I was wearing 5 layers of clothing, including the arctic overall suit with a hood on the outside and I was still cold. It was probably around -15 degrees, but deathly still and clear, with the full moon out and the stars were super bright. We were huddled on foam mats around a small fire that our guide was hesitating about putting out.
It was past 2am in the morning, and we’d been sitting on this Norwegian coastline in the dark, staring out across the bay and up at the sky for almost 8 hours now. We were tired, we were cold, and resigning ourselves to the fact that we weren’t going to be lucky enough to see the fabled Northern Lights.
We started to pack up, as my husband spotted a strange glimmer on the horizon…
I’ve always said I want to live with no regrets. I don’t even know where that thought came from, it wasn’t something instilled in me by family, or through a big life lesson. Somehow, as soon as I was able to make my own decisions, it was just an understanding that I felt deeply.
I met my husband as so many of us meet our great loves- by accident. We met at a nightclub when I was visiting my home state for a couple of weeks at Christmas. We had a couple of days together, and I went back home to my freelance career and my flat in Sydney. What we thought was a holiday fling suddenly became serious when he visited me in February, and asked if I wanted to join him when he went for a 2 year working holiday in the UK.
Here I was, just started out in Film and TV with contacts that I had worked really hard to get, and he was asking me to walk away for 2 years?
So of course I said yes. I figured, if I didn’t do it then, when would I?
We traveled for a lot longer than just 2 years, we worked and saved, and bought a tent and little red station wagon, hit the road on the wrong side, and tossed a coin when we got to an intersection. Left or right?
We never had a guide book. We didn’t have GPS. (Those were the days way before smart phones!)
We budgeted on 30 euro a day, so when we found somewhere cool, we had to decide how to make that 30 euro stretch. Do we go into that museum’s special exhibit for 12 euro each? Do we take a gondola ride and blow 3 day’s budget? Do we eat at that Michelin star restaurant?
Some things we did blow our budget on, and some things we didn’t. I have no idea how we made those decisions at the time, they seem so arbitrary now. The interesting thing is though, the only regrets I have from those years spent travelling is from when we decided, no, not today, we need a reason to come back and do that next time!
Because we never went back. We never got that opportunity again.
There are places we never saw, experiences we never had, things we never experienced- and we still regret those choices to this day.
So when we planned a 6 week winter European adventure a couple of years ago after I sold Bit Bank, we were determined to not come home with any regrets.
The mad budget-er in me struggled at first- $1500 for a few hours dogsledding in Finland? But once we got started, I knew we had made the right decision.
So when the Scottish couple on our northern lights hunt started complaining about the cold and not seeing the lights, my husband and I just smiled at each other and laughed that the day we’d spent in -20 degree cold it was a record 46 degrees in our home town. We poked fun at how ridiculous we looked bundled up like marshmallows in so many layers, we hunted the best looking river stones and compared icy lichens by torch light. We loved every single second of it.
As we were starting to pack up, a glimmer on the horizon started dancing, and then, in a flash, the Northern Lights burst across the sky and danced for us for over an hour.
It was humbling. It was awe inspiring. It was all those clichés and more.
The thing is, when you travel you only regret the things you decided not to do. You never regret all the cool stuff you actually get to do, the things you try, the places you visit. Even if they turn out to be a bit crap, it’s still a story that you get to share, a lesson learned, and experience that you get to live.
It’s the same in my business. Not once have I regretted a decision I have made, but I have certainly regretted the ones I chose not to make, or paths not taken, where bravery was called for and I gave into fear or hesitation.
Richard Branson always says to “say yes, then find a way to do it afterwards”. If you want to live a life of no regrets, if you want to build your business with no regrets, it’s a pretty damn good slogan to live, and love by.
(oh, and the dog sledding? Worth every cent!)