Why Quitting Your Job to Travel is Okay
I think, if we are being honest with ourselves, that it is the rare person who truly thrives in corporate America. Two-week vacations, dress codes and cubicles are not the things are things our childhood selves dreamt of. Studies show that one in three American workers is chronically overworked and less than half of Americans are satisfied with their jobs. So it’s not too crazy to hate your job, find it unfulfilling or want to leave it.
But we all have the option to make the unusual choice to do something about it.
Leaving a comfortable, reliable paycheck for the unknown is always scary, especially in our current economic situation. But you know what’s more scary? Waking up on the eve of your 45th birthday and realizing that you have not lived the life you want and that you’d like a do-over, please.
How to Quit Your Job and Travel Instead
As someone who bailed on her fancy event-planning job for a life in Taiwan, teaching the alphabet to Chinese kindergartners, here’s what worked for me:
Get some teaching experience
If you don’t know much about ESL or you don’t have any teaching experience, it’s a good idea to some class time under your belt. Because it would suck to move to a foreign country and discover you hate your job, right? A great way to do this is by volunteering at an ESL school in your area. Many schools even provide training for their volunteers. A good place to start in Minnesota is at the Minnesota Literacy Council. That being said, don’t feel that you need to complete a CELTA or TEFL certificate to get a job teaching in SE Asia. Most schools just require a college degree and a good attitude. If you really enjoy your job and imagine that you’d like to work in ESL for years to come, you can always get one of these certificates later.
Do heaps of research on your country of choice (and be prepared to present all of this information to any and all nay-sayers)
Many Americans have no idea what day-to-day life in SE Asia looks like, I know I didn’t before I became interested in ESL. When I told people I was moving to Taiwan they asked me
a) if I planned on eating cats
b) if I would be living in Bangkok
c) If I would live in a pagoda
So it’s really important that you can correct these misconceptions and point out the similarities between life in your two countries. The importance of family, the emphasis placed on education and a great work ethic are all great parallels to start with. It’s also good to point out how developed and technologically advanced a lot of cities are … it’ll help allay those fears that you’ll be riding a water buffalo to work. Lots of people don’t know that SE Asia is one of the safest places to travel as a single woman or that the capitol cities of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong have great health care facilities. Taiwan has four Ikeas for Pete’s sake!
Line up a job ahead of time
Your family will feel a lot better if they know that someone is picking you up at the airport, helping you find housing and generally looking out for your best interest. It’s actually quite common to find a job before you go. I would recommend frequently the expat message boards for your country of choice and seeing what people have to say about the different employers. Pay, benefits and expectations vary greatly between employers so it’s important to find a school that’s right for you. It’s even a good idea to correspond with current employees at the schools your looking at. They won’t shy away from giving you the unvarnished truth.
Convince your family to chill out
Of course, your family is just concerned because they love you, they’ll miss you and they’re worried about you. All of this ground work and information should go a long way to calm your family’s worries. It might also help to involve them in the process – invite them into your ESL classroom, take them out for red curry at Tom Rum Thai, talk to them about the amazing things that happened to your during your last trip to Asia. Enthusiasm can be contagious!
Even with all this work, it’s possible that they’ll never cheer your decision with cymbals and streamers. But at the end of the day, it’s your life and you need to live it in a way that makes you proud and makes you happy. I have a good friend whose mother cried and cried when he told her he was moving abroad. However! This same mother regularly bragged to anyone who would listen about her brave, adventurous son and his globe-trotting life. I think there’s often a difference between what our parents want us to do for them and what they want us to do for ourselves.
Your family will surely miss you while you’re abroad, but I bet they will also be incredibly proud of you and your bravery. I know I am!
What other advice would you offer our globe-trotting lass who wants to quit her job and travel?
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photo (without added text) by Kai Zau for viewing here