When I left my job 5 months ago to go traveling in Japan, I didn’t know – or even want to know – what I was going to do when I returned. I remember writing that I was ready to jump and learn to fly on the way down.
This is a nice image: 27-year-old guy, burned out from his job, quits and 2 days later is on a plane to the other side of the world.
I enjoyed that trip so much. I felt free and unencumbered by the stresses of my previous job. I was ready to carve out a new path for my life and I enjoyed taking the time to unplug.
Coming back from that trip was an eye opener. I returned to my same apartment, had lunch at my favorite bagel place and was ready to get back on with “real life.”
Something was different. It took a few days, but I realized that I was struggling to adjust to my life without the structure of my job or the freedom of being abroad traveling.
Now, if you are saying, “cry me a river, Jeff! You went to Japan and don’t have a job, get over it!” I get it. But, while I had grandiose plans to search for my dream job and start a new professional life, I was stumped. I didn’t know where to start.
I had just accomplished my goal of being overseas for 6 weeks. While I was in Japan and South Korea, I never thought that I would return to the States and struggle with what to do next.
It is a weird feeling to come to grips with and something I am continuing to focus on and learn from.
I wasn’t motivated to write, I was in a bit of a funk. I knew I needed a new goal.
I was home for the holidays, and some family members were more interested in hearing about my professional aspirations than about my trip. At first, I was taken aback, but upon some reflection, it makes sense.
We live in a world that revolves around our work. It is one of the first things you ask someone when you meet them (especially in D.C.). So, it was natural for everyone to be interested in what I was going to do next.
I was still not sure what that next step or job looked like. I had stumbled into my previous job and climbed the ladder. I had not encountered a job search in a really long time.
I thought about it, a lot. I knew I was getting close to the point of needing to make some money as my sabbatical fund was running low.
I was still not sure where I wanted to go professionally, but I itched to travel again.
I knew I had to make a decision. I asked myself, “Will the 40-year old Jeff regret having spent a few more months traveling before getting back to work?”
My answer was no.
And that was it, I had a new goal and it was time to figure out how I could finance it.
My next decision was not glamorous, and was not something that comes to mind when I envision a person who quit their job to travel and explore themselves; I moved back home with my parents.
Yes, it was weird going back home after not spending more than a few days at a time there in almost 10 years.
Yes, it was weird actually living with my parents and not having my own place and privacy.
Yes, I was a little scared that I was taking a major step back.
And yes, I was a little embarrassed about it.
All that aside, it was the best decision I could have made to accomplish my goal. I got a job during the day, I found a job bartending and waiting tables at night, and I prepared to work my ass off to be able to afford this new adventure.
You are probably thinking that this is not the usual way a story about a young guy traveling the world goes. To be honest, neither did I.
I quickly learned that I was wrong, maybe this wasn’t what everyone else would want, but it was what I needed to do to accomplish the goals I had right then. In my first post, I wrote about being afraid of what others would think about my decision to quit my job. I learned then and had to remind myself now, that what other people think doesn’t matter.
Was I happy with what I was doing? Yup.
Was I hurting anyone by doing this? Nope.
I have learned that it is so easy to worry about what others think of us. I know I am not alone in this struggle. But, we only have one life to live, and we can’t spend it trying to live up to the expectations we think others have for us.
It would be easy to call this 2 months of saving and living back home as a “pause” in my life, but I decided to embrace it as part of the journey. I embraced the opportunity to spend some time with my folks, catch up with friends from back home, and save some money on rent and other expenses.
No, this isn’t how I envisioned my life at age 27. But, by eating shit (not literally, and I love you Mom) and sacrificing some independence and free time for 2 months, I am writing this post from Tokyo and I have flights booked for Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam (If anyone has been, let me know about any must-sees!).
During this part of my journey, I have learned a lot, but one thing really stood out: If you really want to accomplish something big, you need to be willing to make a sacrifice as well. Whether it is a new job, starting a business, taking a trip or just learning a new skill, if you aren’t willing to eat shit and make some sacrifices, you may find yourself stuck like I was.
I have never heard of a great accomplishment that didn’t require such a price. Yet, we live in a world of get rich quick schemes, life hacking, job hacking and an obsession with overnight success. A lot of us are all looking for shortcuts to achieve our goals.
Success – however you define it – requires patience, a little stubbornness and belief in yourself and what you are doing.
So, for now, I am going to eat some sushi and relish the opportunity I have created for myself. Sure, I will think about creating new goals for when I return to “the real world,” but, from where I am sitting right now, the world looks pretty real to me.