Dream job: ‘My 9-to-5 is a US road trip’

By Dougal Shaw
BBC Business

  • Published
Leo Millward and his RVImage source, Leo Millward

Many people dream of taking control of their working life. Leo Millward has done just that, by turning it into an American odyssey.

"I'm extremely fortunate to be born at a time when technology has lent itself to having this particular working lifestyle," says Millward, 60. "I love it, I can't wait to get back to the USA this December."

Millward is an independent financial adviser from Lichfield in England's West Midlands.

But for the past 10 years he has travelled around the US, for up to six months at a time, in his customised, 42-foot Recreational Vehicle (RV), and this has been his office.

Image source, Leo Millward
Image caption,
The RV office

"I've really tried to replicate my office in Lichfield," says Millward.

"It's got a high-spec PC, four 32-inch monitors and a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system to route calls from clients. It looks like a Nasa control room."

He can talk to clients through video calls and many don't realise where he is, he says.

"I work every day as if I was in the UK, but I'm in Florida, or Arkansas, or wherever I happen to be."

Image source, Leo Millward
Image caption,
Leo Millward loves being outdoors

People who are in the know are perplexed about why he spends so much time in the US.

"To me it's like 50 different countries in one," explains Millward. "Each state is different."

The weather dictates his movements. "November to March the only places to be are Texas, California and Florida," he says.

Between trips he leaves the RV at campsites and his truck at a Ford dealership.

Image source, Leo Millward
Image caption,
The roaming office in the Recreational Vehicle typically boasts a trailer-park view

Millward left a large financial company to set up his own business in 1995, in a bid to find more personal freedom and take control of his working hours.

He immediately started to travel more for pleasure, but struggled to catch up on the backlog of work on his return. Then in the late 2000s he realised that the technology was good enough for him to take his work on the road.

He fell in love with RVs during a series of holidays to the US with a girlfriend, then bought his first vehicle at the Tampa RV Supershow in 2009.

Working from a trailer is not without its perils though.

He recalls one time at a campsite in Sparta, north Carolina, when he was all set up to have a meeting with a client in Solihull.

"Everything was going swimmingly, then suddenly all went black. The client and the girls in the office had no idea what was going on."

A tornado had ripped through the campground, taking out the electricity and wi-fi.

"So I jumped into my truck and drove to the closest town," he says, went to a hotel chain where he's a privileged member and used its conference facilities. "We rescued it."

Image source, Leo Millward
Image caption,
Millward's office back in the UK. The RV is never far away...

The long hours of driving are part of the appeal.

Americans operate with a different sense of scale, he says. "They wouldn't think twice about travelling 50 miles for a good steak, and I'm the same."

Millward celebrated his 60th birthday this summer.

He admits his remarkable working life is made easier by his personal circumstances.

As a bachelor, his arrangement doesn't have to accommodate the work commitments of a wife or partner.

Raising children while living the RV dream would also be difficult, he admits.

"I'm not a children sort of person, though I get on incredibly well with kids.

"My motto would be: cats not kids. I used to have eight cats in the UK, in my farm, which is why I call the house 'the cat's whiskers', it's more like a zoo."

Image source, Leo Millward
Image caption,
Millward's regular office is in Lichfield, Staffordshire, where he has two staff

So what inspired him to make his American dream a working reality?

Since he remains a UK citizen and resident, he says, there are no tax benefits.

It's all about a life lesson he's learned.

Throughout his career Millward has specialised in giving financial advice to people in the closing chapters of their lives, helping with wills, inheritance tax and long-term care fees.

"I have for very many years encouraged clients to do things like travel whilst they are young and fit enough to do it.

"I would say to them: Do the things you've often wished to do before it becomes an 'if only I had…'"

And he used to love to listen to the travel tales his clients had collected during their lifetimes.

As he drives across the United States, he sees himself as setting an example to his clients, following his own advice.

If you think you have found a clever way to work on your own terms and want to share it, you can email Dougal Shaw, who you can also follow on Twitter: @dougalshawBBC