, subsistence etc. Much the same as living anywhere. As we have holidayed here regularly over the last couple of years, we already have some experience of local prices. Unsurprisingly, we are unlikely to spend as much on heating as we do in England, but anyone who owns an air-conditioner knows how easy it is to run up a massive electricity bill.

    Major Expenditure

    One of our key decisions was around transport. With an absence of ferries, the only way to bring a car onto the island is as freight. On top of that not inconsiderable cost, there is a compulsory re-registration fee to pay too. Initially, we planned to mothball our car in the UK and buy a run-around in Cyprus. However, a little research goes a long way. Cars do not depreciate as quickly in Cyprus, so a run-around was going to be a significant investment, particularly if there were certain features that we wanted to ensure were included. Even paying registration and transport costs, it’s better to bring our car over from the UK, so that’s what we will do.

    Output

    I have never known a budget that turns out to be perfect in every detail. There will be overshoots and undershoots, but at least we have a starting point. The budget allows us to plan cash flow and expenditure, and also focuses the mind on targets for revenue. Just because we are assuming zero revenue, that doesn’t mean we’re not aiming to generate some.

    Putting a spreadsheet together is a great way to focus the mind…

     

  • Living the Dream – 2. Paying the Bills

    Paying the bills

    Like it or lump it, paying the bills is fundamental. If you want to build a new life, it is one of the first things to address.

    In my last post, I promised to give an insight into the decision-making process that led to us choosing to emigrate, at least for a while. The first thing that we looked at was paying the bills.

    Since selling a business in the summer of 2014, I have looked at a number of projects. None of them is lucrative enough on its own to pay the bills. Mags was working part-time at UK retailer Marks and Spencer.

    Projects

    I do some work as an anti money laundering consultant, I write here and at Nero’s Notes and I record a weekly podcast. Most of what I do can be done remotely, or with some travel. My priority is to grow these projects so that individually, or together, they make enough to fund the life that I want.

    On the other hand, Mag’s position was different. She really enjoyed her work, and by its nature, she needed to show up in a specific place. However, her employer provides for a ‘career break’. Essentially, Mags could take up to nine months off to go do something different, and then come back to her job.

    This created a timeframe for us. We could look at a suck it and see approach, moving to Cyprus for up to nine months. Nine months is doable. It’s a decent period of time, without being forever. Emotionally, it was easier to commit to. Additionally, a determined period provides parameters for the finance. I was looking at paying the bills for nine months.

    My first assumption was, no income. If neither Mags or I made any income for nine months, was paying the bills from savings going to be possible? Now, we both hope to be generating revenue, but worst-case, could we survive without any?

    We have some savings, so that was going to work, but to answer the question fully – we needed to do some research. How much did we need?

    It was time to do a budget…

  • Living the Dream – 1. Can we do it?

    Living the Dream

    Three hundred and twenty six days of sunshine per year, a laid-back lifestyle and some decent golf courses. That’s living the dream.

    My wife, Margaret (Mags) and I are going to test that statement. Thirteen weeks from now, we are upping sticks, leaving the UK and moving to the Island of Aphrodite, Cyprus.

    Exciting? You bet.

    The really lucky people might be able to jump on their private jet, check into a five star hotel for a year and start having grapes dropped into their mouth by willing servants. For most of us however, it’s not quite as simple as that. It takes planning.

    Mags and I are designing a life. We are putting together an action plan for living the dream.

    My my. There’s a lot to this emigrating malarkey.

    Some decisions have made themselves. My Mum and Dad retired to Cyprus and built a wonderful home. They enjoyed several happy years there together and after my Dad passed away, my Mum stayed on another fifteen years before returning to England.

    Nevertheless, Cyprus isn’t terribly handy for a weekend bolt-hole. Depending on the wind direction, the flight is between four and a half and five hours from England. Add in the land transfers and the mandatory waiting around of modern air travel, and you are pretty much writing off a full day each way.

    To really live the dream in Cyprus – we need to move there.

    Questions

    Did we want to? Could we? How would we make it work? What are the pros and cons?

    On this blog, I’ll log how we arrived at the decision to move and how we went about turning that decision into a plan.

    I’ll post weekly; covering both the logistical challenges of living the dream and how we intend to craft and finance the lifestyle. Look for the category, ‘Living the Dream’.

    Follow along. 😁

     

  • Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea…

    So ends ‘The Italian Job’, the iconic 1969 movie starring Michael Caine, as the cast hang precariously over an alpine precipice. We never learn the nature of the idea, or whether it works.

    Paramount Pictures Image of the Italian Job

    Mrs L was serious, and knows exactly how her idea will progress.

    The idea

    “I am going to train in Grief Recovery”.

    With that, a new business was born. Over the next few months, a new avenue will be explored, as Mrs L comes back into the world of Learning and Development, having spent a few years kicking back in retail.

    I’m delighted.

    Mrs L is enormously talented, has incredible empathy and communication skills. I can only imagine that helping people deal with grief is tough but rewarding. Mrs L will be brilliant at it.

    She completed a grief recovery programme herself, as a delegate, and found it incredibly helpful. I believe that starting a business started from a passion already has an advantage. It’s a great idea, and every business needs a great idea, but it’s passion that will carry the project through the inevitable challenges that will come.

    I’ll post details of her blog once it is up and running.

    What will I be contributing to this new venture?

    Previously, I posted here, I’m getting the hang of wearing a range of different business hats.

    Given that I am as sensitive as a toilet seat, I will be no use at the sharp end of the business, but I do have a little experience in some of the back office function and the process of going from ‘great idea’ to ‘detailed plan’ to ‘functioning business’. I will be trying to help with some this ‘nuts and bolts’ work.

    Next Steps

    Right now we’re putting together a business plan.

    I’ll keep you posted.