I Quit My Crappy Job and Traveled
Between 2013 and 2015, I worked at a non-profit organization in New York that paid very well, but the pay came with a hefty price: a terrible boss. This boss acted as HR, Finance, Accounting, Marketing, Facilities or whatever department she wanted to be. Her decision was always final even if it didn’t make any sense. She had that power and nobody challenged her. Nobody wanted to because nothing beats a nice paycheck every two weeks — and this boss paid certain employees well and gave nice bonuses.
In addition to doing my job, I had to endure constant condescending remarks about my work and education. Some days I would have to endure attacks on my personal life and fashion sense, and I regularly heard coworkers crying in bathrooms due to the boss’s abuse. The boss also fired people for ridiculous reasons whenever she wanted. (Why I didn’t get fired is still a mystery to me because many times I was at odds with her.) After two years, I finally gave my two-week notice and felt a wave of relief.
I immediately bought tickets to go to Hawaii with a flexible return date. I wanted to take a long vacation. I didn’t care that I would be unemployed; I had to get out of this place. I didn’t want to stay in New York because I didn’t want to run into the boss or any of my colleagues or any people associated with work. It was that bad.
Now that I’ve laid out the background, what I really want to talk about is my travel experience. My trip to Hawaii was many things. It was an escape from this horrible boss, it was a time to recover from two very stressful years of work, it was a trip of unknowns, and it was a trip of self-discovery.
Everything was spontaneous, but I had plenty of experience traveling so I wasn’t nervous. I booked a cheap flight ($389 round-trip!), found a room for rent on Airbnb ($45 per night), packed some clothes and essentials to fit in a carry-on and backpack, and flew to Hawaii. When I arrived, I took a bus to the Airbnb location. The place was decent enough and my hosts were around my age and very down-to-earth. After leaving my stuff and changing, I ventured into downtown Honolulu to walk around and get some food. I was so relaxed and happy — and I’m sure being in a place like Hawaii helped, but I know it’s also because I didn’t have to answer to my former boss. For the next few days, I learned where all the local spots were around my Airbnb. By the fifth day, I knew I wanted to stay here longer, so I extended my stay with my hosts.
I have always been an avid traveler, so I know the importance and benefits of traveling alone, but this was the first time I traveled knowing that I didn’t have to return to work. I’m so glad I did it. On some days, I would wake up early and hit five or six tourist spots. On other days, I wouldn’t wake up until noon, and then I’d hike a local trail or visit the nearby snorkeling spot and spend the rest of the day on the beach. Most days I didn’t even speak to people, but I was happy. This wasn’t just a simple vacation. I did a lot of touristy activities, but I also sat quietly, thought deeply, meditated, and reflected.
This period of travel and unemployment made me understand myself even better and gave me a new perspective on life and what I really wanted out of a career. Being unemployed made me face my strengths, weaknesses, and boundaries in ways that I couldn’t when I knew I had a job/income to fall back on. I learned that no amount of money was worth dealing with constant workplace stress and that it was important to stand up to bullies at work. Leaving a job at your own terms is always the best way to go. I quit with my head held high and dignity intact. I realized I actually don’t need a lot of money, clothes, shoes, or even friends. In fact, when I returned from Hawaii, I started doing minimalist challenges to get rid of materialistic items in my home and life (but that’s a story for another article).
By the third week in Hawaii, I wanted to extend my stay with the same hosts for a fourth week, but someone else had already reserved the room. I was a bit upset because I’d grown fond of my hosts and their extra bedroom. Then, two days before I had to check out, I got a call from a company I’d interviewed with two months ago and I was offered the position! It was a job I really wanted, but I wasn’t as thrilled as I thought I would be because I still wanted to stay in Hawaii and continue my travels. That same day, my parents called and I decided to go home and help take care of some family matters, so I accepted the job offer and booked a plane back to NYC, giving myself only one more week in Hawaii.
Knowing I would soon be making money again, I decided to treat myself. Instead of looking for another Airbnb, I booked a room at the Royal Hawaiian: Waikiki Luxury Hotel. I charged it on my credit card and splurged on some nice meals and activities. It was worth it!
To this day, my Hawaii trip ranks in my top three travel experiences because I truly learned a lot about myself. It’s okay to quit a bad job without having another job lined up. It’s okay to take a break. There are different solutions to problems and it’s definitely okay to do things out of the ordinary.
Anonymous lives in New York, loves to travel, and is always hustling to generate multiple income streams.
This story is part of The Billfold’s Experience Series.
Support The Billfold