A Life of Travel: Why I Quit the Rat Race

Let me just start by saying that I don’t want to be that guy – You know, the self-righteous hippy that slates “Corporate Sell Outs” and all of that; rest-assured I am not that guy. We all need to work for a living. The corporate environment just isn’t for me.

Throughout University, I worked incredibly hard, excelling in every class and graduating with First Class Honours. I accepted my first graduate position with pride and put my all into my Career, sacrificing my personal life to accommodate short deadlines and International business trips and thus quickly working my way up to a Middle Management position. However, as I spent more and more time immersed in the corporate culture, I realised the true nature of it.

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We graduate University assuming all is well and equal. We believe that if we work hard, we will be recognised and rewarded accordingly.  In reality, the “old school” way of business is still very much existent in today’s corporate society, no matter how much we try to insist that it has changed, or that the working environment has become more equal.

Recognition is all about who shouts the loudest and whom draws attention to their ideas and achievements. Promotions and opportunities still favour those who play the schmooze game and are well connected with the Senior Management team.
The hard worker who arrives at the Office early in the Morning and leaves later in the Evening? The more you act in this manner, the more that you will be put upon and it assumed that you can handle or even, desire, the additional workload.

As a Woman in the workplace? I am a strong believer that you are still considered a Woman first, and a co-worker second. People still make assumptions about you as a person based on appearances. For me, working in a very male-dominated Procurement environment, it was a struggle to be taken as seriously as my male counter parts were. The first few months at a role were spent proving that no, I am not a Bimbo and yes, please don’t worry, I am indeed familiar with VLOOKUPs and Pivot Tables.
It is almost as though your professional and academic achievements are considered negated by a flick of pink MAC lipstick and a pair of high heels.

I didn’t care to jump on the heads of my colleagues just to be recognised for my work over theirs, it isn’t in my character. I found those that acted in this way rather embarrassing. The way that they would treat Senior Executives in an almost God like manner, deemed unapproachable for normal topics of conversation made me cringe.

I realised that I was just not all that motivated by money. Coming from a working class background, I have never really had a lot, so I have never needed a lot. I was partial to the occasional pair of Jimmy Choos, but they were not a prerequisite to my happiness.

My only reason for entering this career path in the first place was so that I could earn enough to live a comfortable lifestyle – enough so that I could afford to travel the World during my vacation days and enough that I could socialise with my friends during the weekends and evenings.

Sometimes it feels that our self worth in the Western World is measured by our job title, the money that we earn, and the brands and cars that we parade around in.

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I was a walking contradiction: negotiating multi-million dollar deals during working hours, and then packing up my hiking gear to backpack and volunteer in Asia on my vacation days.
I would meet inspiring people on each trip that I took – travellers who valued life and experience over material possessions and status, local people who were incredibly happy despite having very little.

Returning from my trips to my cubicle made me realise that I wanted to do something with more substance. The negotiations that I was conducting, and the work that I was doing was purely lining the pockets of the investors.
I wanted to do something whereby I was helping people, and making a difference. I wanted to be able to look back on life and know that I had done some good.
I had been living a life that I thought that society expected of me, and not following what I really wanted to be doing.

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My colleagues couldn’t understand why I would want to go off trekking through jungles and off-the-beaten track villages in my free time, and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t have more desire to explore the World around us. Having lived abroad and travelled long term previously, I found it difficult to settle back in to the 9-5 lifestyle. I couldn’t relate to people on the same level that I could as friends I had met on the road, and I missed the International community that shared my wanderlust.

People thought I was crazy and foolish to step out of such a high paid job, and hey, maybe I was. Perhaps I shouldn’t have put so much thought into the moral side of it, and just enjoyed the pay and perks that came with it.

It wasn’t an easy or sporadic decision to leave my career behind. I had flirted with the idea for a few years before making the leap.
Travel is wonderful, and I am sure a lot of us would love to travel permanently; however this lifestyle is not sustainable. I had to assess my options for making a nomadic lifestyle possible. Thankfully there are a plethora of working and volunteering opportunities around the globe for us Millennials today. I have a few freelance writing gigs to help fund my adventures, and from August I will be taking a slower travel pace by teaching in Korea to help save for my onward travels.

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I don’t expect to change the World, but if I can continue giving other Women the confidence to travel through my writing, and if I can make an impact to people’s prospects and education through teaching and volunteering, I know I can sit back and reflect when I’m a chubbly old British lady sitting in my living room, stuffing my face with tea and biscuits and be pleased with the eventful life I have lived – even if it did mean living it in slightly less impressive footwear than my Jimmy Choos..

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7 Comments
  1. Good for you! Just be careful out there. As I’m sure you know, there are some countries where women traveling solo can find themselves in a difficult situation. Always let someone know where you are and where you’re going. That said, have a blast!

  2. Hey there, just recently found your blog! Thank you for sharing your experience in the work force and your decision to quit. The choice to travel is a personal one, I’m glad to hear that you are making choices that are right for you. I also appreciate you calling out sexism in the workforce – still rampant, globally, and it’s an important component of the conversation.

    Good luck with your future travel plans and enjoy Korea!!

    1. Hey Alissa, thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind comments 🙂 It’s not a lifestyle for everyone, but there are so many societal pressures to do certain things and by a certain age these days. I’m a big believer that we should follow what we want. Safe travels too! I look forward to following your adventures through your blog 🙂

  3. Hi Melissa

    I met your mother yesterday. Your mum is a longstanding friend of mine, so is your dad too. I haven’t seen your mum for three years and we had a lot to talk about. The subject of travel came up in the conversation, as it is a mutual interest and your mum told me about your exploits, including giving you up a well paid job, in order to follow your dream. Your mum also urged me to look at your blog site. I have to say that I am very impressed with it. You have done a very professional job. I visited South Korea in Nov 2012 and I loved it. I travelled to various places such as Chuncheon, Gangneung and obviously Seoul. One of the quirkiest places I visited was the Sun Cruise Resort hotel in Jeongdongin. It was built in the shape of an ocean going liner on top of a cliff. The hotel even pipes in the sound of the gentle throb of a ship’s engines, to make the experience more realistic. Let me say, that you inspire me in what you have done. I wish you all the success in what you do. I have travelled the world my own too, but did not have the nerve to do what you have done. You must visit South America sometime, and Israel too, as it is a young person’s country. I agree with your sentiments about this particular blog about traveling solo as an introvert. I have made quite a few friends on my travels and I keep in touch with them either on Facebook or by e mail.
    Regards
    Sean

  4. I must admit that I still work in the corporate world, but I also enjoy traveling. I enjoy my job immensely, but do look forward to the day that I can comfortably retire for a life of more travel and leisure. I am impressed that you were able to live the corporate world, that takes guts! At this point in my life, I’m not sure I could make the same leap.

    I also must note that I am a woman in an incredibly male dominated industry, and have not found it to be a hindrance in my upward mobility. I am just as well respected as my male counterparts.

    1. Hi Danielle, thanks for your comment.
      Oh absolutely, you can definitely enjoy a balance between both having a career and enjoying travel during your vacation days – I did the same for a few years and it really made me appreciate and look forward to the time that I did have away.
      I am glad to hear that being a woman in a male environment is not an issue for you. Every company is different, that was just my personal experience and I wanted to write a post about my personal story and what led me to make such a drastic change in direction, as I often get asked the question.
      Safe travels!

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