I was 24 when I first quit my job to travel. I was fresh out of college, with a shiny and expensive liberal arts degree, whose usefulness in the practical world was up for debate.
I must also mention that the country was in the middle of a recession. College graduates, even those with master degrees, were struggling to get full-time jobs with benefits.
At the time, our options were: A, work at a stable, full-time office job that included the workload of two people and benefits that were laughable at best; or B, work as a waitress or barista while waiting for responses to applications sent to obtain Option A.
Neither looked very fun.
So, I decided to create Option C: volunteer in Colombia for a year.
I mean, what else was I going to do back at home, twiddling my thumbs? My peers were waiting 1-2 years to get a job that (sometimes) utilized their degrees, and until then, were working minimum-wage paying jobs (see Option B) to stay afloat – all the while not gaining experience related to their degrees.
Even if I wasn’t going to make money as volunteer, I was going to gain something invaluable that I never would have had if I’d stayed home: a unique experience that leveraged my degree, and would be enough to set my CV apart from the other thousands of English majors applying for jobs.
So, I quit my job, and left for Colombia.
For a year.
Then I was offered a job in Colombia. A paid one.
One year turned into two.
Then three and a half.
And then I did the unthinkable: I came back home.
Did I want to go leave? Yes and no. I was ready for a change, but I didn’t know what that change was. Three and a half years of my life passed by like a whirlwind, and by the time I came home, I hadn’t even had the chance to catch my breath until then.
Plus, I had doubts about my career. Did I want to teach for the rest of my life? I didn’t know. And did I want to be surrounded by four brick walls for the next thirty-something years? I didn’t think so. I needed freedom. Creativity. Zest. Purpose. Knowing I was making a difference. And there was a time where I wasn’t sure if teaching could offer that for me anymore.
But the funny thing about destiny is that, no matter how far you try to run away from it (in my case, an entire continent), it eventually comes back to you. I’d get this close in a job interview to landing the position, but something would feel…off.
And then sometimes it would go like this:
“We don’t think you’d be a good fit for this position; you sound more like a teacher or a coach.”
“Sorry, we’ve decided to choose someone else, but we’ll keep your name on file for tutoring positions!”
And so on.
And then I did get a job, and within a few months got promoted to a training position. Training is teaching. And at that point, I was like, okay, I get it, this is my path.
And it was a great job, too. Great work culture and environment. Bosses who believed in me. The work itself was interesting and made time go by fast. Close enough to my home where I rode my bike to work and lost the ten pounds I gained when I came back home in the dead of winter and ate nothing but Christmas cookies and carbs for three months. I got health insurance. A 401k. The whole vegan, non-GMO enchilada and more. I couldn’t have asked for a better job than this one during my time back home.
Thing is, I knew I wanted to go overseas again. And that I’d dreamed of living in Europe since I was a little girl. And I wanted a career that would allow me to help other people. Which, according to the light and not-so-light nudges from the universe, was teaching.
If teaching was my destiny, then maybe I needed to try different types of teaching until I found what worked for me. And there were teaching programs in Spain. And I found one where I’d teach business English to adults. So I applied. And was accepted.
And then there was the paperwork. Oh, paperwork! And because of a few documents that I was worried wouldn’t arrive on time, I almost wasn’t able to go. Until I was. Basically, the 2.5 weeks before I left for Spain went something like this:
Beginning of August: . . .
First week of August . . .
Second week of August: . . . . . . . . . . HEY YOU’RE GOING TO SPAIN!!!
So after getting my visa in the nick of time, I put in my two weeks, said goodbye to as many people as possible during that short time frame, packed my bags, and got on a plane to Madrid.
And now here I am. It’s been a month. The life I had before now seems so far away. At times, it feels like time goes by so fast, but most of the time, it feels like I’ve always lived here.
Bienvenidos a mi nueva vida madrileña.