Life after a great leap: lessons from people who dropped everything in search of happiness | Life and style

‘I purchased 200 turkey chicks – and be taughted to rear them on the job’

Paul White, 35, Lancashire

In Might 2018, I turned chief of my native council, Pendle, in Lancashire. A yr later, after almost a decade in native politics, I give up. Alongside my council duties, I had been rising a enterprise: milk and grocery supply to 100,000 clients, domestically and elsewhere in the nation. I had a 3am milk spherical, so I’d be up earlier than daybreak delivering bottles, leaping on a practice to Westminster after lunch to fulfill authorities ministers, and heading again to chair a council assembly that night.

My coronary heart was consistently racing. Shortly earlier than my election as chief, I’d been recognized with cardiomyopathy – coronary heart failure. I’d been fitted with a pacemaker and defibrillator, and placed on remedy, however I’d torn up the physician’s notice, satisfied I used to be too busy to take time without work. I wasn’t bothered if my demanding life killed me. I used to be single and had no time for a household.

After one 21-hour work day, in direction of the top of 2018, I advised my mum I deliberate to give up; as quickly as I uttered the phrases, I felt the load elevate. I moved to a barn conversion in Laneshawbridge, the Lancashire village I grew up in, and offered my stake in the enterprise. For a whereas, I did nothing, which was an infinite and uncomfortable tradition shift. Then I remembered desires I’d harboured as a child, once I’d draw maps of farms I wished to personal. I had studied rural enterprise at college, however the thought of working in agriculture bought misplaced in enterprise and politics. I’d stored a watch on the farming press and, in early 2021, nonetheless reeling from the pandemic, I noticed warnings of a turkey scarcity at Christmas – a outcome of provide chain and labour points stemming from Brexit.


I rented an acre of woodland in the village, purchased 200 turkey chicks for £2,000, and learn up on methods to rear them. I arrange the enterprise in three weeks, figuring I’d see a return in 20 weeks, when the native pubs and butchers have been prepared for his or her birds.

Every day, I rise up with my turkeys at daybreak and shut them in at nightfall. I work alone, however I’ve discovered a lot, educating myself on the job – the bizarre methods the turkeys react to noise, how a lot they eat, and how loud they’re; farming with a hangover is a nightmare. I’ve rented 11 extra acres and, this yr, I’ll begin a industrial flock of egg-laying chickens, then transfer on to sheep.

After I was in politics, I assumed it was an important factor in the world. I used to be named Younger Lancastrian of the Yr in 2018, however, once I look again at images, I appear gray, skinny, sick. Now, I spend hours outdoor. I lead a strolling group, and clock up much more miles with my canine. I are inclined to my turkeys by the river, and potter across the village speaking to people. Earlier than, my household have been uncared for. Now, my mum pops in for a brew after work, and I spend time with my child niece.

Virtually, there are downsides to life on the farm: rain, animals die, and it’s important to be very good to make a residing from it: a £10 turkey chick can finally promote for as much as £90. Emotionally, it’s been onerous to come back to phrases with the change. Handing over the keys to the city corridor was a big reduction, but I toy each day with going again – it looks like unfinished enterprise. People who wished my consideration for years, whom I thought of buddies, disappeared. I’ve additionally discovered it onerous to reconcile myself with the concept I’m not contributing to the world or reaching in the identical approach: when you’ve tasted success, you are feeling compelled to fill your days with it. Now, I query if it’s OK for all times to really feel this straightforward. I think I’ll search for one other endeavour alongside this one, but it surely must be excellent.

Everybody tells me how fortunate I’m to have made the leap. It’s by no means going to make me wealthy in cash however I believe, in time, it may make me wealthy in happiness.

‘After the Brexit referendum, my Dutch husband stated: we have now to maneuver’

Daybreak Connor-Van der Horst, 49, Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Dawn Connor-Van der Horst with her husband Eric
Daybreak Connor-Van der Horst together with her husband Eric. {Photograph}: Sanne De Wilde/The Guardian

Within the run-up to the Brexit referendum, the roads close to our north Devon dwelling have been lined with purple Vote Go away indicators. I used to be strongly pro-remain and attended our native depend on vote night time. Because the piles of paper grew, they confirmed my fears. Within the early hours, I went dwelling to my Dutch husband, Eric, and cried. Our sons, seven and 10, have been in mattress whereas we watched the outcome come via on TV. Eric turned to me and stated: “I believe we have now to maneuver.” By the top of 2017, we had left for the Netherlands.

We by no means wished to take the choice – nor may we have now predicted how a lot we’d lose in the method. As a household, we recognized strongly as European. We lived in the Netherlands once we have been first married. After I fell pregnant and we moved dwelling to Britain, it by no means felt like emigrating; we simply rocked up and moved in. Leaving, a decade later, felt completely different, as if I didn’t belong in my very own nation.

The whole marketing campaign had been traumatic. I’d discovered myself in arguments with workers at nursery who held opposing views. Strangers had a go at my husband for talking Dutch to our youngsters in the park. We ran a biking enterprise – organising biking holidays for vacationers and cycle coaching in colleges – and I bear in mind one of our workers commenting, as we appeared out over the rolling hills late in the marketing campaign: “This nation is just too full, we have to depart.” There was anger and hatred on people’s faces. It was exhausting.

We started to consider shifting. We beloved being European and wished to be in the EU. As soon as we’d determined, we advised shut buddies and progressively withdrew from our work and social lives. The toughest half was people who knew how damage we felt and stated nothing to consolation us.

My husband lined up a job with a TV firm, and we moved to Nijmegen, a metropolis close to the Dutch border with Germany. We have been the primary people in our new housing property. The ambiance felt chilly; all of us discovered it terrible.

Again in Devon, we had identified our neighbours and fellow enterprise house owners. The boys had thrived in the village main college, and loved archery and browsing. After his first day of college in the Netherlands, my eldest son merely declared: “The horror.” The children had by no means wished to maneuver, however I’d tried to make an journey of it. I felt horrible for placing them in this place. My sister stated that my youngest by no means smiled correctly in the images I despatched. At his main college, there was no allowance made for him being unable to talk Dutch. I attempted to seek out them golf equipment, like they’d had at dwelling, but it surely was tough to make buddies. I began educating English, however I’d misplaced my help community – and as an grownup, that’s onerous to switch.


My husband was relieved to slide again into a job he had carried out 10 years earlier than. However 4 years in, our lives have shrunk and are a lot much less fascinating than they have been. It isn’t that I want we’d by no means moved – however there have been days once I’ve wished we’d by no means needed to.

I used to inform my youngsters that they have been nonetheless British and may go to a UK college. Nevertheless, the principles are unclear and “Brexpat” marketing campaign teams at the moment are lobbying on behalf of youngsters who have been requested to pay worldwide charges as a result of they don’t attend British secondary colleges, regardless of retaining citizenship.

We’ve been again to the UK twice. What occurred feels much less private than it did, however nothing has modified and I see no cause to return. We aren’t wished there. We’ve got grown accustomed to our smaller world. Materially, we’re higher off. We dwell in the largest and greatest insulated home we’ve ever lived in, and have a new automotive for the primary time. We’ve loved holidays to Luxembourg and France. That’s the Europe I wished on my doorstep. I nonetheless combat Brexit via marketing campaign teams and social media. Trolls inform me I’ve moved and ought to shut up, but it surely’s not as if we walked off into the sundown. It’s unhappy to assume of all that we constructed, and all that we misplaced. I’m reconciled with it – but it surely’s gone for ever.

When the pandemic hit, it cemented my ambition to work remotely from a seaside with coconuts and beers’

Raj Goodman-Anand, 39, Bangkok

Raj Goodman-Anand with his wife Suvekchya and daughter Raaya
Raj Goodman-Anand together with his spouse Suvekchya and daughter Raaya. {Photograph}: Luke Duggleby/The Guardian

A number of years in the past, after my spouse, Suvekchya, survived breast most cancers, a therapist requested what my very best life appeared like. I used to be born in Kuwait, however was residing in London. I stated I wished to dwell someplace sunny once more, close to the ocean, doing the job I like – however that I couldn’t. “Why not?” she requested me. After I broke it down, there was no actual reply.

I had moved to the UK at 18 and met Sue at college, in Brighton. We married in 2012, in Nepal, the place she is from. In April 2016, she was given the most cancers analysis. There have been factors the place we didn’t know if she’d survive, and it modified our lives fully. It was the primary time we’d realised our time was finite, that issues change in a heartbeat. We didn’t need to miss a day, an hour.

We made small adjustments. Sue turned vegan. I went from taking 280 flights in a yr for work to creating my total firm work remotely, lengthy earlier than Covid. Life was enjoyable however fast-paced. The choice to promote up and depart was an accumulation of too many wet London Sundays, £8 sandwiches, and days spent getting into and leaving the workplace in the darkish. When the pandemic hit, and adopted by the delivery of our daughter Raaya in September 2020, it cemented our ambition to get out and get pleasure from what we love: meals, tradition, journey. As an alternative of being caught in our two-room condominium, we may maintain the enterprise going whereas working remotely from a seaside with coconuts and beers.

We left the UK on 30 January 2021 with our belongings packed into 5 baggage. We offered our furnishings, my beloved Brompton bike, and the wine, beers and artefacts I’d gathered on travels. Our UK buddies and household have been fairly shocked that we have been doing it with a four-month-old child; the one draw back, now, is how a lot we miss them.

We spent the primary three months in Kathmandu with Sue’s household, trekking, consuming great meals and working versatile workplace hours. When Nepal launched a lockdown and went on the purple listing, we prolonged our keep, spending two months indoors – however in distinction to our London lockdowns, we have been residing with household and had house. Journey restrictions prevented us flying on to our subsequent vacation spot, Bangkok, so we spent a month in Albania. We rented Airbnbs in the capital, Tirana, then Sarandë on the coast, the place the ocean is turquoise.

Arriving in Thailand was onerous. Our daughter was quarantined for 4 days in a hospital room, as a result of she had what turned out to be a false constructive Covid take a look at outcome, which was extremely worrying. Actually, although, that has been the one powerful bit.

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There’s a rhythm to life right here, now. We’ve rented an condominium, which can function a base to journey Asia. We hope to go to Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan – and I’d like to maneuver to Latin America in the following 5 years. I spend mornings with the household, go to the health club, play paddle tennis or see buddies. I begin my working day about 3pm and break at 7pm, for a therapeutic massage or some superior Thai meals, then I am going again to work at 10pm for a couple extra hours. Weekends are sometimes spent on the seaside. In the meantime, the enterprise has grown, partly as a result of of the flexibleness my workers and I get pleasure from.

I do know we must settle someplace when my daughter begins college, however my thought of how which will look has modified. It wouldn’t need to be in the UK and it might now not require me to work conventional workplace hours. Dwelling the best way we do has made me realise something is feasible. Raaya is rising up in a melting pot that’s the total world. And with out most cancers, our daughter, the pandemic, I’m sure we’d nonetheless be in London.

‘Taking in a refugee, I didn’t know what to anticipate – she had almost drowned in the Mediterranean’

Debbie Connolly, 58, Liverpool

Portrait of Debbie Connolly
Debbie Connolly. {Photograph}: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

I had by no means been somebody who may see a downside and not cease to assist. I started fostering, in 2010, after volunteering with prisoners. I had been divorced for 11 years and was a single guardian, elevating my daughter, Megan, then 13.

I used to be shocked by what number of of the prisoners I labored with got here from a care background. I noticed the identical sample with homeless people, whom I’d chat to and provide sizzling drinks once I was out buying. I used to be wanting to do one thing substantial to make a distinction, so I made contact with a fostering charity, Tact.

I knew that fostering would change our lives. As a lone carer, I must reduce on volunteering and my job, as a counsellor. It could additionally cease me performing some of the actions I used to get pleasure from, like going to the theatre, or out with buddies. My daughter would additionally need to be taught to share me with one other little one.

First, we took in a teenage boy; then one other after he left. When, in 2015, the charity requested if I’d take in a refugee, I knew it might be completely different, possibly tougher, however I didn’t know what to anticipate.

I used to be advised there was a little one from Eritrea. She had almost drowned crossing the Mediterranean in a dinghy. She finally arrived in Liverpool. In that second, all I heard was that there was a little one in want, and I stated, “Sure.” Solely later did I take into consideration the language barrier, the tradition shock, her trauma. Kokob arrived the following day, in the garments she’d been carrying when she left Eritrea two years earlier; her footwear have been two sizes too small. She appeared terrified. She was about 13 – she had no paperwork, so she didn’t know when her birthday was; we started speaking via physique language and expressions.

Social staff positioned her in a language college, with grownup refugees, and I fought tooth and nail to get her into mainstream schooling. Inside six months, she was talking English, and opening as much as me. My daughter was in her 20s and handled her like a sister. Kokob began calling me Mum and writing me Mom’s Day playing cards, which warmed my coronary heart. She was by no means going to see her personal mom once more – I used to be the closest factor she had. I discovered about her tradition and weight loss plan, via books. I took up vegan cooking and discovered her an Eritrean church. I bear in mind taking her to a restaurant for her birthday and discovering she’d by no means earlier than celebrated one.

A yr after she arrived, I used to be requested to take in Ghidey, too – a 15-year-old boy, additionally from Eritrea. I’d by no means had a son, and he was affectionate and great at sport. He bought on the refugee soccer crew and then into Liverpool FC’s faculty. I felt immensely proud.

Kokob and Ghidey have been black youngsters in a white household, however we by no means skilled racism. I’d stroll into city with them each, holding fingers, and we’d get the odd look, however largely people smiled. One of Megan’s buddies as soon as requested, “How come Kokob doesn’t communicate scouse?”

Kokob was with me for 4 years, and Ghidey for 3. They moved out as they approached 18. I invited them to remain, however they may obtain higher state help beginning their impartial lives younger; now they each dwell close to me.

Fostering has been hectic at occasions. I undergo from fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis in my backbone, so I needed to think about my very own well being when confronted with some difficult behaviour that comes from the trauma the kids have endured. Even so, taking them in was the perfect change I ever made. After I assume again, I’m struck by how nervous and susceptible they have been once they arrived, and how their confidence soared.

Ghidey has a job, and Kokob is in school; she needs to be a chemist or a nurse. They nonetheless name me Mum and I believe of them as my son and daughter. Kokob was at my wedding ceremony, final yr, and at Megan’s two years in the past. My husband, Andrew, has turn out to be an authorized foster carer, too, so we may help extra youngsters in the long run.

Caring for refugee youngsters gave me an appreciation of the issues we take without any consideration – household, love, a good dwelling. Having the ability to make a distinction in their lives has been humbling. Megan is 26 now. In job interviews, she tells people it’s the most constructive factor that has occurred to her. It taught her empathy and gave her energy of character.

A yr in the past, Kokob texted me out of the blue. She wrote: “I need to thanks for what you’ve carried out for me. You’ve given me a lot. I like you.” That meant everything.

‘Working in the woods as a pizza chef has introduced me emotional stability’

Gino Scrigna, 31, Better Manchester

Gino Scrigna making pizza in the woods
Gino Scrigna. {Photograph}: Fabio de Paola/The Guardian

I used to be working 70-hour weeks in a concrete metropolis in the beginning of 2019. Every single day, I commuted, by practice and tram, into work the place I managed groups of as much as 50 people, serving 1000’s of delegates at Manchester’s conference centre.

At dwelling, my thoughts was consistently on my job. I satisfied myself that issues have been good as a result of I used to be placing cash in the account, however I used to be so exhausted from working late nights, early mornings and weekends that my spouse, Katy, was mainly functioning as a single mom to our two youngsters, then 4 and three.

In June that yr, my grandmother died, adopted by my dad, three months later, each in Italy. Katy and I had been married for 5 years, and she was pregnant with our third little one, however everything fell aside. The online broke. I spiralled into melancholy, gave up work and grew indifferent from people I beloved. It was a wake-up name.

I had grown up in South Africa and got here to the UK at 21. My mum had left once I was three, making Dad my caregiver, however he had by no means frolicked with me and had been emotionally unavailable. My solely recollections of him have been as a workaholic. I had become him. If I didn’t change, my youngsters would don’t have any recollections of days out or taking part in video games with me, both. Katy made it clear I’d lose them altogether.

She’d been suggesting I alter jobs for a whereas, and not lengthy earlier than Dad’s demise, I’d answered an advert for a pizza chef, and bought a job working in the woods at weekends. A man, Adam, wished somebody to cook dinner, on the again of a trailer, for walkers and native people on a lovely seam of woodland close to Cheshire. It was a option to earn some additional money and strive a completely different approach of working. I loved it, and I’d come dwelling happier. When Dad died, I give up each my jobs and, by 2020, I’d run my household into debt. I hid it from Katy everything was a mess. In the course of the pandemic, I took a job in a scotch egg manufacturing facility and, in summer season 2020, picked up some hours serving gelato for Adam.

By early 2021, his lovely spot in the woods had turn out to be well-liked: on a regular basis people spent outdoor throughout lockdowns had given it a enhance. There was a espresso shack and tents, alongside the pizza oven, and tons of of people have been coming down at weekends. Adam supplied me three days a week, and sufficient cash to pay my payments. I left the manufacturing facility, and made the forest my workplace. It was the change that Katy knew I wanted.

On Sundays, Katy and the children – we have now 4 now – come down, eat my pizzas and play all afternoon. On different days, they’re simply 20 minutes away – ready on the window for me to drive dwelling and put them to mattress. We’ve got days out and play video games collectively.

I used to be conditioned to consider that the company world was the one option to stability. Now, I’ve emotional stability, and I’m working to interrupt my generational curses. I want the popularity had come simpler – that I hadn’t needed to make all of it the best way to the underside to climb again up. However the various was a life with cash in the financial institution and no household beneath my roof. It has been a steep studying curve. My life feels extra balanced, and I spend my days in nature. My household doesn’t have the posh of occurring fancy holidays – however I can’t put a worth on being in their lives.

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