“Never compromise your ambitions. Aim big – if there’s somebody out there doing it, it’s do-able”Adrian Sturrock
This week, I’ve got a very special treat for you!
One of the reasons I started my blog is because so many people asked, “How did you and Mark retire early to follow your dreams?” I hope I’ve covered our story comprehensively, but since my fellow road-tripper and indie author Adrian Sturrock has just quit his job to follow his own dreams, I thought I’d ask him a few questions about how he got there.
If F.I.R.E (Financial Independence Retire Early) is your ambition, listen and learn: Adrian has some very thoughtful advice to share. Otherwise, just come along for the ride with the man who wrote one of the funniest road trip memoirs I have ever read!
Who is Adrian Sturrock?
According to his bio, Adrian Sturrock is a writer, occasional musician, teacher, and ethnic minority (except, he claims, when in Wales). If, on the other hand, you were to ask him directly who he is, his response becomes a little less specific:
“Hmm. Good question. Who exactly am I? Writer? Traveller? Musician? My wife refers to me simply as ‘a Welsh’. I’m definitely a Welsh. I suppose I should add dreamer to this list. I think that’s something I inherited from my grandfather. He was a dreamer. I liked that about him. I liked that he had an excitable mind that was open to big possibilities.
“He died just after my twelfth birthday, which makes me sad as I’d like to have got to know him as an adult. That’s me as an adult, you understand, not him. He was already an adult. If you think about it, he would have had to have been an adult in order to qualify as my grandfather. It’s quite simple logic, really.
“As far as my child’s memory can recall, he had only three interests in life outside of his family: western movies, the football pools (though he had no interest in sport), and Star Trek – ‘to boldly go …’ etc. He wrote one novel – a Western in which he placed family members into the main roles. When he’d completed it – and having no knowledge of how the publishing industry worked – he did what anyone in his shoes might have done, he posted the full manuscript straight off to Hollywood. He addressed it to his favourite cowboy actor of the time – Alan Ladd. He even got a reply. I have no idea how he could have possibly got hold of Alan Ladd’s postal address, especially as this was pre-internet. But, there you have it, the package got there. In my head, he wrote on the envelope, ‘To Alan Ladd, C/O Hollywood, USA’. (I’d like to think that this was exactly what he wrote.)
“So, perhaps this is partly who I am. I’m my grandfather’s grandson. A dreamer. But I’m also an observer, and this is how my professional writing came about. I tend to naturally focus on the little things, the fluff that people seem to blank out in order to get at the important stuff. I’m less interested in the important stuff. I think I might be wired oddly.”
Adrian’s first publication, THE SAT NAV DIARIES, which follows a road trip through parts of Western Europe – a trip triggered by the threat of losing his job – was well received on both sides of the Atlantic, gaining a string of 5-star reviews and culminating in a nomination for a 2018 Kindle Book Award. His follow-up, THE SAT NAV DIARIES 2.0 (HEADING EAST…ISH) was equally well received and was itself nominated for a 2021 Kindle Award.
He has also published two successful collections of humour articles through his RANDOM series, in which he considers a number of everyday pressing issues, such as:
‘How to get paid to fail a job interview’ and ‘Why it is perfectly fine to blame French sociologists for your own first world problems’.
Beyond his own books, he has contributed to a number of travel and lifestyle anthologies and online publications, as well as having his poetry/lyrics displayed alongside those of Benjamin Zephaniah in Luton Town Hall (though, he says, it is unlikely that Benjamin is aware of this).
His other claims to fame include being smiled at by Madonna, and having once spent an afternoon watching Ace Ventura, Pet Detective in Barry Gibb’s living room, where Bee Gee’s manager, David English, remarked on his shoes.
What makes you tick?
Lots of things make me tick. Adventure makes me tick. I love travel – whether it’s the physical kind or the type of travel one does in one’s mind as a writer. I never travelled as a child; we didn’t have the money. This is why I can still get very excited about it now. I’m the guy who leaves nose prints on the windows of the plane – sometimes next to seats that aren’t technically mine.
But it’s road tripping that excites me the most at present. My wife and I did our first one seven years ago when a fear of redundancy at work prompted me to defiantly buy a sports car. There’s a freedom in road tripping, as well as an opportunity to see more of the world than an airline ticket could offer. I like learning about how one place joins onto the next. I also love the possibilities of getting lost and discovering new places and people and things.
“There’s a freedom in road tripping, as well as an opportunity to see more of the world than an airline ticket could offer…I also love the possibilities of getting lost and discovering new places and people and things.“
I think this wander lust is linked to my desire to swim against the tide, socially. When I was a kid, nothing gave me more pleasure than to bunk off school in the knowledge that the rest of the town was either at school or at work. This feeling of living my day contrary to everybody else still pleases me today. Even as an adult, ‘throwing a sickie’ has the added excitement that not only am I not at work but that everyone else is. It’s the gift that keeps giving.
Beyond travel, writing excites me, whether I’m writing fiction, non-fiction, or songs. As a child, I wanted to be a singer-songwriter. It took until my mid-thirties to start putting that into practice, to find that I could do it and that people would pay me actual money for it. I initially felt guilty about accepting payment for something I’d willingly do for free – but I always accepted it – I’m not a total idiot.
Beyond these things, kindness makes me tick. I never really cry when I’m angry or frustrated, but if I witness a kindness between two people it can break my heart. I also enjoy being around passionate people. It’s not so important what the passion is over, I just love people who care about things and want to share their passions. It’s what the world should be about.
“It’s not so important what the passion is over, I just love people who care about things and want to share their passions. It’s what the world should be about.”
What have you been up to in terms of a career to date?
While the majority of my career time has been in teaching (firstly teaching English literature and later Business and Law), I have worked in a number of areas, including PR, marketing and advertising. I’ve also been a semi-professional singer-songwriter, and even worked in an auction house as the guy who holds up the items that people are bidding on. Between all this, I’ve been a really terrible waiter, and also did a short stint as a buyer for the NHS. But of all the jobs I’ve ever had (other than in music), my favourite was my paper round as a teen. Being out in the seasons before anybody else was up was wonderous. The world is a very different place that early in the morning. I guess even then I enjoyed living contrary to the rest of the world.
What prompted you to give up work to live your dream?
Very recently, I did something that I’ve been wanting to do for the past ten years: I quit my day job as a teacher. There were a number of reasons for this. Firstly, I don’t like my job (which I feel is often a good reason for quitting). I liked the classroom bit but I don’t think that the education establishment treats teachers with any real degree of humanity or respect, so walking away from it was something that the profession itself made quite easy for me. As my time in the profession moved on, I became seen (and treated) as little more than a stats machine for management. This didn’t make me happy. I eventually found out that I was truly invisible when, weeks after handing in my resignation, not even my line manager contacted me to acknowledge the fact.
Secondly, as my writing output has grown, I’ve become more and more drawn by the creative process and frustrated by how little time I have to work within it. Perhaps, had I been born into a less precarious financial situation, I might have been a full-time writer earlier in life. I did do a short stint as a journalist after completing my literature degree, but provincial newspapers were never going to allow me to write interesting feature articles and so I got quickly disillusioned. This time around, I don’t intend compromising on what I do.
Thirdly, a year ago I found myself in Intensive care with pneumonia and an embolism on my lung, brought on by COVID-19. At the time – and probably because of the huge amount of morphine I was on – I didn’t truly grasp the significance of the situation. Looking back on it, I did. I think that this has subconsciously made me question what I’m doing with my life – how I’m living it. I’ve never been the type of person who wanted the day job anyway – it was always simply a cash transaction, a way to pay for the roof over my head and to keep me in travel.
So, the shorter answer is that the culmination of these three things created the catalyst for packing it all in and reinventing myself. I came downstairs one morning and bumped into my wife in the kitchen. “I think I might quit my job today,” I said. “Would you mind?” “Not at all,” she said. Turns out I’ve been blessed with that kind of wife. Of course, I now have twelve months to prove I can monetise my whim.
I bumped into my wife in the kitchen one day, “I think I might quit my job today,” I said. “Would you mind?”
“Not at all”
Turns out I’ve been blessed with that kind of wife.
To support myself, I’ll initially be drawing on what I call my ‘Screw You’ savings account – the account into which I’ve been stashing money for the past few years as contingency in case my bosses at work push their luck too far with me. (It was inevitable it would come into use at some point.) Alongside this, my aim is to pitch articles into paying magazines and journals, partly to create an income and partly to build a professional writer/journalist CV. This CV will, I hope, help towards securing me a literary agent in the longer term. Over the year, I will also be working on and pitching a number of larger projects I’m currently drafting. As I say to the students I teach: “Never compromise your ambitions. Aim big – if there’s somebody out there doing it, it’s do-able”. (What a wonderful message to share with youngsters. I wish Adrian had been my teacher! – Jackie)
I also say to them, “Where’s your homework?” This is something else I’ll be constantly monitoring myself on over the coming months.
It’s early days but how are you finding it?
I’ve obviously got to be very money conscious, as I’m actually twelve years away from official, pensionable retirement age but, in honesty, I’m already feeling extremely liberated and optimistic. I realise that the next year is going to be challenging, but isn’t that the point? I’ve been running two departments in my day job. I’ve learned to be strategic and target focussed, and I’ve been forced over the years to work with an emphasis on time efficiency. I’d be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t apply these skills and experiences that I’ve developed through a job I never wanted to a job that I really do want.
The first Covid lockdown taught me that I can be very focussed in my writing projects – I completed Sat Nav Diaries 2.0 in exactly twelve weeks (including pre-editing), writing from 9-5pm every weekday. I’ll be target-setting each day of the next twelve months in much the same way.
I also intend to offer my mind other distractions like learning to cook. Ask me in six months’ time and I hope to be able to discuss with you what is working, what isn’t, and how I’m adapting my plans in response to my new learning curve/s.
What do you see as the biggest risk?
From this point in my new life, I see only one risk. Finance. There are no other risks. Writing can be a low investment business. I already have a laptop; I’ve already publicly tested my writing style and ability; Covid lockdown has already tested my perseverance to get a project to completion.
There are two other considerations, however, when looking into full-time writing. One is access to a social scene, as writing can be a solitary experience, and the other is personal health and fitness, due to full-time writing tending to be quite a ‘sitting down for long periods’ activity. My way of getting around these two issues is to also set fitness targets which I aim to address daily through a mixture of Pilates, running, climbing and tennis (only one of which has any cost attached). The tennis and climbing will also go some way towards addressing my social needs, as I do both of these activities with friends.
Do you have a back-up plan?
Personally, I worry that having a Plan B will give me a way out regarding Plan A. Without a Plan B, I have to make Plan A work – which makes success more likely. On the other hand, the fear of falling back into the teaching environment, mixed with the fact that getting a teaching post is currently pretty easy (as nobody seems to want to do it), is both the incentive for Plan A AND the contingency plan.
What advice do you have for anyone who is considering such a career change or early retirement?
“My advice is to not listen to advice...our social conditioning tends to lie to us by making us feel that success can only be acknowledged in financial terms.”Adrian Sturrock
My advice is to not listen to advice. People will always tell you to play safe. There are only two questions you need to ask yourself: How will I keep a roof over my head? How will I eat? All other niggles are based in our social conditioning, and our social conditioning tends to lie to us by making us feel that success can only be acknowledged in financial terms. For me, some of the stories or articles I’m most proud of have not made me a penny. But they are still the best day’s work I’ve ever done. So, advice? Do that thing you want to do, and never apologise for it.
I first became fascinated with travel when I was around three years old. My mum gave me a large book of African safari photographs. I‘ve no idea what happened to that book but I still have vivid memories of pretty much every photograph in it, from lions relaxing after a kill to zebra running across the plains. This was the first evidence that I ‘d found of the world being different ‘out there’. This has fascinated me ever since, and drives me on to explore now.
Travel writing is quite a competitive, niche genre. I’d like to think that my style and ‘voice’ go some way to offering a unique take on the genre, but I guess that’s for others to decide. My travel writing is not what you would call traditional – I tend to write about my personal experiences in a location rather than merely announcing facts and figures about a place. My dream is to be allowed to one day do this for a paying readership. And perhaps even be allowed to present visually too.
The effects of Covid on travel
Luckily, I had a whole bag of travel experiences to draw on while we were all in lockdown. So, while physical travel itself wasn’t possible, I was still able to travel in my mind as I continued to write for my own and other publications. I found this quite liberating under the circumstances.
As the world has started to slowly open up again, I have begun plotting projects based in the UK too, which is something I’ll be working on during this coming year (especially as travel budgets will be smaller.)
I’m always careful about offering location recommendations as everybody is different regarding what they enjoy. For me, I’m very much in love with the beauty of Southern France and Italy. I also enjoy the straight-talking cultures of the people – something that the reserved English sometimes confuse with rudeness. Perhaps this is partly to do with my Welsh roots, and the fact that the street I grew up on had its fair share of Italian families. The Welsh are extremely warm but can be straight-talking too.
I also fell in love with Egypt during my first visit there in 1998, and have subsequently returned a number of times since, travelling through the country and along the Nile. I love the dirty chaos of Cairo and feel oddly at home amongst the souks and markets there.
“I love the dirty chaos of Cairo and feel oddly at home amongst the souks and markets there.“
And, remember I said that I didn’t get the opportunity to travel when I was younger? Well, I’ve only just started to investigate my home country, Wales, beyond the immediate area in which I grew up. I’m loving the Snowdonia range, and the cute towns like Betws Y Coed that surround it. It is truly beautiful there – it is so easy to forget that one is still in the UK.
I couldn’t agree more. I went to uni in Bangor, North Wales, to be close to Snowdonia – and one of our early plans for Livin’ The Dream involved a house in Betws Y Coed! – Jackie
Travel tips / hacks
After several European road trips and numerous wider world travels, I’d like to be able to say that I am now a fountain of knowledge and experience when it comes to professional travel but the reality is that I’m still the dumbest person in the room when it comes to offering advice on these matters. Perhaps the best advice for any traveller is to not over-itinerise your time away. Sometimes it’s enough to simply stand in a location and breathe it in.
When it comes to road trips, only two things matter – pre-book where you are going to sleep each night, and decide carefully how many hours of driving you are happy to do each day. Some people appear to like the ‘adventure’ of rocking up into a new town with nothing booked and putting themselves in the hands of fate. Personally, after a long day of exploring, I couldn’t think of anything worse than wondering whether clean sheets and a comfy bed is going to happen tonight. Mr and Mrs Christ tried it that way – and look what happened to them!
My only other tip would be to pack light – no matter how big your car is! I’d advise nothing more than an airline carry-on case to pack all your clothes, toiletries, etc into. Whatever you can’t get into one of those isn’t needed. Trust me, we’ve travelled for a month out of one of these. It does work, and its far less hassle than huge suitcases.
Great advice Adrian. Mark and I live year-round with 10 kg of clothing each! – Jackie
Join us next time as Adrian shares his wisdom on writing and publishing!
In the meantime, give yourself a treat!
- Adrian Sturrock: www.adriansturrock.com
- Amazon uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adrian-Sturrock/e/B07QQDZMKQ/ref=aufs_dp_mata_dsk
- Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Adrian-Sturrock/e/B07QQDZMKQ/ref=aufs_dp_fta_dsk
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- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/adie.sturrock/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/AdieMSturrock
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/adrian.sturrock/
– Book Synopses –
THE SAT NAV DIARIES
“I had an idea for a road trip; a sports car I shouldn’t have bought; and a wife to point out that what looks entirely feasible on a scaled map can actually be quite a long way away.”
This isn’t a travelogue; it’s much less than that. If you are looking for a font-of-all-knowledge encyclopaedic guru to help you plan your next European adventure, you’ll hate this book. However, if you’ve ever sat in a restaurant and wondered what the life of the couple opposite is like, then this might just be what you’ve been after. And the locations are quite nice too.
“This book had me chuckling and choking on my coffee for page after page. The voice is incredible; the atmosphere is tangible.” – Amie McCracken, Designer, Literary Editor, Author
THE SAT NAV DIARIES 2.0 (GOING EAST…ISH)
Concerned that his wife works too hard, Adrian decides to plan a surprise – something to help her relax. But, worried that she might not like what he has in mind, he phones her at work to ask what type of surprise she might fancy. Nat has no time for this – she’s busy … working hard! ‘Use your initiative,’ she says. So, he does.
This is the story of a date night that became a trip that became a road trip. Perhaps it’s a cautionary tale for us all regarding how quickly “a meal and maybe a show” can turn into a five-week wander across eleven European countries. Well, it could happen to anyone …
This is not so much a travelogue as an account of the consequences of over-initiative-ising (his word, not mine!). It is also a note of warning to wives: Be careful what you ask for! Having said that, the locations are quite nice.
“This is a beautifully crafted and engaging tale of one couple’s adventures that will have you chuckling all the way through to the end. Highly recommended.” – Alyson Sheldrake, Author of the ‘Living the Dream’ travel series
“This is my life. It’s not an outstanding one. It may be much like yours – except with me in it.”
After forty days and forty nights of wandering through Europe in their Mazda MX5 Miata, Adrian and his wife, Natalie, are back home – mostly because that’s where they live. RANDOM explores their everyday life, and continues from where THE SAT NAV DIARIES left off. Life must go on, it seems.
‘Is it just me or do my feet look further away to you?’ This is Adrian’s first collection of articles, in which he fumbles his way through a number of vaguely irrelevant 21st Century issues, including:
- How to pull off a social media romance
- Why you shouldn’t cheat on your hair stylist
- Why phishing no longer requires a rod
- How come today’s DIY still means having to do it yourself
“A surprisingly fresh voice that redefines the genre”
“This continues to be my life. It’s not an outstanding one; it’s probably much like yours – except with me in it.”
Time makes you wiser, say people who like to appear wise. Adrian Sturrock is not so sure. In his mind, all time does is introduce us to more stuff to be confused about. And this isn’t merely confined to the world out there; it applies equally to home life, where navigating relationships can sometimes seem as straightforward as a Hogwarts staircase – or that lithograph by Escher, if one wants to appear posh. Either way, life is confusing.
‘Never date a woman whose ambition it is to kick a pigeon’ – Sound advice, indeed. This is Adrian Sturrock’s second collection of articles, in which he explores more irrelevant 21st Century issues, including:
- How to get paid to fail a job interview
- How best to achieve heatstroke at minus twenty degrees
- Why time travellers should seriously consider using the Post Office
- Why it’s perfectly fine to blame French sociologists for your own first world problems
“Sparkling with wit, razor sharp, and face-achingly funny” – Valerie Poore, Blogger and author of Africa Ways
Along with myself and eighteen other authors, Adrian was also a contributor to Alyson Sheldrake’s travel anthology Itchy Feet.
One reviewer described Adrian’s chapter, Borrowed Earth as “The most astonishing, moving and humbling short story of all … I loved the author’s style of travel writing … Jaw dropping honesty, eye opening and a heart-breaking story that has stayed with me well after reading.”
Alyson, Adrian and I all met through the reader/author group We Love Memoirs, ‘The Friendliest Group on Facebook!’ Why not pop in and say ‘Hi’ there, too?
The best way to support Adrian in his new venture is to buy his books, but there are other ways to support authors that won’t cost you a penny! If you look at Adrian’s books on Amazon, please mark a good review as ‘Helpful’, or share the love in one of the following ways: