Adam Valastro didn’t want to be a plumber when he grew up, but that’s what happened.
“The story wasn’t lavish”, he says.
“I moved in with my cousin Anthony who was a plumber. It was literally just life circumstance thrown down my path.
“From the outside, everyone thought I had it made. I had assets, I had money, I was living in a beautiful house with some mates. But I was absolutely miserable. I was working 80-100 hour weeks.”
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Valastro describes the culture amongst tradies in Australia as macho and sometimes toxic.
“Vulnerability is seen as a weakness,” he says.
Becoming a travelling tradie
For Valastro, it took a tragic event to take the blinkers off.
“A couple of lads I knew took their own lives in the space of a week,” says Valastro.
“I couldn’t wake up another morning and just begrudgingly go to work. I basically resigned from my job, booked a ticket overseas and then disappeared around the world.”
It was only then he realised he needed to make a change for the good of his mental and physical health.
Valastro wanted to stay overseas for at least six months, but he was churning through cash. So, he asked the owner of his hostel if he could fix up the place in exchange for food and accommodation.
The answer was a resounding yes and it sparked a system that allowed Valastro to sustain himself abroad for over three years.
Trading tools for entrepreneurship
When Valastro eventually returned home, he struggled to pick up the tools. He started to ask himself: “How can I step out of this, work on myself, but also have an impact on the industry?”
He took a huge leap into the business world and launched Travelling Tradies.
Travelling Tradies creates long term opportunities for tradies to travel and offers them strategies to improve their wellbeing.
Routines and self-care are key
“I grew up in an environment where routine was forced onto me,” says Valastro.
When he left his job and the country, Valastro rejected routine so much he didn’t even wear a watch.
But when he returned to Australia and started his own business, he implemented wake-up times and a morning routine that included things like yoga, reading and massage ball.
Smiling Mind co-founder Jane Martino reinforces the importance of a morning routine involving meditation.
“A morning ritual even when you’re not physically going into the office is super important,” she says.
“Even if it’s half an hour.”
Valastro understands that getting into self-care can be tricky, especially for people accustomed to a macho culture. That’s why Travelling Tradies encourages participants to travel and gain some perspective, before locking down a healthy routine.
“Sure, you might miss a day or two here and there,” says Valastro. “But if you do six out of seven every week, you’re in good stead.”
Martino says one of the biggest barriers she sees is people thinking they won’t be good at meditation.
“You just need to be open,” she says. “Remember that if you have thoughts, it’s perfectly normal.”
Keeping calm during COVID-19
Valastro’s healthy habits have left him well equipped to deal with the stress and uncertainty of pivoting the business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of panicking about what he can’t control, he’s looking for the opportunities.
“A local model for us has always been on the cards, even though the international model is our marker”, says Valastro.
Martino highlights the opportunities presented by remote working.
She says now is a good time to start building mindfulness and meditation habits, while we have a little extra time. “It’s not a huge time commitment,” she adds.