Quality of Life Priority Number One
After his five month career break with his now wife, Matt Goudreau sees how that time helped them set both their life and work priorities.
It all started on New Years Day 2009. After two months of dating, my ladyfriend Shara and I made an impromptu decision to celebrate our upcoming birthdays in London and Paris, which would be my first big international trip.
So, one month later, we went. We ate, drank, saw the sights – loving every second of it. You could say we caught the “travel bug.” At that point we had a similar revelation: we were merely content with our jobs; the word “happy” was never used. She being 29, me 31, and both kid-free, we thought it was the ideal time to take a leap. Like many other dreamers, we wanted to leave our jobs and travel the world. Easy decision, tougher reality.
We spent March and April figuring out how we could actually do this (i.e. budget), where we would potentially go, length of trip, and what would we do when we returned. After much research, we decided with great excitement to make the leap; however, we figured we’d need the next 8 months to work the details out.
First up, we worked somewhat backwards. We determined we’d resign from our jobs at the end of 2009, and travel in early 2010. After 8 successful years of working in sales in NYC, Shara wanted to give it all up to pursue her passion and return for her masters in Psychology. Using that as a guide, we figured 5 months of travel would be ideal. We could return by June, then settle into a location for next Fall. For me, I was thrilled to go along for the ride not knowing where we would wind up. I wanted to use my 10 years of marketing experience and turn it into freelance work wherever we landed. Time would eventually tell if that would pan out.
After riding the high of determining our timeline, the real fun began. Next, we spent the summer mapping out our route. Australia, Vietnam, and Portugal topped my list, while China, Cambodia, and Spain led the way for Shara. So we plotted along our route – starting in Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand, moving our way across China and Southeast Asia, then onto Egypt and Israel, eventually closing the world tour in Europe.
We then started to get other details in order – such as insurance, storage, hotels, visas and travel medications. Taking care of as much as we could prior to our departure allowed us to freely immerse ourselves into every aspect of the trip.
We continued to crank out our to-do list, eventually getting to our departure date. On January 19th, after 17 hours of flying, we landed in Fiji! The feeling was unlike any other. It was a bit unsettling to think we just left our jobs, our apartment, our family, friends, and country, and wouldn’t see it again for five months, but we felt like it was going to be worth every second of it.
It took a few weeks to get use to the lifestyle, but we eventually settled in and experienced a five-month, 17 country stretch that changed our lives. We drove the coast in Australia, hiked the Great Wall in China, went skydiving in New Zealand, biked back roads in Cambodia, prayed in Israel, witnessed protests in Bangkok, and tasted the fine green wine in Portugal. We met a lot of great people along the way and learned a lot on different perspectives that other cultures have on every day life.
While the actual trip was a bit surreal, the best part to us was that we were able to take this time to evaluate our lives and see what we really wanted going forward. Quality of life was priority number one, and enjoying our work was priority number two.
This led to our decision that when we returned, we’d re-locate to South Florida, where Shara would embark on her masters program. We love the sun, and for me, the thought of freelancing from home with the windows open and sun shining couldn’t have been more appealing. Plus, we were still on the same coast as our family and friends, which was the most important factor in our decision.
Since we’ve returned, we’ve settled in smoothly. Shara is rocking and rolling at the University, and after a few months of determination & persistence, I found steady freelance work and have enjoyed it.
Our career break not only provided us with the direction we wanted for our next steps in the working world, but also led us to our next steps in life. There’s no set way to do it, there’s a million ways to make the break. But for anyone who can take that step and make the leap, it may be the best decision you’ll ever make.
Oh, and one more thing for any couples out there, many wondering how spending 5 months together for 24/7 works out. Well, for us, it did, and soon after we returned, we got engaged and are now married!
To read more personal accounts of people taking control of their lives, check out the following stories: