“I’d like you to meet someone”, said this friend of mine who is nicknamed “The Bald Guy”, at a gathering last Saturday night.
He grabbed a girl’s arm, his cousin, Miss MK, and started introducing me to her.
“She quit her job last year and gets paid to travel”, he said to her.
I almost spat out my drink. What??! No, no, no!
Yesterday, I met up with Adam of Sit Down Disco and his wife, who are in town for a short visit. They have recently come back from a two-month backpacking trip around New Zealand and Australia for their honeymoon – or their term, “backpackneymoon“. We had a great time talking, catching up on what’s going on in our respective non 9-to-5 lifestyle. It was only when a hunger pang hit me, that we realised we had been talking for almost 4 hours.
Adam is one of those people I became friends with through Twitter sometimes last year, as I was going through my sabbatical leave. I followed his blog religiously, taking his tips and advices on how to deal with the things I went through, mainly many moments of “what the hell am I doing” and more.
Now, Adam gets paid to travel. He writes for a guidebook on Travelfish.org
I, on the other hand, contrary to what my friend introduced me as, don’t get paid to travel. While I did quit just over a year ago, and yes, I did travel, I am not quite at that stage that I now get paid to travel. Somewhere along the way, by some stroke of luck, a couple of magazine editors (and bless their hearts) thought I was good enough to write some travel articles, and I got published. Still a small number, but it’s a start on the path of a being a writer.
These days, to those who have been wondering what I fill my time with after one year off the corporate world, I write and take on projects which are aligned to some of my passions in travelling, writing and photography.
The stories of people quitting their jobs to do what they love and follow their passions, always intrigue others. It made them curious how one can do it. After all, such stories told at TEDx Ubud were what pushed me to take on the sabbatical. I told Miss MK about my story.
Learning from my experience, my first advice to her was this: don’t quit your day job just yet. Unless of course you hate it so much and it’s making you miserable. Second advice, start saving up. You will need money (and having too much of them should never, ever, be a problem).
You see, everybody loves the romantic side of my story. I don’t have to wake up in the morning to go to work and get stuck in traffic. I get to do whatever I want with my own time. I get to travel – spent a month in Bali and then later three months in Sydney among the few other trips here and there. And yes, sometimes, I get paid to write.
But I didn’t get where I am today – and I am far from where I want to be – if I didn’t make the sacrifices.
I don’t get my regular paychecks like I used to, or that yearly holiday allowances or bonuses (oh how I miss those for the big trips!). I have cut down my going out for fancy lunches, dinners and drinks – pretty much changed my lifestyle. I don’t see my family and friends as often as I would like to, for I’ll mostly be stuck working on some projects, or chasing deadlines through some ungodly hours, and wrecking up my sleeping pattern. Like lately.
Don’t forget the number of moments I feel lost, or when people such as your family don’t agree with what you do. Those moments are never pleasant. But luckily, I have met likeminded people who made me see that everything will turn out okay.
If all you want to do is travel, don’t quit your day job. Take holidays often to the many different places. And if you live in Indonesia, for the love of god, start here, at home.
But if you want to quit the 9-to-5 rat race, to give you the freedom to travel and do whatever you want, make sure you have saved up enough to do that. It takes a lot of sacrifices. Adam did save up, reaching a financial independence that allows him to have the location independence lifestyle. He had a plan back then and followed it through.
Me? Well, I wish I planned things differently. Wish I knew about people like Adam, and a few other travel bloggers and writers who trail on the same path, much earlier on. But, that is the beauty of hindsight. Everyone’s story and the process to get where they are today is different. I wasn’t going to quit work the way I did. It just happened through a series of calling, that I finally listened to.
I didn’t think I would last for more than six months, or maybe a year at most, before I’d have to go back to work – and by work, I mean the 9-to-5 desk job. But somehow, I managed. The change of lifestyle, of not spending as much has helped to stretch the funds.
I have managed to land some writing gigs, contract work, and yes, even travel-related projects, that paid me just enough to keep going on this path for the time being. Those gigs and projects will need me beyond the 9-to-5 role, and while there has been an opportunity for me to take up a job in an area I am interested in, it won’t be fair to explore such opportunity until I have the capacity to fulfil it. The next coming months will be filled with a few projects, including at least one that will require me to go away and … travel.
Maybe The Bald Guy is not so wrong after all. I will get paid to travel after all. I have always dreamt of it, or at least have work that requires me to travel. One of the projects I am working on will allow me to do that – travel. And I got a taste of that world on a recent press/blogger trip . I have landed such gig, through a series of serendipities, as well as perhaps my rambling on Twitter that show some people my love for travelling and writing.
It’s one project for now, and it won’t make me a millionaire, but it’s been part of my dreams.
I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t take that leap of faith. The leap of faith that came from knowing that one day, I could be waking up with a regret from not trying. Trying and see if I could reach my dream.
And that’s pretty much the last advice I told Miss MK. You will never really know, until you try.
As someone once told me, the only failure you should avoid, is the failure to try.
Note: That graffiti photo was taken at one of the hostels I stayed on my trip to Singapore last year.