52 Week Video Series – Week 5 – The Four Ps!

Do you REALLY know how to make customers return to you time and again? What are the four Ps that make them use YOUR services/ and business more than anyone else’s?

 

 

 

I look forward to hearing how you get on increasing your business by using these four Ps!

Goals, Plans and Exponential Growth!

However BIG our goals are, if we don’t have a plan to achieve them, it is highly unlikely we’ll succeed. And if we don’t persist in them, we’ll never reap the rewards of our early investment.plan

I would like to share with you some thoughts and reflections I have had on WHY we don’t achieve our goals and HOW to ensure we do.

 

  • Know your reason WHY.

You decided have decided to invest in property to succeed! To create £5k, £10k or even more in passive income per month. Maybe so you could replace your job, your partner’s job, or to give yourself another income stream. It might have been to provide income for your retirement, or capital for your children’s future. Do you know what it is, and have you set this out where you can see it daily? What about a vision board to remind you of your reasons why?

  • Set a MEASURABLE income figure as your initial goal.

Whatever your reason WHY, you will have set yourself a goal in terms of a monthly FIGURE to achieve. This is the first obstacle to achievement that I see with a lot of people. They don’t set a NET INCOME figure that is easy to measure. Unless you set a goal that is CLEAR and measurable, how do you know if (and when) you have achieved it? If you don’t already track your net income, this needs to be one of your first actions to complete.

  • Set yourself a deadline to get to your first goal.

With no fixed income goal and no deadline, there is no point just being ACTIVE. Some people confuse ACTION with ACHIEVEMENT. Yes, you need to take massive action, but not if that is chasing your tail doing things that waste your time and are irrelevant to your goal. What are the key activities that will make you the most money in the shortest amount of time? Answer this question with truth and honesty and you are on the first very big step to making a shed more money immediately!

  • ASSESS where you are now and how far away you are from your goal.

If you’re currently achieving £1000 per month in passive income from property, and you want to get to £5k per month, the next step to identify is to agree how long you are going to give yourself to achieve another £4k per month.. This is often the hardest step to estimate as it may have taken you many years to get to £1000 net profit per month. Getting 5 times that amount may seem insurmountable! However, if you persist in taking action, and keep pushing forward you’ll experience EXPONENTIAL growth.

  • Write out a PLAN of action.

HOW will you achieve your goal of an additional £4k per month – will it be by doing 4 HMOs each giving you £1k. Or 10 mini HMOs giving you £500 per month (or maybe a Joint Venture with another investor). What will you do each month? What will you do each week? What will you do each day? I use the Darren Hardy materials to keep me clear and focused. However, I limit myself to focusing on three goals at a time which makes me much more focused and much more accountable! Ensure that your actions relate to your goals and stay focused on achieving them.

  • Remember the law of exponential growth.

Exponential growth is one of the most powerful principles in the universe. Having an intimate understanding of how it works can make you a master of money and success. On the most basic level, the principle states that the bigger something is, the faster it grows. So as you get bigger, the faster you will be able to implement and grow.

  • Stay accountable.

I recommend the Darren Hardy plan as an excellent tool for tracking your activity and progress. Only by doing this regularly, with discipline and focus will you get to your goal. I believe YOU can do it. But you need to believe that too, really believe it. For only then will you take the massive steps needed to achieve it.

 

To your growth!

Too busy to systemise your business? Or maybe you are scared of the cost of it?

Busy deskIt was a cold, rainy day – the kind of rain that drips over your nose and down your clothes and makes you sopping wet even before you’ve stepped outside. You know the kind I mean. A fairly typical summer’s day in England!

I was sitting in our home office, when Andy walked in, cup of coffee in hand. As he sat down, I glanced across at his desk. The contrast between his desk and mine was stark. Mine – covered in all sorts of paper documents – bills, mortgage statements, letters, post-it notes of to-dos that hadn’t been done and should have been done last Friday. His – a monitor, wireless keyboard, mouse and speakers. No paper, no mess, no distraction.

He sat down and put his wireless headphones on, and I started to hear the muted ‘thud, thud’ of The Gorillaz latest album. I muttered under my breath ‘GEEK’ .. and proceeded to wade through the paper on my desk, deciding the quickest way to deal with the pile was to push it all onto the floor and use it as a new form of carpet tiles. At least that way I didn’t have to look at it. And my desk was then as clear as my darling nerdy husband’s.

‘Do you have the mortgage offer for Gainsborough Road somewhere?’’ Andy asked as he moved one earpiece to hear my response.

‘Um, yes, er, definitely, I saw it this morning’ I said, knowing that it was definitely here, somewhere. The only thing was which foot was it under?

After a search of about 10 minutes I enthusiastically pulled it out from underneath the pile and placed it ceremonially on top of his keyboard.

‘Wendy we need to talk’, Andy turned to me with a serious look on his face.

‘Oh, is the offer not what you hoped for?’ I replied.

‘No, it’s not that’ he said.

‘Ah so is it that we need to buy more coffee when we’re out?’

‘No, we’re fine for coffee.’

‘So what’s bothering you babe?’ I prodded.

‘Well, you know I love you very much Wendy, but there is one thing that is starting to drive me crazy’ he said.

‘Well I know I have that effect on a lot of people’ I said, with a cheeky grin. ‘What’s the matter babe?’’

He took a deep breath, and looked me straight in the eyes, ‘the truth is, unless we sort out our systems, this office and all this paper we simply will not be able to scale up. Your desk is a tip, you can never find where anything is and you are wasting not only your own time but mine too’.

I sat in my chair, feeling totally deflated. I had worked so hard to create a portfolio of HMOs that had given us financial freedom. We now had a regular passive income of £6k per month. The last three years had been nothing but hard work and I had the evidence to show that taking massive action, managing risks that many other people wouldn’t have the courage to do, and using other people’s money could create financial freedom. I had left my job and wound down my other business to focus on this one. Andy had also been able to leave his well-paid role as a contractor.

We were supposed to be happy.

But right now, at this point in time, the last thing I was was happy. I felt annoyed at myself, annoyed at him, and annoyed with the business.

The thing is I realised that Andy was right. Deep down, I absolutely KNEW that my entrepreneurial skills were great when it came to new ideas, growth, and creating income. But on the other hand, creating a system that someone else could pick up and use and freeing up my side of the office from all that paper that I had grown to know and love – well that was NOT within my gift.

I knew I had to change, I knew the business had to change and I knew that the only answer was to systemise.

So over the next 12 weeks, Andy and I set about looking at ways that we could create a leaner, more automated, systematic and ultimately leveraged business. We wanted to employ staff, or outsource the things we didn’t like doing. But to do this we had to start moving our erratic business practices onto a much better platform.

RESULTS

Immediately we began to notice a difference. First in the time we had. We had much more of it! The little jobs, the things that I would have had to write on a post-it note and stick on the edge of my monitor just to remember them, were gone. They were contained within a system. As long as I remembered to go to the appropriate tool, I could find exactly what I wanted when I wanted it.

Soon, this impacted our profits. We had more time so we had more time to do better deals, and more deals, and find more investment. In fact in that year alone we raised over £500,000 for further HMO projects. We bought another 9 properties, and added another £3,700 to our monthly income. There was no way we could have done that if we had been stuck behind our screens or on our phones managing refurbs, tenants or payments.

Our quality of life started to improve as we had more time to exercise, to do more with our family and to R-E-L-A-X.

This was all because we had systems.

Then the best part began as we realised that with the systems we had implemented, we could create a team to manage our properties, with marginal involvement from us. So we began to recruit – first a Lettings Manager who would run the lettings side of the business, then an Operations Manager who would run the day to day aspects of the business. This then, in turn, freed up mine and Andy’s time to do other deals and to speak with investors and to pursue some of our other passions.

So HOW EXACTLY did we do this?

In systemising our business, we both agreed that the key principles we needed in a system were that it had to be

  • Simple
  • Scalable
  • Shareable
  • Suitable
  • Secure

What were the tools that we needed and how would we decide?

We realised that the process would be a three-step process. First we had to SCOPE the business and decide how to breakdown each area, then we had to SPECIFY what our business did in each of these areas, then we had to SYSTEMISE. Most of all it had to be LOW-COST or NO-COST so that we could free up our time without taking up all of our profits.

Although I can happily use a computer and mobile phone, I am not the most technical person in the world so our system had to be easy to learn and implement. The last thing I wanted was anything that needed multiple log-ins or a computer science degree to operate.

After a few weeks of searching and analysis, Andy suddenly rose up one day from his computer chair and shouted ‘Eureka’! I’ve found the exact tool that will work to help us

  • Find properties
  • Fund projects
  • Finish refurbs
  • Find Tenants
  • Future-Proof our portfolio

And that tool is…. ? If you’d like to know EXACTLY what that tool was and HOW we used it to run and grow our business (and still do to this day) and how YOU can too ….
Click here to find out more

To your success!

Wendy

Foundations for success!

Like buildings, your business is built on foundations. If these are solid and continue to be solid, you can grow a phenomenal business. If they are not and always a bit shaky, you will never be able to build a sustainable and developing business that produces regular income and long-term wealth. I have been really trying to ascertain what attributes have made a difference in my life (and I am far from perfect as you know) and also what I see around me in my network of successful entrepreneurs. What makes them different? What makes them standout?

Life and Business Success

I believe there are four corners of personal, business and life success. They form the foundations for your life AND business. If you make these four your cornerstones and remind yourself of them every day you will make wise decisions, good choices, have high energy and be able to do all you set out to.

 

Here they are:

1) Personal responsibility. If you do not take FULL and COMPLETE personal responsibility for everything that you do (in the past, in the present and in the future) then you will always BLAME others for your failures, and fail to take action in the areas that will become great habits for your growth. You MUST absolutely MUST realise that YOU are the key to your own success – nobody else. You may need to forgive and let go, you may need to STOP unhealthy thought patterns about others. Don’t compare yourself to others – recognise you are responsible for yourself and yourself alone. Be excellent in who YOU are.

 

2) Focus. Follow One Course Until Successful. Don’t give up until you have achieved your goal. Perseverance and persistence are central to the behaviour and thinking of anyone who grew a successful business. This requires commitment and discipline. Saying NO to distractions and areas that draw you away from your core values.

 

3) Control. You need to learn to control your emotions primarily so that you can create control and balance in your business and also in your life. Don’t let your inner chimp ruin your life (For more on this read Steve Peter’s ‘The Chimp Paradox’). If you allow fear, worry, anxiety, excitement, passion or elation to be in control, you will not be able to make sensible decisions that rely on logic and sound principles. A good rule of thumb is to wait 24 hours before you buy anything that you REALLY want. So that you can sleep on it and think about whether this purchase is really right for you. If you make purchases based on emotion, you will find that you won’t have enough money to invest with and lengthen the time that you become financially free.

 

4) Vision. What is the vision – the REAL vision you want for your life? Do you really want financial freedom? Or do you really want just to spend, spend, spend? (The two are quite different). You may want an opulent lifestyle which is fine, but are you prepared to be frugal in the meantime, invest and wait, be patient before you achieve financial freedom? Are you really prepared to SLOG to make it happen, or do you ideally want an easy life? The two are not compatible. Your EGO is incompatible with your GROWTH. Your ego will tell you to do one thing, which may actually work against your long-term wellbeing.

 

To identify your values a book I recommend is ‘The Values Factor’ by John DiMartini. If you are interested in learning more about how your ego works against you, try ‘A New Earth’ by Eckhart Tolle.

 

I’d love to know what you make of these four foundations – do they ring true in your life?

What has helped you the most to get to where you are today?

Are You Self-Sabotaging?

Last week I realised that I sometimes do self-sabotage. It was when I was eating another chocolate biscuit that afternoon, having run a 5k that morning around a lovely park! UHHUH? sef sabotage

There I am trying to lose a bit of weight around my middle (the legacy of 4 children and just a little bit too much good livin’) and so I increase my exercise levels, only to sabotage my results with my eating. What’s that all about?

I was pondering why I do this, when I got a question from a close friend about EXACTLY this topic and why HE self-sabotages just when he needs to sell his product and service. He sort of backs away from the sale, and feels a bit embarrassed and shy about it. Even though he has invested thousands to learn how to sell better!

 

WHY do we do this and what can we do about this pattern of behaviour? I have done some research and this is what the experts seem to say on the matter:

  1. Procrastination. Rather than taking action and dealing with the actual consequences (whether positive or negative) we worry, stress, and delay overtaking action. This sets up a pattern in our brain that gives us a get out clause to achieve what we set out to do.

HOW TO DEAL WITH IT: Start to take immediate action without worrying about the consequences for one week. Write a journal about how you feel and the fear you might be facing. Then evaluate the outcome of what you DID achieve as a result of no more procrastination.

 

  1. Burying your real feelings. When you don’t really face up to how you feel about a situation and bury your feelings, you don’t give yourself permission to be you and be authentic. You may want to change your feelings about a situation but this begins by being totally honest with yourself about how you feel in the first place.  

 

HOW TO DEAL WITH IT: Take courage, to be honest with yourself first, and then if you need to, learn how to communicate this assertively to others. Be assertive with yourself too on honouring your boundaries. Soon you will be able to identify and recognise your REAL feelings faster and then become much more authentically you.

 

  1. Dwelling on regrets/ past pain. By spending time and energy turning over the past in our heads, we fail to be in the present moment, appreciating with gratitude all we have and are. This is energy-sapping and stops us feeling free and confident to be who we are and do what we need to do. It holds us in the grip of the past, and stops us from moving into a new version of ourselves which is constantly renewing and being changed.

 

HOW TO DEAL WITH IT: You may need to actively forgive those who have hurt you, and also find the ways in which your past has served you positively and well. When you are emotionally free of the past through accepting and embracing it, you will find you can grow much more into the present YOU and do what the present you needs to do!

 

I’ve recognised that my self-sabotage is to do with a pattern of ‘treats for good behaviour’ that was set up by my mum when I was a little girl. So, by doing a 5k run, I feel I am owed a treat! It is a reward for being good. However, my adult brain tells me that if I have a sugary treat it will not take me nearer my goal. So from now on, it’s fruit or nuts as a treat for me. (I didn’t say I would give up the treat did I)!

To your growth!

What area’s do you self-sabotage and how are you going to change it? Share in the comments below!

Wendy

What interferes with you hitting your goals?

Don’t let interference get in the way of your goals!

Many of us know we should set goals.

Some of us actually write them down.

But yet fewer of us actually achieve them.

In my experience from working with hundreds of people it is not just a lack of self-discipline that stops us from hitting our goals, although often that is what we believe. The real reason many of us fail to hit our goals is because just at that point of taking massive action which really boosts our chances of success, we suddenly hit ‘Interference‘. This Interference can take many forms – family responsibilities; extra demands made by the JOB; surprising events that demand our time or sudden bad news that need our attention. All of these occur to interfere with us taking massive action not just because they exist (and therefore take up our attention), but also because they make us DOUBT that our goals are worthy of the action worth taking. We become uncomfortable in continuing with such massive action towards our own goals, when we have all that interference. We begin to believe that we should just carry on as we were and reduce our expectations of ourselves. We should not be selfish in having personal goals and huge ideas! We should fit in with what other people think and want and slowly merge into the primordial soup of nothingness which is the common fate of humanity. But your goals are not just your goals – what you achieve will make a difference in the world. So we are counting on you to achieve them. It’s true – there is a reason why you feel the drive to take action, to change yourself, your environment, your place in the world. The world needs you to be successful!

Your goals were placed like seeds in your brain, to help you grow, to make you get outside your comfort zone and to help you learn. Don’t tread on them, ignore them, or fail to feed them with light and water. If you do you will never cultivate them to create a different reality. Whatever seems hard now will seem easy in a year’s time. And then you will face even harder challenges. Are you gonna be someone who gives up at the earliest hurdle? Or do you have perseverance and strength to draw on even when times are tough? Don’t let fear, ignorance, worry about what others think or say stand in the way of your goals.

It might mean that you have to get up earlier to do what you need to do before the pressures of the day get going. It might be that you have to learn to be assertive with well-meaning but ignorant people who distract you. It might be that you need to go out of your way to ensure you meet your responsibilities AND take action towards your goals. Whatever you have to do to manage the interference needs doing. And you are the only one who can do it.

There is a sign outside a new gym in Stoke-on-Trent (and believe me the people of Stoke do need more exercise) which says ‘ Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking your potential’. This is SO true! Don’t let FEAR (False Expectations Appearing Real) stop you. You were born to succeed and be EXCEPTIONAL! Don’t let interference get in the way of your radar!

If this article has made you stop and think and maybe made you realise you need some help drop me a line at wendy@wendywl.uk

Alternatively visit my website www.wendywl.uk

I look forward to helping you!

Romance, Disillusionment, Joy

When I was in my early twenties (yes just a few short years ago!) I remember talking to a friend about romantic relationships and she was a wise bird who told me the maxim ‘Romance, Disillusionment, Joy’ – the three stages of idealism, reality, and commitment. In some ways, I thought it was a rather blunt statement of process, but looking back I can see how these three words reflect so much truth in other areas of my life too.

How often do you get an idealised notion in your head – a great business idea, a novel event, a completely innovative design for a fuel-free heating system, a brilliant property deal – that you believe will change your life and that of others around you? Perhaps you meet a new business partner who has exactly the right qualities you are looking for, with just the right level of expertise and knowledge. You just KNOW this is the partnership made in heaven! Perhaps on a personal level you meet the love of your life and you can’t quite believe that you’ve met this person who is everything you have ever wished and hoped for. Ah, yes, dreams can come true! ROMANCE.

Then a few differences start to show – perhaps you love seeing films at the cinema whilst your romantic love prefers long walks in the countryside. Maybe your fantastic new business partner is always late to meetings and you as a very punctual person find that highly irritating. Maybe you come across a website  selling the exact same thing you had created in your mind’s eye only a few days ago for a fuel-free heating system but there’s no way you’ll be an internet millionaire on the prices people are willing to pay for the invention if this page is anything to go by.  And the property you sourced that seemed such an attractive deal reveals exactly why it was such a low price. Slowly or suddenly you begin to realise that what you thought of as that ideal, wonderful situation takes a nosedive and you realise that that idea/ person/ business/property is not going to make you a multimillionaire, is not going to deliver world peace, and is not the ultimate solution to all the problems you could ever face in your life. DISILLUSIONMENT

Although your business partner needs to work on their time issues, you can see they add a great deal to the nitty gritty of the business, and already with their input you are feeling more confident about the future. The property deal is not too bad after all as the refurbishment costs were lower than expected and the finished result is looking really good. Together, you decide to take turns on deciding which activity you and your new boyfriend/girlfriend will do each weekend – each person making compromises in the name of love. Even your new invention is starting to take shape and might help solve some heating problems in larger properties (although you realise know this is more a life’s work project than a weekend shed creation).  JOY

I’m sure you can relate to this process! We have all experienced the undulating emotions of excitement, realisation and patience filled with hope. Getting to the JOY requires tenacity, clarity and patience, and in some cases I have failed to find the joy as I have quitted whilst the disillusionment was very fresh. It is not always possible to find the joy or get to the bit where the joy appears. The trudge of disillusionment and the searing disappointment may be enough to make you want to walk away and decide that this is not the right direction for you. In those parts of your life where you do decide to press on, where there is enough positive energy and hope to keep going, I can assure you that just over that hill with the slope that looks quite steep to climb, there is a wonderful vista which you will love. Joy. Fulfilling, pleasurable and contented. The crossover between giving and getting.

Recently I experienced this three stage process dramatically.

We had booked the holiday of a lifetime to South Africa. I had been to this beautiful country many years ago but desperately wanted to take my husband and two youngest children (now 18 and 8) there too.  We were starting off in Cape Town and then would be taking some time to travel along the Garden Route to see wildlife, game reserves and possibly even whales! I had planned the trip in detail, spending hours on booking.com and travel sites to give us enough time to relax and unwind, yet also make the most of this amazing opportunity.  Robben Island and Table Mountain were just two of the places we would explore whilst in the Cape and my recently ordered DK Travel Book to SA had given me plenty more ideas for what to do whilst there. The date of the flight arrived, and all our suitcases were packed and lined up in the hall. We were excited and slightly nervous – after all the flight was a long way and had we packed everything we needed?

We arrived at the check-in desk early (amazing for us) and got to the head of the queue quickly. After checking our passports, the woman asked if we had Tom’s birth certificate? As he was only 8 years old a new regulation was introduced that a child needed not only a passport but also a birth certificate to enter South Africa due to child trafficking. WHAT!!! NO!! I didn’t have his birth certificate. I knew nothing about this – the ticketing agent hadn‘t warned us and I hadn’t seen this on any of the websites I had visited. ARGH!!

Quickly I phoned my parents who fortunately live very near to us. They rushed over to the house and I told them exactly where to find Tom’s birth certificate. They located it immediately, and drove as fast as was legally possible to Manchester Airport.  It was like a scene from Mission Impossible as I ran across the Departures  car park to meet them. The car screeched to a halt as my mum hastily opened her car window to pass across a folded up piece of paper which I grabbed and proceeded to sprinted back with to the check-in desk. Panting and sweating, I raced to the front of the queue which had significantly built up by now, to deliver the vital piece of evidence to the check-in clerk.  As she unfolded the paper, I will never forget the look on her face. “I’m so terribly sorry,” she said “ but we need the FULL unabridged birth certificate. The one that states that you and Andrew are Tom’s birth parents. This is the abridged version, and you cannot fly unless you have the full birth certificate”.

My face grew ashen and I wanted to be sick. The time was too tight now to go back home (or ask my parents to do a second birth certificate gathering mission). We hurried to the desk of Turkish airlines to ask whether we could go on the next flight.

“Sorry it’s fully booked” said the officious administrator behind the desk.

“Ok, so what about the one after that on Tuesday?”

“Ah yes” she said whilst staring at the screen, “there are spaces but there’s an administration fee and you’ll have to pay the difference between your ticket and the one you’ll be exchanging to”.

“How much is that?” I asked.

“Let me see …  £1247 per person”.

“WHAT?!!!” I shrieked in horror! “You must be joking!”. “Sorry ma’am but this is the holiday season and you want to go in two days. That is the exchange ticket price if you want to go in two days time”.

My shoulders slumped, the boys let out audible gasps, Andy went slightly red in the face as he tried to hold back a tear. That was it. We weren’t going to South Africa after all. Our holiday plans scuppered by a piece of paper that proves that Tom is our son. We were simply not prepared to pay over £4000 for new flights, and therefore the only option was to go back home and think about what to do now.

How we must have looked as we arrived back home a few hours later I have no idea. We pulled up on the drive and a couple of neighbours were standing talking. They looked at us with puzzlement. I didn’t want to explain. I felt sad, disappointed, hopeless, dejected. As Andy reminded me “No-one died here”. Yes, in reality, that was true. But an idea, a vision of a great time together, a wonderful holiday had died. And in my mind I had failed everyone. It was me that had booked, planned and paid for the trip, so it was me who had failed to execute the reality. I felt guilty, depressed and angry. I had no-one to be angry with though. It was no-one’s fault. It was one of life’s deeply unfortunate occurrences. The question in my head though was “WHY?”

Within 12 hours, the troops were getting restless. The next morning Luke posed to me the question about what we were going to do now. He had taken a fortnight off work, and wanted to know whether he should just go back in and take a holiday later in the year.  I felt lost as if I was meandering through a forest of trees marked ‘DECISIONS’ and I couldn’t make any. I was in shock, sadness and failure mode.

On Sunday afternoon we started looking at holidays in the sun – Cyprus, South of France, Italy. I knew I didn’t want to go back in an airport for a LONG time to come. Then as we spoke another idea emerged – we had booked a full fortnight off and no-one was expecting us back so why not do what we had often talked about, and have a European adventure? Book a ferry and see where the journey leads! No need to book too far in advance, let’s just see where the road and the desires take us! We had already packed our bags (and with the addition of a couple of jumpers to take account of the slightly cooler European weather) we literally threw our suitcases back in the car and took off!

As we drove towards the coast, a sense of freedom started to grow in me. I felt a renewed surge of happiness (yes you could call it Joy) as we laughed and spoke about our adventures. We mulled over the previous day’s events, still feeling deep disappointment, but now a new hope was emerging. The boys mentioned Disneyland – wow that could be fun, and Paris too. Together as a family in the car, I knew we would have a great holiday wherever we landed up.

And we did! We ended up being away for ten days, visiting France, Belgium and The Netherlands. We ate simply, mostly self-catering, and we took advantage of any free transport and shuttles we could to and from Disney and the hotel. As part of our break we had two glorious days in Paris and took other excursions immersing ourselves in French culture. We drove across the border into Holland on a beautiful warm sunny day, and just loved the flat, clean landscape. Another culture, another country, another great holiday experience.

We came home refreshed, happy and fulfilled.  It had been an excellent alternative holiday and one we would never have had, had all gone well previously at the airport. I still feel hesitant to travel by air. Going by ferry was so flexible and fast and the check-in so much easier with less security checks and pressure. Europe has so much to offer, and is a lot of fun, easy to get to and in parts less expensive than others. We saw countries we never would have visited, and had no agenda. So we were all equals when it came to making decisions about what to do or where to go. I was no longer Judith Chalmers (remember her!) but just another part of the family discovering and playing with new ideas just like the boys. It was fun! It was fulfilling, and we all felt free. Just what a real holiday should be.

So, it’s true we never made it to the ultimate destination I had dreamed of. Maybe one day we will. When Tom is 18 perhaps and no longer needs to prove his parentage! However, I hope this story shows that with enough persistence, grit and faith, your disillusionment can turn into joy and be as good (and maybe in some ways even better) than your initial romance ever even thought possible.