Why I Quit My Job To Travel The World… Should You?
Why I Quit My Job
Two years ago, Ross and I made the crazy and totally life changing decision to quit our jobs, sell all of our stuff and get the hell out of the rat race.
From the outside, we had everything going for us. We had doggedly powered through our University degrees, so we could get on the ‘real’ reason you get a business degree, to dive in and conquer the business world! After completing an internship with a commercial real estate brokerage, I decided to forgo the traditional job search and take a position in brokerage and ‘cut my teeth’ as the youngest and sole female broker in the city. I was 21.
As a kid I guess you could call me a creative type. I loved art, acting & dancing but as life marched on, my dreams of being an artist became focused toward more practical and lucrative pursuits. I poured my heart and soul into ‘my career’ aspiring for fulfilment which I believed could be found with more money and influence and was so promised by the business gurus whose books I eagerly devoured. I scoffed at other young people who were not as ambitious or focused as I was.
Six years with the company and a myriad of professional ups and downs had left me feeling very disillusioned with the lofty promises of a hard-nosed and high achieving broker’s life. We decided to say ‘yes’ when an executive recruiter approached me to take a management position with a large real estate portfolio for Canada’s largest retailer. We had a buttload debt incurred in the name of ‘business expenses’; I had slipped a disc in my back while overtraining during a fitness obsession phase and my close friend and business partner had endured a terrifying stroke at the age of 30. It was time for a change. Ross and I packed up our things and said goodbye to our hometown, family & friends and moved to Calgary.
I told myself that if the solid paycheque, expense account and esteem that was promised in the new position wasn’t able to rekindle my ‘passion’ for the industry, then I was probably in the wrong industry.
And I was right.
Is this it?
It turned out the fat paycheque couldn’t combat the crippling hierarchy, stifling bureaucratic process and incessant travel to the “cosmopolitan” centres of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and Cold Lake, Alberta. Trust me these are not places you want to go to, especially in winter. The daily commute, which in the winter meant driving in the dark to a windowless office in an industrial park in the morning and back home in the dark in the evening, was sucking the soul out of me. An emptiness started to overwhelm me as I realized that the fulfilment I had yearned for was not going to be found here.
I struggled to reconcile the deep disconnect within me.
I had a great career, with a solid trajectory (as those career planning types like to put it), we had a mortgage, cars, took luxurious vacations in exotic places and had everything we could ever want, what the hell was my problem?! But the fact that I felt I could see exactly what the next 10 ‘comfortable’ years of my life would look like haunted me.
And then Ross popped the question.
We had been in Calgary for eight months and were celebrating our first Thanksgiving away from our families. We went to see the film, Samsara. As we wandered the abandoned downtown streets of Calgary we agreed that the movie had stirred something deep within us. The visceral imagery of foreign lands and faces reminded us how we had put off travelling earlier in our lives. Shortly before graduating we had contemplated spending a month exploring Europe and then pragmatism took hold. It would put us in more debt, how could I get that much time off work and Ross was unhappy in the nursing industry and wanted to get a business degree. We told ourselves we would travel when we could afford it and that it would be better because we could do it more comfortably. So as we walked the empty streets with the towering cold concrete and steel towers above us, Ross stopped and asked,
“Why don’t we quit our jobs and travel the world?”
The process of removing myself from a business community where I had once felt entrenched and fully committed (to the detriment of so many other important things in my life) was a startling one. While planning for the trip filled me with an electric energy I hadn’t felt in ages, at the same time I was also totally terrified of the limitless opportunities. Ross warned me not to have too many expectations but my goal oriented left brain was set. I was determined to make this experience a meaningful one, this was going to be a spiritual journey to find myself and my purpose in life!
Two years later I’ve struggled to articulate the journey that I’ve gone through since we made that decision. I’d like to tie it up into a tidy little package of the “10 Most Meaningful Lessons”, but the truth is that journey is just that, a journey. It keeps going.
The most powerful and challenging part of it has been the complete deconstruction of myself down to my essence. Each day I tried to dig deep into the child within me, the place where I didn’t worry about money or esteem or the constant pursuit of outside recognition. Travel has given me the gift of freeing my mind from a limited worldview.
One of the challenges has been learning how to identify myself beyond my former profession. I said it in an earlier post, the travel community is delightfully uninterested in the painfully customary question of, “So, what do you do for a living?”. But this was a tough concept for me to grapple with. My identity was so tightly wrapped up in what I did for a living. But the truth is that as humans we are all so much more than what we do to make a buck. On the road I allowed myself to open up and embrace different lifestyles and perspectives and I soon began to realize the confined horizons I had previously sentenced myself to.
I won’t say that the travel has been a 100% delightful as it has come with its share of challenges however, even during some difficult times we have never regretted our decision to quit our jobs and travel. We all have the opportunity to create the life we dream of, and that’s not just a cliché phrase you see set in funky typeset written below some seriously inspirational mountain shit.
Most of the time that means sacrifices; we most certainly do not live an extravagant or luxurious lifestyle anymore. As time has passed we realized that our freedom to do whatever we felt like doing was so much more important than having nice stuff. And most importantly, we learned that if we spent less we would have to work less. True story, we now spend less than a 1/4 of what we were spending each month at the height of our freewheeling days.
It reminds me of one of my favourite Metric lyrics,
Buy this car to drive to work/Drive to work to pay for this car
Is this what the ‘real world’ looks like?
I hate that phrase ‘the real world’, as if we’re condemned to a life of suffering, feeling unappreciated, poorly compensated and to get over it because in the morning you’ve got to do it all over again. I once heard it put really neatly, no one in their right mind would make an investment of $5 to get back $2. So why do we so apathetically agree to give up five precious days of our life, gratefully proclaim “Thank God It’s Friday” just to get two days of freedom, which are inevitably filled with the crap you didn’t have time to do or were too exhausted to do during the week? And then do it all again on the dreaded Monday.
And how do we end up where we do professionally? Sure some kids dream of careers as healers and discoverers but I’ve met too fucking many people who when you ask them how they ended up in the job they’ve had for 10 or 20 years say “I’m not really sure, it just sort of happened”. Because no kid dreams of a fulfilling position in Accounts Receivable.
Does anyone else think it’s crazy that we have a society that’s obsessed with progress and efficiency; we have unprecedented levels of technology; but, we have an ever dwindling amount of free time to pursue the things that are really important and that creatively excite us?! We’re under more pressure, sicker, less satisfied and more medicated than ever before.
This shit just doesn’t add up.
The next steps…
Some people love their jobs and that’s awesome, but if you’ve ever asked yourself, like I did “There’s got to be more to life than this?”, the answer is yes.
I never dreamed that I deserved a life this good. And that’s why I hate it when people tell us “You’re so lucky” or even worse, “It must be nice…” Because we aren’t lucky, we just made different priorities for our time and money. You know how we were lucky? We were born in Canada and to families that supported and loved us like they did.
So how am I filling the void that was once filled with my occupation preoccupation? I’m not convinced anymore that everyone can find fulfilment or purpose in a job. But you can do other things to honour the lingering curiosity and interests you want to explore. You’ve just got to make free time a priority. And that’s what I’m going to do, I’m devoting more time to yoga, meditation and taking classes in creative pursuits to satisfy desires that I’ve neglected for too long. It’s my renaissance.
For the first time in a year in a half, I’m ready to work again. But the crazy thing about it is that I’m really excited. Working and routine help bring balance and perspective to this lifestyle and help you appreciate the gift that is world travel. But now, money needs to go back in the bank in more ways than one. We’re going to take time and soak up the culture, make a home in Melbourne for a while and enjoy a city in the way only actually living there affords you.
I feel like a little kid, anything is possible. I wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything.
Much love to you all,
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