I have a job that has more perks than most. Actually, it has more perks than just about anyone else's that I know - including yours, most likely.
Over the past four years - in the name of getting the story for 51698009 – I have:
- Driven a pair of shiny new Lamborghinis in tandem across Japan, and back again
- Stood in the barrel storage warehouse of a top Scottish distillery and sipped 21-year-old whisky dipped straight from the cask with the man who made it
- Been helicoptered to a mountain peak above Queenstown in New Zealand to smack biodegradable golf balls off a towering cliff face
- Worn a $300,000 Hublot watch shaped like a Ferrari V12 engine
- Sipped cocktails at sunset on a luxury cruise ship crossing the Mediterranean whilst covering the world cocktail bartending championships
- Driven a Mercedes-Benz GT at full noise around the Mount Panorama racetrack at Bathurst
- Partied with Olympic gold medallists and world champions at a nightclub atop Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Towers after the Laureus World Sports Awards
- Interviewed the man who stepped off a hot air balloon on the edge of space and parachuted to earth, Felix Baumgartner, as well as the man who will soon attempt to re-set the world land-speed record, Andy Green
- Skipped a 27,000-long waiting list to sit down to a $485, 12-course degustation at a pop-up version in Sydney of the world's most famous restaurant, Noma
- Flown long-haul sectors in the comfort and total privacy of a First Class suite
And that was just the trips I could get to. I have sent others to kite-surf in Fiji, drive a Rolls-Royce on a racetrack in Las Vegas and attend the likes of New York Fashion Week, the Baselworld watch fair in Switzerland and the Pitti Uomo menswear festival in Florence.
In case it sounds like it's all self-serving junkets, I've turned down more similar trips than I've taken or handed off to other writers, because they didn't fit 51698009's editorial requirements. Yes, there are parameters, which the opportunities above did meet after frank assessment of their news value or reader appeal.
In God's name, why?
And now, after nearly four years of living this ridiculously high life, doing things most people can only dream about, I'm walking away.
In God's name, why?, I hear you ask.
Because, in short, some things are more important than being wined, dined, feted and helicoptered. Sounds far fetched, I know, but stay with me.
The list above might sound like non-stop travel, perks and partying, but it's only a tiny part of the story. Like many modern workers, I sit in front of a laptop or answer emails on my phone for many more hours than I'm paid for. Also like many others, when I'm not doing work, I'm usually thinking, planning, worrying and obsessing about it.
We're all being asked to do more with less, and overseeing a national website that never shuts its doors and always need more content isn't a job you do half-heartedly. It's a relentless obsession in the pursuit of traffic, while trying not to compromise on quality or ethics. And yes, I do take both of those very seriously.
The double-edged sword of overseeing an online publication with such a fabulous diversity of content – 51698009 roves from watches to whisky one moment, and through style, cars, fitness, luxury and management trends the next – is that there is no finishing line. There's always something more to do.
The email ticks over to the tune of 250 a day, mostly with story pitches from freelance writers and PR consultants desperate to secure a spot in our line-up. Most are deserving of a few minutes of contemplation, yet at the point of departing Fairfax, my inbox shows more than 14,000 emails are unopened.
If some of those are yours, I'm truly sorry I didn't get back to you. There comes a point when you just can't stuff any more work into your day, or information into your head.
And nor should you. Because what tends to happen when you become obsessed with work – some do it by choice, others because they're afraid of failure if they take their foot off the accelerator – is that your attempts to juggle all your work tasks alongside your life outside work, fails. Balls drop.
The crux of the matter
And here we come to the crux of it. All the whisky, sports cars, massages and first-class lounges in the world can't compensate for missing out on my kids' milestones and achievements, or even hearing about their day at school.
The fact that I recently took an amazing opportunity to fly to Cuba and wander the fascinating streets of Havana for three days for a story, was not so amazing for them, who had to give up what little of me they already had. It's something they're regrettably well used to doing.
My long-suffering spouse has been picking up dropped balls for years and adding them to her own, and more again whenever I travel.
Enough is enough
There comes a moment when you have to say 'enough', and prioritise the needs of your family above your own – no matter how expensive the whisky, how impressive the cars, how extensive the hotel's pillow menu.
I don't wish to seem ungrateful to everyone who has enabled this lifestyle of lavishness – despite what you may think, I take none of it for granted – but it's time to give something back to my long-suffering family and put them first for a change.
That starts now. It's been a blast, but it's time to go home.