From Broke to Limitless: How One Dubai Resident Turned Her Life around

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Caroline Labouchere 3
Photo: Courtesy of Caroline Labouchere

It all started when my husband lost his job.

Having only my part-time salary to survive on in a city like Dubai was tough. At that time, David, my husband, would spend his days sitting in coffee shops applying for jobs on his laptop or training for his next triathlon. Meanwhile, we were homeless. We stayed wherever we could; we would dog sit and house sit for friends or sleep on a mattress on the floor when we had to. I could also no longer afford the antidepressant that I had been on for years by that point.

With no imminent prospects of work in the UAE, David went to Hawaii to compete in the Ironman World Championships. I couldn’t get my head around this at all. I was so angry and blamed everything on him.

I continued to play the part of the victim. I cried, avoided people, and pushed them away.

Soon after that, we were donated an empty one-bedroom apartment. Our two big dogs, who incidentally never wanted to pee at the same time, slept in two sides of a suitcase, while my daughter Mimi used a rattan sun lounger outdoors as her bed. We often had no air conditioning, but we managed to obtain a fairly well-stained, old cooker, a junior-sized fridge, and a washing machine.

Over the next six months, we spent all of our savings surviving and paying off mortgages and lines of credit. We soon owed nothing and owned land on the other side of the globe, but we had very little to live on.

I continued to play the part of the victim. I cried, avoided people, and pushed them away. I lost a lot of friends during this time. The dogs were the only reason I got out of bed, and I went through the motions of work between outbursts of self-pity.

One day, somewhere around rock bottom, Ruth popped up on my Facebook feed. She was a spiritual guide that I had visited a few times when I lived in Wiltshire. I messaged her and she suggested a reading over the phone. While I trusted her, I didn’t have much hope that this would work, but I was desperate.

As we spoke over the phone – me in Dubai and her in England – one thing became apparent in what Ruth was telling me: I needed to take control of my life. There I was, just waiting for David to get a job, and it hadn’t occurred to me that I could take the lead myself. After our call, I felt much better. And while she had planted a seed, it would lay dormant for another few years.

In December 2014, David became a joint partner in a local gym, where he remains to this day as Managing Partner, having doubled the size of the company. This allowed us to get back on our feet, but I still wasn’t sitting in the driver’s seat of my life.

Fast forward a couple of years to November 2017. Mimi was now working in London for No1 Rosemary Water, the world’s first pure rosemary water, and needed a gray model for a campaign. I was not a model by any means, but I did have gray hair. So, I applied, was flown into London for a casting, and was chosen as the face of the campaign.

Caroline Labouchere 1
Photo: Courtesy of No1 Rosemary Water

Up until then, I had never felt beautiful in my life. Attractive? Yes. But beautiful? No. What I felt on the set of that shoot was unlike anything I had ever before. To put things into perspective, I hadn’t even felt this special on my wedding day. I didn’t even question whether I would be able to do the job that day; it was as if everything just fell into place.

You must take charge of your life, because no one else can.

When I came back to Dubai, I was on a high. I was expecting every magazine and newspaper to want me on their cover, but I was sorely mistaken. I was a gray-haired, middle-aged woman in Dubai, where nature’s marking of the passage of time is treated like a guilty secret, denied and camouflaged.

But I knew I wanted more. I was hungry. I talked to anyone who could offer advice. I took on a mentor. I jumped in deep and made things happen. I said yes to everything and celebrated my age and my hair as a badge of rank. I made myself comfortable with my iPhone. I joined every agency in Dubai and was able to secure some test shoots with very established photographers. Slowly, I started to gain some traction.

My mentor had me create a vision board, listen to audio books, and most importantly craft my “desire statement”. This sets out, in writing, that which you are grateful for and the things you want to make happen in the next six months. This statement now sits on my bathroom wall to read every morning and night while brushing my teeth.

Some of the books that have had the greatest impact on me include You Are a Badass, You Are a Badass at Making Money, and Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead.

As I look back, I cannot stress enough how important surrounding yourself with positive people is, people who believe in you. They will provide you with energy, support, and a reality check when needed.

What I have learned on this journey is that you must believe that you are in control. You will have ups and downs – we all do – but you must take charge of your life, because no one else can.

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