Why I Quit My Job to Travel the World for 1 Year
I am feeling so much emotion for this single blog post that I’m not sure what to write past this first sentence. I’m feeling excited, anxious, thrilled, nervous, sad, elated — I’m somehow feeling every emotion rolled into one. So I’ll just throw this out into the universe:
I have quit my job and I have a one-way ticket to Sydney, Australia on October 22. That’s in two days. I have one paycheck left (well, half of a paycheck) and then that’s it. What the hell am I doing.
This is not your typical “I hated my cubicle job so I’m quitting and traveling the world” journey. Sometimes, at certain points during my decision, I wished that had been the case because I feel like that would have been easier. It was really difficult to walk away from a job that I genuinely loved.
It’s not even a “I got dumped so now’s a great time to travel the world” journey. I was single for almost two years and then, as luck would have it, I actually met a really amazing guy two months before I left (damn you, universe).
It’s more of a… “I love my job and I love my life in Indy, but if I don’t do this now, then when will I?” journey. And my fear was that I never would. That scared me.
This journey has been ten years in the making, but I couldn’t see it as reality until I went to Guatemala in 2010. That was the first time I stayed in a hostel and met people who were backpacking through Central America. Those backpackers — and I don’t even remember their names or where they were from — showed me a different way that life could be lived. I remember being up late one night, typing furiously as I wrote my mom an email while in Guatemala:
“I think meeting and talking to all of these people has made a bigger impact on me than my actual volunteer assignment in the orphanage or going to Semuc Champey or Tikal… I’ve always had this idea of wanting to travel and seeing all these amazing places but I had never actually seriously thought about it. I didn’t think I could do it. Well, now I am thinking about it. Because I’m meeting all these people that are doing exactly what I want to do. And when I ask them why they’re traveling, almost all of them say it’s because they have the time and they have the money (but they’re on a tight budget). Well, I’ll have time the year after I graduate college and I’m going to work continuously so I can get money. I’d really like to backpack through Central and South America because it’s cheap and I’ll be fluent in Spanish by that time. I’ll find somebody to travel with me, too. And then (probably in a different trip) I want to go to Australia and New Zealand and then you can easily get to Asia from there…”
That was six years ago. And I held on to that dream for a really long time. But it was just that: a dream.
Then Thailand happened, and it was the first time I traveled abroad that I had really struggled to come home. I found out about the Australian visa while in Thailand and was intrigued by the idea, but it slowly faded from my mind as I dived back into work.
But after a fateful conversation with my hairstylist (really) and another conversation with my best friend over wine, I decided I didn’t want it to be a dream anymore. I really, really wanted to make my dream of living and traveling abroad actually happen.
So, that was how the phone call went to my parents: “Australia has this work / holiday visa where you can work but also travel at the same time… I think I’m going to apply for it.”
Three days later: “I applied for it.”
Two days later, I received an email that the visa had been granted and I had 365 days to enter Australia with that visa before it was voided. (My mom’s response: “What are you going to do for health insurance?” Practical, Mom.)
And then what did I do?
I sat on that visa for a really, really long time. Even with the visa in hand, I couldn’t decide if I actually wanted to go. I mean, I did want to go, but there were so many reasons to stay. So many! And they were good reasons!
I had a great job with a good salary at an amazing organization. I had built beautiful friendships over the past two years. I had friends in Valpo, Chicago, and Indy that I really cared about. I still had two semesters left until I finished my Master’s degree. I had a niece who I tried to see every month. I had met someone who made me smile and laugh everyday. And there were weddings! So many weddings that I wanted to be a part of and that were so important to me. I didn’t want to lose any friends. I didn’t want to let anyone down at my job. I didn’t want anyone to be mad at me for making a decision that maybe didn’t make sense outwardly, but definitely made sense to me.
So as the date to leave drew closer, I found myself doubting my ability to go. Could I really do it? When it would be so much easier to stay?
My decision ultimately came down to this question: Would I regret not going to Australia, even if it wasn’t an easy choice? I imagined myself sitting in my cube, even with a job I loved and surrounded by so many people I loved, staring at the calendar as October 28th passed me by. The very last day I could enter Australia on the visa. And the answer, every time, was a resounding YES. I would regret it if I did not go. It would literally be one of those situations where I would be 97 years old, on my deathbed, and I would have regretted not going to Australia 72 years earlier. That’s how strongly I felt about it. I had to at least try.
I also had to accept the fact that there would always be reasons to stay. There was never going to be a right time for me to go. It was up to me to make it happen.
There was a moment when my best friend, after so many weekly phone calls, point-blank asked me, “So, are you going or not?” I knew in my heart what I wanted, but it was so hard to pull the trigger when I knew I had such a good life in Indy. But I had come to a decision and ultimately decided that I was going to do this. I felt relieved when she told me, “I knew you were going to go the moment you first told me about the visa. You just had to work through the process on your own.”
So, I didn’t renew my lease on my downtown apartment. I sold my couch, coffee table, and TV. I gave my queen size mattress away. I hauled five trash bags to Goodwill. I moved the rest of my possessions back into my parents’ home. I moved in with family friends for two months to save money on rent. I took four grad school classes in the summer to speed up my graduation date. I turned down an opportunity to apply for a higher position at my job. I cut back on expenses to save even more money. I cried happy tears when I bought my plane ticket as I sat in a Barnes & Noble café. I fixed my sights on Australia and did what I could to make it a reality.
I have worked so hard to get to this moment and while I experienced a lot of self-doubt along the way, I know that Australia is the culmination of so many of my hopes and dreams. Australia could suck and it would still mean the world to me that I actually went. People keep asking me what I’m most looking forward to and my answer is literally, “Getting on that plane.” The literal act of going to Australia — going through with my decision — is what I am most looking forward to. Because it wasn’t easy to do and my heart will be so full once I step off that plane and I’m actually there. I’ll figure out the rest as I go along.
When I was faced with multiple decisions, I kept coming back to what I felt, deep down, I would regret most at walking away from. That decision is going to look different for everybody, and one path for someone may not be the right path for someone else, but for me, I had my answer. And that was good enough for me.