Why We Quit Good Jobs to Travel on a Family Gap Year

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Have you ever woken up on a Monday morning with that sickening dread in the pit of your stomach that it’s the beginning of another work week? Sure, we all have some days when there’s a work project we’re not excited about or we partied too hard over the weekend. Nope, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the kind of dread that doesn’t go away and you start to wonder what the point of it all is anyway. Yep, that was me. 

Steve Jobs was the one who famously said, “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” Well for us, something desperately needed to change. I had been working as a property manager and Brett was working as a product manager in IT. What started out as an incredible opportunity and amazing job for me, became unbearable as the requirements no longer fit with my personality. I was forced to say no way too often and it felt like no matter how hard I worked, there would always be more to do and residents that would never be happy. I told myself that was part of the job and tried to grow thick skin, but when I got a scathing review on Yelp and I was not able to really do anything about it (as I was just an employee and not the owner), I knew the writing was on the wall.  

I turned in my notice and we started packing up. Not only was I leaving a job, but since our home was part of my compensation package we needed to move too. So, you can see this was no easy decision. 

The crazy thing is, our family trip was only supposed to be a summer break - the last summer before Eleanor started school and a way to reset before searching for my next job opportunity. However, now that we’ve gotten through the mess of putting our stuff into storage, quitting a good job, and have a few countries under our belt, we have decided to continue to travel for the full year. 

We’ve been getting several questions from family and friends and most of it boils down to wondering WHY we are traveling. It’s been just over 2 months since we left so we thought it would be a good time to solidify this ourselves. 

We travel as a family to grow closer

Everyday that Eleanor grows older, I realize that she needs me a little less. Yes, my job as a parent is to help her learn to navigate this world on her own, but that does not mean I have to like letting go. This year will be a special time for us to bond together when the things around us are strange and foreign. We can laugh over the little differences, learn to speak words in new languages, and try new food. We will cry when getting a new scrape on the playground and saying goodbye to new friends. But, we will do it together - as one family unit. 

There have already been times when traveling has not been easy. We are together nearly 24/7 and that can wear on you. Since we have fewer friends on the road, Eleanor asks us to play with her all the time. We are trying to find our balance because while there is tons of fun to be had, there are lots of things to do, blog posts to write, and constant laundry to finish. Our small annoying habits get harder to ignore when we are with each other all the time, but these are things we have to work on, whether we are in an apartment in Chicago or an Airbnb in Prague

We travel as a family to see the world before it is too late

Back in 2011, we lost Brett’s dad to melanoma. Hands down, this has been the hardest thing we have experienced and I can only speak to this as a wife and daughter-in-law. Losing a parent, when they have so much life ahead of them, is earth-shattering. There is a different filter through which we see the world now. 

Brett’s dad was only 63 years old when he died and had just retired 2 years earlier. He loved going to the caribbean and spending the winter months golfing in the southern states. His whole life was spent working hard for his family, providing them a nice stable life, and looking forward to retirement on a good pension. That was taken away from him and he was given no choice. 

We are determined to not put off our dreams of seeing the world as we do not know what the future holds for us. So we are traveling now. 

We travel as a family to be adventurous

So often we can get stuck in a rut and the same routine. It can be hard to change because it’s comfortable when you know what to expect on a daily basis. The unknown is scary and at times feels like it will break you. But, it can also be beautiful and fun and surprisingly comfortable too. 

Traveling puts that spirit of adventure back in our souls. It causes us to adapt, to be flexible and willing to adjust our sails. While so much is familiar, we have to learn new systems every single day. We meet new people, taste new food, hear new sounds, and it makes us want more. All of this learning keeps our minds sharp and our hearts open. In an ever changing world, we feel there is no better gift we can give our daughter than this ability to observe one’s surroundings, empathize with those you meet, and acclimate to the road ahead. 

We travel as a family because travel makes us happy

Returning to travel is like seeing an old friend after years of being apart. Brett and I have always loved seeing the world and traveling has been a part of our big milestones. We met at college in a different state away from each of our childhood homes, got engaged in Argentina, married in Mexico, and traveled Europe for six months when Eleanor was only a year old. The desire to see the world and experience other cultures is our one constant - our north star and it makes us incredibly happy. 

The question of “what would you do if money were no object” always comes back to traveling. No matter the iteration or the means, the end goal is to have time and freedom to travel. As Eleanor gets older and school becomes a factor, we will have less freedom to pack up and leave whenever we like. That’s why we’re traveling now. 

Are we running from something? 

We’ve made sure to ask ourselves this over and over because we want our life choices to come from a place of abundance and not fear. While I wish I could say the answer is “absolutely not”, it’s more like “no, but there are things I do not wish to go back to”. 

I am running away from the person I was becoming before we left - a stressed-out workaholic mom who barely saw my child and was exhausted when I did. Daily life before was filled with the get ready in the morning routine, rush out the door, work like a mad-woman, squeeze in one last email before making dinner, get Eleanor ready for bed, and often feeling the need to finish up more work before finally getting to sleep. I saw Eleanor for about 3 hours a day and only about an hour of that could begin to qualify as quality time. That was not a life I could sustain.

Traveling allows us a little breathing room to break from the routine and examine what we truly want in life. As summer ends, it’s time for us to get more serious too. There are hard questions to answer over this next year and I am looking forward to hopefully finding the answers. 

So, is long term family travel right for you? It’s tough for me to tell you because it is such a personal decision. For us, travel seems to be in our blood. We need the excitement of new places, a change in our environment, and a way to spice up routine. We’re not attached to the idea of owning a home or a pension plan. Most of our family and friends think we’re crazy, but love us anyway (we are seriously lucky in this department!). For now, it works. But, we also know that travel for us is not indefinite. We plan to return home and get Eleanor in school. This will have it’s own challenges, but for today, we are living our dream.

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