I Quit My Job to Travel

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Quitting to Travel

It wasn’t quite as inspiring as how Tom Cruise did it in Jerry McGuire (a guilty pleasure of mine), nor did it check off the ‘quit a job dramatically’ item on my bucket list, but it still felt pretty good to hand in my resignation and explain to my boss and my co-workers that I was going to quit my job to live in China and get some more travel under my belt.

Hell, it wasn’t even as exciting as reading Kieu’s entry about quitting her job to embark on a round the world trip with her boy and GQ Trippin’ partner in crime.

popcorn machine and red carpet
What other workplace puts out a red carpet, popcorn, and a fairy floss (cotton candy) machine on a work day?

But that didn’t mean I didn’t smile as co-workers talked about being jealous of my upcoming travels or friends congratulated me on being able to escape the rat race.

And that’s just what I was doing. While I did enjoy my work and absolutely adored my work environment, one of the things I’ve said from the very start of Aussie on the Road was that I was trying to avoid an ordinary existence. And while call center work isn’t the 9 to 5 doldrums that I’d always prayed to avoid, it wasn’t exactly the liberated life of the bohemian traveler I’d like to be.

And so, I decided to quit my job. I might have had a new gig lined up in advance, but said new gig is in Nanjing, China – so I figure it’s still pretty ballsy.

Farewell iiNet

For the seven or so months I’ve been back in Sydney since my midnight run from South Korea in early 2011, I’ve been lucky enough to work at what is without a doubt one of the best employer’s in Australia.

A man with some sangria
Free sangria at an iiNet party!

While we might not be making mad money answering phones and handling customer complaints at Australia’s second biggest internet service provider, we’re definitely treated a lot better than what I experienced during my time with Telstra (Australia’s #1 provider) or how friends at other call centers seem to be treated.

In addition to a crazy amount of free food and drink, regular social outings, unrestricted access to the internet at work, free weekly massages, and discounted internet – the entire call center always felt like a home away from home to me. I can’t recall a day where I wasn’t greeted with a friendly face as I entered the break room or settled in for a day on the phones.

There were also regular opportunities to head over to one of our off-shore (Auckland, Manilla, or Cape Town) centers on three months secondment that would have been a great way to get a bit of travel under my belt, but the chance to jet off to China was too good to refuse.

I wrote more about what a fantastic workplace last week, but suffice to say that while I wasn’t exactly sad to hang up on that last phone call – it was sad to have the elevator door close behind me and step out into the warm evening air knowing I’d never be there again.

To George, Bathurst, Daniel, Belinda, Omar, both Michael’s, Patrick, Ben, Mark, Alastair, Tim, Samantha, Johnny Ho, Cam, Timm, and Matt – thanks for all of the entirely inappropriate conversations, in jokes, and helping make even the most obnoxious customers bearable.

To Urmi, Amber, Mabel, Katie, Crystal, and Lauren. Thanks for being both great eye candy and genuinely fun people to chat with.

To Brenden, Ross, and Craig – thanks for being fantastic team leaders and helping to make my time there so pleasant. Brenden in particular deserves a huge high-five for his wonderful support with my battle with depression.

And to the girl who earned me the nickname of ‘photo booth’: thanks for the memories…

A Fitting Farewell

So many of my early evenings at iiNet were spent at the very groovy Stratton’s Hotel (which I’ve previously mentioned in my Ode to the Pub Meal for its fantastic schnitzels), so it was fitting that a few of us headed down there after the final phone call had ended.

Tim, Ben, Alastair, Urmi, Arfan, Poland, George, Michael, and I were soon standing in the regular spot that seems to be claimed by employees of iiNet.

While I did say in my post about depression that I was going to quit drinking, I’ve recently ‘softened’ that rule. While I am enjoying the occasional social beer or glass of wine over dinner, I’m still determined to avoid slipping back into old habits of binge drinking to the point of black-out. Thus far I’ve managed that without too much hassle.

So it was that I had a couple of beers and one delicious glass of Canadian Club & cola before it was time to bid everybody farewell, so that I’d be home and in bed early enough to be up for my early train trip back to sleepy Ben Lomond to spend some quality time with the family.

farewell drinks
Alastair, Urmi, myself, Tim, and Ben enjoying farewell drinks at the Stratton.

Thanks to Urmi for getting this (blurry) shot of us all together to commemorate the occasion.

Nervous

I write this having just returned from a fun five-day visit to my family home in Ben Lomond. I’ve got an entry or two in the works about my time there and a pretty epic adventure I went on during that time, so keep your eyes peeled.

My visa paperwork and official invitation to teach in China is due to arrive this Friday. From there it’s a matter of submitting the application, waiting a few business days, and picking it all up before I fly out (hopefully) next Friday.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about all of this. It was fun to daydream about the day I would quit my job as I sat at my desk and clock-watched, but the realities of it are hitting me now that it’s actually in motion.

It hit home when I had to hug my brother, Dom goodbye at the train station yesterday morning and realized I hadn’t had a chance to say a proper goodbye to Leigh before I’d left. It’s hard to fathom not seeing either of them until next year. While I’ll see my parents and younger siblings next week when they come down to see me off, it’ll be a long while before I see Dom; Leigh; my sister Heather; or my adorable nephew, Ezekiel again.

Chris, Dom, and Leigh Bush
Posing with my brothers, Dominik and Leigh, before I left for Korea in 2007

I’ve also got a lot of packing, cleaning, and farewelling to do before next Friday. While I’m certainly looking forward to the social side of that and appreciate that my time is in such high demand, I’m not looking forward to the inevitable sadness when the cab door closes or the bus pulls up and it’s time for me to bid another good friend adieu.

Friends in a boat
Magro, Dave, Steph, and I together at Tea Gardens in 2011

The Scary Road

I’m more excited than I can ever recall being before embarking on a new travel adventure, but that doesn’t make this part any easier. There’ll be a few tears shed before the plane touches down in Nanjing.

But nothing worth having is necessarily easy to get. I remember well nights in Korea spent crying because I missed my family or my friends. I recall how difficult it was celebrating Christmas away from home and how it felt to be away from the family when they needed me there.

Kiwi Basecamp, Christchurch
Backpack at the ready as I arrive in Christchurch in 2010

It’s easy to dwell on those fears. I think a lot of people let those fears lock them into a life that isn’t necessarily the one they want. It might seem like the decision to quit my job to travel was some cavalier decision that I made, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

I fairly agonized over whether or not to do this. Was I ready? Was China were I wanted to be? Would I be happy there? Would I able to adjust to teaching older students? Was I leaving Sydney for the right reasons?

The easy thing to do would have been to suck it up and stay in my current situation. I could continue saving for the US trip I’ve been daydreaming about or my planned return to Fiji. I could take a few weekend trips in the hope that they would help abate the wanderlust that has gripped me for the past six months.

Or I could ignore that nagging voice, swallow my fears, and take the plunge. It’s never an easy thing to leave the security of friends and family and a secure pay check doing a job you’re comfortable in. But if I only ever took the easy route, I’d be married with four kids and managing a Bi-Lo supermarket in my home town.

And that, my friends, would make for bloody boring living and bloody boring blogging.

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27 comments

  1. YAAAAYYY!!!!! It’s scary at first… and overwhelming AND exciting.. but coming from someone who quit her job 3 years ago and hasn’t gone back, it will be the best thing you ever do in your life! XOXOX Good luck 🙂

  2. Incredibly excited and happy for you as you begin to embark on this new adventure!  There’s always a bit of anxiety as you see everything come together, but once you arrive in China, I’m sure you are going to fall in love with live abroad again.  Couldn’t be happier for you!

  3. Best of Luck Chris on your latest overseas adventure

    And thanks for the mention in your post

    FYI:  They have just announced a 3 month secondment of Manila and your work from application is complete 😉

    cheers mate

  4. Good for you! It’s always tough leaving a good thing behind for the unknown (I’ve left good jobs in Shanghai and Singapore without having anything lined up next) but it’s going to be such a fun adventure! Can’t wait to see how you get on in China =)

  5. A ha ha ha, I think I am almost ready to write a similar post myself!  The questioning, the angst about making the big step, and the anxiety about whether it’s the right move.
    Like you, I think if the idea of quitting a job for travel wasn’t ok for me, I would imagine I would have the dreaded 3 Ms by now – Matrimony, Mortgage and Maternity! Scary, scary!!!
    Being away from family and friends is definitely the tough part about such decisions and steps.

    But the most important part of it all is this: Don’t ever wonder….  Don’t even wish you had’ve…

    Good luck for the next transition!  And hugs to you for the tough farewells and the ‘oh shit, what have I done’ moments at the other end!

  6. I think you’ve made a great decision 🙂  I think it’s exactly what you need… even if it means you wont get to meet my parents, your future in-laws, when we come to Sydney.

    What are you doing with that trip to Fiji you bought?

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