A Long-Term Travel Guide
Installment Five // Breaking News
Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. I could feel the blood rushing through my body at a velocity far higher than usual. At least that’s what it felt like.
How do I say this? After working with you for four years, I’m leaving. Those things we talked about doing next? I won’t be here for those. Good luck.
Some people can’t wait to say these words, which is how you know it’s definitely time for you to find a different job. Yet I enjoy, admire, and appreciate my former bosses, a lot. I had already stayed longer than anticipated because, quite simply, it was a good job. But I wasn’t actually driven by my job, and after four years it was time to find exactly what I wanted. I knew that didn’t mean staying in marketing.
I had spoken to several people about the best way to leave a job, including colleagues who had left my firm. It paid off.
A successful exit all comes down to appreciation, honesty, fairness, and boundaries.
On appreciation, I started my exit speech with how much my time with them had meant to me, how much I learned, how much we’d accomplished.
On honesty, I shared exactly how I felt about my job: it wasn’t what I’m driven by, and if anything, being surrounded by the passionate designers in that firm reminded me that I wanted to return to design, too. Of all people, they could understand that.
On fairness, I told my Principals three months in advance, and my office with one month. If you know you’re hard to replace, help as much as you can. Sometimes this is with giving plenty of notice, often it’s helping to replace yourself.
On boundaries, make sure you have them going into the meeting. Something that worked well for me is that I had an airline ticket booked. I had a hard exit date, and this was hugely important for our mutual planning. I did give them lots of my time right up until the Thursday before I left, but I wasn’t going to work a day longer. It wasn’t perfect, but they knew I did what I could up to that point.
I fully believe in doing everything you can to leave on a good note; these people will be your references, and might even connect you with people to help you find your next position. My bosses did.
Dad on the other line, pauses.
“Can you afford that?”
The good news about our little sequencing exercise (see post number four on finances) is that you’ve already figured that out. You have your answer.
“How safe is that for you to do alone?”
Next to North America and Europe, Asia has some of the lowest rates of violence, statistically. They’re a very non-violent culture. They’ll swindle you and steal your purse in a heartbeat, but the odds of them hurting you are extremely low. Many, many females travel solo through this part of the world, and I’d read as much, and noted how many of them shared they felt safer than in the US, even. Human trafficking is real, though, and I brought pepper spray, and vowed to my boyfriend and parents that I would always be wary, and not drop my guard.
My parents have always supported my taste for travel and independence. Yet both of these questions were important to remind me how much I needed to save and plan for my financial existence when I returned, and how much I needed to keep my wits about me, to take this adventure seriously.
Think about what your parents will be concerned about and want to know before you tell them. Do your research. They just want to know you’re doing everything you can to take care of yourself, since they won’t be able to.
My boyfriend comes home.
“You know how we were going to take that trip together, and then you got this job, and we decided we’d wait?
I’ve decided I can’t look this trip in the face and not take it.
An opportunity like this doesn’t just come along many times in a lifetime.
I need to do this for myself, and I think I’ll take off for two, maybe three months in May.”
The good news was, he had started a new job and would be working hard. The other thing on our side was that we had started out long distance. We’d lived together for two years now, but we had also gone for three months without seeing each other in the beginning. It is doable. Asia has lots of wifi. I saved the parts of the trip that he was the most excited about for another trip for us to do together.
He was honest, he didn’t like the idea of me leaving for three months (of course not), but he wasn’t going to let that stop me.
I also needed time to work on myself, that was clear. I had not been particularly happy and needed a change, but it didn’t need to be him. I am still amazed by how supportive he was because he knew how much I needed it. He didn’t make me feel guilty, because he was on my team. I let him know how I felt, and it helped him see my side. Helping your partner develop empathy for you is critical. So is letting them know how important they are to you. We didn’t go on a break.
Plenty of people break up with their significant others before a trip like this, and I can’t speak to that. But I have seen that sometimes that’s part of creating a seam in your life, though.
It is almost never a perfect time to take a long-term trip. You will have to make space for it, somehow. It will take compromising what might be an otherwise manageable schedule to sacrifice for the trip. You’ll have to work twice as hard. But having your partner, your parents, and your friends on your side is an essential support system to get you out the door.
Sharing your decision to leave for any extended period of time can be a challenge. This entry is more oriented toward employed young adults rather than recent grads with a wide open schedule, but you will have to tell many people of your plans. Most people will be happy for you, express kind and exuberant jealousy, but for those who don’t want you to go, they’ll always ask why, or you’ll feel the need to justify, which can be difficult.
I’m going to infer that in some way, you want to travel because you don’t want to be doing what you’re doing now. But more importantly, it means you want to do something else. It’s an opportunity to reach for something else, rather than to run away.
You’re not quitting, you’re opening the door for an important and evolutionary change in yourself. There’s a 90’s song for that. New chapters can’t begin without old ones ending.
This is something that anyone can empathize with, even your boss, your significant other, and your parents. Even if it impacts them negatively.
And remember, you don’t have to defend anything. You’re doing something incredible for yourself. You’re being selfish for the right reasons.
Put that in your back pocket, and pull it back out whenever you, or anyone else, starts questioning your decision.