Setting Up Base Camp: How the Trip Almost Never Was

Alright. So, I’ve established the history of how I became unemployed. I’ve also established why I decided to move in with my parents and spend five months traveling around the world. Now, I’ll explain how I came thisclose to cutting short my dream trip before I even had the chance to leave, and how I came to the realization that this trip represents so much more to me than a fun way to transition between jobs and hopefully careers.

If you’re looking at the date of this post, you’ll realize it’s late May. If read you my previous posts, you’d realize I quit my job at the end of February and I don’t plan on leaving the country until June 17. That’s almost four months. There’re a lot of things that can happen in four months – I did an internet search to try and prove this point, but all I got back was stuff on pregnancy, abortion, weaning, and dating advice. Oh, and one creepy video about fossilizing a pheasant and a pineapple. – so, why has it taken me so long to actually get my butt in gear and leave?

Well, first I had to work my last two weeks after giving my termination notice. Then, I figured I might as well stick around Columbus a few more weeks and enjoy my remaining moments of independence before moving in with my parents – especially since I paid rent for the entire month of March and I was technically getting paid since my company needed to pay out my unused vacation time. There’s one month explained away.

Once I moved back to Atlanta, my plan was to look for a contract or temporary position so that I could earn a little more dough while I planned my trip. I figured it would also establish me in Atlanta (making it easier to find a job when I get back) and – if I earned enough money – I could extend the trip to say 9-12 months instead of the 4-6 months I knew I could afford without a job.

It took about two weeks for me to realize there was a slight error in my thinking. You see, it became quite apparent that it would be easier for me to find a full time gig. It seemed I was either over qualified or not qualified at all for almost all of the temp jobs I could find through various staffing agencies and web searches. To make matters worse, I couldn’t get any recruiters at the staffing agencies I was supposedly working with to contact me – I always got the canned response of, “We don’t have anything in Marketing or Sales, but feel free to check our website and apply to anything that interests you.” Funny thing is, when I called one agency about a position I applied for – through their website as requested mind you – they had no idea what I was talking about. I had to actually read them the reference number so they could find it in their computer system. But, I digress…

Anyway, back to the full time job thing. So, in the middle of all this fruitless searching for something temporary, a recruiter contacted me about a full-time position – which was pretty much the exact same thing I did, and decided to quit, in Columbus. When I checked her website, it mentioned she specialized in the Marketing and Sales industries and worked with companies on full-time and contract positions. Hmmm, an idea popped into my head: I’ll express an interest in the full-time position, but I’ll set high salary expectations so as to deep six my candidacy. Then, I could ask her about any contract positions she might have available. Ahhh, the old bait and switch strategy – genius.

Of course my genius idea back fired on me. That high salary expectation? Yeah, turned out it was right in the employer’s wheel house. Considering I was now considering a potential $100K job, I thought it might be worth my while to listen to the company’s pitch via a phone interview (if nothing else, it would be good interview practice). So, I talked to the company’s HR guy, and everything he said made the company and the position sound exactly like what I had left behind. So, I jacked those salary requirements a little higher and tried to feign disinterest in the position since I really wasn’t feeling good about the whole thing. Of course, the higher salary requirements were okay, too. And even though the HR guy reamed me out a little bit about not being prepared and not seeming interested, he wanted to pass me along to the hiring manager for a next round interview (something about I communicate clearly and he wanted the company to hire smart, high quality people).

Anyway, I talked to the hiring manager and she allayed my fears about the company culture and potential career paths. So, now I was comfortable with the position (especially with the money part), what about the whole travel the world and realize a dream? Well, I worked through my recruiter to determine that the company would probably be okay with me starting in mid-June, which would give me approximately a month to travel before starting the new job. It may not be the 4-6 months of travel and a brand spanking new career that I had originally envisioned, but if this thing came to fruition I could get a 30%-40% raise (and accomplish a professional goal of making $100K), a month to travel, an extra week of vacation, and I could move out of my parents’ house and get my life back. I was all in.

I went to the in person interviews and everything went great. Well, except for the HR guy reaming me out a little bit for not showing up with a pen and something to write on, – he thought it showed disinterest in the position – and I didn’t realize my fly was down until after talking to the third interviewer (which made for a funny moment when the fourth interviewer, a female, said she saw no reason not to hire me unless my competition “outshined” me). And, when I told the hiring manager I would like to start in mid – late June, she seemed fine with it. I had to wait a couple weeks to conduct my final interview with the director, but everything seemed to go swimmingly (he even talked about different ways I could take my career from the position I was interviewing for, which scored major bonus points with me).

So, everything was going well – until it wasn’t. A couple days after my final interview with the director, my recruiter called to say the company wanted to make an offer. The only problem was the base salary would be closer to $90K instead of the $100K I was hoping for (although there was 10% bonus to make up most of the difference). Later that afternoon she called back again to say the company wanted me start no later than June 1 (the hiring manager claimed I said I was okay with that start date during the in person interviews. See the above paragraph for what really happened). Now if I accepted the position there would be no opportunity to accomplish a professional goal – making $100K – or a life long dream – travel around the world. In addition, I know felt betrayed by the hiring manager and, as a result, felt like the company culture would be very similar to what I had left behind (always watch out for yourself and cover your ass at all costs).

So, what was I to do? I turned the job down and walked away. Of course my recruiter tried everything in her power to make me change my mind (she didn’t get paid her commission unless I accepted the position), but I wasn’t about to give up on a dream and walk into a situation I no longer felt remotely comfortable with. Funny thing is, if I still could have traveled before I started I probably would have accepted the position. So, that’s how I came thisclose to rejoining society and throwing away my dream.

The night after I turned down the position is when I realized I made the right decision and just how much this around the world trip meant to me (albeit after staring at the ceiling for 3-4 hours while trying to fall asleep). At first, I couldn’t help but feel buyer’s remorse – I did just turn down the opportunity to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $99K per year. I wondered if turning down the job would come back to bite me later if I couldn’t find anything when I returned from my trip. Was I doomed to working the drive thru at McDonald’s the rest of my life?

And then came the epiphany (slowly, but I eventually got there). I was trying to figure out why I felt so conflicted between taking the job and traveling around the world for five months. It made no sense that my anxiety would stem simply from worrying about finding a job after returning from the trip (I always figured I could fond something).

That’s when I considered what each path represented. At the risk of sounding cheesy, here goes: The trip represents my youth – when I lived in the present, did whatever I wanted, and simply wanted to collect life experiences. The job represented where I want my future to go – leveraging my past experiences for a new career and setting my self up for retirement, and finding someone to share new experiences with. It’s then that I decided that my five month trip would serve as moment of closure (one very long moment to be sure) on my youth. Moving away from Boston may have thrown my life off track, and now it was time to use this trip to put back on track. It was time to grow up and move forward with my life.

So, what’s next? Well, I have this little trip around the world I’m going to take and have the time of my life on. I’ll use this blog to follow my travails as I follow my dreams and passion. And when I get back? Well, I’ll figure that out when I get back. As long as I’m moving forward, I’ll let this thing called life take me wherever it goes.

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