6 Month Honeymoon: Why It Was The Best Thing For My Career
When I told people that I was quitting my job to travel for 6 months almost always the first response I got was “What about your career?” or “What will you do for work?” This was especially true for my parents and grandparents. “You’re 28 Damien, are you sure now is the right time to take 6 months away from work?”. There’s no doubts I was worried about the career ramifications, but by the stage I was telling people my plans I had already made my decision.
Roughly 2 years ago I sat myself down and attempted to write up a 10 year plan. My plan started at 27 years old, stretching out to 37. I started by writing a list of the things I wanted to achieve; progress my career, travel the world, live overseas, get married, start a family, etc. Working backwards, I realised that if I wanted to start a family before 35 I better get cracking on the rest of the list, because once a family comes along I know that will be priority number one. The difficulty was figuring out how to make it all work. After some lengthy talks with my fiancee, we decided that we will both resign from our jobs, get married, travel the world, and move to Europe all in the space of 6 months. Initially our parents thought we were insane, and to be honest, at times I thought I had bitten off more than i could chew.
Travelling the world and living overseas were 2 things that I have always known I wanted to do. I’ve been lucky enough to take holidays all over the world, a few weeks at a time, but I’ve never truly “travelled the world” for an extended period. I never took a gap year, which is something I have always regretted. Trying to plan a honeymoon with less than 3 weeks annual leave in the bank just wasn’t cutting it, so we decided to take a 6 month honeymoon as a one way trip to Europe.
Living and working overseas is also something that’s been on my to-do list for as long as I can remember. I always had reasons why it wasn’t the right time - whether It was opportunities at work, leaving the country whilst having elderly grandparents, or simply not knowing where we would live or what I would do for work. The biggest motivator for Britney and I to travel and move overseas was a couple of tragic deaths in both of our families. We both lost an uncle within 12 months of each other, and they were both far too young. The lesson we learnt from this was that life is short. There is no such thing as the perfect time.
12 months of planning was barely enough to prepare us for the most hectic and amazing week of our lives. In less than 2 weeks we both quit our jobs, pulled off an amazing DIY wedding, packed up our entire house, and left the country on a one way ticket. As I write this I am sitting aboard the Trans-Mongolian railway somewhere in Siberia between Beijing and Moscow, 5 and half months into our trip. We both wrote a travel bucket list of things that we wanted to see/do before we left. So far we’ve crossed a fair few from the list, with many more to come. Some of the highlights so far are as follows (images at the end):
• Cherry blossom season in Japan
• Diving with whale sharks in Philippines
• Hiking Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka
• Learning to Scuba dive in Thailand
• Sleeping on a Junk Boat in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
• Ankor Watt, Cambodia
• Sighting wild Orangutans in the Sumatran Jungle, Indonesia
• Visiting the Panda Sanctuary in Chengdu, China
• Camping on the Great Wall of China
• Riding Camels and sleeping in a nomadic Ger in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia
• Riding the longest railway in the world, the trans-mongolian railway from Beijing to Moscow
• Swimming in the biggest lake in the world, Lake Baikal in Siberia
I guess I haven’t really addressed the title of this article yet - why this adventure has been the best thing for my career and personal development; Some of my biggest fears going into this trip were losing motivation to work, struggling to pick up where I left off, taking a backwards step in my career path, and ultimately regretting the decision to travel and move overseas. As it turns out, after almost 6 months I am as motivated as I’ve ever been to sink my teeth into work. Im refreshed and have a new sense of clarity about what I want to achieve with my career. The following points are some of the top reasons that I believe 6 months away from work has been the best thing for my career and personal development:
- Discovering my passion / goals
I’ve always admired people who have a defined passion. My brother, Tim, is a great example - he oozes passion for conservation and has hugely ambitious goals to save wildlife around the globe. Perhaps my biggest goal for this trip was to discover my passion. Although I thoroughly enjoy working in the medical device industry, at times I have felt I lacked purpose. I really wanted a passion. On this trip I've read numerous books, jotted ideas on notebooks, and racked my brain for the things I really care about. Alas, I’ve realised its not quite that easy. You can’t simply manufacture a passion. It was at about the halfway mark of our trip that I realised no matter how long and hard I thought about my passion, I couldn’t just create one. There’s heaps of things I care about and enjoy spending my time and efforts working towards, but I still wouldn’t call these my passion. The lesson I learnt from this was to simply “be in the moment”. If I fully commit myself to everything I do, I’ll eventually find something that I am passionate about. I wonder if it will involve something that combines healthcare, business, real estate, sport, travel, and beer…fingers crossed.
2. Time to think & reflect
I think most of us are guilty of getting into a routine. I had a good job and greatlifestyle living in Sydney, and it made it all too easy. I was caught up working hard andtrying to enjoy life on weekends. It wasn't until 6 or 7 weeks into this trip that I started waking up in the morning not thinking about work. Having time to stop, relax, and actually think about where you are going in life and what you want to achieve is amazing. It sounds a bit corny, but honestly I can’t recommend it enough.
3. Learning to be flexible and adapt to change
As everyone knows, when you’re travelling nothing always goes to plan. Dealing with these obstacles day-in-day-out for 6 months has helped me deal with stress well. I keep saying to Brit “Everything always works out”. Almost daily we run into obstacles. We try to think of the worst case scenario, which inevitably never happens, and then evaluate our options to solve the issue. A recent example was getting a visa for Mongolia. As holders of a UK passport we were told we didn’t need a visa for Mongolia. Apparently the rules have changed, however we didn’t become aware of this until a couple of day before we were meant to depart on the first leg of the Trans-Monolgian railway. The Mongolian consulate in Beijing were no help whatsoever - if anything they made it more difficult. Long story short - we got the train as far as we could to the Chinese border to a random town called Erlian. After spending a night in a dodgy hotel we found a tiny consulate that happened to do same-day visas (rather than 3-4 business days). We then paid a local driver to take us across the border in his jeep (we were definitely a decoy for him to smuggle Chinese goods across the border), where we joined another train a day later, we arrived in Ulan Bator 24 hours late, but just in time for our Gobi Desert tour. This was probably the most stressful 48 hours of the entire trip, yet it still worked out. I’m sure the ability to stay calm under pressure and be flexible with my thinking will serve me well in my career.
4. New cultures + Business opportunities
I’m always trying to think of new business ideas. Before this trip I was really looking forward to experiencing different cultures and new experiences that I could somehow bring to the rest of the world. Whether it’s selling anything you can imagine in vending machines around Japan, crypto currency in China, amazing food creations in Indonesia, delivery services for anything you want in Singapore, or wacky tourism companies in the Philippines there are new ideas popping up all over the world. Exploring new cultures has opened my eyes to so many new ideas, which I’m sure I will be able to take advantage of in the future.
5. The Value of money
One of the biggest challenges of our trip has been finances. 6 months of travelling without an income has been challenging. It really makes you appreciate the value of money. Seeing how far you can stretch a dollar in some of the places in Asia really made us realise how cheap you can live if you really need to. In parts of Indonesia we were living comfortably for $20 AUD per day between us, including accommodation. We’ve been pretty responsible with our finances for the last few years, and managed to set ourselves up with some investment properties. Although these investments aren’t necessarily making us any money, they are a nice security blanket for the future. Understanding the value of money, particularly in the startup / business arena is a vital skill.
In summary, the past 6 months has been the best 6 months of my life. I can not recommend it high enough to anyone, no matter you're age or career status.