PC 155 OE (Overseas Experience)


The New Zealanders among my readers will immediately recognise the two letters OE – something everyone tried to do after school, to travel, to broaden their horizons and see something of the world. These days I gather Millennials and Generation Z believe it is less of a necessity, less of a need, more a want. Mind you, an ex-sister-in-law left NZ for her OE and never got further than Queensland in Australia! A year travelling, living in another culture, in another country, working in a different environment, and then back to New Zealand with all its delights and opportunities – or not. Some of course never return to the Land of the Long White Shroud, as the inhabitants irreverently refer to their country!

Two months ago Tony Buzan died. Some of you will never have heard of him, but for those who want to draw out the thoughts that run around inside your skull, his simple ‘Mind Mapping’ technique is brilliant. You can make these maps/diagrams as simple or as complicated as you want. They assist you to determine what’s important and what’s dross!

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I come back to this term OE. Many decades ago our Duke of Edinburgh suggested that, as a way of having some OE, anyone should be able to go around the world on £5. Let’s say it was at a time when a day’s pay was twenty pounds: clearly you were not going to get around the earth without working, using your wits, charm, having some luck etc. I am sure many people acted on his idea; certainly one took up the challenge and, having come back after 10 months overseas with £25 and a diary full of good experiences and adventures, wrote a book “Around the World on a Fiver”.

My own Nation ancestors lived in Somerset; then Stephen travelled to India, his eldest son to NZ, his second son to America and thence to London some one hundred years later; travelling is in my DNA. In the same time period the Everets, a family of Yorkshire solicitors, lived in Beverley, and travelled to York, Scarborough, Wetherby and Thirsk. For them the confines of the county of Yorkshire gave them a very fulfilling and rewarding life, but I would suggest that in 2019 OE could give you a greater, richer, more educational perspective. You may remember that wonderfully time-frozen comment by the father of Billy Elliot, the 11 year old given the unlikely chance of an audition for the Royal Ballet School in London. On the coach from Durham, Billy asks his father: “What’s London like, Dad?” “Don’t know, son, never been!” “But it’s the capital city, Dad!” Billy exclaims! “So! I have everything I need in Durham.” (And this is 1984)

These days I thought this would be unusual; we move around more and now overseas travel is commonplace. Then I had lunch with a chum last week who lives in Upper Wield in deepest Hampshire. He, like me, had worked for Her Majesty so the peripatetic life was the norm, but he told me of friends in the village who had lived there for 30 years, yet had never been to their sister village of Lower Wield, some 1.5 miles away, a thirty minute walk across the cornfields. Takes all sorts, I guess!

I have used the latter part of William Penn (1644-1718)’s prayer: “Life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.” with clients, for too often I found that their outlook was quite parochial. Due to the curvature of the earth, at sea level we can only see just over 3 miles (5kms); climb a 30 metre tower and you can see almost 13 miles (20kms). From the battlements of Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire you can see 20 miles. In 1434, the Lord Treasurer to King Henry VI, a Ralph Cromwell, famously exclaimed that all the land you could see from the top was his!! (some 1260 square miles)

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The view from Tattershall Castle

Are you intrigued by what’s over the horizon, do you need to lift your eyes, to explore, to experience? Do you really know what’s out there? We can see everything on the internet, through other people’s eyes, but you don’t get the smell, the heat, the cold, the sounds, the emotions, the tangible cultural stuff without actually going and doing and experiencing. Somehow the physical limitations of our sight become our mental and emotional ones, except for those who acknowledge that travel and OE can be so enriching and rewarding. It doesn’t always end well, however.

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In 1972 Douglas Robertson took his family (his wife, their 18 year old son and twin 11 year old boys) on an ‘educational around the world trip’ in his 43ft schooner. Having crossed the Atlantic and transited the Panama Canal, they set out into the Pacific. West of the Galapagos Islands the yacht was attacked by killer whales and sunk. Confined to an inflatable raft, the family ‘Survived The Savage Sea’ (the title of his subsequent book) and was eventually picked up by a Japanese fishing vessel after 37 days adrift. Some OE huh?

This illustration may alarm some people, particularly those who don’t like sailing, but there are hundreds of other ways of gaining OE, dovetailing the adventures into the educational needs of one’s family. Some of course home-educate whilst away and these days the internet has made this so much easier. But most of us who live overseas for a while survive easily, assimilate the cultural differences and gain from the experience. And of course the only sure thing about life is that plans you make will have to change, to adapt. Too often external forces over which you have no control force a change; what’s that saying – ‘Nothing changes but the reasons for change’?

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180) was a well-known philosopher. Here’s his take on change:

“Is any man afraid of change? What can take place without change? What then is more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature? Can you take a hot bath without the wood for the fire undergoing a change? Can you be nourished unless the food you eat undergoes a change? Can anything else that is useful be accomplished without change? Do you not see then that for yourself also to change is just the same?”

Couldn’t have put it better myself. Whenever, wherever, get some OE before change comes and bites you in the bum!

Richard 27th June 2019





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