How I can help Esc members
If anyone wants to get into the tourism or safari industry then I can give you the basics on how it all works, where and how to get a job and what life is like in this part of the world. I also might be able to help with anyone thinking on leaving the city and unsure about it. I thought about it for a very long time before making the move and perhaps those thoughts don't need to go to waste.
I am currently managing Okavango Horse Safaris in Botswana and I am also running my own walking safaris business. Being a small business there is no day-to-day routine. It is a case of doing everything that is necessary to keep an efficient business running while looking for opportunities to grow. We live by the sun, so I'm up at dawn to check on our 71 horses and make sure preparations for the day's ride are all in order. I then grab some breakfast with the guests or check they are not being held hostage in their tents by passing elephants. By 7am we are all up on our horses and heading out into the bush for the morning.
We'll ride all morning, track huge herds of Buffalo, get charged by an elephant and canter alongside giraffe and zebra. By now it's really hot and the African sun is high in the sky. We get back to the shade of camp and a bit of lunch. Cool off with a swim in the waters of the Okavango, watch out for that croc, then the guests head off for a siesta and I head into out office tent. I'll usually run over logistics for the upcoming safari, answer a few emails and guest queries and sort out the staffing for the next month. I'll also deal with any horse issues we have, any lamenesses or illnesses that have come up during the morning or any ongoing treatments.
Before you know it it is late afternoon. The guests are taken out on a driving excursion, kitchen bring the afternoon tea, biscuits and cake and I look at where we are going with the business. This involves marketing and PR, getting our name out further, what developments are going on in the Safari industry, are their camps being bought or sold or private concessions changing hands. There's always something happening so its good to keep abreast of things in case their is an opportunity you can act on.
By 6pm the sun is starting to set. The horses come in from grazing and I administer any injections or medications and treatments that are needed. The grooms put the horses to bed and I grab a beer and go for a shower before the guests get back from their drive and we all sit for dinner. Dinner is usually fun and lively since everyone sits at one table. We'll have a few drinks, talk about the day, tell stories and make plans for the rest of their stay. By 9pm we are sitting round the fire nursing night caps and slowly everyone takes themselves off to bed listening to calls of Hyenas and hippos grunting.
Before I escaped...
I worked in Investment Management for four years for a firm in the city. I was an Investment Associate to one of the founding partners in the company and spent my time managing private client portfolios and watching financial markets. I would also analyse companies and meet them to assess them for potential investment. It was hard work and the life was OK but it just wasn't right. For me it was all very unnatural. The routine felt like 5x (coffee, work, lunch, work, dinner, work, bed) then 2x (recover from previous and dread Monday morning).
I remember there being an apparently very good summer in the UK one year... I had no idea, I had been inside looking at computer screens the whole time. The work began to become repetitive and there was no sign of it relenting.
In that sort of environment it was a case of waiting. Waiting for a promotion, pay rise, bonus or move. This suits a lot of people, and there's nothing wrong with it, but it wasn't for me. I loved the people I worked with, had great respect for the company and was being well looked after. But every Monday we would all lament the end of the weekend and commiserate about the start of the new week. This didn't make sense to me.
You wait 5 agonising days for 2 days of enjoyment. The balance was wrong.
My moment of truth...
I never actually knew this job existed. In fact I didn't know you could even do a safari from horseback. I just knew I needed to get out of the city or else suck it up for the next 30 years and buy shares in my local coffee house.
Planning for it...
I didn't know what or where I wanted to go. I knew I didn't want to work in the UK and I didn't want to work in finance. I wanted to set up my own company and live in the Bahamas but with no workable idea or substantial money (all spent on holidays and weekends trying to forget the job you're in). I thought that dream could wait.
So I started looking for positions abroad working for small companies. Something that required a lot of time outdoors or travelling. I have always had a passion for the wild places in the world and so thought this would be a good place to start looking for a career. Apart from anyone connected to work, I talked to everyone - ideas and opportunities pop up in the strangest places.
The worst and best bits...
I love my job. It can't be simpler than that. It's fantastic and if you are in something you love you start noticing opportunities and can take advantage of them. The possibilities become endless and the future just opens up.
The negatives are small. I have less security now and the pay is not comparable. But it's easy to watch what you spend when you are generally very happy just doing what you are doing. Money becomes a much smaller issue. I possibly swung between extremes, moving from London to the remote bush (you need a helicopter to get to where I live) and will probably find a happy medium elsewhere at some point but that's not a concern. I'm off that corporate rail track now and the rest is easy.
I'd tell people the best thing to do is just man up and do what you want. Being happy takes hard work, you've got to make a conscious effort to get your life how you want it. You can't control everything but no one's going to pull the strings for you. Work hard at making you life what you want it to be, but don't forget you've got to enjoy the journey.
It's good to keep an open mind and not get daunted by things. Every time you read about someone and think "wow that's cool, wish I could do that" just remember that you probably can, if you really want to.
Useful resources and information...
No particular examples but I read widely and on various topics. A lot of auto-biographies from people in varying careers.
And of course... Escape the City