Traveling For A Year Won’t Ruin Your Career

Don’t be fooled into thinking travel is only for rebels and risk-takers.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

I remember the day I decided to move to South Korea to teach and travel. It was early in the morning, after a night shift at Bulk Barn re-stocking candy and snacks.

I had just graduated from university, and I was living out the last few months of my lease agreement. The same looming question faced me as it faces all graduates, “what now?”

Stocking candy was a part-time gig. It wasn’t something I was passionate about or something that I wanted to do much longer. I knew I had to get a real job, but something didn’t sit right.

I got the gist of it — I had to get my foot in the door somewhere, start at the bottom, and work my way to the top, over the next 30 years. That’s what everyone does. It’s what everyone believes they should do.

I went against the grain and here’s what happened.

I was tested, by almost everyone, hard. At first, I was excited, and so were my friends. After the shock wore off when I told someone I was moving to Korea, it was immediately followed up with questions like this:

“What are you going to do for work?”

“But what about your life here?”

“How about your career? isn’t that going to ruin your progress?”

It scared me. What if I made the wrong decision? What if I really did ruin my life, and I ended up being behind all of my peers financially and professionally?

There was no turning back. I had to make it work.

All of those thoughts floated around in my head, but there was something else there too. There was the excitement of the unknown. Everything I understood and knew about life was about to be challenged.

I finally arrived in Korea, and I lived out my year as a teacher. I had some of the best times of my life. The experience completely changed my perception of life.

It made me realize that I get to decide how I should spend my life on earth, and not anyone else. That was the first big lesson of many.

But it all came screeching to a halt.

I moved back to Canada. I wouldn’t have, I shouldn’t have, but there were silly reasons why I came back. A girl who I later realized wasn’t right for me was one of them.

After such a glorious life in Korea, the mundane resumed.

I went from teaching and traveling to working at Costco.

Yup. Right back to square one. I did exactly what everyone told me would happen. I left, started an awesome life, then came back home three steps behind.

I was secretly devastated. I thought I screwed up.

But I didn’t. It would take me three years to realize that.

I started the grind. I went from stocker to waiter. Then I realized I would need a career, so I got a job as a financial advisor at a bank. Everyone loved it. They told me I was set for life. I’d have a great pension and benefits.

Something about that job didn’t feel right, so I quit.

I jumped ship. I went from a financial advisor to an IT helpdesk technician. The job is fantastic — seriously.

But something was still nagging me in the back of my mind, telling me it wasn’t right.

After going to South Korea, stepping out of my comfort zone and seeing what the world really had to offer, I tried to go back to doing what everyone else wanted me to do.

That was a major mistake.

The day I realized my mistake, I took matters into my own hands. I knew that I had to do what makes me happy — working a desk job for 30 years is not it.

From my previous travel experience, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I loved traveling, and I needed to work for myself and to be able to do it remotely.

I would never have learned that had I not traveled.

I almost bought into a life that would have left me wanting more, forever. I almost settled down in a desk job, with pictures of foreign countries I wanted to visit pinned up in my cubicle, while I longingly daydreamed about them.

Last year, on August 20th, 2018, I finally found confidence in the things that I wanted to pursue, and I am pursuing them with all my heart, as corny as that sounds.

After traveling for a year, I discovered I wanted to take a different path, but my conditioning to find a stable job at home overpowered my desire to follow my newly uncovered dreams.

I said screw that and took action to pursue the things I discovered I love.

I have never been happier.

I started working on a travel blog. It turned into blogging on Medium, which led to taking writing courses. Through that experience, I found freelance writing, and I have been pursuing it diligently since.

Thanks for staying with me this long. Here’s why traveling won’t ruin your career.

On December 26th, 2019, I will be moving to Australia to work and travel.

I am living out my dream, and I realize now that it would never have happened if I hadn’t boarded that flight to Korea five years ago.

1. Stop, just because you think you should have a desk job doesn’t mean you want one.

If all you know is what you have been taught, and all you have been taught is to go to school and select one of three stable careers, how do you know there isn’t something else out there for you?

Traveling for a year and gaining a far richer and broader understanding of the world will lift the wool from your eyes. You’ll realize that you are in control. You don’t only have three choices. You have thousands.

2. You will grow in ways you never would had you not traveled.

Remember when I came back to Canada? I had the wool lifted from my eyes, and then I foolishly pulled it right back over them. I had these amazing experiences that changed me as a person, yet I conformed to what everyone wanted me to become as soon as I got back.

The crazy thing is, had I not gone traveling, I would never have been exposed to the world in the first place, and I would never have set myself down a path to re-discover what it was I truly wanted.

Even though I made the mistake of re-conforming, I never would have realized I was re-conforming. Something was nagging, calling out to me from within.

3. You will make valuable connections all over the world.

When I got back to Canada after a year of travel, I made friends all over the globe. When I move to Australia with my girlfriend, we will be staying with a group of Aussies that I befriended in Cambodia.

I have friends in many other places that have offered me a free stay if I ever decide to visit. I will be visiting some of them and saving hundreds of dollars on accommodations.

4. Quitting your mediocre job doesn’t mean you are going to fail in life.

It forces you to look for new desires and opportunities. If I never left for Korea, I probably would have remained a financial advisor until retirement. Sure, I would have a great pension, but would I be happy? Certainly not.

I would have thought that I was doing the right thing, playing along to all the rules that were so neatly presented to me in school. The experience taught me to find what it is that I love, no matter what it looks like to anyone else.

5. Don’t assume taking a year off will set you back — It’ll push you forward.

The only constant is change. Believing that taking a year to travel will stop your progress with whatever you were doing back home is called a fixed mindset.

You’re looking at it all wrong.

If that’s how you view it the entire time, you’ll miss the whole point. Lean into the experience, become a new person, and surprise yourself. The only way forward in life is to grow continually, to change. You won’t grow much by sitting behind a desk through all of your twenties.

6. You will always be able to find good work.

You can always get hired somewhere else. Many people told me that working somewhere for a short time and quitting looks bad on a resume. Guess what, I’ve had three careers, and it’s never stopped me.

Employers ask me why, and I have ample opportunity to explain myself. Employers don’t judge you by your stint at your last job. They judge you by your ambition and by your character. So if you’re anxious about that, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t mean starfish crap.

7. Ignorance is bliss, but ignorance will put you at a disadvantage.

If you’re like me, you’ll suspect that there is way more out there than meets the eye. Places and people are waiting for you that will turn your life into a vibrant, intricate mosaic of experiences.

Traveling for a year will put you miles ahead of the competition. You’ll experience, see, and understand things that only someone who has traveled would have the opportunity to learn.

Those who don’t experience the world will never understand what it is they are missing out on. It’s sad and beautiful all at once.

So get on a flight and prepare to change your life for the better.

“You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less traveled instead of the well-beaten path.” ― Mandy Hale

To be an interesting person, you need to have interesting experiences. To understand yourself better, you must first understand the world that you live in.

Neither of these things can be achieved if we live behind closed doors our whole lives. Don’t wait until your hair is turning grey.

Do yourself a favor, take a year, and go travel. Work hard, play hard, and keep an open mind. Good things await, I promise.

Writer and founder of Hits Different Audio, a mixing and mastering service for music artists.

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