Adventure of selling a business

Having negotiated the sale of our holiday property business that we launched together and ran for seven years we approached the emotional and fraught time when contracts would be exchanged, the point of no return.  At this stage too we would be able to tell our team the news that the sale of our business meant that we would no longer be involved but their jobs were secure as they become part of a larger organisation.

Knowing this would be a complicated time for us, our team and our buyers we wanted to be there ‘on the ground’ during the sales completion process.

In May we therefore did what most people would do, well ok maybe not many people but some people at least, which is set of our in self-converted VW camper van with the plan to camp in the UK wherever we needed to for as long as we needed to.

First the most surprising and potentially embarrassing thing happened.  Do I even want to put it in writing? …we joined the Caravan club!  To much amusement of my caravan owning family and now fellow club members.  It was my northern roots taking hold when I found we would save our membership fee after staying just three nights,  I couldn’t resist the bargain.

The first week did not go as we hoped.   Our plan was to exchange contracts on the day we arrived in the UK and be able to tell the team immediately.  Unfortunately after we had set up camp in Moreton-in-Marsh campsite, close to the office so that we could go talk to the team the following day, we found there was more data and more double checking to be done by the buyers.

At this stage we had to maintain full confidentiality and therefore work away from our team.   So we connected to the painfully slow campsite wifi and pulled together business data and checked the sales contract sitting in a field in the Cotswolds…IMG_4536

We were deflated and emotionally exhausted knowing we had to be completely professional and detached but it felt alien and deceitful not able to tell our team.

We were pulled in two directions working with our enthusiastic team on creative ideas to continue to grow the business and the harsh reality that actually all we really needed to do was maintain the ‘numbers’.

I admit sometimes I just gave up and abandoned my desk for a comfier spot on the grass to put things in a different perspective…IMG_4556and the environment was a little distracting and not perhaps encouraging of the strictest work ethic…IMG_2092
Finally ready for exchange, we were asked to print and sign the 40 page contract.

We were stumped for a moment but then set off to the nearest shopping centre, bought a printer-scanner and signed, scanned and emailed the contract from the office/van in the car park.IMG_2089

Finally we could involve the team and work each day, openly, in the office as we prepared for the completion of the sale.  We were first in the shower blocks each morning and possibly looked a little out of place in office wear rather than shorts and t-shirts as the rest of the campers.

We always made sure we had lots of coffee and a hearty breakfast to set us up for the challenges of the day ahead and continued to grow the business as well as crunch the numbers.IMG_4544

It was an exhausting time so when we needed a break we escaped the ‘board room’ for some fresh air and relaxation…IMG_4538IMG_4537

On a couple of weekends, admittedly feeling a little fenced in by our little field we escaped to Birmingham for some much needed curry and concrete.IMG_4549

During the week, back to the Moreton-in-Marsh field to be close to the team, dressing in our van for the office each day.  Many evenings, drained, we arrived back after most of our campsite neighbours had retired in doors but still with the long summer evenings still had time to relax and enjoy some wonderful evening walks.IMG_4562

and stunning early summer sunsets.IMG_4560

We camped until all was complete in mid June and after a celebration with the new owners of our business in Bideford, we set off home.

One last stop in the camper van, at an aire on the French motorway.  We know how to live the life!IMG_2093

We were both very quiet, processing all that we had  learned and experiences not just over the past seven weeks but seven years.  I felt so proud of what we had accomplished but felt empty too as our involvement with Sheepskin slowly disappeared into sunset…IMG_2096

On the drive south we found we were both feeling the same and agreed we should force ourselves to celebrate, take time to reflect and recognise all we and our team had achieved.  So picked up some Champagne on our way through Champagne and did just that when we got home.IMG_4572After our reflections we agreed; if we were to ever do the same again, we would do the same again!SaveSave

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Island life on the mainland of Greece

After difficult Albania we needed an easy and comfortable place, hopefully easier on the eye than what we had seen over the previous days.  From the border, we travelled out of a mountain rainstorm through spectacular scenery, on route to the Lefkada peninsula. A hilly island joined to the mainland by a bridge that we knew from spending a few days there in our last trip. It has a beautiful coastline, several campsites and an interesting old town that we missed out exploring last time.

Lefkada Greece Oasis

Despite the evident lack of tourists as we travelled down the island, Nydri, a weird tourist oasis, if you are sun-worshiping lilo lover, still seemed to be thriving as we drove through – we assumed because it is built on package tourists not independent travellers who have chosen to go elsewhere this year. We headed towards a campsite, Dessimi Beach, hidden in a quiet little cove but still a flip flop walk from Nydri’s entertainment. This time we thought we might try the second of the two campsites in the cove.

We were amazed and disappointed when we were ambushed by one of the campsite owners who was lying in wait in a café on the junction to the cove.  He pursued us on his moped and herded us through to his site where a staggering number of campers huddled on the gravel and grass trying to find shade.  His tactic was obviously proving successful but not for us, we made our escape as soon as we could and continued our search.

Poros Beach at the bottom of a steep windy track had more potential but we were stunned at how many cars and people had taken the trouble to weave their way down the narrow track and never ending hairpin bends.  It is a beautiful place with a surprising number of check table clothed restaurants behind the lovely pebbly beach and only a handful of people in the campsite just behind the beach.

Turquoise waters and beach ahead Lefkada

As we settled down by the van to enjoy the chirrup of the cicadas in the shade of the ancient olive trees with a chilled glass of white wine, the possible cause of the near empty campsite revealed itself….a young German family who seemed unable to hear their two children as they toddled and screamed around each of the vans in turn.

We swallowed hard, the Sancerre helped, retrieved our Lefkada map and headed out to one of the restaurants. Over a lovely dinner tucked away in a corner of the bay, once more in a restaurant for 40 but only with 4 of us there, we decided to move on.  The full moon was in a few days and we wanted to find a special place to see it.

We drove the coast road to Lefkada town where we enjoyed a Gyros at a little café in a charismatic street of the old town We decided to move to another campsite 5km from town, Kariotes Beach.

Delicious lunch in eerily quiet Lefkada old town

Almost perfect, a lovely site to accommodate probably 20 camper vans and 30 tents with a friendly owner who greeted us warmly and showed us round.  I followed him into the office to check in and as he sat at his desk filling out his paper work, two swallows flew back and fore over my head, through the open door and to the corner of the ceiling where their four hungry babies poked out noisily from their nest.  We picked out our nest for the evening away from the other 3 camper van guests and enjoyed a lovely evening. But when the moon arrived we could only just see it through the trees and so decided we needed to try something different if we were to see the full moon the next night.

Our Lefkada map shows tracks to beaches away from towns and facilities, the first at the bottom of a long track, winding its down to the water on the stunning west coast.  The only traffic we saw on our way down was a man on his donkey laden with grass, a good sign.

Peaceful Lefkada

When the road forked we took the dirt track hoping for fewer people and nothing spoiled, it had a sign for a café/tavern that we quite liked the look of.

Cafes along the stunning coast at the sea

At the end of the track was an amazing place, a cool beach bar clinging to the hillside.  Breath-taking views, just for us and the three guys who lived, slept and worked in this special place.

Cool bar clinging to hillside Lefkada

We were inspired and impressed by their creativity, style and determination and pleased to see several other people wandering into the bar from somewhere as we enjoyed a welcome Alpha Greek beer from an iced glass and pondered our next move.

Quiet bar on hillside by beach Lefkada

There were a few other people wild camping on the beach, so along with the cool bar (which they said stayed open until the last person left) meant it was a good option, however because we couldn’t find an appropriate space to park between the other people camped, it was possibly not the hide out we sought.  We decided to contemplate over lunch in Lefkada and headed back up, over the hills and to the old town.

We also wanted to find internet to check on the news to see if any deal had been reached on the Greek ‘situation’ prior to the pending referendum.  In yet another empty café in the old town, feasting on an amazing Greek salad and Skordalia (garlic & potato puree) with beetroots, we discovered no deal had been struck, banks remained closed and saw for ourselves the anxious faces in the ATM queues.  We tried at several ATMs to top up our Euros and found them empty, finally succeeding after queuing at what looked like the only bank in town with money.

Police watch queues for ATM in old town Lefkada

Our decision was to wild camp at the tiny pebble beach that had been a sanctuary for us on our previous visit to Lefkada.  I don’t want to say exactly where it is but it is on the west coast at the bottom of a steep, narrow track and has nothing but a rocky beach and view out to sea and the sunset and hills behind.   As we wound down the strangely familiar track we were both a little tense, hoping that this would still be a very special place and that we would have it to ourselves, fearing that it may have been found and spoiled by others.

It remains a tranquil and beautiful place…

our secret place Lefkada

and it made us so pleased that we spent the time to convert our 4×4 transporter into a camper van to enable us to free camp and enjoy such places in absolute comfort.

Finally found our spot

So much so that Adam got distracted and disappeared to take pictures just before sunset…

Adam inspired disappeared to photo sunset

We celebrated watching the sunset with a bottle of Retsina and giddily took a ‘selfie’ of us in our special place

selfie portrait wild camping Lefkada beach

Being on the west side of steep, tall hills the full moon still had not shown itself by midnight.  Continuously amazed at how doing not very much at all can exhaust you, we headed off to sleep and I set the alarm so that we could wake up to see the moon later…

Full moon Lefkada July 2015

and even later.. 4am…

July full moon Lefkada beach