I recently quit my job to travel.
You’re probably thinking of the time I transformed from career counselor to career breaker. On a Friday afternoon in March 2010, I met with my supervisor to offer my resignation and share the plan to move to Australia for a year.
Well welcome to “Heather quits her job to travel”, the sequel.
It was only five months ago that I chose Sydney as my temporary home in Oz. I reconnected with a friend I met in week one, viewed his flat, and decided to move in later that week. Over the next few days I emailed and visited a few potential employers. By week’s end I was offered a trial at an organic food store. A few days later, I smiled my way through a 2-hour shift, which served as the interview. I had no idea what I was doing as there was no training before the trial — you just have to jump in, learn as you go, and pray you don’t make a complete idiot of yourself. Apparently the smiling and apologies to the customers who just wanted to get their groceries in less than 10 minutes worked because I was offered a job at the end. Scanning barcodes is easy. But produce, items with no barcode, items whose barcodes *won’t* scan = nightmare when you don’t know the first thing about the company’s point-of-sale program and people expect to be served promptly.
You may be wondering why I decided to work at a grocery store as a cashier in the first place. It wasn’t what I anticipated doing when I boarded that plane nearly 8 months ago!
The Work & Holiday visa permits me to stay with any one employer for a maximum of six months. I wanted to look for something part-time/flexible (i.e., “casual employment”) as I assumed it would be easier to secure and I could leave more easily if I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want an office job. I didn’t want anything too “serious”.
I DID want to work for an organization whose mission I could support and whose products/services I’d want to use. What better than a casual gig at an organic food store where I could get a discount on healthy food I’d want to buy anyway? Being able to help customers with gluten-free needs and questions = BONUS.
At its best, I really did like my job. In a post I wrote for GoOverseas.com, I shared that:
By working at the store I receive a free staff meal and two free coffees per shift. I have learned to identify fruits, vegetables, and herbs that I did not realize I did not know! The employee discount at our cafe means I can buy healthy meals on the cheap. Most of my coworkers are young and friendly; customers amuse, entertain, and challenge me daily; and on every shift at least one person takes note of my accent, asks why I am here, and encourages me in my decision.
Seriously, how could I not feel good after hearing a “GOOD ON YA” or two or more?!
On the other hand, there were some things about work that weren’t so fun:
— I’ve had chronic issues with my back and neck for about seven years. Stretches, exercises, and visits to the chiropractor go a long way but the problems seem to be ones I’ll deal with for the rest of my life. I was handling them reasonably well until I’d worked at the store for a few weeks. Standing in one spot, reaching for items, and packing bags did a number on me. I paid attention to my posture between customers and outside of work, but it couldn’t compensate for the hours spent at the register.
— At times, I did not respond very well (inwardly) to the environment. There was a small group of people that generally seemed stressed and some days that energy kind of hung in the air. Sometimes that stress manifested itself in ways I really didn’t care for. After a while, little incidents here and there really add up.
Let’s backtrack to early December. I’d finally started thinking ahead to 2011 and how I wanted to spend my last few months in Australia. Something like “as happily as possible” came to mind
To guarantee sufficient coverage around the holidays, the roster had already been announced through the end of January. I figured I would work those shifts, quit, spend the next 3-4 weeks jobless and soaking up Sydney, and then move on to explore Tasmania and Western Australia. But then a couple of things happened.
— On my last visit to the chiropractor, I was seriously out of alignment. I wondered if a short-term job that was causing so many problems was worth it for another couple of months.
— For me the holidays are an overall joyous time of year. For others they bring more stress than anything else. Unfortunately the actions and words of others were felt personally on several occasions. One day I realized that enough was enough.
Between my own back and the stress straw breaking the camel’s, I decided to do something about it. I decided I was going to take ownership of the situation and QUIT earlier than I anticipated. It wouldn’t be the best decision from a purely financial perspective, but spending the remainder of my time in Oz how I wanted to was the first priority.
See, quitting can be the key to winning. In one of my favorite blog posts of all times, Greenjunkieliving.com says:
“If you keep pouring your energy into things that your gut/intuition/whatever is screaming at you to abandon, you won’t have any room for what’s going to make you buzz with excitement and the conviction that This Is Right, whatever ‘this’ may be.”
Just before Christmas I spoke with a few friends who supported my decision to move on and encouraged me to make a move. I needed that.
I had already taken off December 24-January 5, and as soon as I had stepped away from work for a few days, I felt more relaxed. I started chatting with a friend about what I wanted to see next, and suddenly we were brainstorming joint travel plans for the next couple of months. In the spirit of keeping the travel momentum going, I contacted a manager to give my notice. I offered to work my next several shifts, but she said they would be covered and happy traveling. Wow.
By quitting, I have moved full steam ahead on travel planning. I’ve had time to meet up with friends for dinner. Fridays and Saturdays are free again. I’m not spending one more month behind a register just to extend my stay by a few weeks. I’d rather spend these last few months back on the road and run out of money a little early.
So here’s to quitting work to travel…again!
In a few weeks I’ll hit the road with Adam to explore Tasmania. Once back in Melbourne, my friend Nicole will join us as we head west to see, taste, and experience whatever we fancy with no particular schedule. I’m excited to revisit some parts of Victoria and South Australia and FINALLY to see Western Australia for the first time!