I fly on one-way tickets. My travel stories almost always involve meeting a stranger. When asking about my status, close friends know better to inquire where I am, rather than how I’m doing.
I’m 98% sure that the same people will find it ironic that I’m writing any sort of article implying pragmatism in the title. But what they may not consider is that I am the firstborn daughter of immigrant parents. And as the subject of both older-child syndrome and Tiger parenting, my unconventional tendencies have always been grounded by logic, even quitting my job. Twice. So here’s a practical list of when and why it makes sense to re-think your current 9-t0-5, or anything else for that matter.
1. To quit, I first didn’t quit.
Let me preface this by saying that I hate quitting. I stayed at my first job for four years (a veteran compared to how long people stay in one apartment in New York City, much less a job). I wanted to make sure that I was leaving for the right reasons: that I wasn’t leaving because I had a few bad weeks at work, that I hated one particular project I was assigned, or that I was just tired of a rough commute. (Getting wedged between someone’s armpit and a guy’s gym bag during rush hour is a daily routine when you’re my size.)
I wanted to make sure that I was leaving because I was plateauing on the learning curve, that my resume was no longer expanding, and that I wasn’t growing on a personal level. When I tallied the list in my head, and the cons of staying outweighed the pros of job security, I handed in my two weeks notice.
2. We waste time by being scared of wasting time.
I speak at universities about travel and personal development and I hear the same story again and again: people questioning their majors, and later on their careers. They are scared of starting over and admitting that what they had signed up for wasn’t right for their skills, interests or personality.
While quitting and starting over in a different field or taking a break from work seems contradictory to progress, the times that I left my job and the occasions where I’ve turned down offers, ended up being my most productive periods. I realized that every day I spent doing something that I wasn’t really interested in, was a wasted opportunity I could have used to pursue something else. I used the time off to research alternate options, to practice new skills, and to network with people who could potentially help me with my career later on. And traveling? It’s the perfect set-up to get you out of your routine and to re-evaluate all of the above.
3. I got comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I hear it often: people are afraid of leaving a major or comfortable job because they are afraid they won’t find something better. I was one of them; I spent three out of my four college years in a major that wasn’t right for me and later on at a job I was no longer happy at. I realized that I was so concerned about not lining something up for the future, that I was neglecting the present. I finally accepted that uncertainty is an inevitable part of the process and instead of focusing on why I wasn’t qualified for something, I focused on doing the things that would get me there.
4. I stopped postponing.
For a good two-thirds of my life, I told myself that because I’m young and have time, I can travel and pursue my own business after I work at X number of companies. I applied this thinking to most things I did. I can pursue [i an awesome, life-changing activity] after I finish [iconventionally responsible activity]. The danger of this way of thinking is that we get comfortable. And familiarity breeds indifference and lack of action. It wasn’t until I gave myself a timeline that I left my first job and went on my first solo trek to Africa and it was the most life-changing thing I ever did.
5. I made friends with my finances.
People often assume that I’m like this to be doing the amount of traveling that I do and to be such a strong proponent of quitting your job. But what most people don’t know is that I set myself up for that sort flexibility years beforeDuring my first years out of college, I ate, slept and played within my means. I don’t think I was the only frugal college grad, but I do think that we tend to be more lenient on the day-to-day or material things: a Starbucks Frappuccino everyday, a designer bag that cost a month’s salary, or a new car bought on credit.
With the money I didn’t spend on those things, I paid off my student loans, invested in stocks instead of Louis Vuittons, and cushioned my bank account with savings. And with those savings, I was able to justify (while still hesitantly at first) leaving my job and giving myself the luxury of freedom and time to pursue more meaningful things.
6. I stopped making excuses.
Many of us– myself included– are privileged enough to be born in a stable country, with a roof over our heads and food on the table. We don’t really, truly have much to complain about. Traveling really hit the nail on the head for me. For the first time in my life, I witnessed young women carrying babies, tending to makeshift shoves hawking out their homemade goods. I saw punt-sized kids hanging on to their younger siblings, while selling trinkets on the streets. These were self-made entrepreneurs pooling whatever resources they had to pave their way. What excuse did I have to not take a risk and make things happen?