11 February 2013

‘You Don’t Have to Marry a Rich Man!’

I was in Vancouver as I wrote this article. One night, in conversation with other international guests at the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers annual Convention, a chance query took me down memory lane.

‘What’s been the highlight of your term of office so far, Robyn?’ asked an American friend. (I was the current President of the International Federation for Professional Speakers.) An amazing travel experience jumped to the forefront of my mind.

It was the end of October 2006, and by coincidence I was on the inaugural flight from Auckland to London, with only a refuel stop in Hong Kong. (Air New Zealand is the first airline in the world to circumnavigate the world in their own planes – no code share, no changing planes.)

We left Hong Kong about 9am, flying north and then west into the approaching day. I was blessed with a window seat and a brilliantly clear and cloudless day. The bold peaks of the Himalayas reached up below us. On the left horizon the jagged peaks of the amazing Hindu Kush mountains slipped past. (I gave a metaphorical wave to my youngest son, who was stationed down there in Afghanistan.) The Gobi Desert unfolded its vast distances, and then the huge expanses of the Russian Steppes. As the hours and miles rolled past, the changing pattern of those arid regions transformed into the green and gold autumn patterns of fields and farms, and the villages, towns and cities of Europe. Finally the patchwork quilt of England glittered in the afternoon sun as we flew up the Thames Valley to London.

The whole trip was a ‘pinch me – am I dreaming?’ kind of day – quite the most amazing flight I’ve ever done.

As I related this to my friend, a bit of personal history slipped quietly into the forefront of my mind. It reaffirmed that goalsetting works!

It was in the mid-80s. I was a solo mother living in the Far North of New Zealand, and glad to have six months of government-subsidised work in the local Public Relations Office. The pay was so low that I still qualified for a percentage of the solo parent benefit my children and I had existed on for the previous four years.

I’d married young, put my own dreams aside, and spent the next years scrimping and saving for the farm my husband had always dreamed of. Six children and fifteen years later he had his farm, and I walked away from the marriage.

One afternoon a local businessman and his much younger wife came in to talk to my boss. Pretty soon, conversation turned to the holiday they’d just had in Hawaii. Although I’d always yearned to travel, I had never left the country. Now I was on my own, there was even less money, time or likelihood of overseas holidays. But – dreams are free.

With a tinge of wistfulness I said, ‘That sounds like an amazing trip, Peter. I’d LOVE to travel overseas.’

‘Oh, that’s easy,’ he replied.

I looked at him in surprise. ‘How?’

He gave a complacent grin. ‘You just have to marry a rich man!’

I can still see the scene. Pretty near broke but fiercely independent, I retorted with indignation, ‘No WAY. When I travel I’ll do it under my own steam, thank you!’

A few weeks later, with no money and nowhere to go, I scraped together enough dollars to get my first passport. Looking back, I guess it was a form of goal-setting, an expression of ‘I’ll show you!’ defiance, and a determination to prove to self-satisfied men that I wasn’t some wimpy little bimbo who needed a fellow to provide for me. (Not that I’m a bra-burning feminist, but some things a girl has to prove she can do!)

Within less than a year, still with virtually no money and a ticket paid for only by intense economising, I was off on my first Overseas Experience! I was at the Auckland International Airport with a girlfriend, heading to Sydney for the weekend to see the musical ‘Cats’. Still today I can remember my ear-to-ear grin. Still today I can feel the elation, the sense of floating six inches above the ground.

It’s now 20 years on. Many things have changed in my life. Over the last fifteen years I’ve evolved into an international time management specialist who travels extensively, some of it overseas and most of it paid for by my clients. And from July 2006 – July 2007 I’m the first Kiwi to serve as the World President for the International Federation for Professional Speakers. That role requires attendance at all the conventions of our Federation members. In the 12-month period I attended events in Orlando and San Diego in the US; Germany; Switzerland; Singapore; England; Holland; Canada; Malaysia; Australia; South Africa; and Dubai, (and almost all of those travel costs are paid by me).

So, girlfriends, dream big. We don’t need a rich man – we can do it.





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