The word escaped my mouth before I knew what was happening. I inhaled sharply, catching myself and wondering what I had just done.
It was a warm spring day as I sat in my boss’s office staring out the window at the suburban Philadelphia office park. We were discussing a colleague who had just resigned – a colleague with whom I oversaw a multimillion-dollar business. He was leaving, so my boss wanted to know if I was considering doing the same.
Although I had thought about it for some time, I hadn’t planned for it to come out quite like that. Now that it was out there, did I really mean it? Did I want to take it back? Did I look like I’d just lost my mind?
Although there were a million thoughts (and nearly as many questions) running through my head, it didn’t take long to realize that I absolutely meant it. It was out there. I was committed. And I didn’t want to take it back.
But, now what?
Up until that point, my life had pretty much followed the straight path of an overachiever. In high school, I was president of every club I could find and editor of every publication that would have me. During my senior year, my family joked that I seemed to get a new award every day. Yeah, that seems normal.
By the time I moved to New York to attend the college of my dreams, I was more than a bit burned out…but I plowed through. I graduated with honors, and within a few days of walking across the stage, I rolled right into my first full-time job – a job that would have me working 10-12 hours daily on a good day.
Life continued pretty much that way for a while. Even though the in-office workday shortened a bit when I moved to Philadelphia, I found myself taking lots of work home. There were always more emails to respond to, more documents to edit, more clients to be managed. I re-arranged life to make room for what the business needed. And the burnout mounted.
The only exception to my out-of-whack prioritization was when I took vacation. For the most part, a real vacation – often including being on another continent with very limited email access – was the only part of my life I separated from work. And I didn’t always do a great job of that. I checked email from the lobby of our hotel in Istanbul and frantically replied to messages from our guesthouse in Iceland, often talking Lance’s ear off with some work drama rather than enjoying where we were. I even stopped at an internet café near the base of Machu Picchu to do my timesheet. It’s what I felt the job required.
While far from perfect, things were good. The hard work came with promotions, and, with them, somewhat regular raises. If I was going to work my ass off, at least it was recognized. And I have to admit that I liked climbing the ladder and being respected. I liked the work I did and – most of the time – the people I worked with and for. It afforded Lance and me the ability to go on adventures (even if I sometimes let work encroach on them). If only for a few weeks a year, it was much better than many people have the chance to do. I was fortunate.
But then things began to shift. Suffice it to say that the last 18 months have been difficult, first personally and then professionally. Relationships cracked open and got put back together again… or didn’t. Priorities shifted dramatically. Even the nature of the work itself changed. I had gotten to where I always thought I wanted to be and discovered that it really wasn’t at all what I had in mind.
And now it was time to do something different. Absolutely.
It ultimately took me eight months from the moment I blurted out my exclamation to finally leave my job. I wanted to give the company time to replace me, and my very type-A self needed some time to save up a bit while preparing for a very different life. A change like this – especially when you’ve always followed a pretty traditional path – comes with more than a little fear attached. But the good news is that the fear of the unknown is outweighed by the excitement of trying something totally different.
So, really, now what?
At the same time as my career plan was changing, Lance and I began to work in earnest on building this blog from a “Dear Mom and Dad”-type website into something that could be a useful resource for other travelers. We began to write more and launched this new website just over a year ago. As we did that, a whole new world opened up to us filled with others who love visiting (sometimes slightly unusual) destinations and telling stories about them. People who can spend an unreasonably long time trying to get just the right photo to epitomize the place. These are my people, and now I can do a little more of what they do.
Since my high school days of working for every publication that would have me, I have always been a writer at heart. If I wasn’t in the newspaper room at school, I was holed up on a beanbag chair in the corner of my bedroom painstakingly crafting a poem. I breathed and slept writing. Somewhere along the line, I got away from that, but from now on, you will be hearing my voice much more often.
There will not be any changes here. The premise of this blog is that you can have a regular job with the 2-3 weeks of vacation we get here in North America and still travel the world. And you can. And we have…for years. That will continue to be the focus. There will be no taking off for three months at a time to backpack through Asia or to try out the chicken buses of South America. In large part, this is because: 1) Lance’s job isn’t changing and 2) while I won’t be working a corporate job anymore, I will be working (possibly even more than I ever have) on this blog and on starting my own company.
This decision marks another chapter in our lives and in the life of this blog. It is scary and exhilarating and challenging all at once. We look forward to seeing what comes next and hope you’ll be along for the ride with us. Absolutely.