I left Zanzibar last Friday after two years as an economist in the Zanzibar Planning Commission as part of the ODI Fellowship Scheme. Now everybody is asking me what comes next. The answer, for the next few months at least, is travelling, learning and communicating.
Let me explain…
I’m in the lucky (privileged) position to be able to choose what to do with myself in the next few months. I have freedom from paying bills for rent or a car, am not contracted to any organisation and don’t have kids. Once I realised the extent of my freedom, I began to think about what opportunities are available to me now but wouldn’t be in future once I have other commitments. I thought about what I’ve wanted to do in the last few years but haven’t – those perennial items at the end of my to do lists.
There were many.
Something that many of us fall prey to is to always do the urgent rather than the important. This happens daily as we respond to email after email, to get a step closer to clearing our inboxes so we can have a clean slate before starting on that project that actually matters. In life, this tendency manifests itself in grand plans left undone and ambitions left unfulfilled.
Over the next year, I thus resolve to do the important instead of just the urgent.
The wider perspective is that I want to transform myself into someone who can change the world – to develop a set of skills and expertise that will set me up for personal and professional success in the next few decades.
Thus, I am not going straight into another job, despite the exciting opportunities out there. However, I do not see this as a retreat. Rather, I’m making a point of going out into the world to explore places, meet people, and develop and share my ideas.
There are three basic elements to my plans:
One obvious thing I can do with my freedom is travelling. From now until Christmas I’m travelling around Southern Africa and Eastern Africa. My basic route is Rwanda, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and back across to Zanzibar via the TAZARA railway.
At the beginning of 2016 I expect to visit the Netherlands, Denmark and maybe France. After that, I’ll (probably) be off again to South and South-East Asia (to help my budget last longer!).
I’ll be back in the UK for next July and August for my friends’ wedding and will probably be looking for some short-term consultancy work at this point (early notice klaxon!). I do have something lined up for after that but am open to all sorts of opportunities that may arise in the next year.
I want to concentrate on learning but I don’t want to go on a formal course (and have to pay for it). Therefore I’m creating my own scholarship programme with an adaptive curriculum – it’ll change as I go along.
I’m going to be learning from reading, chatting to people I meet and through practice. I’ll develop my photography skills and learning how to learn languages (starting with French) through a book called Fluent Forever. I’m aiming to develop my meta-skills of self-discipline and planning and so I’m starting out daily habits with an 8-week meditation course, coming up with ten ideas per day and practising some yoga (sources welcome).
However, I don’t want to learn just for the sake of it with no output. With all of those ideas floating around in my head, I feel in a good position to be writing regularly – first of all on this blog but then for other websites and publications later. I will develop my ability to communicate through writing and maybe through other media such as videos or giving talks. I’ll be developing my own website (on its way) plus various social media outlets.
I want to start putting my ideas out there – not because I think I’m right, but because that’s the quickest way of getting feedback and developing my thinking further. And it’s good writing practice.
So there you have it: my plan. I’m very open to comments and suggestions for how to make the most of my time.
Thank you in advance for all the support I’ll get from my friends and family in this next big adventure. When I think of what’s really important (rather than urgent), I think of you.