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Should I quit my job to go travelling?

Now in my early 30's with a job I love and a position that has taken me over 10 years of graft to earn, I am asking myself ‘Should I quit my job to go travelling?’

Since the tender age of 21, Nick and I have been talking about going travelling. Correction: Nick has been talking about going travelling. I used to practically wince at the idea, feeling my stomach tie itself in knots in fear at the very mention. Should I quit my job to go travelling, or would I be making the biggest mistake of my life? I had no idea.

Giving up one dream for another

Don’t get me wrong, I have always shared Nicks enthusiasm for travel. Anyone who knows me will know that I practically live for island life, and spend the majority of the year planning our traditional two week break somewhere far-flung. And some of my favorite things in the world are palm fringed beaches, the warmth of the sun on my face and anything that smells of coconuts.

Shaun Leane Jewellery ham yard hotel london Claire Ullah
That’s me on the right…selling my little Shaun Leane heart out!

In my wildest dreams I’d imagine myself living somewhere tropical, but in reality I am no risk taker, and find it very hard to get out of my comfort zone. So when we talked about the idea, I struggled to envision myself ever really taking that kind of leap.

When Nick has a desire for something, he will stop at nothing until he reaches that goal. He takes calculated risks in order to achieve a better quality of life for us. He doesn’t conform to society and enjoys living a more alternative life. For him, travelling represented excitement, adventure and freedom. But for me it represented fear. Fear of the unknown, being away from my loved ones, fear that it might not work out. And ultimately the fear of leaving my job.

Should I quit my job to go travelling?

I’ve always been an employee and held a stable job. Having carved out a career in the jewellery industry, not only was I very proud of my position, I absolutely loved my job. I loved my colleagues and my clients, and had an exceptional relationship with my boss. It was so much more than just a job for me, it was my entire world. It was
the thing that defined me. And the idea of giving up what I’d worked so hard for, to travel, was terrifying.

For the love of island life!

Nick on the other hand has always embraced his own freedom – he is his own boss. Being self-employed has enabled him to enjoy a balanced and free lifestyle. He can work from pretty much any location, so long as he has WiFi and a Mac. There was nothing stopping him from working anywhere in the world, so naturally it was easier for him to give up being stuck at home in front of his computer in Essex.

I would find any excuse as to why it ‘wasn’t the right time’ but although he never put me under any pressure, Nicks aspiration was bubbling under the surface. It all came to a head in 2016. We were finally secure in our own home, but at the same time, found ourselves at a bit of a crossroads.

What does our current future look like?

Yes, I was super happy in my career but that came at a price. The jewellery and fashion business is incredibly fast-paced, and living and working in London isn’t easy. Outside of work I was mostly drained of time and energy, and felt absent from our relationship together. Although it was hard for me to admit, my lifestyle was taking its toll.

Baselworld Jewellery tradeshow gemstones buying
Selecting gemstones and getting inspired at Baselworld 2017

This didn’t mean that we were unhappy together. Quite the contrary, we are both very accepting and supportive of one another’s differences. But as someone self-employed and managing his own time, Nick was watching me burn out, whilst suppressing his own desire. We were both aware that something needed to change. Our conversations increasingly turned towards travel.

We talked about it no end, discussing various different options. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to see the world, but was this lifestyle really for me? Every way I looked at it, I couldn’t stop Nick from living his dream. And although he wanted this for our lives together, he was willing to go it alone if I really couldn’t face leaving.

But how would I cope staying behind, knowing he was exploring this beautiful planet without me? I knew in my heart I would regret that decision. In order for me to break away too, I had to change my mindset. I had never felt so torn.

I started to imagine what our future looked like without travel. At the age of 30, you can take a good guess. In society we are conditioned into thinking that at our age you should be married, have the house, the kids, the career, the car. Many of our closest friends were doing just that and they were very happy. Travel seemed self-indulgent at this time in our lives.

However, zooming out and imaging what our future held without this adventure made me realise I wasn’t actually ready to give up my freedom just yet. I guess we could stay in our comfort zone and spend our money on a lavish wedding, or a lifetime paying off the mortgage, but did I want to wake up in 30 years time regretting a missed opportunity? Perhaps it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all.

We were still young enough to take some risks, physically able, and of course we had one another. We also had an added bonus – the security of our own home. This is by far one of the biggest advantages of travelling in your 30’s. If I had to give up my beloved job, at least I had an asset, something to show for all the years of hard graft.

Market research

Whilst Nick was putting together his ultimate itinerary, I immersed myself in research. I read travel blogs, watched YouTubers, listened to Podcasts and talked to others who had taken similar steps. And when I asked, should I quit my job to go travelling, the resounding answer was always yes.

Not one person who’d taken a career break regretted their decision. Everyone and everything was telling me how amazing it would be, how we wouldn’t regret doing it, how we’d have the time of our lives. But how would this sabbatical affect my future, and was this completely irresponsible?

Shaun Leane Fine Jewellery Brand of the Year 2016 UK Awards ceremony Claire Ullah Head of Sales
Collecting the award for Fine Jewellery Brand of the Year at the UK Jewellery Awards in 2016

I’d worked in the same industry for over 10 years, surely 1 year off couldn’t completely compromise my skill set, reputation and experience? I had to be confident in my own ability – I knew I was a capable person and it wouldn’t be impossible for me to get back into employment after travelling. I was well aware that I may not be able to walk back into the same or similar position again, but then again, maybe I wouldn’t want to?

Either way I needed this space to explore new directions in my life, and my current situation made it near impossible to indulge in such activities. I wanted to achieve a higher level of personal development, to push myself that bit further.

It was a risk I had no choice but to take if I wanted this change for our lives. Yet I was still shaking at the knees.

The tipping point

Being frozen by fear and indecision is dehabiltating, it leaves you stagnant, and there is no room for growth. I just couldn’t make up my mind, and I needed help. In a bid to beat the nerves and make the ultimate decision, Nick suggested we take a trip to Thailand and do the holiday backpacker-style. We booked a flight and an initial nights stay in a hostel. It was a far-cry from our trips to the Maldives, but it would give me a taster. If I really hated the experience, then I guess I knew where I stood.

You couldn’t count the number of concerns I had about every little detail. On the outside I was trying to stay cool and collected, but on the inside I was so worried. What if we can’t find somewhere to stay? How will we know which ferry to take? How will I fit everything into a backpack?! It makes me smile looking back now.

Koh Tao Thailand longtail boat waves rough sea fear scared
Facing my fears in Thailand, don’t I look happy about it!?

This trip was the turning point for me. Thailand truly captured my heart, it gave me the opportunity to really imagine this lifestyle as a reality. We met travellers from all walks of life, each with different and beautiful stories to tell. There was something familiar and intriguing about the glimmer in their eyes. It was a hint of knowing what they had discovered –  of finding freedom and peace from breaking away.

So, should I quit my job to go travelling? Upon returning to London, I knew what I had to do.

I didn’t really want to leave

Accepting your decision can be really terrifying especially when it comes to verbalising it. And saying it out loud sounded so stupid… who takes a gap year in their 30’s?!

I was afraid of what my friends and family might say. But we were met with nothing but encouragement. Although my Mum would probably prefer us not to go, she understood our reasons. Most other people simply said that they wished they had the guts to do something like that. Although I didn’t feel gutsy at all. I was petrified!

I gave my boss 6 months notice, and had kept our plans under wraps for a good 8 months before that. This was tricky as we had a close relationship and spent a lot of time together. Part of me desperately wanted to talk to him about it, but I decided to keep quiet for the sake of my position.

Shaun Leane London Jewellery Designer Claire Ullah Head of Sales the company of master Jewellers tradeshow
Me and my boss, my dear friend Shaun

I hadn’t planned to tell my boss on the day I spilled the beans. We were having a performance review, and discussing the future. At that point I decided it was only fair to break the news. When I think back to that moment, my heart is still full of emotion. I still can’t believe I did it.

Although he was shocked, my boss was completely supportive and I couldn’t have asked for a better reaction. As I left the office that day, I remember running down the escalators at Bond Street station with an overwhelming sense of freedom – In my entire life, I had never felt that. It was a mixture of nerves, excitement, reality and loss.

After handing in my notice I put travelling to the back of my mind, and continued with business as usual. I’m sure many people in my position would have been distracted by agonising over their upcoming trip, but I kept my focus and pretty much pretended that it wasn’t happening. My colleagues and I joked about it daily as I’d say I didn’t really want to go – and I meant it.

I think this was my subconscious coping mechanism. It was a way of coming to terms with my decision, as I knew what I was about to give up. In my head of course I knew I was leaving, but in my heart I was still very much at work. I also wanted my boss to know how much I truly cared about my job, and that I did not take this decision lightly. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities he gave me, not many people can say that they had their dream job.

Should I quit my job to go travelling Shaun Leane Mayfair office London working late last day
‘When you exagg love your job and don’t really want to leave’ – At my desk at 5.30pm on my last day!

Before I left, I invited my colleagues and clients to follow our journey on Social Media. And now I talk with many of them on a regular basis, which is amazing and helps me stay in the loop. It’s also taught me that your title or position does not define who you are as an individual.

Be brave

Of course I have days when I miss my old way of life, but mostly I think about what we have gained; experiencing different cultures and embracing new languages, learning to dive in Padre Burgos, snorkelling with Whale Sharks, having laser eye surgery, living in West Papua and Bali, travelling by motorbike, chartering our own  liveaboard in Komodo, living a more minimalistic lifestyle… I still don’t know what the future holds, but the good news is I’m not afraid of that anymore.

I can’t really put into words how hard it is to give up on something you love. It was the most difficult decision of my life. But by making the decision to quit my job to go travelling, I dared to confront the things that scared me the most, and by doing so, I opened the door to my future. I learnt that security and fear were preventing me from growing and experiencing life.

Any time you attempt something for the first time, or something you think is too big for you, you’ll experience fear. I had to accept fear as part of my journey instead of running from it, ultimately that is what helped me to conquer my dreams. And I didn’t even know what my dreams were until I tried something new.

A small change can make a big difference. One decision. One risk. One idea. That’s all it takes. It will probably be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But it has the power to change your life.

Thian Og Bay Sharks Bay Koh Tao Thailand Thai beach snorkelling
Ultimate escapism: Finding the courage to make a decision during our trip to Thailand

An unknown poet once wrote:

I used to have a comfort zone where I knew I couldn’t fail; the same four walls of busywork were really more like jail. I longed so much to do the things I’d never done before, but stayed inside my comfort zone and paced the same old floor. I said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t doing much; I said I didn’t care for things like dreams and goals and such. I claimed to be so busy with the things inside my zone, but deep inside I longed for something special of my own. I couldn’t let my life go by just watching others win; I held my breath and stepped outside and let the change begin. I took a step, and with new strength I’d never felt before, I kissed my comfort zone goodbye, then closed and locked the door. If you are in a comfort zone, afraid to venture out, remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt.

6 comments

  1. Wow, I love posts like this, when you open up to thoughts and feelings, more please 🙂
    I look forward to follow your journey on this blog!

  2. Hi Stephanie! Great to hear from you, and thank you for commenting 😀

    Aww thanks so much, that really means a lot!

    As I am sure you can tell from the post, this experience was very close to my heart and it was certainly a great personal learning curve for me. There have been a fair few of those moments on this journey, so look forward to more posts like this one coming soon – Claire x

  3. Hi Claire and Nick! I’m so glad you guys decided to do this blog! I love it. It totally makes sense to share your experiences as it helps others learn from it. Now what I want to know is, where is your stance on going back? Are you two going to continue the journey? I hope you do so we can keep living vicariously though you lol!! Nicole

    1. Hi Nicole!

      Hope you’re well and thank you so much for your message ☺️ We’re really pleased to hear you are enjoying the blog.

      Ahh its the big question on everybody’s lips… including ours haha! For sure, we will go back home at some point. We do have commitments in the UK which will need tending to, and of course it goes without saying that we miss our families and friends and can’t wait to see everyone when we get back. But I think for now, the plan is to try and continue for as long as possible.

      Are you guys planning any future trips back to Indonesia? We’d love to see you on the road again one day – Claire x

  4. Hi Claire,

    I handed my notice at Dower & Hall in March after 14yrs to take a career break in my 40s! Like you I went back and forth, should I shouldn’t I, can I afford too etc but I can safely say I have had the most rested, emotionally rewarding and self indulgent summer that has made me realise what is important in life. I loved my job, clients, colleagues like you but I lived to work rather than the opposite. It is a scary but brave thing to do and we are stronger and more experienced for it, how lucky are we.
    Don’t know what I am going to do next or when but will be mindful of the fact I have to work to live in future.

    Loved reading this blog as it was like reading my own thoughts and I look forward to following your future travels and experiences.

    Enjoy and stay safe,
    Nicola x

    1. Hi Nicola,

      It’s so lovely to hear from you! Oh my goodness I had no idea!! How funny, we were going through the same dilemna! Shame we never got the chance to mull it over together with a cuppa ☕️

      Yes it absolutely was a ‘live to work’ lifestyle and like you say, I really did love it which made it even harder to break away. But I totally agree with you – whatever the future holds has to be more balanced.

      A friend described our break as ‘taking a moment to pause’ and I really like that. It has given me time to breath and think clearly. I am so happy for you, high five to us for being so brave!!

      Thank you for subscribing to our blog, your support means so much. Keep in touch, enjoy and embrace every moment and I look forward to seeing you soon – Claire x

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