Thursday, 30 June 2011

Encores and cardboard boxes

This week I learnt a new skill.  It was how to make cardboard boxes from archival acid-free cardboard sheets. As a very unhandy man I thought it was quite an achievement. I'll never make any money out of it and it will not change the course of western civilisation but I enjoyed doing it.  This new skill was acquired at the one day a week I spend volunteering at the local town museum.  Escaping my profession a few years ago means I can choose to spend a day a week pursuing an interest in my own community, purely for enjoyment and without any thought of financial reward. Making cardboard boxes instead of stressing over legal problems is very liberating.

It seems that choosing what are called 'encore' careers are now very much the thing. Like the encore at a concert where the performance ends with something a bit lighter and brighter than the rest of the program, the encore career is one that is a bit easier and more enjoyable than the major career you worked in for most of your working life.  It should be less stressful.  You choose something that has always interested you and if it in someway helps you give something back to your community at the same time then that is a bonus to enjoy. You will not work the same long hours and the financial returns will be much less, but if you plan for it in advance and take time to order your life and work out what is really important for living healthily and happily - it will be a joyous success.  You will finish your working life on a positive high, instead of wearily staggering into a poor-health afflicted retirement. 

Choose your encore career carefully and you will never retire in the usual sense of the word. Your work, play and interests, will simply coalesce. Encore anyone?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

I was a dreamer once

"I was a dreamer once, but now my dreams have come true,  and I am satisfied and happy."  John Wray. These words come from the preface to a classic yachting book, South Seas Vagabonds, first published in 1939.  I know very little about yachting, but having just published a yachting story for an elderly relative made me search out and read South Seas Vagabonds, a book I have been aware of for many years. 

In the early 1930s in the midst of the Great Depression John Wray was sacked from his job mainly because he spent too much time dreaming about building a yacht and sailing the South Seas, instead of adding up columns of figures at work. At 21 years of age, with no money, and unemployed in the middle of a world wide depression was probably not the best time to have too many dreams.  However, Wray decided to build his boat.  He found the timber for his boat from logs that had gone adrift in the local harbour and gulf while being rafted to sawmills.  He borrowed tools and drew up his own plans and over the next couple of years built his boat in his parents' front yard.  Eventually with a crew of similar minded young men he set sail into the Pacific armed with a broken sextant and a book on navigation. John Wray's subsequent long voyages around the Pacific Islands and his unconventional life soon became the stuff of legend.

The book I have just published The Voyage of the Roxane by Keith Dawson has some similarities to Wray's story.  Dawson and a friend wanted to go ocean voyaging and worked hard in seasonal labouring work to save money to buy a yacht.  All they could afford was a 26 footer, not the largest boat to tackle stormy southern oceans, but they were confident it was satisfactory.  In 1937 they set out to cross the Tasman Sea to Australia in winter.  The Roxane was the smallest vessel to receive Marine Department clearance to leave New Zealand waters even though the ship's "lifeboat" was a flat bottomed 6 foot punt.  There was no ship to shore radio, satellite navigation systems, electric winches or workable auxillary engine.

Both Wray and Dawson (who coincidentially knew each other) had a dream and confidence in their abilities to make the dream become reality.They were not put off by the fact they were living during a world wide financial downturn. They didn't spend much time worrying about what they would do after the voyage or where they would be in ten years time or how much money they would have in the bank.

If you want to read either of these books and be inspired, South Seas Vagabonds which has been reprinted several times over the years can be found on a number of secondhand book sites, including Amazon and The Voyage of the Roxane can be purchased on-line through