But many have asked if I did.
And of course, many have mindlessly said: you are my hero! you’re so brave!
Because, it must be such a trendy thing to do these days. Quit your job, backpack through the Andes and deserts in South America for 6 months, go and “find yourself”.
Or maybe we have all been there where we saw yet another Facebook post of the dude who quit and made millions from Instagram and think, what the hell am I doing being stuck in an office?
But why do we feel that we need to “find ourselves”? Why do we have so many young people feeling sick and tired of their f**king job when it fulfils the very base of that pyramid called the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Why do we feel stuck? What exactly is missing?
Because I had done it – taken my backpack and traversed lands. Gotten stuck in mountains and hospitals. Pretended to be a polyglot across continents. Volunteered with developing communities and did the social good. If traveling was going to help you find yourself, I should have found it. And with a self-perceived confidence of cultural agility and the well-appointed perfume of glocalisation, I came back to a job.
6 years later, despite a purpose that I loved and a lifestyle which I couldn’t have asked for more, I still quit.
So why did I quit?
I didn’t quit my job to find myself.
I quit my job to learn about myself.
There is a big difference.
The first, is the resignation that there is “one true you”, and that until you find it, you can never be really happy. The second, is an admission that we have flaws and managing them helps us love ourselves for who we are, love others around us, and be a better person for society to have around.
The first, is almost impossible to figure out. What is self? Where is self? Who are YOU? The second, is easier. You quietly observe – your reactions, your words, your thoughts, your choices. You start to notice patterns and devise habits to manage them to be the person you actually choose to be every single day.
The first, subscribes to a value system that is individual-first. You identify with above all, the need to be an individual, and that organisation systems don’t give space for that. The second, is community-first. You want to know yourself and manage that, so that others and yourself can live easier because of you being you.
The other big question that has been posed over and over again, is: couldn’t you have worked on yourself while having a job? Many people do that.
The honest answer is that, I don’t know. But I didn’t believe so, and blessing or not, I was given and could afford the option to go with what I believed in.
The truth about quitting your job
And when I quit, I did not know what I was going to do. It was a complete blank slate. For the first time, I had no obligation to any institution. It was unsettling. There was nothing brave about it. And I walked away from a purpose that I loved – that was heartbreaking.
On top of that, I had broad goals, but getting there was something else. There was no formal institution, school or job to teach me what I wanted to learn – physical discipline, managing emotions, building a routine, gaining clarity on the community that I would like to be a part of and how I wished to grow old.
I somehow stumbled into a range of subject matters along the road, and guess what – I am still on the road! And still trying to figure out what’s next for me.
But I will tell you one thing that being on the road so far has done for me, into the third quarter of my gap year.
By virtue of changing your environment, you change your conversations. And that gives your mind space to think and consolidate what you thought you couldn’t figure out.
By virtue of dealing with physical discomfort, you build mental resilience. And that gives faith to your heart that you can survive what you thought you can’t.
By virtue of jumping into a new subject matter, you discover agility. And you build a skill to learn and un-learn, that which you need even when you’re old.
Choose who you wish to be, not just where you are
Someone asked me: You know, I’m thinking of doing the same thing. But I’m afraid that I quit, I go out and try something else, and I just come back to this same old shit.
I said: You know, I never quit thinking I’d never go back. But I quit, knowing that I won’t go back as the same person as I was.
Happiness is an attitude
An above middle-aged (because he has too much spunk to be considered old) man in the hostel I was at, asked: So, who do you think are the happiest people in this world?
I said: you know, after thinking and observing, I think it’s the people who just live. They have routines to get through every day, they put in their best effort, they take pride in what they do, and they live. They don’t think very much; they just do. I think on the other hand, the ones who think too much, are the most unhappy.
He had a grin on his face. And then he shared a story about how he had a colleague who would come to work with a scowl on his face every day. One day, he talked to him about it. The colleague’s wife told him years after that, that one little conversation changed their marriage. Because his colleague changed his attitude at work, and at home.
A few hours later, he asked again: There is only one person we can change in this world. Do you know who is that?
I said: me, myself and I.
Unbeknown to him, our conversations across the two days was exactly what I needed to consolidate the seemingly random things that I have been doing in the last six months.
Travel, helps you learn about yourself and build confidence in your choices. It is not the only way, and it is not a way accessible to all, but it is one of the best ways – as you travel, you will find that the world hits you in places you never known and life will never be the same as it was.
But you can never find yourself. Travel is not a panacea to your life problems. You just learn to build yourself and your attitude, for the world.
Hence, I did not quit my job to travel the world. And you shouldn’t too.