What’s it like to ditch your corporate job and go travelling for a year?
Many of us think about doing this but don’t know where to begin when it comes to ultimately quitting and then embarking on possibly the longest trip of our lives. Through bringing up this hot topic in conversation I discovered a teammate, Manuel, had fulfilled this dream – this is his story.
The photos speak for themselves, they’re simply out of this world. And setting out on a journey in a way you’ve never done before, to places you’ve never been, is tantamount to venturing into an unknown world.
Over the course of a year, Manuel travelled to Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Whether it’s the status quo or owing to one’s finances, gap years aren’t common in Mexico, where Manuel is from. In Belgium, residents can take an entire year off work for self-development. And New Zealand is well-known for encouraging their youths to do an overseas experience. So it’s not hard to imagine how first contact with well travelled students from an experience-driven social system could be life changing. That was the case for Manuel.
|✓ Pay off your debts
✓ Get a travel credit card
✓ Buy medical insurance
✓ Invest in a comfortable small bag
✓ Bring high-tech gear if you’re a photographer
✓ Get rid of two-thirds of what you plan on taking
Approaching seven years at a leading pharmaceutical company, Manuel had been guaranteed a promotion and was about to realise his career goal. We often contemplate what we want and what makes us happy when at a crossroads in life. Contemplating his life was what Manuel had been doing for a long time.
Despite addressing his financial needs, the multiple zeros in Manuel’s trivago Magazineg account didn’t measure his happiness. He wanted freedom. So at the drop of a hat, he quit his job one Monday morning and, after doing a lot of explaining to astonished colleagues and family, was then on a one-way ticket to Thailand.
The strong aroma of Thai spices almost knocked me out when I took to the streets of Bangkok on my first day. My first meal in Asia ended up being at the most western restaurant in the area. Though after a long rest I took to the city like a fish to water.
In the hospitality industry, an understanding of cross-cultural communication is imperative to providing good service. Areas with a lot of tourism attract international hotel chains, and being serviced in English is expected. When you’re like Manuel on the other hand, and go in search of a challenge, language barriers are coveted.
Eleven countries in 12 months sounds like a lot, though if the series of experiences flows naturally from one to the other then you don’t feel the weight of elapsed time as you stop counting numbers. That being said, your finances, ironically, are numbers to always keep in the front of your mind.
I lived according to my economic possibilities. Transportation was expensive and I had to budget for it because I couldn’t always hitchhike. I’d sleep in 10-person rooms to save money. Though I also had to make concessions and splurge on things I discovered I needed such as a good sandals. It was an investment.
Adopting the “less is more” motto isn’t as simple as it sounds. Endeavoring in changing one’s way of life starts in the mind. For Manuel, the hardest part was already behind him when he arrived in Asia. As there was no pressure to return he allowed his instincts to takeover and followed his heart. If he met interesting people he stayed in that country till his visa expired, or else the wind carried him onward.
Manuel’s original plan was to stay two months but through volunteering at various locations that offered shelter and food, including an orphanage in Siem Reap, the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary in Borneo, and a rural school in Kanchanaburi, he was able to stay longer and began taking it one month at a time.
How do you know when its time to go back home and back to work when you’ve discovered freedom?
Of course not everybody does, though in Manuel’s case returning home was always part of the plan.
It’s about being real and not losing perspective. I’ll always be crazy about travel and I’ll always want more. I knew I had to confront my job situation sooner or later. I wear different glasses now but I’m the same person, I haven’t changed.
Manuel was living his dream. He wasn’t preoccupied with finding a job. So when his current job leaped up and found him while he was still travelling Asia, he followed his instinct – and it told him it was the job for him.
Manuel’s Camera Equipment
|1. Canon EOS 60D
2. Canon EF 50mm lens
3. Canon EF 24–105mm lens
4. SD cards
5. Extra hard drive
While living your dream sounds great, it’s not always easy to continue doing so. Once you’ve achieved your lifelong goal you have to start aiming for something else. Moving forward can be hard to accept.
Though when travelling is the dream you’re living, there are many new or parallel aspirations to be discovered along the way. This was the case for Manuel. He’d been blogging about his journey for friends and, with their encouragement, decided to share his blog with journalists in Mexico. Pretty soon travel magazines and other publications were publishing his photographs, which for Manuel had always been an unobtainable, utopian dream.
I was encouraged by other travellers at first, and then it became a way of living. Now the torch has been passed on and I seem to inspire the travellers I meet.
Spread inspiration whenever you can – you can never have enough.