(Note: Although posted now in April, this post was written while on the road in January)
Like a number of my friends, I have done a few psychometric profiling tests in the past, and also like a number of my friends, the results of these tests showed a strong goal-oriented trait (among other things). So it’s not surprising that I gave myself a mission when I left New Zealand.
My mission? To find a new adventure: something new that I wanted to do, somewhere that I wanted to do it, and people that I wanted to do it with. What was my proposed method? Travel. Travel until I didn’t feel like travelling anymore, and to keep my eyes peeled for good future opportunities along the way - oh yeah, and have a bit of fun along the way.
Starting with a shortlist of London, Hong Kong, Vancouver and San Francisco (we all have dreams, right?), I made sure that my year long itinerary would take me through as may of these spots as possible so that I could get a feel for what it might be like to live and work there - with the expectation that they would all probably score quite highly on career, fun people, nice place and a good “general vibe”. So when I confirmed that I would be signing up for a year of work at a Mozambican chilli farm just before Christmas, it wasn’t what people were expecting to hear.
But the decision process was more than just an inspired “I like it here, so why not??”. After consulting those who know me best, and whose opinions I knew would really matter to me, I felt that I’d covered most of the bases and was confident in putting my name down in ink. But how could a small, half finished chilli farm 45km from the capital of the world’s 3rd poorest country compete - and beat out - a list of the most developed, cultured, opportunity-rich, and popular world cities on the planet?
Part of the appeal is that Mozambique is everything that the other options are not, but still manages to have those things that are most important. Being a poor but rapidly developing economy, there are opportunities everywhere. Initially I will just be helping to run a couple of African chilli farms (apparently the Zambian operation needs a bit of Muzungi Powa - “white man power”, which is what the farm workers say whenever I pick up a shovel - too), but Boss Mick has a few other good ideas that hopefully we will be able to pursue on the side.
True, the money isn’t what it would be should one go and chase a job in the London finance world, but the work and the people more than make up for this. With much broader and greater responsibility than what I could find elsewhere, the learning and challenge factors will be sky high, which combine well with the ability to work in shorts and jandals most days. And the people that you get to deal with are among the most friendly and cheeky that I’ve met anywhere - despite the usual tensions when money and business are at stake, Mozambicans are always willing to help you out when you need it, and can take (and give) a joke no matter who you are.
Throw in a few other positives such as weekend trips to Tofu Beach or Kruger National Park, $3 bbq dinners on the beach at sunset with the locals, a very diverse and interesting bunch of expat locals from foreign investment and aid organisations, the chance to learn a foreign language while living it (Portuguese language lessons are in the job description), and the underlying feeling that your hard work is making a real, tangible difference to a lot of people who really need it, and I found the decision approaching the category of “no brainer”.
I initially agreed with one of my trusted advisers when they described the London job vs. Chilli Farmer decision as somewhat of a head vs. heart call, but the more I think about it seems like I’ve found a way to go with both. I can’t wait to get back to the farm and see how right - or wrong - I am.
Watch this space.