And then I quit my job to travel

Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, it seemed quite dull for life to go on in the common way

After being abroad for the past seven years, I have some surprisingly big news.

Really big.

You may have figured it out from the title of this post already, BUT LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT IT, OKAY?

It’s so big, I actually emailed my parents about it a few weeks ago. I love my family but we’re not close — they find out most things via this blog. They usually know about as much as you guys do.

That’s how important this is.

After seven years of living and working abroad, I’m quitting my job to travel.

The reason why this is big will come soon enough but consider: I already get plenty of travel time as an expat living abroad. I shouldn’t need to quit just to go traveling.

And more importantly: I actually liked my job.

I had a great team full of some really, really good looking people (Zoolander joke! before anyone gets upset. But it’s also true). We created awesome content, I got to stare at Mustangs and Mondeos on a regular basis (the Mondeo is a really, really good looking car, guys) — and work in a gorgeous office with a 35th floor view over Shanghai, plus fabulous colleagues-turned-friends, and a LOT of free food.

A ridiculous amount of free food. And free booze every Friday. And free a lot of things, really. The HR department and Fun Committee were creative and well-funded.

So I had an excellent job, with excellent pay, which afforded me a beautiful apartment and an easy life in Shanghai, if I wanted it.

But it turns out — I didn’t.

The day came when the desire to write had gnawed at me long enough - Beverly Cleary

After much consideration over the past weeks and months, I decided to leave my job. Today was my last day in the office.

Ultimately, this decision wasn’t about liking or not liking my job: it was about not having the time to write; not being able to devote hours and days and weeks to a story.

That desire, that overwhelming urge to write — it took me by surprise. Like dear Beverly said, it started gnawing at me and I couldn’t ignore it.

See, in Paris, I wrote in this blog partly because I didn’t have anything else to do. Because I was trying to save money to pay off bills, and was dating someone long-distance, I never went out. I would go home after work, make dinner, call my boyfriend, then work on my blog for six hours. Rinse, lather, repeat.

At the time I didn’t think I enjoyed writing much at all, but rather saw it as just a natural function of…me. I wrote as I breathed. Even if I felt I didn’t particularly like it, I always kept going.

But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air - Sarah Kay

Quote from Sarah Kay’s TED Talk

But when I began working a 9-6, writing about Not Travel all day, I found I was too exhausted at the end of most days to spend even two more seconds staring at my computer screen to work on my blog.

And that’s when I found myself aching to get back to telling stories — about roadtripping through Switzerland, my favorite restuarants in Paris, or that time I left my laptop in the Bangkok airport (NOT A FUN EXPERIENCE).

I missed my blog. I missed writing. Creative, longform, don’t-need-to-run-by-legal-and-wait-four-months-to-publish writing.

To counter the unhappiness caused by my lack of blogging, I found myself using travel as an escape. I blew my paychecks on weekends in Chengdu, in Hong Kong; when week-long public holidays came up I chose to get as far away as possible — spending them in Sydney, in Venice, in Los Angeles. Not the cheapest trips.

Instead of wondering where your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from - Seth Godin

I could have stayed. I had a three-year contract and a great team (not to mention excellent health insurance). I could have stuck it through. A part of me does wonder: how much am I being the cliché millennial who chooses travel over toughing things out?

I made over four times as much in corporate communications as I did in journalism (before anyone gets indignant, that’s really just an indictment of how little I made as a journalist). I’m incredibly grateful that this job has allowed me to pay off all of my debts and still have some healthy savings in the bank left over.

Do I really want to take an 80+ percent pay cut for the lofty millennial reason of simply being happy?

But then I think: how lucky am I that I have the ability to choose to pursue my passion, instead of working for years at a job I don’t truly love just because it pays the bills?

My parents suffered tremendously through the Cultural Revolution and decades of communism and still not-dream jobs in the States — to provide me this very opportunity, this very choice. They immigrated and left everything they knew behind so that their future children could be happy.

While putting this post together I thought of something my friend Yannick recently told his French relatives at his wedding reception in the Philippines:

"You didn't travel this far to go to bed early" -- Expat Edna

Sure, he meant it literally, but I loved what it meant figuratively:

I have been so damn lucky thanks to my parents’ sacrifices to be able to spend the past few years seeking out unconventional jobs abroad and chasing my dream career. I didn’t do all that just to end up unfulfilled in a corporate 9-6 for the next forty years.

I’ve traveled this far. I’m going to keep going.

I’m quitting not because I hate working, or routine, or being settled in one place. (I actually do enjoy a bit of all three.)

I’m leaving to pursue my passion full-time and see if I can actually be successful as a writer.

I’ve never wanted to live off my writing alone before, but I think it’s time I invested in my own abilities and see what happens.

All the while I’ll still be trying my hardest to get back into the Olympics field, but I’d rather be poor and happy and writing about travel while chasing gigs, than feeling miserable and resentful at a corporate desk.

***

Of course, this could be a terrible disaster. I could end up broke and back in a corporate job in a year — but I won’t know until I try.

And the idea of trying makes me happier than anything in this job or city has in a long time.

I’m embarking on this new adventure tomorow, when I fly to Japan — a country I’ve wanted to explore for years — on my 26th birthday.

To new chapters, to new adventures. Happy birthday to me!

amsterdam

Overheard at a cooking event in Shanghai. Pretty much exactly what I plan to do.

The photos in this post feature some of my favorite quotes, set in some of my faaavorite places — and are also a hint as to where I hope to be spending most of my time over the next few months!

Related reading: 5 years on: How I moved abroad after college and built a career through travel

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Comments

  1. What an exciting new chapter in your life! You can never go wrong when you follow your heart!!! Buen viaje!

  2. Mark Resnicoff says:

    Wow, what great news! A lot of people only wish they did, or could do, what you are doing. You’ll never regret it. Keep us updated on your writing projects.

  3. Helin says:

    Great post! Really enjoyed reading this. Happy almost birthday!

    If the writing doesn’t work out you can consider selling inspirational quote/photo posters.

  4. Wow, congrats on making that brave and difficult decision! You will do great.

  5. This is awesome.

  6. THIS! Congrats Edna! I bet you will never regret this choice.

    It seems like more and more people are finally ditching their 9-6 jobs and deciding to pursue happiness and a fulfilling career. I know some people consider this kind of choice irresponsible or childish, but I actually think it is the social backlash of a society where unfulfilling careers have become so common.

    People are expected to work ridiculous hours, be “team players”, be passionate about some stupid monotonous job, be happy they get to spend their lives glued to a desk. Oh, and we must be grateful because we have a job at all in this economic recession! I say: f***k this s**t.

    If what makes you happy is traveling and writing, that is your path. Don’t set yourself up for a life of frustration and broken dreams.

    PS: I know you said your job was great and you enjoyed it, I was actually talking about the phenomenon from a broader perspective!

  7. GO. YOU! I can’t wait to see where your passion (and talent) takes you XOX May our paths cross somewhere soon!

  8. New chapters indeed! How exciting for you. Whatever you decide is always best for you at that time so I really believe this is going to be a nice big turning point for you. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. :D And I wish you all the luck in the world with it (although you don’t need it).

  9. You inspire me, Edna. I’m so proud of you for going after what YOU want out of life, and I cannot wait to hear all about the adventures and successes that await. Remember, too: you’ve always got a home in L.A. :) lots of love to you, lady.

  10. What a great announcement Edna! This really IS big news, I’m excited for you to follow your dreams.

    “Of course, this could be a terrible disaster. I could end up broke and back in a corporate job in a year — but I won’t know until I try.” And that’s what it’s all about, trying to take a risk. It’s better to look back at something that didn’t quite work when you were 80 than to think back and regret not taking chances you had.

  11. I am so excited for this next chapter. You are so brave to follow your heart and your art. I can’t wait to see the fruits of this path!

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!

  12. This is so exciting! If the last five years have proven anything, it’s that whatever you put your mind to, you achieve it, so I am confident you’ll be able to make it as a writer. It’s not an easy road to hoe (as it were), but if anyone can do it, I know it’s you! Best of luck and bon voyage!

  13. zanne says:

    WOW! Can’t wait to see where this decision will take you(and us readers)! I wish you all the very best, Edna! Happy birthday! x

  14. Good for you, Edna! I can’t wait to hear about your future adventures.

  15. gabyu says:

    Congratulations Edna!

  16. Happy Birthday!!! Congratulations, can’t wait to hear about your adventures. Hopefully, our paths will cross in Paris. (I’m taking the “plunge” on August 14th, one way ticket to Paris!)

    Cheers
    Quita

  17. I feel you, Edna! I am actually in the same dilemma but I’m still thinking about it. The urgency to write past travel stories is so strong, but I lack the energy to write it down due to exhaustion from work. Goodluck and have fun in Japan! I was there last year for five days only (again, because I had to go back due to work). Happy Birthday too! :D

  18. Congratulations and best of luck. See you again in Paris!

  19. Happy belated birthday Edna! Also CONGRATS! Japan so far looks amazing. EAT ALL THE THINGS FOR ME!

  20. Happy birthday, Edna! And congratulations for taking the necessary steps to fulfill your dreams! It can be a scary decision until you realize there is absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

  21. Good on you girl! You’ve done something most of us only dream about doing, wish you well and I bet you’ll make the most of it. Cant wait to read all about it :)

  22. Congratulations! You did the right thing. Follwing your heart is important. I wish you all the best.

  23. Wow, that’s so exciting! I just stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago and was instantly hooked. I’m really excited to see where the road takes you. Happy travels and good luck :)

  24. Happy birthday, Edna! This is such exciting news! I love your writing style, and am so happy to see you go for it! Looking forward to seeing this next chapter unfold :-)

  25. Great words! Best of luck and happy birthday!!!

  26. Happy Birthday Edna – and thank you for being an inspiration to us all. Best of luck to you as you pursue your passion :)

  27. Happy Birthday, Edna! I’m very happy for you! Quitting your jobs takes guts and bravery. The unknown is scary so be proud of yourself. After 5 years of working in a corporate office I’m quitting my job. June 12 is my last day and then I move to Ireland for 6 months on June 16. I’m really excited and scared! I look forward to following along with your next adventure. You are an inspiration!

  28. I could definitely relate to this post! I also quit my job and had my last day at work two weeks ago. Some of my colleagues and friends wondered why I chose to quit when I was at the peak of my career, but like what you said, it wasn’t about the job. Sometimes we just have to take the leap and risk it all to find out what will truly make us feel whole and happy.

    Cheers to choosing the road less traveled and I wish you the best on your next adventure. :)

    PS. Read your other post detailing your travel plans, and yes, you should definitely stop by Manila! ;)

  29. Testament to your writing that I was hooked throughout this post :) You’re making the right decision! I made the same 2 years ago and I never looked back… Good luck!

    http://www.camilleinwonderlands.com

  30. This is one of the most inspiring posts I’ve read in a long time. Beautifully honest and well written! I love your recognition of the fact that your parents worked hard so you CAN pursue your passion, whatever that may be. I just quit my job to travel as well and am so grateful for the support I receive from my family. Your happiness is more than enough reason to take the leap!
    I can’t wait to see where your travels take you!

  31. Hi ! I really like the posts where you describe what you’ve learned, what you’ve been doing and what you are going to do next. They are the most inspiring ones ! I think people can really relate to you then.

  32. This is so inspiring. I am very happy for you

  33. I just found your blog and I am loving it. Your adventures are inspiring and make me want to get out from behind the corporate desk!! :) However, like you…. I do not feel I’d enjoy traveling alone. I’m waiting on my partner :( I know…. poor me… LOL – I’ll just keep living vicariously through you and reading your adventures!!

  34. Salome Wallace-EL says:

    Thanks for sharing this story. It has encouraged me to tell my kids to follow there passions in college & life. And if they are happy then I am happy and all my sacrifices were well spent. Thx

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