It’s 3:30 PM. I’ve already put in 80 hours this week, and it’s only Thursday. My work is finished, but I’m still sitting here. Putting in “face-time.” “Managing expectations.” I’m sitting here, doing nothing because that’s what I’m supposed to do. Despite my moments of brilliance, my hard work, and high ratings, when it comes down to it, I’m a warm body filling a chair. Looking out the window, I’d often envy the construction workers down in the street. “At least they get to be outside,” I’d think to myself.
At least I’m at home every night, even if I don’t get home until it’s actually morning.
Then it was time to travel. Not the fun, exploring, learning about new cultures kind of travel. No, the two hour domestic flight, 3-4 nights in a suburban hotel, eating from chain restaurants every meal type of business travel. It hardly feels like travel once you’ve gone to the same destination every week for an entire year.
At least I’m not working as many hours as I used to, but I’m spending the majority of my week away from the woman I love.
Flash back 5 years. Caroline and I are in college, embarking on a study abroad trip to Maastricht, Netherlands that would take us through 8 countries over the course of a summer. The whole trip was life-altering but there were a few moments that stuck out as especially transformative.
We rented a 12-seater van to drive through the Swiss Alps
Our thirst for adventure led us to Interlaken, Switzerland to white water raft through the Alps. The train seemed expensive, so it made more sense for the 12 of us rent a huge van, only to discover that just one of us could drive a manual transmission. We somehow survived stalling on the tram track, dodging cattle, and driving behind cyclists on steep mountain roads and arrived in Interlaken to some of the most gorgeous natural scenery.
We ran with the bulls with no ticket to return home
Running with the bulls was a thrilling experience. Waking up early with a city of people ready to risk life and limb in order to run alongside a massive bull. Our adrenaline was pumping as people jumped through the fence to avoid being gored and we heard the roars of the crowd cheering us on. We also got our first taste of adapting to changing conditions when we went to the train station at 5 AM and found out that it may have been a good idea to book our tickets in advance. The train was full and the next one didn’t leave for 12 hours. We were 14 hours and 3 countries from Maastricht and had a paper to finish that evening before class the next day. We managed to find the bus station and after waiting two hours for it to open, found the only bus to San Sebastian which could get us to another train to Paris and then on to Holland. We did make it home that night, and got through our first true travel test.
We left our hearts in Cinque Terre
From trips to the grocery store to kids playing in the street, everything in Cinque Terre made me smile. It was there that I woke up each day and thought to myself, “The world is a beautiful place and life should be enjoyed to the fullest.” Cinque Terre has been that special place for me and I always look forward to finding new places that remind me how lucky we are to live in such an amazingly breathtaking world.
Reality check, I’m not 21 anymore.
Back to Work
You’d think after my European adventure, I’d be forever changed and ready to take on the rest of the world. Instead, it was back to another year of school, job interviews and starting my career. I put our pictures and experiences on the shelf and got back to doing what I’d been told I should. The trip ignited a love of travel in my heart, but I quickly discovered how easy it was for everything else to get in the way.
We increased our lifestyle with each promotion, moved into new and larger apartments in better neighborhoods. We bought more things, and planned for our “future.” We were doing everything that we should be doing. But what did we want to do? Did I really want to spend 4 days a week away from my wife? Would I ever climb high enough on the corporate ladder to be fulfilled?
I found myself with plenty of reading time during all my business travel, and came across some travel blogs that explained how to use frequent flier miles for around-the-world tickets. I found more that described how to overcome your fears, take risks, and live a life that tells a great story. I looked at my mileage balance and noted that I had almost enough miles to buy two tickets. I shared these blogs with Caroline, but life got busy again and I didn’t take action.
One day in August, we were driving home from visiting our families and Caroline turned to me and said, “Let’s do it. Let’s pack up, sell everything and take a trip around the world.” After steering the car out of the median, and throwing all my rational thoughts aside, I knew she was right and we had to do it, even if I didn’t let her know for a few days. Less than a year later, we are 3 months into our trip around the world and just as excited as that day we made the decision. Our future may be uncertain, but we are loving the freedom to explore what life is like when you do what you makes you happy.
Josh and Caroline Eaton are the creators of Traveling 9 to 5. From Chicago, IL, they’ve quit their corporate jobs, sold (almost) all of their belongings and are currently writing and traveling around the world hoping to inspire others to say yes to their own adventure. You can follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.