How My Career Break Became My Career
In 2009 my husband and I had a very typical American life. We both had 9-5 cubicle jobs, owned a house, a car, and a whole bunch of other stuff. We were on track: bigger house, bigger car, promotions, and, eventually, retirement.
But I was miserable.
I’m not knocking that life path, but the truth is I tried it, and it wasn’t for me. A bigger house wasn’t going to make me happy and neither was a promotion. I’d always dreamed of writing for a living, and I wanted desperately to travel the world, but somewhere along the line I’d set aside my dreams to chase a very traditional model of success.
At first, I felt that I was crazy for even thinking about giving everything up that I’d worked so hard for in order to chase a dream. Then I felt guilty and selfish for being unhappy with the life I had when so many others seemed so desperately to want it.
Who was I to want more? Why couldn’t I be happy with what I had?
And then there was my husband, who I knew wasn’t exactly jumping for joy in his paper-pushing cubicle job, but who also wasn’t longing for a life of creativity and adventure in the same way that I was. How could I ask him to give up the life we’d built? What would he possibly think of my deeply held desires for a different sort of life?
It’s hard to express this all in a few hundred words when I could fill a book (and have!) with the emotions we worked through and the actions we took to turn this dream into a reality. When I first breached the chuck-it-all-and-travel idea to my husband, he was surprised and skeptical, as you might imagine. But over time he came to believe in the passion and purpose I felt about following my dream. When it came down to it, he saw that the risk might reap great rewards, and even if it didn’t, we could always go back to our old careers. We knew we were resourceful and would not spend the remainder of our lives jobless and homeless (though it was a fear, believe me).
Over time, my husband warmed to the idea. And then the unexpected happened: the enthusiasm he saw in me as I chased my own dream got him thinking about what he wanted out of his own life. There was a time when he wanted to work outdoors and teach people about the natural world. He’d even briefly gone to school to be a park ranger. Why had he given up on it?
So we leapt. We were terrified but exhilarated all at once.
For the next 20 months we visited 20 countries on 5 continents. We swam with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, trekked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, climbed mountains in the Himalayas, drove a rickshaw through India, walked across Spain and bicycled through Vietnam. We met incredible people and learned more than we could ever have imagined.
And somewhere along the way we realized that our lives had been transformed, irreversibly, forever.
My writing career is growing stronger every day, and last September I published my first book, called Life On Fire: A Step-By-Step Guide To Living Your Dreams. I wrote the book for everyone standing on the cusp of a gigantic dream. I know you are terrified and questioning things. But you are not alone. My book gives you the skills and inspiration to navigate the road to your dreams. Believe me, the journey is worth it.
My husband and I would still be traveling today if it weren’t for an unexpected opportunity that came our way. We’ve been hired, as a team, by Backpacker Magazine to travel around the U.S. giving presentations about backpacking skills, gear, and travel destinations. It’s the sort of job we never would have been qualified for had we not followed my dream, and the new job fits perfectly with Brian’s re-discovered dream.
We never could have guessed the twists and turns of life that have lead us to where we are today. And we have no idea what will happen next. The possibility and potential of our future excites me every day. Where I could once sit down at my cubicle and picture the next 30 years of my working life, I now sit down at my computer each morning and know that there are a lifetime of adventures and stories out there with my name on it. I can’t wait to live them.
Kim is a writer whose took a career break in 2012 and never looked back. Her book, Life On Fire: A Step-By-Step Guide To Living Your Dreams is available on Amazon here. You can read all about her journey on her blog So Many Places.