Quit job to travel: my first six months on the road after escaping the rat race
At the beginning of 2016 I sold my house, quit my desk job and set about making this year the most epic and adventurous of my life. Six months later – the halfway point in operation tip-my-life-upside-down – and I’m reflecting on everything I’ve done and experienced. From hiking through the snake-infested Tasmanian wilderness to dodging death during Cyclone Winstone in Fiji (read about the super scary experience here), and from snorkelling with sharks in the idyllic waters of Koh Tao in Thailand and working on a farm in the stunning Lake District in England, it has been one hell of a journey. These are my thoughts on the whole adventure so far…
Quit job to travel – Oh God, what have I done?
It was a bloody scary thing to do – leaving behind reliable employment and saying goodbye to my house. There were a hundred reasons not to go for it. Doubts crept into my mind. Paying off the mortgage, topping up the pension pot, getting a promotion at work, living close to family and friends. These were all very sensible, tangible reasons to stick to the status quo. But, for me, it was all too boring, too safe, too much of exactly-what-you’re-supposed-to-do-rather-than-what-you-want-to-do. Like many backpackers and adventurers who take similar leaps into the unknown every year, the calling to escape the nine-to-five grind and travel the world trumped any of the reasons to stay put. I knew I had to do it, otherwise I’d regret it forever. I still, however, faced lots of fears and last-minute panics, especially as the big change drew ever closer. “Am I throwing my future away?” was a question that regularly popped into my head. On many occasions I had to fight the urge to bail on the whole idea and I’m so pleased I didn’t. When everything went through – the house sale was finalised and my work notice handed in – it felt like a relief. I never regretted it. Best decision I ever made.
Quit job to travel – Living the dream
I started my 2016 adventure by jetting off to New Zealand, hiring a campervan and touring both the North and South Islands. It was fantastic (read about it here). How could it not be? Fresh air. The open road. New friends. Mountains, forests, waterfalls and beaches around every corner. I couldn’t believe I’d ever questioned whether doing this was right. I was seizing the moment, fulfilling a dream and living adventurously – it felt awesome. After New Zealand came Fiji for sunbathing, snorkelling and an island chillout; outdoor adventures down under with wilderness trekking in Tasmania (see more here) and surfing in Sydney; and then even more beaches and culture in Bali. Everything was going swimmingly until…
Quit job to travel – Here come the backpacker blues
Three months in and I started to get a touch of burnout (as did my wife – yes, she’s been by my side on this whole crazy adventure – what a woman!). It sounds ridiculous, I know, but I found myself getting a tad jaded. Constantly living out of a backpack, a different bed every night, long bus and train journeys, noisy guitar-wielding backpackers disturbing the peace in my hostel – they all test your patience and resolve. Add in a dollop of homesickness, concern for your bank balance and the nagging thought that you really should figure out what the plan is when you get home, and it’s a recipe for the backpacker blues. Fall down with the disease and even the most beautiful sunset, glorious mountain summit or delicious beachside meal won’t seem quite so perfect. It’s a well-known phenomenon, affecting every traveller in different ways and at different times. But it’s not insurmountable. I quickly overcame the burnout with that handy tool in life – positivity. I reminded myself why I set off on this adventure in the first place and visualised the alternative – being chained to a desk in a dingy office, a slave to the daily work grind and real-life responsibilities. That image always helped me remember how lucky I am.
Quit job to travel – Back on track
With the backpacker blues well and truly defeated – and the end of my worldwide trip on the horizon – I made a conscious effort to squeeze every last drop of fun out of the remainder of my travels. I journeyed through Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, learning yoga on a remote Koh Phangan beach, eating street food with the locals in Chiang Mai and trekking with elephants in the Thai jungle (at a reputable, ethical project). It was memorable and exciting and so much more. But it couldn’t last forever…
Quit job to travel – Being asked for the 7,000th time “what are you doing when you get home?”
Everywhere I went – and every time I spoke to family and friends – this question would pop up. The problem? I had no answer. I certainly wasn’t up for returning to the rat race full-time. Too depressing a thought. But I still needed a roof over my head and food in the fridge, as well as a bit of stability and routine back in my life. The solution? Well, inspiration came from my friend Mark, who I met in Fiji. He has been travelling the world and living in stunning locations using WorkAway – a scheme that matches travellers with work opportunities, where a host provides board and lodgings in return for a few days of hard graft. My wife found an opportunity on a farm in the Lake District (surely the most beautiful part of England!), applied and got it. Two months later and I’m still here – driving quad bikes around the mountains, feeding lambs, looking after chickens, fixing dry stone walls and generally enjoying the country lifestyle – an experience a million miles from my childhood in the concrete jungle of Birmingham.
Quit job to travel – The dilemma …how to turn a gap year into a gap life?!
Now I’m at a crossroads. I love the freedom my current situation gives me. I can do cool stuff and go to cool places. I’m not ground down by a boring nine to five routine. I’ve escaped the system and feel like I’m living life to the max. But then there’s reality – I need to earn money at some point and it would be nice to have a place or space of my own. I’m probably not going to become a 100 per cent footloose nomad, living out of a backpack for the rest of my existence. But how do I get the best of both worlds? Freedom and excitement in life, but a bit of routine and stability too. It’s a tricky conundrum. I’m still working on it. Watch this space for where it takes me…