Keith Savage – Breaking One Career to Build Another
Keith Savage of Traveling Savage is one person who has not allowed societal pressures to stop him from pursuing his career break dreams. He’s not afraid of the unconventional. In fact, his career break plans are quite unconventional! Over the next two years Keith plans to visit 8 countries for a month each (4 months total a year) while beginning a travel writing career. All with the support of his wife, who will remain at home working and taking care of their three cats.
He shares with us what led him to this point in life.
Could you tell me more about what made you decide to take a career break?
The American system of moving from childhood to adulthood usually involves going to college and identifying your future professional pursuit. Going to college also involves far too many parties and tons of interesting “flavors” of coursework. I graduated from school with degrees in creative writing and psychology, but I failed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Actually, I think I secretly knew what I’m consciously aware of now: I simply don’t want to do the kind of work that has come to typically define the word.
With no aspirations of seeking higher education after graduation, my liberal arts degrees effectively became little more than proof that I successfully completed undergraduate studies. I was on my own for job hunting, but, by the grace of some long-forgotten god, I managed to land a job as a technical writer at an amazing software company after only a few months. By any estimation this was the best “first job” I could have gotten.
And it only got better. I climbed the ladder and began managing other writers before my second anniversary. Before the end of my third year, I was managing other managers. I was accomplishing goals, reaching new heights, and excelling. It’s hard to say it, but I had never applied myself enough to excel at anything previously. But when the climbing stopped so did the rush, and I was forced to reconcile the fact that while I thrilled at the feeling of advancement I didn’t actually love the work. I had no expectations going into the job, and, after almost seven years, no goals or exit strategy.
I tried a lateral move and a new position in the hope that I would find that fire from my first few years – I really wanted to stay at this amazing company. Alas, it was not to be. There was no way I could live with myself if I “faked it,” doing just enough but never excelling or standing out. I finally forced myself to face the facts. I needed to leave. And if I would sacrifice such a great job then it would have to be for my passions: travel and creative writing.
How did you go about quitting your job?
Once I decided that I would not be satisfied in the position any longer, my wife and I started brainstorming ideas for what I could do. It wasn’t as simple as going to a different company – I loved where I worked and the people I worked with. Ultimately I decided to return to my creative writing roots and meld it with my other love of travel. Identifying my passions has been the hardest part of this entire process, and they are not set in stone. They are fluid, and the best I could do was identify things I enjoyed doing.
I started formulating a plan and then crunched numbers to see how we could work the finances. I forecasted the number of months I needed to work to continue saving and we switched our lifestyle to adhere to a strict budget (which was quite new for us). The months rolled by and we steadily accomplished our monetary goals. Then one day six weeks before my planned departure I spoke with my boss and let her know I was leaving. It was as “simple” as that.
And what were people’s reactions?
People’s reactions have ranged from congratulatory to half-jealous to muted. I haven’t been privy to any wild or outrageous responses. Most people seem to respect me for following my dreams and actually doing the work to make them happen. I’ve been very grateful to have avoided negativity and jealousy from friends and family about my choice, though some have struggled with my giving up a good job. I’ve made it clear that it’s been difficult to come to this conclusion, but that my priorities are not governed by money and as such I can’t allow it to keep me locked into a career that won’t make me happy.