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