Cloud Nine Spain Mankind Director Sean Woolley speaks about his background in the UK and his move to Spain. Originally from the Wirral Peninsula near Liverpool in the UK, Sean studied law and psychology in university. He trained to be a criminal lawyer and enjoyed the experience but left the profession due to government cost-cutting measures. He later got into management consultancy and high-end recruitment. When he sold his stake in his Management Consultancy firm he decided to move to Spain with his partner. They sold their belongings in the UK and bought a small apartment in Marbella, feeling a sense of freedom and escape from the rat race.
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I am originally from the Wirral Peninsula, a small region near Liverpool, located between Liverpool and Chester, depending on whom you ask. My mother was quite displeased when we had to change our postcode from CH to L, as it meant adopting a Liverpool postcode. However, we eventually reverted back to CH. That’s my place of origin. I pursued my education at an all-boys Christian Brothers school, where disciplinary measures included striking on the head, which was quite extreme. Later, I attended Keele University in Staffordshire, for those unfamiliar with its location. I pursued degrees in law and psychology, and I always had the notion, perhaps influenced by my family, that I would become a lawyer. And so, I pursued training to become a criminal lawyer, which was a remarkable experience. It was both shocking and thrilling, as one effectively negotiates for someone’s freedom, an invaluable undertaking. The exposure during this period was indeed formative, interacting with individuals from various walks of life, having committed or been alleged to have committed different deeds. Thus, it provided a life experience at the cutting edge, so to speak, and I gleaned invaluable insights from this period.
Just as my career was gaining momentum in the legal profession, they introduced legal aid franchising, bringing about significant restrictions. It involved cost-cutting measures by the government in legal aid work, which constituted a substantial portion of criminal defense work. Consequently, I could foresee the detrimental direction it was heading. Presently, the entire situation has become chaotic. Criminal lawyers never earned the highest income at the best of times, but now, it’s exceptionally challenging. So, I decided to leave that profession, and actually, I had an opportunity to work with Aldi, the discount retailer. I lasted three months, but I must admit, it was a tough, grueling experience. I joined as one of their area managers, and the training course required working on the shop floor, cutting up boxes, and memorizing the sale price of all items since barcodes were not used in those days. That was one of the cost-cutting measures employed by Aldi. It was indeed tough, but also an eye-opener. It provided me great insight into how large companies operate, especially in a highly competitive retail environment. Consequently, I moved into management consultancy, high-end recruitment, and we had offices in York, as I had relocated to Leeds, where I met my future husband, with whom I have been for over 30 years. He could give you the exact number, but I know it’s over 30, which is a significant amount of time. So, we had offices both in York and London, which allowed me to commute between the two cities, and it was a fulfilling experience. My partner, Paul, had a noteworthy job in the education sector. We enjoyed living in a delightful stone-detached cottage in Yorkshire, nestled in a quaint village with a charming pub, though it hosted numerous lock-ins. We also owned an Audi TT and a BMW, which were indeed enjoyable to have. However, we scarcely saw each other, as we were caught up in a cycle of work-related stress and a tedious daily routine. We would wake up, commute to work, experience stress throughout the day, endure a long commute back home, and then engage in a routine of ordering takeout, savoring a bottle of wine, perhaps another glass, and eventually going to bed. It was monotonous, and although we had a comfortable life, it lacked true quality. Consequently, when my small company was sold, and my shareholding was absorbed by a large PLC, it provided us with a small windfall. Though it may not have been a vast sum in hindsight, it felt like a substantial amount at the time, enough to potentially change our lives. Thus, we decided to head for Spain. Fortunately, the timing was right for both of us, as Paul was experiencing stress in his job. We made the decision to embrace change. This move is relatively common, requiring a compelling reason and careful consideration of timing and various factors. It felt like the right time for us, and fortunately, we didn’t have children or pets to consider, making our commitment easier. We sold our belongings in the UK, fully committing to this new adventure. Although life is not without its imperfections, it presented us with some challenges and issues. This has proven beneficial in terms of advising our clients now, as we understand that life abroad is not all smooth sailing. There will be individuals who don’t fulfill their responsibilities, and there are occasional rainfalls in Spain, among other things that people often overlook. Nevertheless, we arrived in Spain and acquired a beautiful little apartment in the hills of Marbella, without significant financial strain. We felt that we had escaped the relentless pace of the rat race. Looking back, I have cherished memories of that time, as it was the first period in our lives when we truly experienced freedom, and it was a truly wonderful time. Occasionally, I become nostalgic when reflecting on those moments. People often remark, “You’re so fortunate,” but luck was not the sole factor. We made a conscious decision and simply took the step of boarding a plane with just a few suitcases.
Sometimes, one must take action rather than envy the achievements and lifestyles of others, living in sunny locales. Anyone can pursue such a path. It requires courage and determination, and granted, the absence of family obligations and pets facilitated our decision. Nevertheless, there comes a time in everyone’s life when such possibilities present themselves, and it comes down to whether one is willing to seize the opportunity.