Post £0 Challenge Confidence & Crisis – Reaching Full Circle In France

In May last year (2014), I was preparing for a summer in Europe, mainly France. I aimed to meander around, busking and having adventures. Instead, I changed tack and ended up staying in the UK to conduct a self-designed lifestyle experiment: The £0 Challenge.

Over the summer, I ran out of money on purpose and built my way back up to a healthy bank balance without begging, borrowing or stealing. By the end of August, I had released an album through crowd funding to the tune of £2k – enough money to set up a pay-what-you-want based mobile recording studio.

A year later, I’ve just returned to Exeter after a summer holiday – guess where? France.

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A charming holiday home which used to be a hen house!

This feels especially significant to me, because last summer I’d abandoned a trip to France, because it was the wrong time. At that point, it would have just been an escape, after which I’d come back to a life that needed to radically change. I’d have likely come back in debt with no idea what to do next.

This summer was different. Going to France wasn’t an escape from my life, it was part of my ever evolving post-£0-Challenge-LIFE. It was the first summer since graduation that I didn’t struggle for money, allow me to take my first real holiday in five years. Sure I travel all the time, but holidays are different because they involve resting!

This trip was part of my life, because it didn’t break any of my connections back home in the UK. I stayed in touch with my clients, booked appointments for the next month – normal service ticked on. Even the amazing three bedroom farmhouse I stayed in belonged to a student of mine, who knowing of my lifestyle, invited me to stay in her holiday home practically free of charge. It felt good to be able to help her with physical tasks and repairs during the stay – just the sort of exchange I’ve come to really value. It feels like give-give.

None of this would have been possible a year ago. It felt like a true realisation of how my life had evolved post-£0. I felt confident.

This didn’t stop me having a crisis on arriving home and being handed a £700 MOT bill.

It’s funny how something like this cause such a deep dip for me psychologically, despite all the money-issues I faced last summer. On holiday my attitude was like this: “Hey! This is it! For the first time in my life I’m ‘rich’ enough to go on holiday! This proves that it was all worth it!”

After that bill, these were my thoughts “My main expenses are so low, but I can’t even pay them! Just an unexpected bit of welding puts me in debt! Who am I kidding? This bill shows I can’t even take care of myself. This proves I’m back to square one just like I was 10 years ago!”

I wandered morosely around the supermarket, trying to shave a tenner off my weekly food shop, just like I used to during teacher training.

Later, I talked to a few friends, one of whom was an accountant, and they all said the same thing: “But you completely ran out of money last summer! The fact that you’re earning a living at all is pretty amazing. It’ll get better.”

They were right. After a couple of weeks realised that I had plenty of exciting work planned for the new academic year that would pull me out of the rut pretty soon.

Although I fell back into under confidence for a couple of weeks, it’s important for me to remember that I used to think that way all the time. The £0 Challenge has had a huge effect on me, so much so that returning to my old fearful way of thinking is nothing more than a temporary dip.

They were right. After a couple of weeks realised that I had plenty of exciting work planned for the new academic year that would pull me out of the rut pretty soon.

Although I fell back into under confidence for a couple of weeks, it’s important for me to remember that I used to think that way all the time. The £0 Challenge has had a huge effect on me, so much so that returning to my old fearful way of thinking is nothing more than a temporary dip.

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