Shift of Direction

I thought I’d start putting one or two updates on here again to share a few things I’m up to over the next couple of weeks. Again, just really a diary, primarily for my own benefit, and to keep some of you posted on what I’m doing; please don’t expect any literary merit…

So firstly, as some of you know by now, I didn’t go back to work in the end. The original idea was a temporary sabbatical. The four months ended up turning into six and then, as the date for returning started to approach, I had a really hard think about what I want from life at this stage. Call it a mid-life crisis if you like :-). But actually, I have to say, it hasn’t felt at all like a ‘crisis’. But it was, of course, also influenced by my experiences in Ethiopia.

Two things have become clear to me. Firstly that, after many years of having benefited from amazing opportunities in life (a wonderful family and upbringing, great education and career opportunities, health, I could go on and on…), I’m thinking it’s high time I thought a bit more about my social conscience. In some way, perhaps I need to try to ‘give something back’ (such a cliché I know). I’m not entirely sure yet how, or whether, I can do that, but I’m convinced it’s the right thing for me to be focusing on for a period.

The second thing that has become clear to me is that I’ve very much enjoyed stepping away, for a while at least, from a ‘corporate’ hierarchy and culture. I feel immensely grateful for the many challenging and rewarding years I’ve spent at work, and the excellent people I’ve worked with over the years in some great organisations. But I’ve reached a stage in life where I very much value the freedom, spontaneity and excitement of working and living independently.

I’m well aware this comes with plenty of risk: I’m giving up, at least temporarily, a lot of security and of course the unbeatable financial rewards of the City. And I may ultimately want (or need!) to go back. But for me, right now, it feels completely the right decision. As I’ve probably said on many occasions to those I’ve been with recently, I’ve felt I’ve been truly ‘living’ life the past few months in a way I’d maybe not been doing for a while. I’m viewing life as an adventure at this point (that’s a luxury, I know, because of all the opportunities I’ve been so fortunate enough to have – and one that I’m conscious many people don’t have). But one thing I’m sure is that, at the end of my stint in the world, I’m more likely to be regretting what I didn’t have the courage to try, rather than the mistakes I made and the risks I took.

Anyway, enough of the personal waffle, and apologies if it started to sound like a sermon :-). Here’s a quick update on my immediate plans, for those who are interested. I’m really excited, and privileged, to have recently become involved as a trustee with a charity called The Book Bus ( This organisation has, for the past few years, been helping address challenges around child literacy in Zambia, Malawi, Ecuador and, more recently, India by providing mobile libraries that regularly visit rural schools. For the next two weeks, I’m visiting a couple of the sites where the charity is currently working – I’ll be getting the opportunity to meet the small teams who work on the ground in Zambia, and to visit the schools and local partner organisations. A core element of the service The Book Bus provide is dedicating time to reading with the children and introducing them to the world of books (something that’s not feasible day to day, with teacher to pupil ratios of around 1:100). So despite my limited experience in this (in my uncle duties from time to time!) I’ll be giving it a shot.

The other exciting aspect of the trip is that the cheapest flight is via Ethiopian Airlines – which gives me the chance to stop off in Addis and go back to visit the EEF hostel. I can’t wait to see the students again – I’ve really missed them. Plus the recruitment process for new kids starting in 2015 is now well underway and I’m really looking forward to catching up with Caspar on how that’s going. (Rest assured I’m going to be harping on a bit here about sponsorship for these new kids! If there’s any way you think you could possibly get involved, please, please do let me know.)

OK, definitely enough rambling for now. I arrive in Lusaka Wednesday, then visit The Book Bus operation in Mfuwe from Saturday. Hopefully I’ll have a few photos for the next post (I so want to see an elephant…).


9 thoughts on “Shift of Direction

  1. Hi Alan

    I think is fabulous what you are doing and wish you every happiness and success in living your life to the full and giving back a little to others who have not had the fortunate opportunities you have had. I look forward to hearing how your journey goes with interest. Go safely and enjoy 😉 xxx

  2. Hi Alan,

    Another exciting adventure coming up.

    I am well acquainted with mobile Libraries. I was a regular at the Gulbenkian Foundation Mobile Library that used to visit the village where I grew up in the Algarve. I basically started reading books from there. It is a great opportunity for kids but also for grown ups to read books which they would probably never have the chance to otherwise. So, congrats for choosing such a worthy cause.

    You can also count on my support for any activity you think I might be able to help with from London. Please do let me know if there is anything I can do from here.

    I wish you all the success in your new adventure and am certain that will be the case.


    1. Hi Alan,
      good for you! That is an amazing thing to do and must have been a difficult decision but at least you will be able to look back on your life without regret. Wishing you lots of luck and happiness. Suz x

  3. Hi Alan. I am neither surprised nor do I think you are sermonising! Seeing how most of the world lives and coming out of the bubble that luck of birth and the chances and choices that are cocooned with us in that bubble bring, means going back is very hard. The rewards of living life as you are now are far greater than any financial rewards the city might offer. Changing the world book by book is wonderful and I have supported an organisation doing similar work in Kenya. I am particularly interested in supporting those with autism and Ethiopian families here tell me it is very difficult. Let me know if you come across anything! Take care and have fun and I look forward to more blogs! Liza

    1. Thanks so much, Liza. Really appreciate your thoughts. I’ll ask some contacts in Addis about those living with autism and let you know if I come across anything. Ax

  4. Hi Alan, its really great to know you are well and doing something that is truly soul fulfilling. Money and security is not everything and most people are afraid to give those up and undertake something which is out of their comfort zone and unselfish and rewarding in different ways. Anyway, please keep writing on this blog, it is really inspiring. In the meantime please be careful with your health. I am leaving SGP to NYK in the end of this month. It has been stressful but I think it will all go well in the end. Hugs, Sofia

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