Road out of the rat race

27th December 1996 at 00:00
Well, here we are in the sunny south of Spain, in late November. In he past three months we have travelled through France and Spain following the swallows and the sun.

Four months ago, my partner and I had good jobs, two children at school, and a nice semi-detached house in Headingley, Leeds. I was employed as an FE lecturermanager, but at 45 I'd become too old (and expensive). So, with 14 others in a similar position whose jobs were "restructured", I was made redundant.

For years we had fantasised - usually on a Saturday night, after a spaghetti bolognaise and a bottle of cheap red plonk - about quitting the rat race. It was a dream that seemed a long way off. We'd say: "When retirement comes and the kids have grown up, we'll set off with the caravan and tour Europe. "

Then when the order of the boot came, we decided, with a confidence that hid an underlying fear of the unknown, that "now was the time", "this is the chance of a lifetime", " you only live once" and all those other cliches.

Susan, my partner, who trained as a teacher, but who worked for an accountancy firm as a personal tax consultant, handed in her notice and the months of planning began. Visits to family and friends to convince them we had not suddenly "gone off with the fairies" were followed by sorting out insurance, letting the house to students, getting information on European campsites open all year, and a million other things that have brought us to this - a temporary life on a Spanish campsite.

We have our modern caravan set up and a shop nearby that sells fresh bread and local wine.

Our two children, Iona and Gregor, are in the safe play area chatting and playing, in the way that only children can, with others from all over Europe and beyond.

Susan, our chief navigator and journey planner, sits outside in the sun reading a book, wearing shorts and teeshirt after taking morning school with the children. We have opted out of the rat race, or been forced out, depending on how you look at it. But we have done a lot in the three months since setting out and will do even more in the new year, on the road ahead.

Ian Stevenson was a lecturer in communication studies at Leeds College of Technology.

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