I’ve just booked a one way ticket to Chiang Mai, no big deal.
Total lie. It is a big deal. I’m squealing like a factory farm of soon-to-be sausages, I’m covered in goosebumps and have a burning ball of fiery energy in my stomach so big that I could probably do a marathon on one foot.
…imagine that you are 100 years old and on your deathbed with one minute to live. Your great-great grandchild asks ‘Before you die, tell me what I should do with my life?
Pretty much the second my plane left the runway headed for the second smallest of the Balearic Islands, I knew that this was not going to be some sort of extended holiday masked as an adventure; there was never any chance in hell I’d come running back to reality begging for it to take me back.
At that point, I had no idea what would be next, but I did have three ideas…
The Reality Upgrade
The first, I called the Reality Upgrade.
I was planning on a few more volunteering stints to keep living costs down, minimise locational commitment and experience stuff while in the background searching the next step in my career, probably in consulting or for another global brand.
The location I was targeting was New York, but I would have been back to what I knew as a normal life – climbing the career ladder, seven wardrobes, fifty shades of lipstick and money to squander, albeit it in one of the most exciting cities in the world.
Pimp My Brain
The second was to continue down the route of setting up my own consultancy, offering up specialist advice on global sourcing and business transformation specifically to conscious fashion and beauty brands.
I haven’t been resting on my Laurels since I wrote Pimp My Brain; I’ve done tonnes, and I mean tonnes, of research. I researched the products, the market, the potential competition, the Instas, the Facebooks, the websites, how to operate an online consultancy service from anywhere in the world, qualifications in consulting and everything else I could think of to get me going.
I set up a website, bought a domain name, built content for the site, created presentation templates and even almost pressed confirm on ordering some eco-friendly business cards made from recycled cotton T-shirts.
The one thing that stopped me was this; while I can offer up my knowledge,experience, contacts and bucketloads of enthusiasm in this area there is one thing I am admittedly lacking – actually working with ethical brands up close and personal.
A Gap Year for Geriatrics
The third option fluttering around my cranium was to continue living out of a backpack and really see the world the way I’d always wanted to – taking overnight busses, eating dodgy street food and meeting weird and wonderful people from all over the world, some with seven foot-long dreadlocks and piercings in places I didn’t know you could pierce.
So I signed up to WorkAway.Info which is a network of hosts and travelling volunteers all over the world. The projects to get involved in are mostly working in receptions at hostels, cooking in kitchens, house work, helping out at animal sanctuaries, gardening and building restoration.
After a month of cleaning up monk pubes from bathroom floors, dodging cockroaches and hosing down bathrooms full of hundreds of spiders I realised that the cleaning life is just not for me. Cooking is too much of a health and safety hazard, gardening is not my forté and animal sanctuaries would make me cry.
If Carlsberg did WorkAways…
Juggling these three life-changing ideas in my head was no doubt the reason I wanted silence and solitude for the first three weeks of being here – and maybe this helps explain why I’m always saying my head feels like it’s about to burst.
But you smile, you think good things, you put yourself out there – and good stuff comes back to you. And this is why I love life more than life itself.
I stumbled across something that kind of sews all three ideas together with one organic, fair trade thread.
So in a few weeks I’ll be headed to Chiang Mai in North Thailand and committed to a project until at least the middle of December. For twenty-five hours a week, I’ll be writing up content for the blog, website and social media of an established and growing Fair Trade fashion and accessories brand,as well as dipping my toes in various other operational activities.
In return for my contribution I get to live in a community home with my new co-workers; passionate professionals from various corners of the planet. There are fashion designers, textile specialists, marketing managers and web developers who are no doubt a gang of Heroes to add to my list. I’ll also get three meals a day and a new pet dog called Chloe.
The fact I’m volunteering may seem odd to some – I’ll be offering up expertise that could no doubt generate a higher return working for The Corporates; flying me business class, putting me up in five-star hotels while generously topping up my bank balance.
But this is so much more than any of them could ever offer.
It’s an exchange of knowledge, experience, ideas and a sharing of ethos. The benefits this will generate for the brand and for myself will be worth so much more than anything that can be measured in cash value. Plus Fair Trade and conscious commerce is where my heart has always been and finally, my head has decided to get involved.
We all know that everybody goes to Thailand for a Happy Ending, so hopefully this is where I get mine.