Why I have to quit my job and go travelling
July 9, 2012 Life and stuff
This coming week will be my last at work, and it’s been a long time coming. Due to the nature of my job, and the fact that I’ve been an expat working on a work permit for the last 3 and a half years, my employer first asked whether I intended to stay in February, and it’s only now, almost 6 months later, that I can finally get to leave.
Back at the beginning of the year, I thought when I reached this point, I might feel some sense of regret, trepidation, and a little bit of outright fear at the thought of leaving a well paid, stable career, to enter a life of no income, and no fixed abode – in short, a life without a plan. Now I’m almost there, I feel a lot less of any of those things than I would have thought, and the main sense is of excitement, and anticipation. I’m sorry to leave behind friends, and I will miss to an extent the lifestyle that my work has afforded me, but the positives outweigh the negatives. I suppose that in my head, this post is sort of a travel mission statement; a written record of what at this point, I want to get out of travelling (and what parts of my old life I want to leave behind).
Learning to live without a plan
I’ve been working for the ten years since I left university, the last 9 with the same global network of firms. Before that, I had 4 years at university, school and exams. Ever since I can remember, there’s been a plan – it wasn’t always my plan, but someone, somewhere had decided what I was “supposed” to be doing. The cautious, professional side of me has enjoyed the safety net, but a big part of me just wants to step off the career bus at a stop that’s not where I was supposed to be, to hang out for a while and see what happens.
Obviously, a certain amount of our travels is planned. We have major flights (although these can be moved within reasons), a couple of organised tours, weeks staying with friends, and the Delhi Grand Prix at the end of October, but I don’t know what I’ll be doing between the hours of 9 and 5, Monday to Friday, any more than I know what kind of place I’ll be sleeping in, or what I’ll be eating. For someone who has been indoctrinated with the wisdom of always having things mapped out – that’s exciting.
There are hundreds of things that I’ve always enjoyed doing, or wanted to do, but never had the time to even consider. The forty hours a week that I was contractually obliged to stay in the office often expanded to fill any and all available time, up to fifty, sixty or even seventy hours a week, and the thing that suffered was always personal life, health goals, hobbies, and figuring out long term goals and aspirations. Quitting will allow me the most precious thing I can think of at the moment – the time to see new things, read books I’ve wanted to read, and figure out who I am and who I want to be.
A big company can sometimes feel like a toxic environment: the politics and game playing, bureaucracy, and other minutiae have all taken their toll on my mental health and sense of self. There have been points over the past couple of years or so when I’ve seen myself, or colleagues, treating people in ways that can charitably be described as inconsiderate – mainly out of an instinct of self-preservation – the realisation that there is only so much resource to do the mountain of work required, and that if someone else can’t be forced to do it, then it becomes inevitably your problem. As the people above will always push down onto those in the middle, the buck stops here, and you’re forced to sh*t on those below you. I don’t want to be a person who feels any temptation to do that any more, or who has to watch it happen to others. The majority of the people I work with are nice people, but stress can do strange things even to them. I want to get to know people, and be able to appreciate the people around me for who they are, not for what they can, or should be, doing in a professional context.
Travelling is the chance to experience new horizons, to see the things you’ve always dreamed of seeing, and some things you’ve never even considered, and to see things and people from a different perspective. I fully expect to come back (if I ever do), from the trip a different person from the one I am now – in positive ways.
Finding my passion
Long term, this is the big one. For the best part of ten years, I’ve done a job which, whilst lucrative, is ultimately unfulfilling, and one for which I’ve always struggled to see any type of wider purpose. I’ve felt my creativity stifled, and stepped into this corporate world, of over-stressed people being forced to complete checklists to confirm they’ve done things which don’t really matter. Perhaps this is the way that some people choose to live their lives, but I’m afraid it’s not for me – the me of the future wants to be someone who is happy, fulfilled, and sees a purpose to waking up in the morning. I want to love what I do. I don’t know how long it will take me to get there, or what my passion is. We all have daydreams about being self employed, living comfortably, making our own hours, and for me, those daydreams always involve freedom to travel, and to create; in the form of writing, or web design – something with an observable product. The problem with both of those is that at the moment, I’m not sure if I have either the skills, or the creativity. I’m scared that I’ll still be afraid to take the plunge to find out when I land back in the UK next year, and will end up back in another job like the one I’ve left just to be “sensible”, and pay the bills. With all my heart, I hope not.
There are a lot of other reasons, but I don’t want to rant. I’ll try and return to this post as I go along. It’s not set in stone, and the goals might change, but that’s where I am now.
If you have some advice, or experience you can share with this lost soul, please do so, I’d love to hear from you.