I admired Ryan for doing it. I told everyone about his trip like it was my business. He’d taught himself to speak Mandarin and traveled for a year through China and Southeast Asia. I was amazed. Who can actually do something like that?
When we started dating he told me that he’d be ready for another long trip in about five years. And then there was this longish silence, his eyebrows lifted, and he blinked at me. Twice. I assured him that, of course, I’d be up for going with him.
So, ok, I’d committed one of the classic relationship blunders. I told him what he wanted to hear and hoped that when the time came I could convince him to put off the next big trip for a few more years. I’m not proud of it. In truth, what I was up for was the idea of taking year off to travel. The actual giving up of my great job, my great salary, and my beautiful, rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco was not among my life’s ambitions. Travel was, sure, but not sacrifice.
That was five years ago.
I’ve just spent the last month telling everyone I know that I’m taking “a career break” to travel the world for a year. So what changed? A lot, obviously, and much of it not easy to put into words. But three things lined up at the same time:
- The Opportunity. There is never going to be a perfect time for doing something like this, but timing does matter. I have taken steps at work over the last five years to set up a team of talented people who can step up and do my job. This was important to me, because I really, really like the company I work for and all the people I work with.
- The Means. Dropping out of the workforce for a year means I’d need to have significant resources saved up. The choices I have made in my life – no kids, no mortgage – made this easier, but it also helps that Ryan will be with me to share in the adventure…and the expenses.
- The Will. This was the big one for me, the one that took five years to build. I had to want to leave. I had to be ok with losing a narrative about myself. I am letting go of a title, a structure, everything I’ve worked so hard for over the last sixteen years.
So we’re taking a year off to travel the world. This is a sabbatical. A walk about. A letting go. I’ll write a lot, take some pictures of the stars, go to Budapest. I’m not sure what the next stage of my career will be, but I’m looking forward to the adventure of finding out. The journey will begin in earnest in May 2016. Until then, I’ll be transitioning from one way of being into another. We’ll keep friends and family and anyone else interested apprised of our travels here on this blog.