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The Warsaw Voice » Travel » December 21, 2011
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Around the World in a Land Rover (1): Wild at Heart
December 21, 2011   
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“Is there anything you wouldn’t dare to do?” I’m often asked this question by people around me. They say that not without a hint of jealousy—regardless of whether they’re family, friends or just people I know. Everybody thinks of me as a nabob, a rich gentleman of leisure who can do as he pleases.

Indeed, at some point in my life, I sent out a message to the world that was so surprising and unpredictable that many were left dumbfounded. Along with my wife and three children, I decided that we needed to cut ourselves some slack—escape the routine and opt for adventure and risk taking instead. We decided to go on a two-year, round-the-world trip in a car!

It was our own decision. A decision of a lifetime! We hadn’t won the lottery. It was a priority for us. There are people who would rather get a new car every three years, buy an apartment, a house or a summer cottage, look forward to a promotion in the hope of glittering career trajectory, get a redemptive pay raise to let them spend even more and buy a state-of-the-art flat-screen television set or one more 3D video game. Or maybe they’re just prudent and have their future and retirement in mind. It is only a noble and human thing to do.

We make choices taking into account what we feel are our priorities. These choices are classic ones. The choice we made disturbed the balance with its non-conformist nature. Brassens once sang: “Good-natured people don’t like it when others take a different road to theirs…” Our little project made them realize their own inability to pursue their own dreams, which is why they found it fascinating and shocking at the same time and at the end of the day, it evoked a craving in them. But that didn’t matter.

Our choice was this: to leave and explore, to see, meet people and share things with them. Our choice was to turn our back on the verb “to have” and focus on “being” instead. Our choice was to spend nights atop our car where we had our tents mounted. Our priority wasn’t to invest in things, but to spend quality time with the family, with our children to pass on our values and our love to them. If you let down your guard, the time that passes is lost forever. It is like a fast train that never stops. Once you miss it, it’s too late. We didn’t want to live with a sense of regret, which was why we decided to make sacrifices and shook off all the temptations society shows us and the lifestyle it wants us to believe is the only way.

All the superficial things were just gone! We could now focus on the most essential thing—a feel-good atmosphere in the family. And don’t you tell me it was chance. Everybody makes their own choices according to their own priorities. It is by no means a matter of money. I’ve seen rich people traveling in obscene comfort and others who didn’t have much and traveled on foot, on bike or hitch-hiked. Some of them had sold everything they had just to travel: their houses, their cars, their furniture. They left their past behind. That’s a huge adventure. I wouldn’t have dared to go that far…

We’d been very happy before we hit the road. When my contract as CEO of the Polish and Ukrainian branch of an international corporation expired, we returned to France where I got a full-time job as CFO with European responsibility. My wife was looking after the home and, with remarkable talent, took care of the education of our three little children. Her role as a housewife took as much effort as my job, if not more. I spent every week on a plane and reconnected with my family on weekends. But each weekend went by in a flash and tossed us into another week. An endless repetition.

We lived a comfortable and regular life, like clockwork. Only we did not live with one another, but next to one another, always in a hurry, never having the time to live as a family.
We were like most of you.

But there was the promise we’d made when we were 20 years old, carefree and romantic. The promise was tempting, but my employer tempted me as well. I was offered a very interesting position in spring.

Would I let voracious ambition get in the way of my dream?

No! The dream would wipe everything out of the way, because we were still wild at heart—our 40-year-old hearts.

The preparations took six months: we bought a Land Rover Defender in a bargain deal, while I quit my job, an utter surprise to my boss who thought he’d promised me the moon. We compiled materials for the kids to continue their education, we packed our bags and had all the necessary vaccinations. We searched for a foster family for our dog. We asked ourselves: do we rent the house or sell it, what about the car and so on, and so forth. Since we were not ready yet, we had to put off the departure date.

In the meantime, I was contacted by a French company with which I had established ties a couple of years before. Having heard of my resignation and the planned trip, they offered me the job of a consultant. At first, working while on the road was absolutely out of question for me, but the arguments they presented to me were so interesting that it was hard to decline the offer.

So there I was, with a job again. For the six months that followed, I’d be building a new organization to let me follow and motivate a new team whose goal was to enter a new market in Poland. By a huge coincidence, I kept managing an enterprise from 20,000 kilometers away while at the same exploring the world with my whole family.

In order to do so, I had to recruit a viable team and have the tools and the method to let me do my job efficiently so as not to interfere with the dream that was being fulfilled.

Igor Jeliński
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