Why I Quit My Job and Traveled the World
In 2015, I was living my “dream.” I was bi-coastal. My job brought me back to my hometown, Los Angeles, every two weeks. I was able to see my family, especially my nephews, and I lived in one of the greatest cities in the world – New York. I had a great job and I was well paid. With vacation days not rolling over in New York, I was able to take at least three vacations abroad per year. Most people looking in from the outside would say that I had the perfect life. I was always on a plane, I was always traveling, and I was fortunate enough to live a life that some people only dream of.
But I was far from perfect. Perfection is impossible. It doesn’t exist. With every thing you gain, you have to sacrifice something. I sacrificed my personal life. Because I was always on the road, it was hard for me to deepen relationships on either coast. My friends in LA became more distant, probably because I visited so often that it was as if I had never left. When my friends in New York tried to make plans with me, we couldn’t because I already had plans for work to be on the other side of the country. So eventually, the invitations became less frequent as friends lost track of where I was.
As I started to lose ties with people, I deepened my relationship with my job. I gave it everything because I didn’t have anything else to give my time to. I even convinced myself that I didn’t want a family, that I didn’t want kids, and that I didn’t want to get married. I started to accept that I would just be a successful single woman who could do everything on her own. Eventually, work took over everything – the single most important thing that mattered to me was my career. I was on a mission to become a Vice President before the age of 30.
As business went on and while I was trekking on the path of what society defines as “success,” something hit me (maybe concrete) and I started to ask myself “why?” First, why am I still single when people say I am a great catch? Why haven’t I knowingly been on a date in three years? (I say “knowingly” because apparently I went on a date and didn’t even have the time to realize I was on a date. I was operating at 100 mph with little time to get sidetracked). Why does my personal life schedule revolve around my job? Why am I always working even at home at 11pm at night?
Then, my migraines returned – those intense headaches that would make me curl up into a ball because it felt like someone was literally taking a knife and digging it into my head. Sometimes they would be so intense that they would make me pass out because my body just couldn’t handle it. After one incident where I passed out and smacked my head on the tiled floor at a conference, I finally began to question – is this worth it? Is it worth risking my health for what I am doing? I finally began to think that there must be something more to life than this.
The decision. I struggled a lot with the idea of leaving my dream job, leaving my amazing A-team, leaving work, leaving the very thing I put so much time, effort, and years into building. I struggled with the idea of leaving my promotion to Vice President at the age of 29 – a year earlier than my goal, why would I walk away from it?! It was not an easy decision. I thought about it intensively for four months, maybe more. I thought about it so much that I believe it made me ill. It took another migraine-concussion, because my body and my brain were so overworked and exhausted, for me to realize the importance of my health. Actually, it took more than that. It took my family pleading with me to slow down and my sister telling me that she didn’t want to see me become a vegetable as every concussion has its side effects.
So, January 4, 2016, I resigned. I walked away from one of my all time career goals and it was the best decision I could have made for myself at the time. It was what I needed. I finally placed me over work, I finally made myself a priority. I read a quote shortly after and it says:
Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time [to go to the doctor]’ try saying ‘it’s not a priority [to go to the doctor]’ and see how that feels. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we are spending an hour, we can choose differently.
I remember the times when I would cancel an important doctor’s appointment because it conflicted with a client meeting. I remember telling myself that I didn’t have time to go to the doctor and not thinking twice about what that statement actually meant. But why? Why do we throw ourselves into our work? Why do we prioritize a deadline over our loved one’s birthday or graduation? Why do fly across the country for work when we know our loved ones are sick and their time with us is limited? There is nothing wrong with loving what you do for work. There is nothing wrong with making work a priority, but you need a balance. I had lost that balance.
While I was aware my work-life balance needed some help, I couldn’t fully grasp the extent of how far gone I was, how deep I was in this mindset of prioritizing work above all else. I only realized the true extent of the damage I had created for myself once I was out of it.
Traveling the World. While quitting my job to travel the world wasn’t my initial objective, I decided to travel because I wanted to take advantage of this rare opportunity in my life: I’m single. I don’t have kids. I have no obligations other than to take care of myself. And, for the first time in 11 years, I wouldn’t be working. I thought of it as an opportunity to slow-down, reflect, and think about what I want this next chapter of my life to be.
Planning an extended trip isn’t an easy task, but luckily, I am no novice when it comes to traveling. I have been Working2Travel for several years and I have quite a few international trips under my belt. Until this trip, the only two Western European countries I hadn’t visited were Austria and Portugal, so I decided I would finally go to those countries on this trip as well as another region I had been wanting to travel to for years, Southeast Asia.
I know that traveling isn’t always what Instagram pictures make it out to be. While there are amazingly fun times, there are also down times when you’re lost, exhausted, and maybe even a little homesick, but you make the most of it. You have to! Traveling also requires money, it requires you to plan ahead and to save. Fortunately, I had started a rainy day fund a few years ago which turned into a sunny day #funemployment fund.
I started my journey in the beginning of February this year. I traveled to Southeast Asia for 6 weeks with a couple of friends and it took me almost that full amount of time to adjust to not working. There were days when I wished I was back in the office with a million things to do. But then, there were days when I was just so grateful to be exploring the ancient temples in Cambodia or the white sand beaches of Thailand or eating spicy Thai food in Chiang Mai that I would regret a few hours later. I indulged in the expat life in Singapore and relaxed on the chill island of Bali. One of my favorite memories was watching the fireworks reflect on the water while on our rooftop in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), Vietnam on New Years – these are all memories I will be forever grateful for, all experiences I will never regret.
When I returned home, I spent a few weeks with my family in LA. I finally went golfing with my dad on his day off because I wasn’t working and I finally ‘had the time.’ Then, I headed to Europe for three months. I spent time with my niece who I don’t get to see often in London. I sang to the sounds of music in Austria. I explored the Bavarian Mountains in Germany and drank from one of the cleanest water sources ever, King’s Lake. I took a sketchy bus to Slovakia and almost got stranded. I watched the sun set behind the fairytale-like castle in Prague with a drink in hand and friends by my side. I strolled through the beautiful tulip-lined streets of Amsterdam. I drove down the stunning coast of Portugal and paddle boarded in and out of untouched sea caves. Then, I spent two months wakeboarding, reading, writing, and immersing myself into the Italian culture in my favorite place in the world, Lake Como, Italy.
Reflection. I remember waking up one morning, looking out my window at the calm waters of Lake Como, and just smiling. It had been so long since I could remember being simply happy. People that know me know my love for this place. I had visited four times in one year, spending every vacation after the first time going back to this magical place. It is my happy place. It is a place so dear to me not only because of it’s visual beauty, but also because of the people – its true inside beauty.
While on Lake Como, I reflected a lot. I was no longer on-the-go packing my bags every few days, I was living there, it was my home. So I turned my focus internally and I started to rediscover myself, who I am, what I want, what I am passionate about. What I rediscovered is:
- We only have one life to live and each day is an unrepeatable miracle, so truly make the most of each day. Go explore. Be adventurous and do something you’ve always wanted to do or have never done before.
- We only have one life to love and to be loved, so open your heart. Be vulnerable, embrace your feelings and experiences, whether they are good or bad.
- We must stay true to ourselves. Sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking we want something just to appease the desire of wanting something. Sometimes we settle because we think we do not deserve more. It is important to take the time to listen to your true passions and not to what others say you are supposed to be doing or what you are supposed to have.
- Everyone is creative. When you stop hiding behind the walls of work (or whatever it is), you allow yourself to rediscover your creativity.
- Relationships are important. Whether with family or friends, relationships take more time and effort as you get older to develop and maintain, so it is important to make them a priority. It is also important to rid your life of negative relationships. True friends will support you, challenge you, and encourage you to be a better version of yourself – they bring out the best in you.
- Lastly, a simple life is a happy life. We live in a very materialistic world, where “more” is deemed better. I’ve found that the more we have – the more choices, the more devices, the more options – the more complicated life is. Our focus and energy is spread thin amongst many different things versus concentrated on the important things that matter in life – family, relationships, love, kindness, and community.
I know I have a lot more to learn, more challenges ahead of me, but it is an Adventure that Awaits me. Life isn’t about the destination or reaching your goals, it truly is about the journey. It is about the experiences you have, the people you meet, and about the adventures that become your greatest memories.