Escaping the rat race is something we all dream of from time to time. It takes an idea followed by action. It really is as simple as that although negative self-talk can stop that dream coming true. I hope you are inspired by Melissa’s story of leaving PR to pursue a dream in Africa. You could say she just dived in to a whole new life!
Tell us about your job and why you decided to make a lifestyle change
I’d been living and working in central London for nearly 10 years and – on the most part – absolutely loving it. It’s a vibrant city with so much going on and I’ve always enjoyed my job as a PR consultant and, more recently, a freelance journalist too. There are lots of different aspects involved in PR but, in a nutshell, I work with organisations to advise on their communications strategy and help them tell their story to the press.
My career has been pretty varied and, over the years, I’ve done everything from promoting new ice cream launches (yes, I spent a day visiting journalists in an ice cream van and, yes, it was fabulous!), organising celebrity interviews and red carpet photo shoots, raising awareness of charity fundraisers, responding to a crisis when something goes wrong, writing press releases about complicated travel technology developments, organising events and hosting journalists on press trips – and pretty much everything else you can think of in between.
People often comment that my job sounds really glamorous – and parts of it can be – but what goes on behind the scenes is far from glam: the long hours (at one point I was looking after 13 accounts), challenging clients, demanding journalists and tight deadlines mean stress levels are through the roof a lot of the time.
I knew I was at risk of burnout and, after just short of a decade in the city, I needed a change. With friends moving further out of the city and settling down to start a family, London was becoming more and more isolating. Plus, I absolutely hate the cold!
Being a scuba diver, I’ve always been drawn to the ocean and love spending time by the coast. I’ve often thought about relocating but usually just attributed it to “holiday blues” and there was always something keeping me in London: a job, a relationship, an upcoming promotion. Finally, last year, I decided to trust my gut and make the move – and it’s all fallen into place since then!
How did it feel when you relocated?
I’ve only been out here in Mozambique for two weeks so it’s all still pretty new but I’m really happy I made the decision to relocate. Since I decided to move to Africa, I’d been waiting for that “this is crazy – what am I doing?” moment to strike but it wasn’t until I was on the overnight flight to Maputo that it hit. I’d been so busy planning my trip that it hadn’t really sunk in that I was moving to a new country on my own. The nerves quickly passed, though, as it was something I’d been thinking about for a while and I knew deep down I was making the right decision for me.
Strangely, since I arrived, I’ve found I settled really quickly and already feel at home. The team has been really welcoming and it’s such a small town that you’re almost guaranteed to bump into a familiar face when you pop to the market, which makes a nice change from the Big Smoke!
What are the joys?
There’s something so wonderful about living by the ocean. I can nip down to the beach for a quick swim before work, go diving at the weekend or just sit and watch the sunset and chill. While we’re all working hard, I’ve got a much healthier work-life balance and I’m already feeling the stress of London life melting away.
The other joy is being able to help a cause so close to my heart: protecting our oceans. The Marine Megafauna Foundation – where I’m volunteering – is doing some really interesting work in the marine conservation sphere. As well as their research into ocean giants such as whale sharks and manta rays, they’re working with the local community to reduce unsustainable fishing practices and inspiring the local school children to protect the ocean by teaching them about marine conservation and running swimming lessons. Community engagement is vital here and it’s so interesting to meet some of the locals who are spearheading a change in behaviour.
There’s a lot to learn about the projects that are going on here but I’m excited to be able to help them shout about the incredible work they’re doing and make a real difference. It’s such a rewarding way to use my skills and expertise.
What are the challenges?
Life is very different here, of course: there’s no ATM in our town so you have to travel into the nearest city to get cash out and if there’s a storm we could lose power and internet for a day (which would have sent my London office into absolute chaos). I’ve found the easiest way to adapt is to just roll with things because there’s no point getting stressed about something you can’t change! In Mozambique, you definitely have to be ready to adapt to difficulties outside of your control.
How did you find the volunteering opportunity and what attracted you to it?
This role came up quite organically for me. I’d been thinking for some time about “quitting the rat race” and moving abroad but wasn’t sure where I’d go, what to do or even whether I’d want to leave PR altogether. Thinking he’d probably never reply, I took a punt and emailed MMF’s Co-Founder, Dr. Simon Pierce, for some advice and amazingly heard back from him not only with advice but with the opportunity to come to Mozambique and help the charity with its Comms. I was interviewed by the CEO and Mozambique’s Country Director before officially being offered the role.
As a scuba diver, finding an opportunity that let me use my PR expertise to help a cause I really care about (while living by the ocean, no less!) was a dream come true for me and, of course, I jumped at the chance.
MMF does advertise its vacancies too and we rely on volunteers from various different backgrounds from research to accountancy, marketing and business development. If anyone is interested in the possibility of joining our team, you can take a look at our current positions here: https://
If you have escaped the rat race and would like to share your story, please do get in touch.