International business cannot survive without travel but when you live on the most westerly isle in Europe the travel often becomes tiring.
Today is the 20th of February and so far in 2017 I have been to Stuttgart, London, Paris, my diary says Birmingham next week and London again the week after. Travel time from my home to London is normally 4-5 hours, Paris is 5-6 hours and Stuttgart is 7-8 hours… My life feels like a mix between Castaway and The Terminal. Tom Hanks may be my favourite actor but constantly feeling stranded on an island takes it toll.
This leaves me thinking why would I want to continue to live in Northern Ireland. Why not move closer to the major cities and population centres of Europe?
Chain Reaction who recently merged with Wiggle have announced the closing of their NI distribution hub and the relocation to Wiggle near Birmingham. All of our major suppliers are based in the UK or European mainland and yet we are based in Northern Ireland. But then I remember why I live in Northern Ireland… I just love it!
My family and my wife’s family all live here. I can drive from Portstewart in the North to Cork in the deep South in less than five hours. We have the Giant’s Causeway, ‘the eighth wonder of the world’, we produce Guinness and Bushmills Irish Whiskey, we have the best football fans in the world, we built the Titanic (I know it sank but we still built it), and all around we have scenery and attractions where a person can lose themselves for days.
Less people means less traffic. Less traffic means easier journeys. Easier journeys means less time driving. Less time driving means more time together.
So even though travel outside of the island can be a pain… I have concluded that the quality of life on our small island outweighs the hassle when one needs to leave and the delivery service from here to anywhere in the world is first class. I still prefer a forty-five minute journey to the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa than a six hour journey to Paris. That being said, having just returned from a weekend spent in the Lancaster Hotel in Paris (a gift from a friend who booked but could not go); I am convinced it is good to leave your island and spend time in other wonderful places, whilst always knowing your island awaits you on your return.
It is easy for all of us to adopt an island mentality of “things are good so I will never leave”. But I continue to encourage people, young and old to check out another island, to go see somewhere else. I know it can be a hassle but many times the rewards outweigh the hassle.
So I say “leave your island, go explore, try new things”, and if you want to, then return to your island and feel safe again.