Before you quit your job, go travel

Few months ago I spoke to a friend who wanted to quit her job. Quitting is not difficult but what made her hesitate was that she hasn’t found a new job yet. Many people experience such quandary especially with our constant use of social media nowadays, it’s easy to compare our life with that of others and feel we need to be somewhere else or having something else or whatnot.

What I noticed though from our conversation was that whilst she was determined to quit her job, she didn’t know what she truly wants to do. She had several options in mind but she didn’t have clarity on how to make the transition. She wanted to pursue entrepreneurship but she didn’t know what products or services to offer. She wanted to pursue the arts but that would mean starting from scratch. These aren’t all bad things, after all a lot of people succeeded by taking risks. In her case though, she didn’t have enough savings to support her through several months which scared her from quitting.

Another thing I noticed in her is that her frustrations weren’t all coming from her job. We all experience some bad days at work and at times people –who may just be going through tough times – are rude. Sometimes routine jobs can get painfully boring. At times problems arise one after the other leaving us burned out. But there are several ways to deal with these circumstances and turn things around if you have the proper mindset and positive attitude. The challenge comes when the problem isn’t the job itself but us. That’s when I suggest you travel.

Traveling has its way of healing whatever negative feelings we carry. If we are so bored of a life of routine, traveling breaks this monotony and stimulates our senses. The experiences we will encounter while traveling can melt negativities away. Traveling can remind us that there is more to life than feeling bitter and unhappy; that there are things far greater than ourselves but that what we do – no matter how menial it seems sometimes – contributes to a bigger picture, to a larger cause.

For a lot of people though, money can be a hindrance to traveling. However, as the cliché says, “we work to live not live to work” so if you reach a point where you feel that life was sucked out of you then money should not be so much of an issue. You are not going to spend your hard earned money extravagantly anyway because going for a short trip should not be expensive. You can travel to a nearby place or a different country, it’s all up to you. There are a lot of information available online on how to reach your destination without breaking the bank.

Back in 2011, I was suffering from burnout. It seemed as though I could not feel any positive emotions. A delicious meal doesn’t taste good. I keep blaming work for my unhappiness. One weekend, I traveled to Chiang Mai up until the borders of Myanmar. I went on full online detox while traveling so I can fully savor the experience. It was only for two days but I felt significantly better. On my way back to Bangkok, I took the train because other than it was way cheaper than flying I just love long train rides; it gave me an opportunity to pause and just enjoy the countryside scenery.

If I didn’t go on that short trip up north and committed to undergo an online detox, I would have resigned from my job in no time. I was glad I did. I felt rejuvenated after. When I came back, I also removed my work email from my phone and noticed that I felt more relaxed and positive after.

When my friend confided to me about her urge to quit, I told her to travel. And so travel she did and now she is still working at the same job. When she is not working, she is out strolling at a nearby park or traveling to nearby provinces. With camera in hand, she captures the beauty around what seemed like a mundane place to those who only exist.

The innovative and the slacker

Calligraphy by Alma May Hilot Pilvera

In the last few months I spent interacting with people from different backgrounds, two dominant personalities stood out. It’s probably because I am at a point of identifying a new path so I paid particular attention to these traits.

The innovative
A friend who developed a farm in a small island said that when they began, it was impossible to farm in the area because the soil was too sandy. But that problem didn’t stop them from achieving their plan, instead they created the soil through composting. They then placed retaining walls to keep the soil from eroding.

Another friend works online, her only source of living. She found that coding skills could get one more jobs at higher rates. Unfortunately, there are no coding courses available around where she lives so she took free online coding courses instead and practiced by herself. She isn’t there yet but she definitely is a few steps closer to her goal. It’s still better than nothing at all.

My cousin is planning to get married in 2018. These days, calligraphy is a huge thing when it comes to wedding invitations and signage. Due to high demand, commissioning one to do the calligraphy can be extremely expensive. A set of invitation with watercolor graphic and calligraphy text can cost PhP300 (approx. 6 USD). So instead of paying a hefty amount, she decided to learn calligraphy herself! In fact, the photo above is her very first attempt and yet it looks pretty already! How cool is that? Way to go May.

The slacker
These are those who have future plans or knew what they want but are putting them off for a later time. I’m not saying this is always wrong. I understand there are certain things that should be set aside because there is a right time for them. However, in some circumstances, utilizing available time to prepare for the much-awaited perfect moment can be essential.

A friend went to grad school without any idea for his dissertation. He said he will figure it out when he gets there. When he started the first semester, he said he will figure it out the moment he takes the dissertation course. When he finally got down to writing his proposal, he realized that he needed ample amount of time to review existing literature and do preliminary readings on the issue he wanted to work on. He panicked and regretted not doing some readings during his free time before he started school.

Another friend wanted to be an entrepreneur. She was envious of her entrepreneur friends who seemed to have it all figured out and have full control of their time. Whenever she is not motivated in her job – which happens most of the time by the way — she would say things would have been different if she is an entrepreneur. Finally she resigned from her job, took a few months vacationing and then the much awaited “right time” presented itself. However, the painful truth dawned upon her that she doesn’t know what to do yet, which field she will venture into or what services she will offer. She spent additional months doing research which made her feel trapped into a web of challenges and uncertainties until finally when she is able to identify the business she wanted, her savings have been exhausted and she need to work again to save for the capital. Not only that, she needed some skills for the business so she has to spend the weekdays working and the weekends on short courses to gain those skills. Had she spent her time in the past preparing for the right moment, she would not have started from scratch.

Stories like these remind me of the cliché that the only thing that’s fair in this world is time because we all get the same amount of it. The only difference is how we use them. I’ve had my share of confronting challenges to achieve goals as well as periods of procrastination. What matters to me now is that I am becoming more aware of the things I want to invest my time into. I can never bring back time I’ve wasted but what’s important is to live the present moment and make the most out of it. This is something I want to remind myself every day.

Loss and Grief

I almost forgot how it feels to lose someone I love to death until my uncle’s untimely demise last December. It was all too sudden. He was still physically fit at 78 and was even able to drive around although he was probably already feeling sick but kept it hidden from the family. It would have been so typical of him, someone who doesn’t wanna waste time in a hospital bed. Whenever we had a family outing, he was notable for hurrying all of us to go home right after we finished eating even though some of us haven’t started swimming yet. He just wanted to be home.

The day before he died I was happy to see a video uploaded by my cousin on Facebook of him opening his eyes for the first time after several days. We all took it as a positive sign. I thought I would still be able to see him well and kicking with all his jokes. Past midnight I woke up and checked Facebook only to find he was gone. I would never see him with his toothless smile ever again.

My cousin suggested we make a slideshow of his photos. Being the one with the technical know-how, I was tasked to produce the video. I checked all the photo folders in my external drive, searched for his photos in all my cousins’ Facebook posts only to realise all of us don’t have much photos of him. We don’t have even a single proper solo photo to frame and place above his casket. We ended up framing a photo when he was younger, probably 40 years old. It was because he didn’t want to be pictured so all we have are photos of him sandwiched in a crowd, many of which he wasn’t even looking at the camera. Now I don’t dread people who post too much selfies that much anymore.

“Come stop your crying it will be alright,” I was unto the first few slides but my tears couldn’t stop falling. “You’ll be in my heart, from this day on now and forevermore…” I looked back on those opportunities I missed when I could have visited him. I realised we didn’t really have that much memories spent together but that doesn’t mean I loved him less. He was always in my heart, I was always fond of him, I just don’t know why I didn’t exert that much effort to spend more time with him. The last time I saw him he asked for a Christmas gift and I just answered him, “Yong it’s too early. Christmas is still far away”. Had I known that I won’t see him ever again, I would have given him all the cash I had at hand then.

You see, regrets are futile. It will never bring back missed chances. It will never bring back our loved ones. I remember about 5 years ago, I was struck with the thought that our elders are getting too old and that they may leave us soon. So I began to take lots of photos of them with my DSLR. The sad thing is my uncle, being himself, evaded my camera so much that I never found the right timing or angle. I thought there will be many more chances to capture him but I failed. And I also failed at making sure he felt how much I cared about him.

Since high school, I tried to live by the saying “never leave words unsaid and things undone” and “roses mean nothing at deathbed”. Somehow, I was good at executing these words to my friends maybe because I knew they are in my life only temporarily; our paths will cross and then they will move on with their career or marriage and I may not see them for years. On the contrary my family is always there no matter what happens, or so I thought.

Christmas 2015 was a very sad moment for our family but as the new year begin, my uncle left us with a valuable lesson and that is to always make the most of the time we have with our loved ones. We are a united family but my uncle’s death bound us even more. It’s still difficult to move past this grief but I will make sure that it doesn’t cripple me from appreciating those that are still alive.