Many factors played a role in my decision to quit my career to travel.
It was a scary and tough choice to make, but necessary.
I wasn’t happy with the person I was becoming – more focused on others’ perception of me than my happiness. I watched myself become more interested in what I had, than who I was.
I was on the fast track in Corporate America. Regular promotions and bonuses gave me confidence in my ability to climb the ladder, but I didn’t honestly love my job. It was merely a way for me to fund the life I wanted.
Mentorship by a senior executive played a pivotal role in my decision. Happy to take me under her wing, she quickly became invested in my career.
I was certain that she was living my dream life. She drove my favorite car, a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon, wore the designer labels that cluttered my vision boards, and seemed to ‘have it all together’.
After several meetings and lunch-ins, I became curious about her life outside of work. I was hoping to follow in her footsteps without actually knowing what her life was like.
Did she get to travel often?
Traveling was a major part of my dream lifestyle, but I assumed it was so expensive that a corporate salary would be necessary to make it a reality.
If traveling was my dream, what was hers? Did she get to do the things she wanted?
I began to ask personal questions.
She explained that if my career was only a means to fund the life I wanted, it would likely lead to misery. She sacrificed a lot in her personal life to achieve professional success and would not advise anyone to make those sacrifices if they were not passionate.
The salary was a bonus, not her reason.
Had she been working solely for a paycheck, she would have been unsuccessful and extremely unfulfilled.
This was a major wake-up call for me.
I was intelligent, ambitious, beautiful, and determined. Anything I set my mind to, I believed I would achieve. If I wanted her position, with time and hard work I would undoubtedly have it; but I was certain that this was not a sacrifice I was willing to make.
Traveling had been in my heart for so long that I knew I couldn’t have put it there myself.
I wanted to wander from country to country, experiencing new cultures, foods and languages along the way. I didn’t know how to make it my reality, but I was willing to sacrifice for this dream.
One morning my heart sucker punched my brain. I had an anxiety attack. I was crippled with fear and worry that I would become someone I did not want to be, all because I was too afraid to be myself.
As I write this article from an oasis in Morocco, my sixteenth country on a world adventure that began two years ago, I now understand what my mentor wanted to teach me.
Whether it is your time, comfort zone, career, or family, you will undoubtedly sacrifice something to achieve greatness.
While I have experienced scary times (especially during six months in Central America), I have learned more about myself than I ever imagined.
After spending a year traveling through Europe – visiting England, France, Spain, Germany, Greece, Italy, Belgium and Netherlands – I fell in love with new foods (hello, cheese) and cultures (hello, maternity leave in France).
I learned that there is more than one ladder to climb, and living my travel dream did not necessarily mean choosing between two lifestyles.
While I do not plan to re-enter the workforce, my travels have made me an even more attractive and interesting candidate for a position in Corporate America. I am now bilingual with an understanding of different world cultures.
Whether in Corporate America or through my own ventures, I am happy with the sacrifices I have made to achieve my success.
And to me, that is the true definition of happiness.
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