The Change Direction Blog is about the joys, and practical impacts, of working from home online. It is about online businesses and techniques for internet marketing, traffic building. It is also about what it is like to work from home, working with family around, and all the practicial issues that arise on a day to day basis for someone working from home. Plus, an ex pat view of an English guy living in Palawan, a tropical paradise in the Philippines.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Online Profits - At The Double!

If you do a lot of browsing on the internet, particularly in the arenas of business opportunities and internet marketing, you cannot have failed to have noticed all the so called "Doublers" springing up every few hours. Just invest a bit of your hard earned money, and it will keep doubling for ever and ever and you will be rich in no time. Seen them?

Many of them reflect the hazards and vulnerability of the internet, to those who are unsuspecting and vulnerable to the "Get Rich Quick" lure. Yet another doubler popped up on my screen yesterday. Usually I just pass them by, but this time I just went in to do what everyone should do, looked for who was behind it, how to contact them, what experience and track record they had. The answer was as I expected. The only contact was a form in which you gave them your email address. So they had captured you as a lead. But what about them? Who were "they"?

"They" did not exist, at least as far as that particular website was concerned. No names, no address, no telephone number, no fax number, not even an email address. The website could have been set up by a crook in an open prison in England, a nursery school student in the US, a nun in the African jungle, my 12 month old daughter while I wasn't looking, or, most likely, a scam artist just about anywhere in the world.

Of course, there was a table showing you how much you would earn if you threw your innocent cash at the scam. Put in $200, and soon you'd get $400; put in $10,000 and soon you'd get $20,000. Well, they were educated enough to work out what double was, that's a big plus I suppose, in a world where substance is thin on the ground. So, how did they pay out these rewards? Well, no indication of that, or anything else important. It was a simple web, woven to tempt an innocent.

This theme of "who's behind the business" came up a couple of weeks back, when I was thinking about writing a sales letter for Empowerism, a company which has been established on the internet for 7 years and with a great reputation. I am personally a bit tired of the formatted sales letters you see today, however much they are proven to get results. So I decided to try something a bit different. I wrote a silly poem about the sort of program referred to above, with no names, no address, no telephone number etc. I wasn't too sure what the purpose of it was, but I finished it in a couple of hours, and decided I would just send it out as a letter, and see what the response was. I have no idea what the response will be, but it's always good to try something original. Well, at least something I'd not seen before.

I won't repeat the whole thing here, it's quite long. But if you really must, you can view it at: I sent a few out today, I am intrigued to know if anybody will take any notice of it. Whatever, if it provides a little bit of light entertainment, that's fine.

How things change over the years. When I was a "serious" (if 100% unsuccessful) writer and poet, back in my teens and early 20's, the very thought of writing anything for remotely commercial purposes would have filled me with abhorrence. I was a literary purist in those days. No wonder publishers did not like my work! Or was it because the work was so bad? Ok, I confess. Most of my "serious" writing was very immature, which is not surprising given my age at the time, and must have seemed awful to a seasoned publisher. Maybe I'll dig out some of my old poems and put them on the net. They were written in the days before computers, and I don't think I ever even typed them. Should be nostalgic.

Talking about nostalgic, it's 8 and a half hours until 2005, so we can soon say goodbye to 2004. That's coming to a bad finish, though. Mary Ann called to order the monthly case of red wine (good for the heart, you know) a while ago. No answer. Shut for the rest of the year. Well, that wouldn't happen back in England on New Year's Eve.

Never mind. I've had my tropical Christmas, now it's time for my tropical New Year in Palawan.

A happy New Year to you, wherever you may be. May 2005 bring you health, love, happiness and achievement.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Balikbayans - Is Working Online the Answer?

One of the sad things about living in the Philippines is seeing the way poverty drives people from their own country. One of the main sources of foreign currency here is from OFW's. To the uninitiated, that's Overseas Filipino Workers.

Filipinos have a strong and admirable culture of family support, and it is common for an eldest child to be expected to go abroad to support their younger siblings. Even if they remain here, they still may be working to further a brother's or sister's education.

The fact is, though, millions of Filipinos do go abroad, to work in jobs that are very often well below their educational abilities. When they go abroad, they inevitably get a cultural shock. People are not anywhere near so friendly, and they may be feeling isolated if they are stuck at home, such as in the case of a young Filipina who has married an American or European man. She will have been used to always having someone close by to talk to, friends and relatives usually not far away. Walking down the street, they will have been accustomed to lots of people prepared to pass some time with them.

In the Philippines, only a small minority have cars, so if you go anywhere, you will always be in close contact with people, unless you are out in the wilds somewhere. Here in Palawan, you would not meet many people in the jungle or on many of the isolated beaches and islands. But in the populated areas, there are always people wandering around. A Filipino moves to a suburb of a town in the US, for example, and finds themselves looking out on a street where cars go past, but rarely a person walking, somebody they could actually communicate with. I can imagine that must be quite a shock to them, and there must be thousands of Filipinos who feel loneliness because of that situation. It is little wonder that Filipinos abroad tend to form groups of mutual support.

Filipinos are natural communicators, and they do tend to be supportive of each other. That's not always the case, of course. If it were, the Philippines would be a rich, prosperous nation. But I am talking about "ordinary" Filipinos from ordinary familes. So, they make the best of their situation abroad, often settle down well, and mostly are able to send some much needed money back home.

Many, though, do dream of returning home, whether for retirement or earlier. I know for sure, because they write to me, that many Filipinos from the US, Britain, other parts of Europe, and the Middle East, do want to return one day, and on so doing live in Palawan. I am sure if the Philippines economy were in a better state, and Filipinos did not have such a dim view of their politicians, many would come home sooner rather than later.

But if they come back now, what do they do? Many would immediately be unemployed and a burden on the family they have been working so hard to support. But I have been thinking today, what if they could use some of their time abroad to teach themselves about running an online business? Those who had any sort of success would then be very well placed when they come back to the Philippines. No longer dependent on the Philippine economy to create work, they could earn dollars from within the country where many really want to be. There must be thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers and Balikbayans very capable of learning enough about online business to earn extra money online. After all, $200 per month goes a long way here, and makes a big impact on the family. $1000 per month is big money.

If there are Filipinos overseas who read this, and would like to look into such a possibility, they may look to my website at for further assistance, or contact me by email: [email protected]

I am always excited to receive mail from Filipinos who are themselves excited about coming home, or coming to Palawan for a visit. I am always happy to do what I can to help them achieve something I really understand. One of the main reasons I came to the Philippines was because I love Filipinos. I prefer them to be here if that's what will make them happy. Here, but with a decent income. The more OFW's who become Balikbayans, the better.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Moments of Change, Choices, and Challenges (3)

Over the last couple of days, I have written about two particular moments in my life where I had a strong sense of clarity, and a degree of excitement, about what was to come in the future. Both those occasions were accompanied by a sense of inner calm, that seemed to enable me to face the future with great confidence and anticipation. Yet, they were at what should have been extreme low points.

The third and final article in this "pre-New Year reflection" series, is of even greater significance than the previous two. It is the whole reason (well, the tip of the reason iceburg) why I am living where I am today, doing what I am doing today, and being as happy as I am today. It is not, strictly speaking, about one moment, unless you describe it as a moment stretched over a number of months.

In 1997 everything had seemed so rosy. My ex-wife and I had our own business that was bringing in enough for us to get by. Being self employed was no easy task, but we had made it. The business was in advertising sales. We were financially sound, though far from being rich, but had the freedom to move home from the South East of England to the beautiful Dorset coastline. The business had a spread of magazine owners as customers, so the loss of one would give us time to find another contract. The risk was spread. The future looked good.

Soon after we arrived in Swanage, it seemed everything went wrong. I was used to setbacks, but there was a long succession of them. Divorce is not unusual in the modern English world, but many of you will know the impact that can have. We were in business together, so divorce had a big impact on that in several ways. Then there were a succession of problems with collecting money from clients, losing a contract to an old member of staff we had trained, and losing another contract that did not really pay too well anyway, but was profitable. It was, to say the least, a very disturbing and unsettling period.

By 1998, every aspect of my life had been shaken: family, business, finances, and especially the financial outlook for me, being, as I was, out of the housing market with no chance of getting back in at my age and being self employed.

However, as it all sank in over the months after the separation, I started to get a feeling of anticipation and excitement. It was as if I were bringing together all my past experiences, and blending them into a delicious cocktail. Sure, everything was looking a bit bleak in England. But my view started to change. Why had so many things gone wrong? I had observed in my life that whenever I had a setback, something better was around the corner. As a friend had once said, if I fell in a dung heap, I would come up smelling of roses. So if so many things had gone wrong in a short space of time, it must mean something wonderful was about to follow. Surely it must. That thought excited me. What was this "something wonderful?"

I had plenty of time on my own to reflect, so the clarity of mind I have described was able to take shape over the months after the divorce. I may not have had financial security, but I did have freedom to decide exactly what I should do and where I should do it.

I had, as a younger man, been keen on travelling, and that was still part of me. In fact, very much part of me, and it soon bubbled to the surface after being suppressed for many years. Ok, I could travel whenever I wanted......if I had the money. But what, I started to wonder, if I went to live abroad? One giant step. Leave behind the cold and the many things I no longer liked about English society?

I gradually realised that was indeed feasible, and would realise a lot of my dreams. I never wanted to "retire" in England, so why not look into the possibilites of living somewhere warm all year, somewhere tropical. After a lot of research, it evolved that it was indeed feasible, and by the middle of 1999 my mind was firmly made up: I would leave England for warmer climes.

From then, I was absolutely clear in my mind I would be doing the right thing. I was going to uplift my life and take at down to the Tropic of Cancer. I would transform my life in a 24 hour journey. And in October 2000, I did just that.

Again, a low point in my life had been a time of inspiration, the biggest inspiration of my life. One thing I have learnt for sure, is that however bad things may seem, you usually have a chance to carve something better out of the rubble. Use the past for learning, the present for inspiration, and the future for achieving and making the most of your life. Those seem to have been the keys for my getting through those difficult times in a positive way.

Now I have just about everything I could wish for. Not all the material things, but a wonderful wife and child, a happy home, on my dream tropical island. Plus, of course, the freedom of working for myself, at home online.

Should you really want to read more of my personal story in coming to Palawan, you can do so:

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Moments of Change, Choices, and Challenges (2)

Working at home is enormously different from working in an office. It is enhanced greatly if you are your own boss, as that is a world away from being an employee with 1, 5 or 10 levels of bosses above you. When you work at home, as your own boss, in a totally different country and culture, it is a truly different experience in just about every way. It's marvellous.

It is mid afternoon. Anyone who has been to the Philippines will know that Filipinos just love singing, and especially Karaoke. People sing just about anywhere. On one of my first dates with a Filipina, she starting singing at the restaurant as we waited for our meal. If that had happened in England, either she or both of us would have been certified, presumed drunk, or possibly ejected for disturbing other customers. Here, though, you are more likely to get the other customers, waiters and waitresses joining in.

Entertainment comes naturally and easily here. This afternoon, as I write this, my wife has gathered a few friends together to have a singalong. This is not because it's the festive season, it's like this all year. Today is a bit of a celebration, though, as our old hi-fi and karaoke was on its last legs (or was it castors?), so yesterday Mary Ann raided her savings to buy a new system. That will no doubt be put to a full test the rest of the day. More often than not there is no alcohol on such occasions, but today Mary Ann has made a punch. If my spelling deteriorates, please forgive me!

Yesterday, I wrote about the first of three moments in my life that have stood out. I remember them with great clarity probably because they were moments of great clarity, times when I felt calm yet excited, clear in thought yet at a time of great turbulence for one reason or another. Low points which only looked ahead to a new high.

Yesterday the reason was to do with health. Today it is to do with employment, or rather, lack of employment. It was in the mid 1980's. I had qualified as a management accountant, and had a stable job with good people, but the job itself was tedious and did not stretch me at all. It was also not particularly well paid.

So, I had gone seeking a new job. I was offered one in rural Kent, a nice part of England south of London. The salary was a bit better, but the big benefit was the low rate mortgage. At last, we would be able to ease the mortgage burden and get a better house at the same time. All looked rosy, and I accepted the job, which was a position higher than the one I applied for. I resigned my existing job.

Then, there was a mix up between my old employer and new employer, which led the new employer to believe I had lied about my income. I was asked to come back again for a "special meeting" without being told why. I had a 3 hour journey to get there for this evening meeting, only to be faced by 2 grim faces, my future boss, a younger but very bright lady, and the personnel manager. We cleared up the misunderstanding, and my old employer put the record straight the next day. But the damage was already done. My new boss had over reacted, and she knew it. All it had needed was a phone call, not a dramatic evening meeting that had cost me a lot in time and petrol, and was, frankly, very embarrassing for all of us.

The new job was soured. I got back home, and decided I would pull out of the new job. Next day, the personnel officer called, and tried to persuade me to go ahead. My intuition told me it would no longer work out. But I went against my intuition, something I rarely do. Why? Money, presumably.

I did take up the job, but it was obvious within the first 10 days it was going to be a disaster. My new boss wanted to set the record straight, to show she was right to doubt me, and it was clear she was trying to set me up. On the first Friday, she dropped a hint that, as I had a long journey home for the weekend, I should leave a bit early. So I did. Next week? She was reporting me to her boss for leaving early the previous Friday. Later the second week, she was setting me tasks to do in a time that was simply not possible to do accurately with their primitive systems. I had not realised it at first, it was only when my own assistant, who had been there for a few years, looked horrified at what I was trying to do and told me.

I made up my mind there and then that I would not work in those sort of circumstances. I went out at lunch time, bought some writing paper and envolopes, and wrote out me resignation. There was no point in me hanging about, and they told me to clear my desk and leave. I was only too pleased and relieved to do so. I was escaping what would undoubtedly have been a miserable time with that company, or rather, that boss.

On the long drive home, I felt liberated. I got home exhausted after the long drive, but once I had told my wife what had happened, I felt that same clarity and excitement that I wrote of yesterday, the night before my operation in 1977. I had an enormous mortgage, on a house we had only just bought. I had no job. In my mid 30's, jobs were not easily come by, with most being advertised for the under 25's.

So, what was there to be excited about? Not knowing what tomorrow would bring, is probably the best answer. When I got up the next morning, there was the background of fear you would expect: where's the money going to come from? I had a 4 year old son, and a new baby on the way. Plus that massive mortgage. What did I have to be excited about? To have such clarity and sense of well being about?

However, as I sat there planning what to do, it was exhilarating. It was like my younger travelling days. At 16 and 20 I had gone on hitch hiking treks across Europe, and the great thing was waking up in the morning having no idea where I would be in the evening. In retrospect, those travelling days had equipped me well for dealing with adversity, to remove much of the fear of the unknown. Life is a journey, so is it not best to make the most of it? To take the scenic route sometimes? Not to commute the same overtrodden path the whole time, every day, for years and years?

I suppose, deep down, I had confidence in myself that I would make the most of it. Seize the good opportunity from what was an apparently bad situation. I am sure also it fed off my sense of adventure.

Happily, I did not stay unemployed for too long. I got a better job, that led to many more positive changes in my life. Whatever the outcome, though, I would always have known that the decision to resign that new job was the best one for me, despite the risk of being unemployed for a long time.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Moments of Change, Choices, and Challenges

Before Christmas I recalled there were 3 moments in my life when I felt an overwhelming clarity about the future. Upon reflection, each of those moments came at what should have been low points. Yet on each occasion, I had only positive and very strong feelings of anticipation, just positive and exciting thoughts about the future.

The first of these "moments" was back in 1977. It has a Christmas connection in it, but in fact was in August. For much of the world, that week was memorable for the death of Elvis Presley. For me, it was the culmination of months and years of waiting. I recall lying in bed that particular night, awake but not because of distress, negative thoughts or anything like that. The only way I could describe it, as a 27 year old, was that it was a similar wonderment and excitement I used to feel as a young child on Christmas Eve, thinking about Santa Claus and all the gifts I would be getting the next day from Santa, and all my relatives.

People had been asking me if I was nervous. Many said how brave I was. But to me I was lucky, I was a child on Christmas Eve, with a wonderful day ahead the next day. Santa Claus was coming just for me, in August. A solo visit to give me the best possible gift.

I was lying in bed in hospital that night, having been admitted that morning. From the age of 19 I had had a progressive, degenerative type of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis. It had started in the lower back and hip joints, and brought moments of intense pain even in those early days. Over the next few years, the agony as the vertabrae in the back fused was at times unbearable, and I would wake in the night sometimes with no choice but to yell with the pain.

There was nothing that could be done about the back pain apart from grin and bear it. There was no treatment at the time, no cure. Thankfully, by my mid 20's the fusing process has just about completed its course, so the worst of the pain had gone. Today, I get no more back pain than anybody else. I have a very stiff back, but painless.

The disease, though, seemed to have a grudge against my hip joints, and that was a far more damaging process. I would have spells of severe pain in the hip joints, and sometimes would have difficulty in walking. By my mid 20's, a spell of rapid deterioration set in and at 26 I began to wonder what it would like to ever have a day without pain. By then, most days were either painful, very painful, or excrutiatingly painful. It cannot be imagined, except by those who have experienced something similar. I had never known such a level of pain existed. But it did, and it was part of my life for many years.

Soon after my 26th birthday I was told both my hip joints would need to be replaced. I was always looking forward to the operations to replace the joints, as I was aware that, because it had got so bad, the operation was essential, and it would take away all the pain.

There was a long waiting list in those days, probably still is, I don't know. I was lucky, living in Bath, a centre for ankylosing spondylitis and a city with a long history of treatment for rheumatic diseases. I had an experienced surgeon lined up, but the months drifted by very slowly with mounting frustration.

The plan was to replace one joint, then 3 months later the other. As the months passed, though, I wrote to my surgeon and almost pleaded with him to do both at the same time, in one operation. He had never done it before, but reluctantly he agreed. I knew that if one was done, the level of pain would be just as great. If you have two severe pains, you feel the one most painful at any particular time. So, take away one, and you are left with the other. I had had enough by then. I just wanted to get on with my life, get back to work, and get rid of the pain altogether.

In August 1977 I went in to have the operation. I felt incredibly happy that evening, lying in the semi dark, just thinking over and over again that, by the same time tomorrow, the pain would be gone. It would just be cut away; extracted.

I felt so calm. The feeling is still with me today. I had no bad feelings about the past, and the years of pain. I felt wonderful. The clarity of mind was astonishing. I was sure nobody else could understand. They kept asking me if I was afraid. Why? Why should I be afraid of having unimaginable pain taken away. I would go to sleep, wake up, and the pain would be gone.

That is how it was. At 10 am I looked at the clock in the theatre anti room. I looked up again at the same clock and it said 2pm. A lovely nurse was holding my hand. "Oh," I said "not started yet?" She smiled sweetly, squeezed my hand and said "you're done now." So, she was not my angel of death, but my post operative angel. It was all over, my pain had been extracted, quicker than a tooth.

Well, to me it was quicker than a tooth. A month later I saw what the surgeon wrote to my general practitioner: "I operated successfully on Mr Thomsitt, then went on 2 weeks vacation to recover."

That night following my operation, I slept like a baby, painfree for the first night in many years. But at about 2am, I had a rude awakening. All the available night staff came in to wake me up. Six of them lifted me up, the other nurse injected a bucketload of painkiller into my buttock. I tried to stop them. I did not need painkiller. I had, a few hours earlier, been cut open both sides, sawn in half by a hacksaw, chiselled and hammered as the new joints were inserted, so they presumed I would need painkiller and sleeping tablets. Of course, they could not understand that I had experienced a dramatic reduction in pain. I would have slept all night. Pain is a comparative thing; to me I was already painfree. They just laughed at my pleas to be left alone to sleep without painkiller. Anyway, the surgeon had left orders, which they had to carry out. We laughed it all off, and I went back to sleep.

So, Santa Claus had been, and then sent his assistants back to fill my buttock with a needle and syringe. Mmmm, I think I can forgive him for that. But I am sure if I had been able to move, you would have heard all the liquid sloshing around in my buttock.

That short period was a very important one in my life. I would not want to change anything that had happened before. I consider the disease, the experience, a part of me. It improved me as a person, I am sure of that, and I was able to plan the future in a positive way without regretting anything about the past. That was a lesson which I would come to appreciate later on in life. But apart from that, I was lucky that I could appreciate something most take for granted: being able to walk. And boy, did I enjoy walking in the years ahead.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Online Business With a Heart of Gold

Since I started trying to earn a living online, the best early morning moments have always been when logging on to find a sale or two overnight has brought in a nice bit of income. Today, I had a great start to the day, but it was not because of a sale. Quite the opposite, really, it was a purchase.

My plan for today's Blog had been to begin describing the three moments in my life I mentioned in "A Time for Preparation" two days ago. But an email I had this morning changed all that.

I have had a big problem in the past year with buying ebooks and software online. The majority are sold through Clickbank, and Clickbank as a payment processor does not seem keen on some perfectly good and valid credit cards. In the past year I think I have tried to order about 10 products, ebooks and software, through Clickbank. Miraculously, one was processed, though it was paid for by one of the credit cards it usually rejects. One other merchant, realising that there was a problem with Clickbank, had set up alternatives in the event of a Clickbank "rejection" and processed my credit card offline. The rest? Lost sales, except one I was so keen on I sent the money by Western Union. And I missed out on being able to obtain products with legitimate and sometimes new credit cards, Visa and Mastercard.

There have been, I think, 3 other occasions when I wanted the product enough to write to the merchant to seek out an alternative form of payment. Usually, they or I or both of us have given up. They have lost good business because of Clickbank's risk management system.

Yesterday, there was yet another occurrence, only this time I did not give Clickbank the pleasure of rejecting my credit cards. I wrote to the merchant, Dr.Mani Sivasubramanian, saying I would not use Clickbank, could not use Paypal as they did not do business in the Philippines, but really wanted to buy his ebook. Could I pay by Stormpay? I asked.

When I logged on to check email this morning, the email that cheered me so much was from Dr Mani. His reply was both simple but, in this material online world, memorable. Part of his reply read:

"If making a payment to me from your place is so difficult, maybe you could donate the equivalent to a children's charity in your hometown, and I'll send you a copy of the ebook."

That humble and caring gesture made my day. I went straight in to my wife, who was scarcely awake and dripping from the shower, and told her what a wonderful email I had received. Still dripping, we discussed how far that $37 could go here in Palawan. The poverty of many of the children means that, one way or another, Dr Mani's gesture will impact the lives of a number of children very positively.

This is no doubt a subject I will come back to some time in the near future, but for now, I'd like to say a very public and heartfelt thank you to Dr Mani. You made my day, and I know for sure that you will make the day of quite a few Filipino children and their families.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas Day in the Philippines

The main time for celebration here in the Philippines is Christmas Eve. Now it is Christmas Day, Mary Ann is at the beauty parlour relaxing, along with Saffron, our 1 year old daughter. How, you may ask, can she relax there if our little daughter is with her?

There's a simple answer to that. Even if it is not one of her regular haunts, Saffron will enchant one or more of the staff and they will gladly take care of her, go for a walk, show her around the building, whatever it takes to keep her occupied. People really love children here in the Philippines and there will always be a keen child minder, a temporary yaya, at hand.

That is particularly so with Saffron. Having a white skin, and being very pretty and sociable, she attracts extra attention from everybody, young and old. Children gather round her as soon as she steps outside the house, rushing up to play, to hold, to sing, to dance. Saffron loves all the attention, and unless she is very tired, will respond with a smile and a laugh, will clap her hands, and do her own little dance. I can imagine, now, though, that it will be adults all wanting to make a fuss of her while Mary Ann has her period of relaxation and whatever beauty treatment she may be indulging in.

So I have come online just to clear the junk mail from the Inboxes, and do a bit of reading on RSS feeds, part of the continuous self-education process you need to go through if you want to succeed in an online business. It will not be a full day working online, just a brief visit until Mary Ann and Saffron arrive home.

Happy Christmas and New Year wherever you are in the world!

Friday, December 24, 2004

A Time For Preparation

It seems that for much of December I have been clearing the decks, trying to get into some sort of priority the results of much research on having an online business. When it comes to earning money online, the internet is so awash with information and advice, it is very difficult to eliminate the dross and come out with a few gold nuggets. Now, though, I am feeling as though I have seen through the fog. I am confident 2005 will be a time of less research and more "doing", focussing on those things I have decided are truly worthwhile.

It is a good feeling, to feel calm and focussed, having a clear idea of where you are going, or at least have a sense of great anticipation. When it comes to my future online business I have all those things at this time, and am enjoying every moment of it.

It is because of this sense of well being and anticipation, that a few days ago I was pondering over other moments in my life when I had a similar feeling of calm anticipation, an overwhelming confidence that I was at a crucial but wonderful moment in my life where something great was about to happen.

Three such moments in my life came to mind immediately and with supreme clarity. They were moments when I felt cool, calm and excited about the future. Moments when I felt that I was alive and, above all, really ME. Moments of amazing anticipation when I had good reason to look forward to the future.

Surprisingly, perhaps, they were all at low points in my past. Extreme low points that were truly a test of character. I was, of course, not aware of them like that at the time. But the fact that, all these years later, those three moments are still vivid, must surely attest to their importance.

Looking back now they were all points of significant changes in direction. I had never connected the three moments in any way before, but maybe together they were part of the reason I chose the domain name for my website: a few months back.

I will recount all three after Christmas. But today, Christmas Eve, I will just enjoy the positive feelings and thoughts I have today. They are unique, not spawning from a low point, but an already high point in my life. Now that is something I want to enjoy over Christmas without recalling low points.

A very happy Christmas and New Year to anyone who might be reading this.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Sharing My Home Office

My commuting time is pretty short these days. Just across from our bedroom is our baby daughter's bedroom. She very kindly let's me have part of her room to put a computer, stand and desk.

I say baby, but she is a year old now. For most of that one year, she has got used to me working at home, on the computer, just a few feet from her crib. For her day time sleeps, she has almost always had me there as company as she drifts off to sleep or after she wakes. When awake, she takes an active interest in what is happening on the computer screen, and is quick to show concern if something appears to be wrong. She looks worried if I switch it off during the day due to a power failure, which are quite common here. But she's not worried at her bedtime in the evening, she knows it is part of the routine. I get booted out of my home office when she is ready to sleep for the night.

Last night the computer was already off and I was about to read her a bedtime story when she started frantically pointing towards the door. Pointing is something quite new, but Saffron has become prolific and enthusiastic with her pointing. I was baffled, then I realised she was not pointing at the door but the computer. I had forgotten to put the cover on. She had seen me do that so many times, that when I forgot, and now she can point, she was quick to act as my assistant and get me do things properly. The cover is bright pink with lots of coloured Disney characters on, my acknowledgement that although it is my computer, it is her bedroom.

We are blessed with a daughter who sleeps 12 hours a night, and has done since quite young. But even if she wakes before us in the morning, she is normally quiet, and waits for me or her mum to come in. When it's me, which usually it is, she gets quickly to her feet to watch the computer being unveiled and switched on. As the computer boots up, she is like a caged tiger, stalking up and down her crib to get the best view of things that are appearing on the screen. I dare not stay in the way too long, I would get an earful!

This morning, though, I made my commute across the landing and peeped through the door. It was past 7am but she was still fast asleep. Unusually, my office could not open for business at that time, so I went down, made my green tea, and sat outside reflecting on the tropical sounds, the balmy Christmas air, and the two sleeping beauties I had left inside.

Early next year we will be moving to a larger house, where the computer will have a room of its own. But over the first 15 months of Saffron's life, she will have had more computer and internet experience than almost any other 15 month old on the planet. All because I did not go "out' to work, but worked online at home.

Working from home has many advantages, and one of them is being able to see your children grow. I've had all the destructive commuting back in England. It is so wasteful of time, energy, and life. It's a land of zombies. But if you spend 4 to 6 hours a day commuting, as I used to, your family suffers, your health suffers, and you miss out on an awful lot of your children's development.

I'm more than happy to share my home office with Saffron. And of course, my wife, Mary Ann, is here much of the time too. Working from home can be great! Working for yourself can be great! Working online can give millions the freedom to do just that.

As I write this it is late morning, and Saffron has just drifted off to sleep in the crib. In this tropical climate, I think she will be sticking to two daytime sleeps for some time to come. But when we move, I think I'm going to miss her watching over me while I work, and I watching over her while she sleeps and plays in her crib.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Tropical Christmas

I can recall from my days in England, watching tv at Christmas and seeing how others celebrated across the world. At one time I used to think about those in Australia: "it's not like Christmas, hot weather and going to the beach". Why I used do think like that I really don't know. I did not like the cold once I got past the age of about 30. Or was it 35? Who cares, I hate the cold now. That's one of the many reasons I live in what many call paradise: Palawan.

So, here I am for my 4th Christmas on this beautiful tropical island I call home. I actually live in about the noisiest place in the province, which is large, very sparcely populated and mostly quiet. During the day there is a constant flow of traffic outside, mostly tricycles but cars and some very noisy lorries too. We will be moving to somewhere a little bit quieter soon, but still here in the city of Puerto Princesa, the Philippines cleanest and greenest city. In fact, just around the corner, but with no through traffic to disturb my concentration and throw up dust.

I am confined to the city (which to me is really a small, green town) because of the limited access to broadband internet. I now "work" online pretty much the whole time, so it is essential. But it's still a novelty living here. Life is totally different. There is very little that is the same as England, and that includes the weather of course.

Being a predominantly Christian country, Christmas is a big occasion. It is also still a religious occasion, which of course it should be. Only a tiny % of people can afford gifts, so the emphasis is on family holidays, time together, and going to church. Very few families have anything special for Christmas lunch, they just don't have the money. Anyway, I've not seen any turkeys here, so that's a non starter.

Despite the lack of money in most families, Christmas starts early in the stores, around August. One thing they go in for in a big way here is Christmas lights. Sometimes even the poorest homes will be adorned with fairy lights, some having quite spectacular displays. Even in early November, I travelled back from the jungle's edge about 90km south just as it was getting dark, and it was quite magical to see the Christmas lights as we got near the city.

My first Christmas in the country was memorable. I was invited to a girlfriend's house Christmas Eve, a very poor but very friendly neighbourhood with mostly small timber houses cramped next to each other, intimate to say the least. Outside in the garden (tiny yard) there were lights everywhere, set up for the party that would last all evening and into the night. I remember sitting there as they got everything organised around me, how magical and special it all was. Just a few months earlier I had been a resident in England and had only experienced Christmas in England. Now I was sitting outside on a hot Christmas eve, the sound of tropical insects a prelude to the modern disco music that was to follow later. I loved it.

As with most occasions in this country, there were loads of children. Neighbours came and went, people went from one party to another, there was a constant flow through of people and especially children. Children's games were followed later by adult versions of children's games, most of which had come from Western influence, but Filipinos always put their own stamp on the foreign habits they adopt. Alcohol would not have been a part of the occasion, but the adults were delighted when I offered to buy beer and rum.

At midnight, I was advised to go inside. I soon saw why. All hell broke lose with fireworks as midnight approached, exploding from every tightly packed, confined little garden in the neighbourhood. Fireworks that would have been banned in the UK, but they were pretty loud and impressive. I was amazed, as nobody had warned me of this tradition beforehand.

It is only this year that I have started settling into working online mode, and my preparations for next year are very much based on that. Much of this year I have been researching online business opportunities and continued from last years research into online marketing. I go into 2005 with a clear idea of what I will be doing to further my online business.

But however it turns out, one thing I know for sure is that I will be happy. My change of direction has brought me a life that is very contented at a personal level, with a wonderful wife and our baby daughter who passed 1 year on December 1. They are my inspiration to have a successful year.