Since the tender age of 21, we’d been talking about going travelling. Correction: Nick had 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 had a passion for travel and exotic places. Anyone who knows me will know that I practically live for island life and spend the majority of the year planning a two week break somewhere far-flung. Some of my favorite things in the world are palm fringed beaches, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face and basically anything that smells like coconut.
In my wildest dreams I’d imagine myself living somewhere tropical, but in reality I find it quite 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 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 what I did for a living. I loved my colleagues and 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. The idea of giving up what I’d worked so hard for, to travel, was terrifying.
Nick on the other hand has always embraced his own freedom. Being self-employed has enabled him to enjoy a more 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 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, and in 2016 we 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 world is fast-paced and living and working in London isn’t always easy. Outside of work I was often drained of time and energy. Although it was hard for me to admit, my lifestyle was taking its toll.
As someone self-employed managing his own time, Nick was watching me burn out, whilst suppressing his own desire. We were both aware that something needed to change, and 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, 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. These days we are conditioned into thinking that at our age we should be married, have the house, the kids, the career, the car. Travel seemed almost self-indulgent at this time in our lives.
However, zooming out and imaging what the future held without this adventure made me realise I wasn’t actually ready to give up my freedom just yet. Did I want to wake up in years to come regretting a missed opportunity? Perhaps it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all.
We were still young enough to take the plunge, and still physically able. 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 which gave me a sense of security/
Whilst Nick was putting together the 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?
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. 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 it backpacker-style. We booked a flight and an initial nights stay in a hostel. It was a far-cry from our previous holidays 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.
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 my reasons. Most 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 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.
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, he 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 tube 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.
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.
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.
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.