Wednesday, 17 July 2019

What Would You Do With A Year's Wages?

If you didn't have to work for one year what would you do?


Here's a lovely thought experiment for you, just for fun and a little self indulgence:

You come into some money. Perhaps an unexpetced inheritance or investment payout. 
It's the equivalent to one year's salary. 

What would you do with it?

It's just enough for one year - after that, who knows... 
Would you let the fear of uncertainty for the year after put you off taking a risk?

I wonder what people would answer to these questions?

A year's wages comes into your life, how would you use the money?

Would you still work?
Would you take a sabbatical?
Would you quit your job and take a risk, see how far a year's earnings would last?
Quit your job and give yourself a year to find the job of your dreams?

Take a once-in-a-lifetime holiday?

Pay off a chunk of your mortgage? Or put down a deposit for your first home?

Do all the things to your home you said you always wanted to do? Install that extra bathroom. 
Build that extension. Revamp your whole house. Install that dream kitchen.

Perhaps you would inivest it? 

Angel invest in a new business or venture?

Put a deposit down on a second home to rent out?

Pay it into your pension?

Stick it in a savings account? 

Start a trust fund for your kids?

Would you take that part-time hustle and build it into a business? 

Pay off your student loan, or those other debts you've been hiding from?

You could get a whole new wardrobe?
A new car?

What would you do with the money?

Think Of It As Redundancy

What if you thought of it like a redundancy payout - would that change your mindset about taking 
a risk?

Tell yourself the job no longer needs you. You don't need to work for a year.

Redundancy is often a catalyst for change.

It's easy to fall into a job, a routine. You're just riding that cashflow conveyor belt towards each 
weekend; counting them down until you retire and can finally do what you want.

Would a year's money be enough to 'do what you want', right now? 

Why wait until you're too old to do the things you've got on your bucket list?

What about stepping off that conveyor belt? Would you do it? 

It's easier to stay, to hang on for your pension - especially if your job isn't bad.

We're afraid of risking everything by leaving a regular wage.

But if it were a rediundany payout, that can feel like a body blow. 
In can throw a spanner in the cogs of that conveyor belt.

A redundancy can make or break us, if we let it.

If you considered that chunk of money as a redundancy payout, that this is your moment to leave 
your job behind and try something new, would that shift your attitude to risk? 
If you tell yourself there wasn't a choice?


Our Life Changing Redundancies

In our relationship, there have been a couple of life-changing moments and they all started 
with redundancy payouts.

Each redundancy has been a new beginning. However, as with any new beginning, there is 
inevitable grief over what you've lost, then the fear of uncertainty to come.

My first redundancy payout - I think it was 2002 - paid for our wedding (in Florida)! 

But, it also opened a door for me into a career in enterprise and employment support. 

I had been a HR officer for a factory in Somerset, and likely would have followed a preplanned 
route up the HR ladder, because that was the easy option. 

My choices, my life experience, the people I met from all walks of life all opened my eyes to a 
world of socail mobility, self-development and human potential that I would never have been aware 
of if the fortunes of that factory had been different.

The second redundancy was Graham's (my husband). 

He came home from work one day and said, "When the company closes and my job ends I think 
we should move to Bulgaria."

My initial reaction was along the lines of, "What the *@**$**£# ** *@!"£$*?"

He'd been chatting to a mate in the staff canteen over a period of months (probably years) who had 
done just that. He'd invested in property in Bulgaria, renovated and flipped them and was making a 
good living. He was planning to move there himself for a very different quality of life.

We took several holidays, loooked at a few properties and took the plunge.

We stayed for 18 months before running out of money and returning to the UK. 

Those were the most enlightening, inspiring and amazing 18 months of our lives. 
An experience that allowed us to learn more about ourselves, and each other, than we ever would 
have hoped to learn had we stayed in the UK and Graham had just gone and got another job. 

I finlly pursued my lifelong dream of publishing a book, having that 'what if ' moment that set off a 
whole series of books while visiting a museum in Varna.

In 2010, with nothing but the stuff we could fit in a car, we left Bulgaria to come back to the UK. 
We ended up in the amazing city of Bristol, a place we'd visited for years but had never considered 
living in. We've since fallen in love with the place and realised that, really, we're ubanites. 
Life in rurual Somerset had never been satisfying for us, hence we spent most of our weekends 
travelling to cities around Europe and southern England.

The next defining redundancy was in 2015 when I started my own consultancy business

A decision that has made me realise my own potential, my limitations, my resilience. 

I never want to work for someone else ever again!

So, would you do it? Would you take the risk? 
Would you quit your job and give yourself a year to try something new? 

Or would you settle for making the life you already have more confortable and enjoyable; with 'stuff'
and 'holidays'?

Friday, 10 May 2019

Quick Guide To Warsaw

Warsaw is a modern, cosmopolitan, European city - and for a capital city, it's surprisingly good value for money.

Compared to other cities we've visited in Central Europe, there isn't much to 'do' as a tourist in the city.

It's a professional and commercial hub. Somewhere people live and work, rather than a holiday destination.

In a few days you can cover all of the attractions and on the Warsaw Tourism website there is handy a guide for 1, 2 or 3 days in Warsaw.

We stayed for 3 days and had we stayed longer, would have struggled to fill another day unless we took an excursion somewhere.

A New City

The Nazi's destroyed over 70% of the city during WWII, so the city you see today is essentially only 80 years old.

The old town district was rebuilt - thanks to a series of 18th century Canaletto paintings of the city that survived the war and were used as a template to rebuild.

However, only the most important and culturally significant buildings were rebuilt, so the district is quite small, featuring restored churches, grand houses, Warsaw Cathedral and Royal Palace.


The Museum of Warsaw is also housed across eight replica baroque era merchant's houses on the main square that would have been the medieval market square and trading hub for the early city.

This museum itself wasn't the most inspiring. It features portraits of nobility, clothing, statues, pottery, an interpretation of data telling the story of the city, old photos, and models of buildings and maps. The basement level of the buildings were left relatively intact after the war and some original features survived.

Get Walking

Get some comfy shoes on and take a walk. A walking tour is a great way to get to know a city.

I recommend doing one on your first day in any city you visit so you can quickly get your barings and decide what areas you'd like to go back to and attractions to visit.

We did the Walkative free walking tour

Our guide, Jacek was extremely knowledgeable, funny and friendly - he was always happy to answer questions (assuming you can get a word in). It's a two hour tour and they had meeting points in different parts of the city, with tours in different areas. We took the Old Town tour.

There's a 'pay as you feel' approach to these free tours - show your appreciation at the end by tipping. Make your mind up ahead of the tour, what's a fair amount to pay for a good walking tour and make sure you have the cash.

We arrived in Warsaw at the start of May, when it was a national holiday (probably why our RyanAir flights were cheap!). It meant that some of the museums were closed.

We did, however, visit the Warsaw Rising Museum.

The museum is a fascinating, absorbing and interactive way to learn a little about Poland's history during WWII.

In 1944, the Polish Resistance, supported and reinforced by the civilian population of the city rose up against the Nazi occupiers.

The exhibits are in Polish and English. There is an audio guide option.

We walked around the museum in approximately 2 hours and skim read most of the information. If you took the audio tour you may wish to allow longer. 

Entrance fee at time of writing this is 25 Zlt (£5) and worth every penny.

It's a powerful snapshot into the lives of ordinary Poles in the war, made all the more poignant by the fact The Rising, didn't end well for Warsaw. Already heavily damaged by the Nazi occupation,  with ghettos having been established and liquidated - wiping out the Jewish population - the city was all but razed to the ground by the Nazi's in revenge for The Rising.

Transport Links

So much of the city was destroyed that town planners could start from scratch when the city was rebuilt in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, while Poland was under Communist occupation.

The downtown area is arranged on a grid system with wide multi-lane roads, wide pavements, cycle paths, tramways and an underground train system. Blocks are spaced out, roads wide and public transport is well organised, frequent and cheap.

A 20 minute single Metro ticket for Zone One will get you across the city, with stops and station changes for 3.20 Zlt (about 65p).

Apart from the manmade medieval fortification of the old town district, Warsaw is flat, so it's really quick and easy to get around by bicycle or scooter.

You can hire these all over the city - as long as you have a smartphone with data roaming activated and a QR code reader app installed. You have to register an account online, scan the code of the bike or scooter and away you go.

At this point, I shall have a small rant about how unfriendly the world is becoming in a bid to be 'mobile friendly'. For some reason - whether a restriction on my contract - even when my Android phone is set with data roaming enabled, it doesn't work abroad.  I really wanted to hire a scooter to save our feet, otherwise there is a lot of walking to get from one place to another across the wide boulevards. Fortuntaley, the weather was good while we were there so strolling around in the sun was no great hardship.

Food and Drink

As a cosmopolitan European city you can find food from all over the world, as well as familiar fast food and coffee chains. For the less adventurous it's easy to find something familiar.

If you like to eat like a local, Polish food is a mish-mash of food influences by different cultures across Europe. 

Pierogi (dumplings) are the fast-food street food of Poland. They can be sweet or savoury and are a quick and cheap snack, ideal with a pint of craft beer.

Food and drinks are really good value, a meal with drinks for 2 people is less than £20.

The Beer

Our time in Warsaw essentially truned into a craft beer tour of the city.

Good quality, local craft beer is £2-£3 a pint. 

Tap rooms dot the city, but the area with the highest concentration of craft beer bars is to the southwest corner of the Palace of Culture, 'Nowogrodzka'.

Favourites were:
Drugie Dno  

Kufle i Kapsle

Best for Food, Drink and Quirkiness: Banjaluka

We were fortunate to have a really lovely bar and restaurant with a fairy-light-lit terrace, opposite our apartment. It quickly became our favourite and our local for that last cheeky beverage of the day - Banjaluka

Practical Tips

We landed at Warsaw Modlin airport which is about an hour from the city.

The Modlin Bus / OK Bus is the best option for transfers to the city (£37 return for both of us). A taxi will set you back about £60 and there is no railway link from Modlin.

If you are on a city break, I can never see the point of hiring a car, as once you get to the city, you will be using public transport and walking. Driving around is one of the worst ways to see a city in my opinion - modern cities are designed to take cars away from the leisure and tourist areas - plus, you can't have a drink!

The Modlin bus picks up and sets down at the Palace of Culture (PKiN)

Location, Location

PKiN is the centre of the city, everything revolves around this 1955 skyscraper. 

If you find accommodation close to it you really can't go far wrong, you'll be right in the heart of the city with easy access to everything and plenty of places to eat, drink and shop on your doorstep.

Top Tip:

Baggage: If you have to hang around before or after check in at your accommodation, there are baggage lockers on the lower ground floor level of PKiN (Palace of Culture) - 2zl an hour (40p)*

Warsaw, not much of a looker but a big personality!

*Prices based on exchange rates as at May 2019: 5 Zloty = £1