I could feel the anger rising like a volcano through the center of my chest. I couldn’t look at my email inbox anymore without wanting to throw something to shatter my screen. My client, who I had been working with for many months, had sent yet another condescending email throwing me under the bus. “Why in the world do I put up with this?” I asked myself for the 100th time.
I decided to take a walk to clear my head and took my phone with me for moral support. I needed some mindless stimulation and Instagram was the perfect candidate. I scrolled through photo after photo of tanned women with glistening hair looking out onto a large body of water or expanses of emerald green fields. I felt that yearn coming, that yearn to be right where they were. Instagram, for all its benefits, has created this constant desire to be somewhere other than where we currently are. It’s escapism at its most blatant. I chanced upon a post set in Bali with the caption: “I am working from the beach, where are you working from?” Great. Just what I needed right then, to feel even more terrible about my plight. Why, I ask myself, haven’t I quit the job that requires me to come into an office instead of lounging on a beach chair?
I’ve asked myself this question many times over the last 10 years. I thrive when I travel; it seems I am a better version of myself when I travel, more inspired, less burdened, more open and curious.
But as much as I have thought about it, I haven’t taken the leap to quit my office job in pursuit of a life on the road and it has been a conscious choice. Here is why.
1. I enjoy what I do for a living.
It’s important to distinguish reasons why you might want to quit your current job. If you hate your job and find yourself wishing you were doing anything else, then you need to fix that as soon as possible. Adults spend over a third of their waking hours working and there is absolutely no good reason to stay in a job you detest. Every time I have found myself in that position, I have put all my energy into changing the situation.
If you, however, just find yourself frustrated by certain aspects of your job, then it’s not the time to quit just yet. Every job has its grueling parts, even the ones that are done on a beach. Ask any digital nomad and they will likely relate to the opening scene where I describe being frustrated by a client, or other feelings of inadequacy, stress, and under-appreciation.
Take 10 minutes to write down the last 3 awesome things that happened at your job. Then the last 3 frustrating things. If the frustrating things outweigh the awesome things, it might be time to reconsider what you devote a third of your life’s time and energy to.
2. I found myself wanting to travel to escape.
Every time I have more deliberately thought about quitting my job and traveling full-time, it has been to escape reality: terrible jobs, gut-wrenching breakups, my inner demons. It can feel nice to detach and restart somewhere new for a few days or even weeks; however, if that is your plan for longer than a few weeks, know that at some point your escape will become your reality. Your bright spots and your ugly ones will find you wherever you go. You can escape from the desk that brought you so much grief at your job or the wine bar you used to spend your weekends with your ex, but you can’t escape the resentment or pain it filled you with. Travel, not to escape, but to redefine your reality.
3. I want to build a sustainable lifestyle.
There is something inherently sexy about the idea of no longer being chained to a desk or a home. Of being mobile and shifting base from a beach in Bali to a village in Italy to the mountains in Ecuador. Of never feeling bound by anything or anyone. But that freedom comes at a cost of building things more meaningful and sustainable. As someone who has unintentionally moved to a different city or country every couple of years of my life, I have come to realize that sometimes it is harder to stay than to leave, to stay committed and stick it out even if there is no immediate gratification. To assemble something that endures, you have to stay awhile.
4. I see travel not as the end, but as a means to the end.
Travel has and always will leave me less jaded, a delightful reminder of the unexplored and unimagined. It inspires me to stay curious, to be less judgmental of what I don’t intuitively understand and pushes me to the edge of my comfort zone. The lessons I learn when I travel are only as meaningful as how I incorporate them into my everyday life. If I can’t learn to be more curious in the most mundane of moments, to be less judgmental of the people in my own life, and challenge myself to be uncomfortable in the endeavors that matter, what use are these lessons?
For some people, quitting their office jobs to travel the world is their true calling. But it doesn’t have to be for you. Find your own reasons based on your own values to define the right path for yourself; even if it is not the most Instagram-worthy decision.