95. Ray Martin: Life without a tie

Ray Martin created his own path in life after facing a crisis. In 2005, shattered by divorce and the loss of his father, he decided to let go of being a successful business leader to embark on a journey of reinvention by taking a six-month sabbatical which ended up lasting fourteen years.  He explains to host, Sue Stockdale what he learned from this experience, and how he completely re-evaluated his life and personal mission.

Ray Martin, aka The Daily Explorer, is an entrepreneur and award-winning business leader. As a coach, mentor, facilitator, speaker, writer, and mindfulness teacher, he is a torchbearer for greater human consciousness. He courageously explores both his external and internal world daily in pursuit of greater insight and wisdom about life, for himself and others. He created the Calling All Angels Foundation and runs marathons to raise money for causes he believes in, which have included an orphanage in Nepal and an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. Whatever he does, his mission is to bring more joy and happiness into the world.

Connect with Ray Martin at his website or LinkedIn 

Key Quotes

  • I kept wondering why I wasn’t feeling in my deepest core, really happy. I had this sense of unease and unhappiness all the time.
  • I came out of the monastery after 10 days in a completely different space, my energy had just really calmed down.
  • I made a decision to adopt the principle of self-acceptance.
  • One of the toughest challenges was to reconceptualize my life without having a permanent home.
  • We’ve got a huge need to control our external reality as human beings.
  • Moving towards a less effortful way of living, is about tuning into your intuition.
  • With a strong core, you know what your values are, you know what your vision and purpose is, or at least have a sense of it.
  • The greatest source of happiness for me has been when I’m taking my knowledge and wisdom and experience and using it to empower others to have an amazing life.

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Ray Martin Transcription

[00:00:00] Sue: Hi, I am Sue Stockdale, your host of Access to Inspiration, the podcast with a social mission to help you be inspired by people who may be unlike you. We hope that their experiences and insights that they share will cause you to reflect on your own perspectives about the world. And if you like to read a transcription of the episode as you’re listening, go on over to the webpage at accesstoinspiration.org and you’ll find it there.

My guest for today for episode 95 is Ray Martin, who has indeed led a fascinating life. In 2005, shattered by divorce and the loss of his father, Ray decided to let go of being a successful business leader to embark on a journey of reinvention and decided to take a six month sabbatical. That journey ended up lasting for 14 years, so I can’t wait to find out how. Welcome to the podcast, Ray. It’s great to speak to you today.

[00:01:15] Ray: Thank you.

[00:01:16] Sue: It’s great to speak to what I would call a fellow explorer. Yes. It made me think when I read that in your profile, I wonder what you are seeking to find when you’re exploring.

[00:01:25] Ray: I had one really specific question that I needed to find, but before I say what that question was, I think it’s worth setting a bit of context. Back in 2004, I reached a point in my life where I sort of arrived at a point of success that had been defined for me since I was a child. Success was getting a really good career, a wife, a house, a home, starting a family, and all of those things.

[00:01:50] Sue: And can I just ask before you continue on who had defined that for you?

[00:01:54] Ray: Well, I would sort call, say the silent collective. My parents a little bit, some teachers, just all of the sort of decoding I sort of made of the world through my childhood growing up told me that was the way to go. That’s what everyone was doing. That’s what I ought to do. And I never questioned it. I never even thought, is that right? Is that right? I did have some doubts, but I more or less followed that plan. So I arrived at the age of 34, 35, started my own business with a business partner who I became married to. We started when we were just a couple, but we got married during the process of starting the business cause we had a shared vision for it and it was really successful and, became business leader of the year in 2002 with the Daily Telegraph.

So I sort of reached that point of success and then I kept wondering why I wasn’t feeling in my deepest core really happy. I had this sense of unease and unhappiness all the time that was doing that, even though I was quite competent at it, just felt like I was in someone else’s life. And then one day, suddenly, of course, as the universe tends to do, sometimes she came back from a meeting and said, I’m leaving you and I’m leaving the company.

And it was very sudden, not expected. I didn’t see it coming. At the same time my father got very ill and died. And so within a three or four months, I was out of my home, out of my company, out of my marriage, and my dad had passed away.. And I was lost and broken. I felt broken, and all the stuff I knew about coaching just didn’t seem to apply to me in that state.

I was, yeah, couldn’t get myself out of it and so on the advice of friends, I started to think maybe a change of scene for a while would work, so I started to think about taking a six month sabbatical and I thought that would be a really good idea. And at the same time, I found this book, which is why I wanna answer the question by Bronny Ware called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

This is a woman who works as a hospice nurse in Australia and says she’s interviewed over a thousand people in the last days of their lives and asked them all the same question. What do you most regret about your life? She said she doesn’t need to look up her stats. She knows the answers. The same five things always come up and the number one thing that everyone always says were, I wished I’d lived my life true to myself and not the life that others expected of me.

And of course in that moment in the pain I was in, that really created resonance for me. It was like I was stopped. Motionless, breathless. It was like in that moment I knew that was my quest. I had to find out what that meant to me in this moment and how I was gonna take it forward into my life. I was pretty clear. I didn’t want to continue down the path of being an owner operator of a business and a CEO of a company, even though I could do it, I just knew energetically that wasn’t the thing.

[00:04:33] Sue: So here you were deciding that you were going to leave, let’s call it traditional life, at least as you knew it at that point

[00:04:40] Ray: for a few months. Yeah.

[00:04:41] Sue: You knew what you didn’t want, and you had an inkling that there was something different, but you didn’t know what that was at that point. Yeah. Were you fearful or were you excited?

[00:04:50] Ray: No, I was mainly fearful. You know, terrified, and that’s one of the things I’ve talked about since I got back. I was in a lovely setting. You know, I went to Thailand to begin with, sort of backpacking around Thailand, and there were beautiful beaches and nice coffee shops and massage and all this. On the surface, it all looked great, but inside I was deeply fearful, anxious, worried, A lot of guilt and shame about having messed up my marriage. Seemed to have failed at that and all sorts of things to process through. And so after six months, I was still in that state. When someone said to me, why don’t you do a vipassana retreat? I didn’t. I didn’t even know what that was, to be honest. I said, what’s that pit plassina, what that was, you know, what is that thing?

They said, are you just going to monastery for 10 days and meditate with Buddhist monks? And I’d never meditated, and. I’d never been silent for 10 minutes, let alone 10 days. The way they described their experience of it, I thought, yeah, that could really work for me. And so I decided to commit to doing a vipassana, and I came out of the monastery after 10 days in a completely different space.

I came out of the monastery after 10 days in a completely different space, my energy had just really calmed down.

I mean, my energy had just really calmed down. Someone had turned the volume in my head down from a 10 on, a 10 to two out of 10, say, I still had a bit of noise, but nothing like what I had before, and that’s what happened. And so that’s how I discovered mindfulness and sense of meditation and which I still is part of my life today. And I actually teach a mindfulness based leadership program to executives.

[00:06:11] Sue: So now then that you’d turned down the noise in your head and you’d got got a sense of, of mindfulness in that retreat. Did it give you any clarity then about what was going to come next?

[00:06:22] Ray: Not, exactly. I mean, not in terms of the form or structure of the life ahead, but what it did give me clarity about was the need for some psychological safety for the journey ahead. And so I kind of started to order for myself a set of 10 guiding principles that I could use to live by from that moment forward. And it was inspired by the time I’d spent in the monastery. So for example, I set one of the 10 guiding principles as being presence. I said, whatever comes next. I want to be a person who goes into that and lives fully in that moment, in that thing, giving it my full attention. And I’m going to train myself and be aware when I’m thinking about my past and thinking about my future, and always make the principle to bring myself back to the present moment and make that part of my practice. I never had principles like this for living day-to-day before, but these were like safety rails for me.

[00:07:16] Sue: Now I’m keen to know what the rest are.

[00:07:18] Ray: Well, I, I, I don’t think we’ll probably have time to go through all 10, but the second one was the principle of self-acceptance because I was aware up to the point I went into the mastery, just how badly I was speaking to myself about my past and screwed up. I thought, wow. When I listened to myself talking to myself in my own head, if that was a person, I shared a house with. And they actually spoke to me like that. I’d have booted them out. I mean, critical heavy blunt, you know, really heavy and critical towards me all the time. And that was my own self. And so I made a decision to adopt the principle of self-acceptance.

I’m going to be my own cheerleader. I’m going to let myself know that I am doing the absolute best I can with the resources I’ve got. I’m improving and I’m on a quest to improve and I will improve and I’m gonna. Keep cheering myself on that. I’m not gonna keep berating myself. So there were principles around modesty. Frugality. I had a principle around connection, wanting to stay connected with the people back home, which led me to start writing a blog, which became very popular, unexpectedly. Gave me a taste of writing as well before I wrote the book, and a principle around contribution. I thought wherever I am, I want to find ways to contribute to the places I’m in or to the communities I’m being exposed to. And that led me to start a fundraising foundation for an elephant sanctuary in Thailand and an orphanage in Nepal. I started running marathons to raise money for those things, and that became a huge part of the journey unexpectedly, which I never imagined would happen. Raised about $50,000 to donate to those causes and ran five marathons in my fifties and I’d never run in my life. Had no intention when I left England to be a marathon runner, when just things were happening to me that I could never have imagined had I stayed in London as a businessman.

[00:09:02] Sue: So with those guiding principles, what you just said a moment ago, Ray, is you talked about the word home and I’m wondering, during those times in travel in Thailand and so on. Where did you think home was for you?

[00:09:15] Ray: Well, that’s a brilliant question. I’m not sure I could answer it even because it was one of the toughest challenges to reconceptualize my life without having a permanent home. So home became like a 22 kilo bag that that was all compartmentalised with my clothes and laptop and everything. That, for me was home. And I moved with my home a bit like a gypsy with a caravan, but it was a very small one and I always found lodgings. And eventually I started to find places where I wanted to stay longer, of course. So I, one place in particular was Chang Mai in Thailand, where there was a, a lovely community of like-minded and like spirited people. So I ended up living there on and off for about four or five years and just traveling from there, going back there, traveling from there, going back and even started to work from there. In 2010, I managed to create probably one of the first virtual coaching gigs in the world in 2010. So I was very fortunate to be able to do that.

Moving towards a less effortful way of living, is about tuning into your intuition.

[00:10:11] Sue: You’ve preempted almost where my thoughts were going there, Ray, because I can imagine if the listener that’s thinking, well, that’s all very well being, wanting to travel, but how do you sustain yourself? We all need money to survive. Yeah. How did you solve that problem?

[00:10:24] Ray: Well, I was okay for the first couple of years because I ran a business and I had a house in London, which I sold, so I was funded for the first part of the journey. But then circumstances changed and my, I needed to make sure I had an income, and so I did what I call setting an intention with the universe. That’s how it worked for me. I knew on a deep level I was wanting to reengage with the business world, and particularly from a coaching standpoint, that was my interest. But I wanted to sort of somehow have it just effortlessly appear in front of me rather than going to loads of effort, partly because I didn’t have any business contacts in Asia at all, not even one, Zero. And so I wrote this story in the book, and it’s quite an interesting one. I thought, I’ll test the power of intention and universal guidance here. So I reached out on LinkedIn and put the words coaches Asia in the search box, and a list of names came. And I just randomly pick one or two and sent messages off to them saying, I’ve just arrived in Asia. I’d like to do a bit of part-time coaching. Who do you advise is the best person for me to talk to, to get going and make, find out how to do it?

And they wrote back and said, there’s just one person we recommend you talk to. And they told me his name is Warra Pat and he was head of a thing called the Asia Pacific Alliance of Coaches, which I’d never heard of. But I got in touch with him and he said, Yeah, I’d be happy to talk with you. Are you in Bangkok?

And then luckily I was going to Bangkok the following week, so I said, yeah, I will be in weeks time. He said, well, come and see me. And before I go further tell to tell you what happened with that story, I thought before I see him, I’m gonna sit down and just write down for myself, not for anyone else. What is my intention?

What am I actually trying to find? Just so I’ve got clarity in my own head, I’m about to tell you, I feel embarrassed to almost say this cuz people laughed at me when I told them this story. I said, I want to work about 20 hours a month, not a week, a month. And I thought if I say that to someone, they’re just gotta go. That’s ridiculous. Yeah. Who do you think you are? 20 hours a month. But that was really truly because of the foundation and the other stuff I was doing at a very low cost of living in Asia that was sufficient to cover all my needs at that point. So I thought, I want to work 20 hours a month I don’t wanna have or feel any pressure or coercion from whoever I become an associate to, to join up full-time because that was one of the things I was scared of.

I’d be somehow, I don’t know, manipulated or pushed into becoming more involved. So it’s got to be on my terms. And then the third thing, and I thought, no one’s gonna do this. I want to do my coaching via Skype virtually, cuz this was 2010 and virtual was not even a thing. I thought that’s a really like needle in a haystack, that someone’s gonna have a gig like, So Warra Pat told me to create a profile, which I did, and they sent it onto somebody in Singapore and the next day they phoned me and said, we can’t believe it.

We’ve been looking for someone like you. We’ve got this new coaching practice we’ve opened in Singapore. We, we are successful in Europe, so we’ve got lots of global clients who want people in the Far East coached. We just don’t have enough coaches. If we could get 20 hours a month from you, we’d be delighted that would be brilliant. They said, well, there’s only one thing, Ray, you might not be happy about. I said, what’s that? I said, we’ve decided we’re only gonna do our coaching virtually. I said, you are . I said, you are kidding me. You are joking, aren’t you? And it was like literally exactly what I kind of visualized and specified. And that for me was, I’ve got several examples and from my journey, but I’ve got, this is where I started to really see that when you live in alignment with your values, what’s true for you When you set an intention and clear about what it is. This is where the universe can really manifest something for you, you know? So this is a great example of that when I started working with clients within a week, um, a month of that, I think, or quite soon after.

The greatest source of happiness for me has been when I’m taking my knowledge and wisdom and experience and using it to empower others to have an amazing life.

[00:13:59] Sue: What a lovely story. And of course these days it’s the norm for everybody. Of course, you and I are having this podcast recording virtually as well, so Yeah, of course. Yeah. We’re so different nowadays. So in terms of then you working and traveling in Asia, What was your future focus at that point? Were you focused on saying, I’m gonna be in Asia and do this coaching and enjoy this life and I’m not thinking too far ahead? Or was there a bigger purpose that you saw for where your life was evolving to?

[00:14:27] Ray: Yeah, it was a bigger purpose. I mean, I’ve noticed in recent times that I no longer think in terms of geographies and stuff. Cuz people ask me those questions in that form all the time. So where are you gonna live next? Or where are you moving to? And I go, well, for me it’s more a question of what is the purpose or quest I’m on and where would be a useful place to live that would serve that purpose the best?

And I’ll take whatever answer comes, I would move to whatever place that would be. So when I was in Asia, I was concerned with what is the work I’m born to do, you know, meant to do? And to answer that question, what is the life that’s true for me? So a big part of that was what is the work I’m born to do? And I knew because of all the experiences I was having and the workshops I was doing, and the books I was reading, and the meditations and the guidance that was coming to me, I knew it was something in the world of serving people to find their true path.

I knew that instinctively. I couldn’t prove it to you, but I just knew it inside myself, and so I just decided to stay with that enquiry. How do I do that better? How do I improve on that? How do I make myself really good at that so that people want me to do that for them? And then I moved around in accordance with that decision, and I stayed in Asia for a few years, but eventually I met someone I fell in love with, who was from Poland. And I ended up moving to Warsaw in Poland to live with them. But I was still on the path of that quest even though I moved and I felt then I could reconnect with my business network back in London, being in Poland cause it’s only like a very short flight to London. And it opened up the opportunity and possibility of me being able to activate a lot of contacts who had had gone dormant for a while. And that’s exactly what happened.

[00:16:07] Sue: So in your journey there, you were following that intention and, and things were uncovering. Many listeners perhaps are not in that situation for themselves. Maybe they have commitments, family commitments, caring commitments, and so on. And yet there’s some aspect of what you’re sharing with us here about the, what I call that explorer mindset that they could apply for themselves. So what would you think would be most useful for a listener to take from what you’re saying in your experiences?

[00:16:34] Ray: Yeah, I get, I hear, that’s a good question. What comes to me, how it looks to me is that we’ve got a huge need to control our external reality human beings. And it’s a fallacy because we have no control. It’s literally an illusion. And this became the delusional thinking that produces that notion came to me through the Buddhist meditations and the monastery visits, et cetera. It’s really crystal clear to me that we have no control over external enhancing allies. We think we do, but we don’t. And so given that’s true.

The system we’ve been taught, which is push, push for what you wanna make happen and use your kind of will and personality to push for specific outcomes. And if you have that specific outcome, you’ll be happy. And if any other outcome happens, you’ll be unhappy. That leads to quite a lot of suffering for people. It did for me because I’d used that system as a CEO e of a business to get hard financial results every year. So what I became used to was adopting a different system where, what Michael Singer, in his book, the Untethered Soul, he calls it, you Surrender to Life. You live in surrender, you go, life is giving me this option here. Is it in alignment with my values and purpose? Is it a growth opportunity? Okay, I let, let’s just go with the flow of that and see where that goes. As long as all the other conditions are met, like you can pay the bills. Fulfill all your obligations as a parent or all those things. Let’s experiment. Let’s make life a bit more of an experiment rather than a, it must be this way for me to be happy.

Let’s be, have a bit more ease and flow around it. And I got used to living by that system because of the circumstances I set up and I started to trust that system a lot more cuz actually produced pretty good results for me in real terms. I met good people, I got good work, I had great quality of life. So I kind of thought, well, that actually this is much less effortful way of living. So I’d recommend that people consider it moving towards a, a less effortful way of living, which is always what’s less effortful is tuning into your intuition is living in the line with your values and purpose and vision, and it’s being willing to experiment with things. So if you try something that’s not right, you go, okay, that didn’t work. This is what I learned. Let’s get back on track to something else.

[00:18:35] Sue: I can see why that learning about self-acceptance for you is playing such an important role now in that experimental life.

[00:18:44] Ray: Yeah, it is. It. And I’m still largely in that frame, even though I came back to the UK mainly to get the book written. But it’s been lovely being back in the UK from a personal relationship point of view because I’ve been able to reconnect and hang out with a lot of friends that I didn’t see ever.

[00:18:57] Sue: Now you’ve mentioned a book a couple of times. Ray, tell us what it’s about.

[00:19:01] Ray: Oh well Life Without a Tie is the name of the book because when I was encouraged by friends to go on a sabbatical for six months, I minimalized my life. I sold my house in London, gave away quite a lot of the possessions. I had to kind of get things really simplified and went off with a backpack and a laptop computer for six months to answer the question, how do I live life true to myself. I didn’t have an answer after six months and I did a, a retreat and I thought, I’m just gonna continue this inquiry a bit longer before I go back and then as it expanded, I then thought of doing a fundraise in Asia. So I thought I’ll just do this fundraising, stay a bit longer. And in the end, the sabbatical, which was scheduled for six months, lasted 14 years, and I returned in 2019 instead of 2006. And so I got asked so many, many, many times by Travelers, you know, what I was doing, why I was doing it, how long I’d been traveling, what, 14 years. And they all said to me, if you ever write a book about this, I’d be really thrilled to read it. And I laughed at first, I said, Come on. I, I didn’t do this to write a book. Who wants to read a book about someone finding themselves? It’s really boring, but so many people kept asking me the same question over and over. At certain point I went, oh my goodness, the universe wants me to write a book. I better get down to it. I didn’t even know how to write. I went on a course to find out how I should start, and so the book was To serve all those people that asked me, and also had to help me raise more money for the foundation because I’m donating the proceeds from the book to it.

But as well, for me, it was a great opportunity to capture 14 years of lived experience and share the lessons that I learned from it that we are talking about today. So there’s a lot more in it than that because I, I shared my six rules for happiness in the book, my 10 guiding principles, plus a lot of stories about the people I met and the things that happened and the events that shaped my mindset. They’re all written out in glorious detail, including all the screw ups and failures, cuz there were a lot of those . So life without a tie is the book.

[00:20:56] Sue: It sounds intriguing and my curiosity is piqued already Ray, yeah. From what you’re describing and sharing with us today. If you are having a kit bag for life, you talked about your 23 kilogram bag that had been your home as you were traveling, what would you put in your kit bag for life now,

[00:21:13] Ray: metaphorically, or, yeah. Yeah, that’s a great question. When I reflected back after the journey, I’d say I think there are some basic rules to keep oneself happy. One is to have a strong core, what I call a strong core, because when I started to train for marathons, which is a new experience for me, my coach made me work on my core muscles first.

To build the strength of that core so I could then handle the rest of the training demand that was coming. So the life equivalent of that is if you’ve got a strong core, you know what your values are, you know what your vision and purpose is, at least have a sense of it. You know, the kind of activities that put you in your element where you feel like you get totally absorbed and lost in love of what you’re doing.

So when you have all this data available to you about your own core, you’re likely to actually make better decisions. And I say better meaning decisions, which gonna keep you on the center line of your true path. Or at least bring you back to it quickly if you deviate from it. Now, if you don’t have any of those core strengths, you’re gonna get lost and blown around all over the place.

And you know, you’re just gonna experience a lot of turbulence, I think. So that would be one. A second one I think would be you adopt the position whether you like it or not. And for some people it’s hard to do that. You take a hundred percent ownership for everything that happens, good or bad, , you know, pleasant or unpleasant. You’ve got to start looking at life. You are the cause of everything that’s happening in front of you because it’s very easy to blame circumstances or people or others, and that does two things. It means you don’t have any power to shift in that situation to something more useful. And the second thing is it robs you of any growth, a learning that you can extract from something that’s not gone well.

And so I saw the power of that and building sustainable and supportive and powerful relationships. Intentional relationships where you, whenever you meet a person you are intention is always to build significance and depth and connection with that person. It’s not just a casual kind of, how do I pass the time? Kind of conversation. The intention’s different. And for me, that’s really served me to fill my life with a rich tapestry of people, all of whom I feel like I’ve got really solid friendships with. And even though I might not see them very often, I know that with those people, like when I launched the book, I wrote to a few of the travelers. I’d met all around the world and they were all writing back an amazing, I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I really wanna read it. And these were all people that I’d spent time, invested time with to create this connection with on my travels and it’s so, so worth it. It gave me a sense of fulfillment and pleasure and reward that no money could ever pay for.

It’s just beyond that. I could go on. There’s more, but the last one, I’d say the five of my six rules are all about how do you master life for yourself. But the sixth rule is, About empowering others because I think the greatest source of happiness for me has been when I’m taking my knowledge and wisdom and experience and using it to empower others to have an amazing life, and that’s why I do the work I do.

I’m sure it’s probably one of the reasons you do as well, but. When you see a person empowered and you see them make a shift, which they’ve done themselves, I, we are holding the space, but they’re doing the work. It’s just so beautiful. I mean, I can’t think of anything more amazing. I mean, it’s one of the most amazing things on earth. So , I love doing that work with people to sort of have them walk their own true path.

[00:24:31] Sue: Well, I hope that by what you’ve said today, Ray, your words have inspired her listener to maybe think about things in a different way for them. So you’ve been a living role model of your principles today in this conversation, which I found fascinating. I love what you’ve had to say and to share with us.

[00:24:48] Ray: Thank you. Well,

[00:24:49] Sue: thank you for your time.

[00:24:50] Ray: Oh, it’s my pleasure. My pleasure.

[00:24:52] Sue: If our listener does want to find out more about your book and about the work that you’re doing, how might they do that on the internet?

[00:24:58] Ray: Yeah. Very simple. The best place to do do that is life without a tie.com. Easy. Yeah. Life without tie.com. My friend Patrick is a lovely guy. He’s just put the website up for me. He’s done a really. And there I’ve also, as well as being able to buy the book and as a link to Amazon and other things, there’s some background. I’m actually gonna load up some pictures from the trip cuz I did actually visit 28 countries and there’s gonna be some really good photos available on the website shortly. And I’ve just uploaded a free. Audio version of the introduction to the book. So if anyone’s wondering, is this book something I might wanna read? They can download the audio of the introduction and listen to that and then they’ll know. Fantastic.

[00:25:39] Sue: That’s really helpful. Ray, I wish you well on your life experiment as it goes forward in whatever way, shape, or form it does.

[00:25:46] Ray: Thank you very much. That’s really kind. Thank you.

[00:25:48] Sue: And I hope that you continue exploring and sharing your words of wisdom with other people as well.

[00:25:53] Ray: Thank you.

[00:25:55] Sue: Well, that was a really interesting conversation with Ray today, how inspiring the way he has chosen to live his life. Well, next week I will be talking to another traveler, Judith Keys, who transformed her life by leaving behind her corporate career and moving to France where she now runs cookery classes and helps people through the social and emotional impact of moving to a different country. I hope you can join us.