Every blog post about long-term travel starts with quitting a dead-end job.
If you only listen to the internet, you either go travelling when you’re on your gap year, or if you’re stuck in a dead-end job, only doing it to pay the bills and save for travel. This sets you off on your long-term life adventure of travel and happiness, not tied down by The Man or a 9-to-5 career, slave to a paycheck and a CV. I’ve never encountered a person that loved their job and quit everything to go travelling (unless, of course, that job was travel-related, like being a travel writer or a doctor working abroad). Even the Digital Nomads, who love what they do, talk about loving the Nomad part more than the actually-doing-the-digital-bit-of-it part.
I never thought I’d be able to travel long-term.
Not only do I suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and general anxiety, I don’t come from a wealthy family or have a ton of disposable income – and I’ve always been quite career-oriented. There’s also the small fact that I adore my job. I’m a senior strategist at an ad agency, and it’s the best thing EVER. Honestly. I’m so lucky to have found what I do – I fell into it and I’m so happy to have done so.
Particularly, I love my current agency, Grey. I love the people, I love the culture, and I love the work that I do. I wake up every day excited to go into work, and finish the day to be honest a bit sad to leave the office.
But this year I decided I’m giving up a job I love to go travelling.
In February I was lucky enough to be sent to work abroad by my company, spending a month working in Singapore and then spent two weeks in the Philippines – and it was absolutely fantastic. I had a great time (blog posts to come!) – as you can see in my 6 weeks/6 minutes video on YouTube. I learned a ton, ate A LOT, and fell in love with the sun all over again (as if I’d ever fallen out of love with it). I feel like I thrive in the sun, which we don’t get a lot of in my beloved UK, and I adored the experience of working in a new market. For a strategist, seeing how other people live and getting stuck into new cultures and sights and sounds is an absolute dream. It’s the bread and butter of my job, and something I’ve been trained to do.
So unsurprisingly, while I was out in Asia, I really became certain that I needed to go and live abroad – it’s something I’ve always dreamt of doing and as I said, really never thought I’d be able to, thanks to my illness. Spending the month working in Singapore proved to me that I can do it, and more than that – I really, really want to.
So really, this whole thing is Grey’s fault (sorry, guys).
I’m moving to Australia next week (despite never having been before!)
I picked Australia over Singapore for a number of reasons. I adored Singapore, utterly and completely, but wanted to try something new. I have a ton of work friends and contacts out in Australia, a friend from Grey that’s just done the same thing, and family members that adore the land Down Under. It’s obviously a magnet for scuba divers, it has a vibrant art scene that I’ve been following for a few years, and is based in a part of the world I’m keen to explore more of.
I’ve got myself a Working Holiday Visa and my flight is booked (eek) through STA Travel (thank goodness for Under 31 fares). I’m eligible for a skilled visa, so we’ll see what happens job-wise.
I’m not giving up my career, I’m just doing it somewhere else.
As I said, I love my job and what I do, so I’m hoping to keep doing it in Australia for a while. At the end of the WHV, the plan is to spend some time backpacking, before returning back to my beloved rainy UK. I’m never going to be a full-time traveller: I like a 9-to-5. I like making office friends, I like routine, and I like stability.
But I know if I don’t take this opportunity, I’ll never do it – and I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. Now is the right time for me to go – before I settle down, try to buy a house, and go full-tilt at achieving all my career ambitions.
Knowing that hasn’t made it any easier, though.
Handing in my notice was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
I almost cried. My amazing managers were great (apologies to them for the emotion!). I have had the time of my life at Grey. I’ve worked with fantastic people on fantastic projects and I credit those people and this job to having a significant impact on my self confidence, self belief and quality of life. I’ve never been happier than I have since working there.
I have flip-flopped back and forth on this decision for months.
The friends I’ve made at Grey will (hopefully!) still be my friends when I get back – I’ll keep up with them while I’m on the road. And people aren’t inextricably linked to companies forever – hopefully I’ll work with one or two again in the future! I’m really proud of the work I’ve made at Grey – and I can take those learnings with me to Oz just like I would an agency in the UK.
My three tips for leaving a job you love for travel:
- It’s going to be hard: Think about it carefully. Write a pros and cons list. Talk to friends and family (and a therapist, if you have one – mine was super helpful about taking an objective view about what’s right for me and my ~personal growth~)
- Do your research before you go: It’s all well and good packing in your job if you hate it and travelling off with no plans, but if you’re making such a big compromise, it’s worth doing some digging to see what your life might be like. I’ve spoken to some Australian contacts to see what the work culture is like in Oz, and to some Aussie friends and Brits who’ve done similar things, to see what the experience would be like to get a sense if it would be right for me.
- Rip off the band aid: Almost as soon as I was 100% certain I was going, I couldn’t deal with the anxiety of keeping it from people whose opinion of me I valued, and so I told my bosses straight away. They were – unsurprisingly! – incredibly supportive, and it was a huge weight off my mind to know I had them backing my decision.
Bonus advice, from my boss: “don’t close the circle”. My boss was hugely supportive of the move, and told me to make sure that when I go, don’t pre-plan everything (luckily, he hasn’t seen my detailed, colour-coordinated Google Sheets). Don’t plan the end of your trip before it’s begun. Give yourself the freedom to enjoy the experience and see where it takes you!
I will be leaving Grey with 2 Bronze Cannes Lions, post-pitch trauma (I kid!), an in-depth knowledge of Gen-Z (and how they’re so much better than Millennials), an even deeper love for TGI, a ton of friends across the globe, a much, much better strategist, with more self-belief and a huge smile.
So thanks and a huge fond farewell and a please-don’t-forget-about-me (a slightly more anxious and on-brand-for-me interpretation of that Breakfast Club scene) to everyone in the office. Thanks to everyone for being incredible culture-makers. Thanks for being great managers, line managers and I’m-not-your-line-managers. Thanks for the shoulders to cry on, the Coco Pops reminders, the pints and the G&Ts, the endless Deliveroos and late-night takeaways. Thanks for all the chat and advice and friendship and lols. Thanks to everyone at Grey for the happiest two years of my life.
I’ll try bring back some cookies.
My ode to Grey – some highlights…