Taking more risks is something that I’ve been working on recently. It is discussed in Grant Cardone’s book, “The 10X rule”. I read the book a while ago and followed his advice and my life has been way more exciting ever since! You can read my review of the book here.
Let me tell you the story of how I took a massive risk to try to find a summer job in France when I was younger. I think it’s a good example of how taking risks in your life can lead to great things. After my story, I discuss in more detail why I think taking risks is a good thing.
It was March 1992. I was 20 years old and living in Manchester, UK and I was studying hard for my A-level exams. If I passed, I would be going to university in September later that year. I was planning ahead to my upcoming summer holiday after my exams. I would have a 2 month summer break and not really sure what to do.
If you are familiar with the weather in Manchester, you will know that it isn’t particularly hot. I most definitely did not want to stay in Manchester for the whole summer. I was dreaming of sandy beaches somewhere warm in Europe but as a poor student, I couldn’t afford a proper summer holiday. I had the idea of getting a summer job abroad. I could work part-time to earn enough money for my accommodation and then relax and go to the beach on my days off. Brilliant!
I decided that I had to choose a destination where there would be lots of English tourists on holiday because that would also create a high demand of English-speaking staff. Spain was the obvious choice and south of France came a close second. Since I spoke a bit of French, I decided on France.
My next step was to contact British holiday companies that had France as one of their destinations. The internet wasn’t a thing back then so I bought a newspaper called “Dalton’s Weekly” (no longer exists) that had a large Holidays section full of ads from independent travel companies. I circled all the ads for holidays in France and then called them all to ask if they needed any staff on their French campsites. The response I got from all of them was the same – I had left it too late – Their job vacancies get filled at the end of the winter when the ski season finishes. The people that do this kind of work do the winter season in the ski resorts and then immediately apply for the summer jobs in the warmer climates. I was about a month too late.
I didn’t give up however. I still had a few more pages of companies to call. My persistence paid off. I called the number of a company advertising mobile-home holidays in France and offered my services. Luck was on my side. One of their reps for a campsite in Brittany (north-west France) had just pulled out for personal reasons! The job was as a campsite representative – To welcome the holiday-makers when they arrived, show them to their mobile-homes, solve any problems during their stay and then to clean the accommodation when they left. We had a telephone interview which I passed and was then invited down to their offices in London for a face to face interview the following week.
The interview in London
I took a coach down to London and from the coach station, I took a taxi to the company’s office. It was very quick. The lady looked at my CV and references and then asked me a few questions in English and then in French. She then offered me the job and we organised the dates. My A-level exams were due to finish middle of June and so we agreed that I was to report to their London office on the 3rd week in June and then I would be driven down to the campsite via car and ferry.
I can’t remember the exact pay but I think it was something like £200 per week + free accommodation in a mobile home + expenses. I was delighted. I was going to be paid to travel to France and live/work in the sun for 3 months. I was really excited. I returned to Manchester and continued studying for my exams. It was hard work and I was getting pretty stressed but the summer job in France at was keeping me motivated.
Then towards the end of May, I got a phone call from the holiday company. They had just received a booking for the first 2 weeks of June from a family for the campsite I’d be working on. Therefore, they needed me to start the job immediately so that there’d be someone there to greet these guests when they start their holiday. I reminded them that that was impossible because my exams didn’t finish until the middle of June. That wouldn’t work and they withdrew their job offer. I was obviously very disappointed.
I tried as best I could to concentrate on my exams but it wasn’t easy. Anyway, middle of June I had my last exam and then went out to the pub to celebrate with my friends. Everyone was planning their summer holidays. Some of them could afford going abroad themselves while others were going with their families. I wasn’t doing either and I was feeling really frustrated.
A big decision
A week later, I was fed up of being stuck in England so I made a big decision. I would travel to France and find a job when I’m there. I immediately starting looking into travel options. I didn’t have much money and so flights were out of the question. The only other option was a coach. After a few hours of research, I found a bus company called Eurolines (they have since been acquired by Flixbus) that had coaches from London to cities all over Europe for very reasonable prices. I looked at all the destination cities on a map and chose the city of Montpellier in the south of France. – It looked like a big city and was right on the Mediterranean coast so I figured there would be lots of holiday resorts and campsites there. However, there was a problem. I couldn’t buy a return ticket because I didn’t know my return date and I couldn’t afford it anyway. So I did something crazy – I bought a single (one way) ticket from London to Montpellier. Now there was no going back (literally!) – I had to find a job over there to be able to afford my ticket back. To get to London, I bought another one-way coach ticket from Manchester to London. I was leaving the first week of July. I also bought a small tent and a rucksack.
Stuck on a coach for 3 days
The journey from Manchester to London Victoria coach station coach was fine. It took about 5 hours, I think. I then had a couple of hours wait before boarding the coach from London to Montpellier. The scheduled journey time was 20 hours. In reality, it took 3 days! The French truckers were protesting about something or other and so they were blocking access to and from all the motorways in France and they were refusing to deliver goods. That meant that we couldn’t get on any of the motorways and so we had to zig-zag our way south at a snail’s pace. Whenever we stopped for a break, the shelves were empty of food and water because supplies were not being delivered. It was like living through an apocalypse. On the second day, we were running very low on fuel and all the pumps were empty because tankers weren’t delivering any. The coach didn’t have any air-conditioning which is not a huge problem when you’re on a fast motorway and air is moving through the vehicle but when you’re stuck in a traffic jam in scorching heat, it is pure hell. It was the worst journey I have ever had!
The coach didn’t even make it to Montpellier. The drivers did the best they could to get us there but we couldn’t get any further south than the city of Orange which is about 100km (60 miles) away from Montpellier. They offered to drop us off at Orange train station and we all accepted. From there, I got a one-way train ticket to Montpellier. I still remember that train journey to this day. I was so sleep-deprived that I was actually hallucinating. It was really scary.
Arrival in Montpellier
I finally arrived in Montpellier by train at about 7am. I left the train station by foot and asked a man for directions to the sea. He looked at me a bit weirdly and then informed me that the Mediterranean Sea was in fact 10km away (6 miles) – Oh, I guess I should have looked at a map with a bigger scale when planning my trip! Montpellier is a beautiful city but not the holiday resort full of campsites that I had been targeting! I went back to the train station and found a local map with a much bigger scale than my map of Europe. I was looking for coastal towns with public transport links from Montpellier. I found a town called “Sète” that looked promising. It was 30km (18 miles) south-west of Montpellier and had a direct bus route there. I found the bus stop and got on the next bus.
First time hitchhiking
I got to Sète and walked out of the bus station and found the beach and sea. It was beautiful but unfortunately the centre of Sète wasn’t where all the campsites were. Looking at a local map, all of the campsites were in a touristy looking town called “Marseillan Plage” that was another 18km (10 miles) away. There was a bus route to get there but the next one was a 2 hour wait. I was too tired to wait and I was desperate so I did something I had never done before, I stood by the road, smiled and stuck out my thumb to hitchhike. I only had to wait a few minutes before an old Renault 4 pulled over at the side of the road. There was a young couple inside. I told them where I was heading and they told me to jump into the back. I looked at the back seat and saw their young baby in a baby seat smiling at me. I smiled back at him then sat down with my rucksack on my lap. I was glad to get out of the scorching heat. The baby reached out his little hand to play with the straps on my rucksack while I thanked the couple for stopping.
Heads or tails
They dropped me off at the entrance to the coastal town. There was a junction with a signpost left and right pointing to several campsites. I had no idea whether to go left or right so I took out a coin and decided to do “heads” for left or “tails” for right! I did the same at the next 2 junctions and ended up on a road running parallel to the beach with about 10 campsites in it. My plan was to find the cheapest one to pitch my tent and then to find the most expensive one to try to find a job. The cheapest one really was good value. It was only about £10 per night to pitch my tent. I found out why I was so cheap when I went for a shower – cold water! Oh well, who needs a hot shower when it’s 33°C (91°F) ?!
Found a job
One of the most expensive campsites was literally just next door. It was called “Nouvelle Floride” (translation “New Florida”) which was a massive site that was right next to the beach with an amazing view of the sea.
The site had chalets, mobile-homes, tents, several swimming pools, bars, a nightclub, restaurants and shops. The biggest challenge was to get in. – As I walked in off the street, a security guard asked to see my bracelet (to prove I was a client there). He spoke to me in French but I detected an English accent. In English, I told him I was looking for a job and asked if they had any positions. He let me in and pointed to an office and said: “Go in there and ask for Charles. He’s the manager.” So that’s what I did. I walked into Charles’s office wearing a T-shirt, shorts and flip flops and asked him for a job. I was in luck. They needed someone to clean the bars and nightclub every morning and then to change out the beer barrels and make sure they were stocked up with enough booze for the following night. I was paid about £150 per week I think and I had a tent on the site with access to all the amenities (showers, swimming pool etc). It was perfect! I went back to the cold-water campsite and took down my tent and then moved into my bigger frame tent at Nouvelle Floride.
The job was pretty physical work but I only had to work for a few hours every day. I had to get up early to get all the bars cleaned and stocked up before they got busy. My work day was finished early afternoon and so I was free to go to the beach or the pool and do what I want all day. I had done it! Mission accomplished. I had found my working holiday exactly as I had imagined it and what an adventure it was to get there. I made some great friends that summer and above all, it was a huge boost to my self-confidence. What an adventure it was.
At the end of the August, I needed to get back to the UK for my A-level results. The company I was working for was actually part of a UK tour operator and so they had a fleet of coaches. I was given a free seat on a coach that was going back to London. Luckily the French truckers were no longer blocking the roads and I arrived back home the next day. I passed my A-levels. It was the perfect summer.
What this story taught me about risk
Whenever, I tell people the above story, the usual reaction is how risky it was to get a one-way ticket to a foreign country in order to look for a job. I suppose it’s true but I never really saw it as a huge risk. There was a financial risk because if I hadn’t found a job, I would have been stranded. But my life was never seriously in danger. France is a very safe country. In a real emergency, I could have contacted the local police or consulate maybe. But yes, I agree, there was an element of risk in what I did. Below, is a list of what I learned from this experience:
Taking risks drives you forward
As soon as I left Manchester and got on that first bus to London, there was no going back. I had bought a tent, rucksack and a one-way ticket and didn’t have enough money for a return ticket. I had to make it work. I wasn’t even thinking of failure. It wasn’t even an option. I was genuinely convinced that I would find a job. Without a safety net, we are bolder and braver to do what it takes to achieve our goals and to solve problems. I was quite a shy person when this story happened. But let me tell you, when the bus was blocked by the French truckers and running low on fuel, I was up and about talking to everyone – other passengers, the driver, police officers, French shopkeepers. There is no time to be nervous in a crisis or even when faced with a minor problem.
Taking risks leads to new opportunities
When you do something new that is outside of your comfort zone, a whole new world opens up to you. It doesn’t have to be as adventurous as getting a bus to France. It could be something as mundane as accepting an invitation to a friend’s office party. Then at the party, instead of feeling uncomfortable because you don’t know anyone, you decide to be a bit more outgoing than usual and you strike up a conversation with a stranger. That stranger could become a new friend or potentially introduce you to other people or maybe talk to you about his/her hobby that you’ve been wanting to try. The act of taking “risks” (aka doing new stuff) has a compound effect. Just making one decision to do something new will lead to a whole range of new opportunities, each of which will lead to more new opportunities. It’s a snowball effect and all you have to do is to give the snowball that initial push.
Contrast that with always saying “no” to things. You never get to experience anything new or to meet anyone new. Doesn’t that sound boring?
I recently read a book that discusses the importance of taking risk and why we should start saying “yes”. The book is “The 10X rule” by Grant Cardone. The theme of the book is how to set big goals and how to achieve them. This book has helped me a lot in my path to success and my life has been a lot more fun since reading it! It’s an excellent read and I recommend it if you’re feeling in a bit of a rut.- You can read my full review of it here: “The 10X rule” – Book review.