There have been plenty of stories about people quitting their day jobs to take the road less traveled – be it working from home, starting their own business, or traveling. I am among that brave group who had a good, full time salary job, but walked away from it without looking back.
This is my story.
I had been at my job for 2 years and for the most part I enjoyed what I was doing. I was getting to write 2-3 articles per week, and on top of that I was digging into some marketing work as well. The main problem for me was being stuck in a cube all day every day with no freedom. Over the two years I was there it really started to impact my life. My posture was terrible from hunching over a desk all day and I started having back problems. My vision was getting worse from straining my eyes staring at a screen all day. I started developing anxiety from it, and even suffered from a panic attack at work that landed me in the ER.
It didn’t matter if all my work was done, I had to sit there and stare at my computer screen. The culture at the company wasn’t great either, so that didn’t help. No perks what so ever. The owner treated me like a kid, like he was doing me a favor by giving me a job. I felt underappreciated. I had been going back and forth for a while about quitting, not knowing what I would do instead. The final straw was getting called into HR and basically getting put on probation for taking a sick day without having any sick days left. I was shocked that I was being treated that way by a small family run company (whose HR person was the owners wife,) after being there for two years and never having any issues. I always did what I was asked, and I did a good job at it. That was it for me, I couldn’t waste another second of my life there.
So I did it. I put in my two weeks notice. I was really nervous at first and I had no clue what I was going to do for money, but I knew I would never work in an office like that again. Cube life works for a lot of people, but not me. I planned a two week solo road trip, and decided that when I got home I would pursue my dream of becoming a free lance writer. When I was younger, I wanted to be a photo-journalist for National Geographic and travel the world taking pictures of exotic animals and remote landscapes, writing about my adventures along the way.
It took a while to land something but I am now writing for three online companies, all about things I’m interested in. I write about travel, and the town I live in. I write about relationships and give dating advice to my fellow millennials. I write about health, diet and fitness. I also just had a feature on a Women’s outdoor adventure site. I’m making my way.
Taking that first step was scary, but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Since I quit, which was October 1, 2016, I have traveled all over Colorado, to Jackson Hole (twice,) Boise, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Sarasota and Concordia, MO. In the next couple of months I have trips to New Hampshire and Austin planned. I would have never been able to travel like I am if I were still working my 9-5 desk job – having limited vacation days and strict managers.
Now my days are spent hiking, reading, traveling, writing, taking pictures and being creative – and this is only the beginning. I get to make my own schedule, and do what I want when I want to do it. There’s nothing holding me back.
For anyone who is facing a decision like this, whether or not to quit your job because you’re unhappy and follow your dreams, I highly encourage you to take the plunge. You may not make as much money, or have a stable income, or have health insurance through work – but you will be so much happier and your quality of life will improve vastly. It will be okay, you will be okay, and you won’t regret it – I didn’t. For me, life is not about making money and wasting away in an office cube. It’s about exploration, experience, and personal happiness.
I love traveling and I live for road trips. I am most at peace when I am out in the wilderness sleeping under the stars. But I am always with someone, never alone. When I decided to take this two week solo road trip, it was because I had been stuck at a desk job for two years with limited vacation time. I was so over it and so stir crazy I was about to burst. I had to take this trip, even if no one could go with me, for my own sanity and happiness. I needed a reset. So, I put in my two weeks notice and started planning.
Portland was the fourth stop on my trip. I had already visited friends in Jackson and Boise. My boyfriend flew out to meet me in Seattle where we spent the weekend wandering the city like true tourists and exploring the rainforest coast. Here in Portland, I was truly alone for the first time. I had no one to stay with and I didn’t know a single person in the city.
I was a little nervous when I first woke up in my empty hotel room. For a minute, I didn’t know what to do. Then I realized I could do whatever I wanted. There didn’t need to be a conversation about making plans or deciding on what works best for other people. It was just me. I got in my car and drove about 20 miles out of the city along the Columbia River. A huge tourist attraction, Multnomah Falls, was my destination.
You’ve probably seen pictures of this massive, incredible water fall. I think it’s used as a generic screen saver photo on computers. It’s the one that falls into a high pool, broken up by a foot bridge, and then a second falls down to the bottom where the river continues. Seeing it in person was almost unexplainable, a feeling I struggle to put into words. The size of the water fall, the power behind it, the cool spray that hit you even standing so far away, the lush green forest that surrounded it – it was truly something else. Standing in front of this I felt so small, yet so empowered. I couldn’t help but foolishly smile from ear to ear. I walked up to the foot bridge to see it from a different perspective, this one much closer.
The trail continued up and I decided to keep going, to hike the whole thing to the top. The trail was extremely steep and my calves were burning almost instantly, but I wasn’t stopping. On the way up I saw every shade of green in the leaves and ferns and moss. There were multiple spots where water was trickling down the rock canyon walls around me. The tree roots weaving in and out of each other. It was enchanting.
At the top I observed a few things. First, the people: there was a group of teenagers sitting by the water smoking pot, not trying to hide it at all. A young couple also sitting by the water on a blanket eating sandwiches. A father and son standing on the look-out platform looking at the view. A large family taking picture after picture. And me.
The look-out platform is not something for anyone who’s afraid of heights. It jets out over the rocks and the view is straight down. Here I could see the waterfall dropping beneath me and the river running strong out in front of me. I could also see all the people down below, and all the cars in the parking lot, and the drivers on the road heading back into the city. I stood there and just stared for a few minutes before making my descent. This was the moment I had been searching for. This moment was the entire reason why I took this trip.
At home in Colorado, I hike all the time, it’s one of my favorite past times. In fact, it’s sort of my religion, as cheesy as that sounds, but true. However, I very rarely hike alone. When I do, I’m not really alone because I always bring my dog with me. This solo hike was a special treat.
Once back in Portland city limits, I walked from my hotel out to the river front and through the park. I walked into the downtown area past the university and all the store fronts. I found myself in line at Voodoo Donut where I got three large donuts that I proceeded to eat for dinner that night and breakfast and lunch the following day.
Traveling alone can be so freeing and it’s something I highly suggest every woman do at least once in her lifetime. It can teach you a lot about yourself and allow you the time and head space to accurately evaluate your life. I don’t like spending too much time alone, and this was the first time I traveled by myself. The experience changed me, and opened me up to a part of myself I didn’t know was there all along.
I could have been done after this, just got back in the car and drove home. However, I stayed in Portland a few more days and then continued south. California, is a whole different story.