In my last blog post I explained how I came about being unemployed by choice. Now its time to delve into two more questions that come up quite often: 1) Why in the world would I willingly leave Columbus and move back in with my parents after being on my own for almost fourteen years? And, 2) Why leave the workforce and travel the world in the middle of the current job market? Let’s start with the second question first because it will help answer the first question, too.
In the fall of 2000 I studied abroad in London for a term. It was my first time out of the country for longer than a few days, first time living in a major urban area, and I was able to travel further afield to the Continent (otherwise known as mainland Europe) on several occasions. Needless to say after all of this travel and so many new experiences I got bit hard by the travel bug. In fact I made it a goal to set foot in all 50 US states and all 7 continents (that would include Antarctica) before I die.
I’ve been traveling ever since that fall term (I couldn’t stop if I was going to accomplish such lofty goals). I’ve been on at least one international trip every year, save one, since 2005, and it was while I was planning one of these trips in 2006 or 2007 that I discovered the concept of round the world airfare. What’s that you ask? Well, the airline alliances (One World, SkyTeam, and Star) each offer a product that allows you to book up to a year long trip around the world using any airline in the world that is a part of that alliance – with restrictions, of course. While the thought of traveling around the world excited me, I figured it was a pipe dream until I was much older and either retired or independently wealthy (I was banking on retirement). However, over the years I saved my airline miles and resisted the urge to use them whenever I had enough for a free flight. I didn’t know what I was saving for, but I did know that if I got enough miles I could probably have a pretty cool vacation somewhere. Well, I found that pretty cool vacation towards the end of 2011.
I was talking to a friend one night at the bar (it seems like all great ideas come when in the presence of alcohol), and he mentioned that he and his girlfriend were considering whether to use airline miles to purchase an around the world ticket for a three week trip they were thinking about taking sometime in 2012. Instantly intrigued, I asked my friend how many miles such a ticket would cost. His reply was 200,000. I had close to 350,000 miles, albeit with a different airline. I may not be a Math major, but I was still able to quickly deduce that I could probably afford to purchase a ticket with my saved up miles if the need ever arose.
That need kind of arose on February 23, 2012 when I quit my job. As I mentioned in my previous post, I had money saved up to quit my job in the event my company had launched as planned. Now I had the opportunity to use my airline miles to drastically cut down on the cost to bring a dream to reality that I didn’t think would ever happen. I also happened to have a lot of free time coming up, so I didn’t really need to worry about fitting a trip into my schedule either. And, if you remember from my last post, the career counselor I was working with assured me that personal sabbaticals weren’t as uncommon (and more accepted) in today’s world. The stars seemed to be aligning towards going on the trip.
There was only one last concern that I needed to settle – I needed money to live off of when I returned from the trip (minor detail, I know). While drastic, I figured the best way to cut back on my living expenses was to move back to Atlanta and in with my parents. So, I ditched the lease on my apartment (I only lost my security deposit and had to pay an extra month’s rent while my landlord found someone else to take over my lease), moved my belongings into a storage unit in Atlanta, and moved back into my old room – complete with bunk beds and everything my parents had stored in it over the years.
So, that’s how the decision to move in with my parents and travel the world happened in a literal sense. The emotional decision to completely throw my life in chaos was a little different and made more sense…
If you recall, in my last blog post I cited burnout and the feeling that my life had stagnated as two main contributing factors in my decision to leave my job. Some people enjoy the routine – they shy away from stepping outside their bubble. If you couldn’t already guess, I’m not one of those people. I love to explore and learn. I revel in stepping outside my comfort zone and discovering, some may say collecting, new experiences. For me, life isn’t moving forward unless there’s something new happening.
Moving from Boston to Columbus started to shift my life from drive to neutral. My career stalled out, the business I was trying to launch fizzled out, and, while hanging out with my college friends was an absolute blast, it seemed like the city of Columbus was much the same as when I went to college at Ohio State. Could I have been comfortable finding a new job and staying in Columbus? Sure. The only problem is I don’t want to be comfortable, I want to experience the thrill of “new”.
With that in mind, I decided a trip around the world could serve two purposes: Fulfill a dream that I thought was once unattainable and provide me a clean break to move my life forward from. To help the moving forward part, I decided while on the trip to work in a few volunteer programs doing community development work and helping local NGOs improve their business operations – both resume builders that will hopefully let me transition to a career in economic development once I return. When you consider all of those factors, leaving Columbus and moving in with my parents seemed like a no brainer.
However, society says you must have a job, own a house, get married, and have 2.1 kids (giant, gas guzzling SUV optional) to be considered successful. I thought I could buck the system and follow my passion wherever and however I wanted, but society came thisclose to pulling me back in…