“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Long before the whole “quit-your-job-to-travel” concept became a thing, I have already outlined a great plan to escape the cube farm which I felt was sucking the life out of me.
It’s a common theme that you will read in almost every other travel blog nowadays – office worker gets tired or bored of the routine and decides to break out, begins saving enough money, hands a 30-day notice to the boss, then goes out on a soul searching journey around the world. Sounds all too convenient and exhilarating, doesn’t it?
No, I was not motivated by any travel blog that time though. My inspiration came from stories of fellow bankers who were successful in getting out of the banking industry and finding fulfillment in jobs that are deemed atypical and not as glamorous as banking. Well, to put it straight, banking is not really such a thrilling or glittering job as some outsiders see it but I would not dwell on that topic. I also harbored this marvelous thought of going against what society dictates to be successful, which is to slave away at the office to earn a living.
However, I was not able to do it and I’ll tell you why I am perfectly fine with it. Allow me please to narrate my story first.
One summer, I chanced upon the blog of a former colleague purely by providence while I was doing research. In one post, she detailed how she got fed up with the office politics and bureaucracy, mustered the willpower to save up funds, successfully escaped the cube farm, put herself to design school, and never looked back.
The thought of stepping away from the constant office pressure, the rat race, was extraordinarily tempting and that became my inspiration. If they can, then I can too. This singular thought made it easier for me to cruise through the days at the office.
Soon enough, I began to save up; I kept all my bonuses intact because that was the only way for me to survive should I become unemployed. I also listed several non-bank companies and organizations that I plan to submit employment applications to: a school because employees here get a two-month vacation every summer, two foundations because I wanted to do something purposeful, a publishing house, and a volunteering job.
My dream was to travel around the Philippines in between the weeks (or even months) of quitting my current job and finding new employment. I was curious to see the powdery white sand of Boracay; I wanted to tour Iloilo and be amazed by its centuries-old churches; and I desired to walk along the streets of Laguna and Batangas that are flanked by Spanish-era houses.
I felt like a lunatic smiling in my solitude; the whole madness seemed splendid and I did feel grand. At last, I will be out of the whole machinery whose sole purpose was to make capitalists rich at the expense of my blood and sweat.
Yet the world does not seem to conspire to help me live my dream, or so I thought.
During the first instance when I was all set to quit my job, my father requested if I can loan him some funds that will be used for our house renovation. Of course, that was a priority project so I had to stall my plan and save up again. The second occasion, my father borrowed money to be used for the farm. Nonetheless, I was back on track with my budget target soon after.
A third and pivotal event opened my eyes to the reality that a life outside the corporate world was not meant for me. In 2012, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I had to help out my parents so I funneled all my travel funds for the medication and treatment of my mother. It was an urgent situation that needed attention and I was extremely thankful that I have not yet quit my job because I was able to further augment our budget though an employee loan. I could not bear the thought of having nothing and not being able to support my family. My mother survived the ordeal, and I emerged a new person after that.
To some, I may have appeared defeated but I completely felt like a victor after that adventure, as I like to put it. Through that experience, I realized that I needed to have a stable job with regular pay and employee benefits so that I can have money whenever I need it.
As I look back, here are my takeaways from that phase of my life:
1. I realized that travel is not the panacea for all our woes
Before doing anything drastic, think about it many times if traveling the world is the life that you really want. Never go out into the world expecting that traveling will erase all your troubles and worries, and bring you instant enlightenment. Remember that life, in general, and the paths that we choose are designed to be filled with challenges. That’s just how it is and it’s up to us to find ways to survive.
Same with traveling: it’s not just about having fun and going on countless adventures. Traversing unfamiliar roads entails a lot of hard work. Think about walking away from the comfortable life that you are accustomed with, leaving your loved ones behind, and figuring out how to survive in a culture that is alien to you.
If that is what your heart truly desires, then go for it but don’t do anything half-baked. Plan things well so that you will be able to survive: where will you get funds, do you plan to get employment, what if you decide to settle down, how do you plan to get accommodation? If you do get to snag online assignments, think of how possible delays in payment will set you back.
The list actually goes on but these are just some of the more pressing matters that you might want to think about.
2. Travel without quitting your job; maybe you just need a break
Ask yourself if you really want to travel long-term or if you simply need to take a break. I go back to that time when I felt too overwhelmed with work; this was when I wanted to quit. When I was not able to successfully resign from my job, I decided to travel to ease my burden. Those were not even regular travels but intermittent outings with some friends during weekends. Nonetheless, those few precious instances were enough to re-energize me.
On the other hand, I also love the comfort of having a home and the security of having a home base. I wanted to regularly see my family, my friends, experience the dynamism of the office, go to malls, and watch movies – things like that. I realized that I just needed a break from the monotony of the office but I also found out that I did not like the uncertainty or tedium of being on the road for an extended period of time. In short, I wanted to put balance in my life.
Eventually, I was able to find that equilibrium and, with careful planning, I was able to use my long weekends and vacation leaves well so that I can still travel and work at the same time, which meant I had a steady income stream for the things that I want to do. That includes going on trips, buying things that I can afford, and supporting my family.
3. Or you need a change in office environment
Most of the time, when we feel all stressed and burned out, our initial reaction is to get away from it all. That is understandable because instinct dictates that in times of crises, we should exert all possible means to survive. Unfortunately, not all of us can afford the luxury of casually turning our backs from our office jobs. What you can do is to patiently find a new job in a new industry or a less radical approach of transferring to another unit within your current company.
When I was not able to bring my great plan to fruition, I went for my Plan B which was to request for transfer to another department. The move still did a lot of wonders for me; I had renewed vigor at the office and, best of all, I was able to travel regularly because of more efficient work distribution. Indeed, the slightest tweaks in our lives can bring a lot of positivity to our outlook.
Plus, if you are trying to escape the life of having to work, think again, because there is no such thing as traveling and not working. Remember that you will still have to work; you will just have to take on a different form of employment. Consider it as taking a freelancing job in the tourism or creative industry.
You can travel without having to quit your office job. In the end, it’s all up to you. But don’t let others dictate to you what is right or what being happy should be. While it’s easy to get persuaded to do something that looks “all fun and easy,” it is best to keep in mind that nothing is ever easy in the world out there.
Also read: Looking Back: How Traveling Changed My Life