This is how I escaped the cubicle in ten months so I could travel for one year. I just want to make it clear that this does not mean this type of career is wrong or right. It was simply not for me and this is my story of leaving where I was unhappy. This is how I lived and how I got out. It’s to provide you with inspiration if you are in the same shoes as I was. Anything is possible if you put your heart to it. I understand everyone has different circumstances. Just remember to be yourself and follow through what you want out of your life.
I was working at the cubicle-farm corporate world of UPS. Dozens of rows of cubicles in several buildings. I was lucky enough to get a pay raise and promotion only six months in after I was hired. I remember sending an email to my mother stating “Hey Mom! Guess what? I got a promotion! I’m going into the real world!”. I had enough to get my own apartment ten minutes from New York City. I had a full apartment with a 57inch projection television, Xbox360, Wii, 30inch television in the bedroom, furniture everywhere, DJ/Studio booth, and having an apartment that was more for a family of four. Spending $100USD on a night out seemed normal. Money was coming in and going out quickly.
Two months after moving in, the “real world” finally hit me. A collection of monthly bills and long hours was a setup up for an unhappy lifestyle. The more money I made, the more I spent. I knew it would take several more years to get another pay raise or promotion. Even if I did get a pay raise, money clearly isn’t what I needed more of. That’s when I questioned the direction of my future. What was I doing wrong? Wasn’t this the direction that was expected of me by the cultural norm? Why was I so unhappy doing it? Is there a way out?
Everyday was the same routine. I was able to consolidate work and make my daily routine more efficient. In the corporate world, you make yourself seem like you’re working hard even in the most simplest tasks and I was really good at this. On my free time (which was often), I started searching for new opportunities on the internet. Somehow I stumbled across blogs of digital nomads traveling around the world. One blog led to another and I eventually got to posting on several forums asking questions on the lifestyle and tips on how to do it.
I loved to travel but I didn’t know about the possibilities of it being a long term thing. Then I heard of backpacking which believe it or not, I’ve never heard of prior to 2008. My group of friends and family is all about school and work taking only short one week trips twice a year. Backpacking seemed extreme and crazy and that’s what I wanted. That’s when I made up my mind, I was going to quit my job to travel. Simple as that really. What made this unique to me is that I had known no one that has ever done this, I had to resort to other peoples blogs to help me plan.
Why did I dislike my job so much? It had nothing to do with the job itself. Many of my co-workers had been there ten to twenty years or more in the same company and some even in the same position. The pay was livable, the benefits were known to be one of the best in the nation, and the job was secure. The job was simple and usually never required much of a challenge for me. I was learning about things I just didn’t care about and saw no future in. Once I realized that, I knew I had to make a change.
Everyday was usually the same papers being thrown around. I tried to stay away from the office politics, though they were sometimes stupidity hilarious. Some people were fake sucking up to the higher ranks and always looking for more attention because it was never about how good of a job you do but how well displayed you are. I understand that this career may be a dream job for some but it wasn’t for me and I’m grateful to have found out early and had the courage to leave it.
I started passing the idea to friends and family about my thoughts of traveling long term. The original idea was three months throughout Europe. I soon realized how expensive a trip to Europe was going to be. If I was going to quit my job to travel, it needed to be longer than three months. Thanks to other blogs, my next idea was one year in developing countries of Southeast Asia. My mother was a little worried with that decision. I respected her concerns but I assured her it’s not an uneducated move and I supplied her with as much information as possible. After that, she fully supported and encouraged me.
Planning The Attack
It was August 2008 when I made the decision to travel. If my job knew my intentions, I would have been fired on the spot due to conflict of interest. I was expected to work there till retirement filling out five year plans of my advancement in the company. For the next 10 months, I kept it a secret at my job. It felt wrong and fake but I didn’t want to lose my job either. I’ve always done everything exceptionally well at my job but I still would have been fired if they knew I was leaving. Keeping the job and saving as much money as possible is what I had to do. I was dependent on the job and I was breaking even every month. To save for this trip, I had to make some lifestyle changes.
I was several thousand dollars in credit card debt, car payments including insurance, and a new apartment with bills wasn’t going to be easy to eliminate. To make things worse, I had nothing in my savings. I was starting from scratch. First thing I had to do was cut the bills which included canceling my TV service, DVD rentals, and taking it easy on electricity usage. My biggest bill was the car and insurance. Luckily, I was only one town over from my job which meant taking the bus was possible. Luck was on my side again as my sister was in need of a car to get to school as she started college and work. She took over the car payments and I told her to keep the car after. I didn’t want my job to know I didn’t have a car. I wanted to avoid getting questioned. I bought monthly bus passes and made it perfectly on time to work for months even during the rough winter months. It was all going according to plan.
For the next task, I wanted to sell everything I owned. Regardless if I was going on the trip or not, I wanted to clean up my life. Thanks to Craigslist and Amazon, it was easy to sell it all. Sometimes people would come over to pick up one thing and leave buying several things. The next step was the hardest, canceling a one year apartment contract. Thankfully the landlord was kind enough to let me break the lease and only charged me a half months rent for leaving early. I wanted to move out to cut rent but I had to find another apartment for the remaining two months that I had left before I quit my job. My parents lived too far to take a bus and I had no car. I resorted back to Craigslist and landed an apartment just across the street from where I was currently living. It was with a family that had a spare bedroom. I went from $1400/month plus bills to a $200/month apartment and all I did was move across the street. There certainly had to be some sacrificing but it was all worth it.
For the two months after, all I did was save. I was living in a random apartment with another family, I had no car, and everyday I had to lie at work. The process of planning was a journey in itself. I felt as if I was already traveling.
I gave my job a two week notice. Though I may have only mentioned the negative aspects of the job, I am truly grateful that I had it otherwise the amount saved wouldn’t have been possible in such a short period of time. My co-workers were very supportive and Human Resources even welcomed me back (if the market got better). I may have complained a lot but in the end, it wasn’t all that bad of a job. I just had a different path I personality had to take. With my personality and character, it just wasn’t for me.
Between all this, I started Art of Backpacking in December 2008 to share what I was learning as I got ready to leave.
In the end, I saved over $15,000.
The rest is history…