Committing to Travel – Jen’s Story
I’ve always been a bit of a nomad in my adult life. Before moving to Oregon in 2010, I had never stayed in the same place for more than three years at a time since leaving my parents house at eighteen. Even during four years of undergrad in Boston, I studied abroad in Madrid to break up the streak.
Since 2001, I’ve lived in seven cities on four continents. Though I’m deeply in love with Oregon (very deeply), the itch to travel long term has been quietly checking in.
Even so, it took a little convincing for me commit to travel this time around.
I haven’t lived abroad since 2006, when I lived in Wellington, New Zealand for six months on a working holiday visa. The timing never seemed right. School in some form or another demanded my presence in one particular location. I didn’t believe I had the funds to support a long term travel experience. Even after I graduated from my sustainable MBA program, when I had no job tying me to Portland, Dave was not in the same place. We had just bought our house and I thought I needed a “real job” now that I had gone and earned this costly MBA. So I just patiently let the travel bug continue to nibble.
In February 2014, after eight months of looking for work, my “dream job” landed in my lap. Connections I had been working for over five years, alerted me to an open position with a county tourism organization. I barely interviewed for the position. I met my future boss at my local grocery store in the middle of a snow storm and started the following week. I was told the job would be temporary for two to three months and then they’d open it up to the public and I’d go through the normal hiring process. They usually hired the person in the temporary position, I was told.
Six months later, after returning from traveling in Colombia, I had three days to apply for my position. There were over forty applicants. There were internal applicants. They were flying in candidates from across the country. Interviews were conducted while I worked away at my desk. I spent my days stressed, wondering if I was going to have a job the following day.
During this process, Dave proposed the idea of a yearlong bike tour.
I told him there was no way. I was about to secure my dream job. A job that paid well, came with great insurance, three weeks of vacation, luxuries I had never had as an adult. A job that for which I had spent five years searching.
As I pondered the idea, however, I realized this was not my dream job.
A friend once asked me to visualize my ideal daily routine. As I pondered his questions, I realized that my current routine does not match my ideal.
Currently, I wake up at 6:00am every morning, snuggle with my partner for about a minute, get up, gather some clothes off the floor by the light of my iPhone, let the dogs outside, go to the bathroom, feed the cats, let the dogs back in, gather my lunch items, make a smoothie, and head out the door for work by 6:30.
I arrive to work by 7:00 head to my standing desk until noon or so, then I incorporate some sort of exercise, whether bootcamp at the gym next door or a run, come back to my desk and stand some more.
I leave work at 6:00 and arrive home around 6:45, where I then immediately start cooking dinner, we eat at around 8:00, clean the kitchen, and then try to fit in 20 minutes of yoga if I’m not too tired by the time we finish with dinner.
I repeat this routine four days a week. I work four 10-hour days and while it’s nice to have a three day weekend every week, those other four days are days lost.
I cram as much as I can into the weekends, which means running, biking, yoga, baking, cleaning the house, shaving my legs, washing my hair, meditating, running errands, going to the doctor, gardening, and seeing friends.
I had become one of those people who drives, works, drives. My commute is too far and my day too long to bike commute. I feel creaky and stiff. My shoulders and neck hurt from my computer. My eyes glaze over and my energy sapped.
I stand at a desk for 11 hours of my day and stare at a computer screen because my job tells me I have to. I realized I was trading in my time, energy, sleep, passions, and self care for this regular paycheck. The price was not worth it.
After three months in any job I’ve ever held, I inevitably come down with a case of chronic boredom. My motivation wanes, my inspiration sputters, and I daydream of my next adventure, of playing outside, exploring what this world has to offer. After years of thinking I was simply not working in the right job, I’ve come to realize that I’m not working within my passions, skills, or environment.
Over the past several years, I’ve wondered why it is that we as a society accept the 40-hour work week. Why we accept two weeks of vacation. Why we accept someone else telling us where to be and when, five days a week, eight or more hours per day. I do not accept these societal norms. They just don’t work for me. I just don’t believe in the 40-hour work week. I don’t believe that I need to be glued to my desk for 10 hours per day. It certainly doesn’t result in more productivity, but rather results in the exact opposite.
So what is my ideal daily routine?
Wake up at 6:00 or 6:30, meditate for five to ten minutes, feed the animals, and then head out for a run through the neighborhood or meet friends in Forest Park. Grab breakfast with friends at a bakery or head home to make a smoothie or oatmeal on the stove and then enjoy my meal with a book or magazine. I’d then start on my work. After three hours or so, I’d make myself a giant, fresh salad for lunch. Then I’d go back to work for a couple hours. Around 3 or so, I’d work outside in the garden, do some chores around the house, or bake something tasty for later (or immediately). In the early evening, I’d walk the dogs with my partner, play a game of tennis, or head to the farmers’ market to pick up some items for dinner. I’d start cooking dinner around 6:00 and I’d cook whatever looked good to me that week, not the quickest meal I could find. We’d eat together on the deck or dining room table. Afterward, I might do nothing for a bit, read, edit photos, or practice yoga. Around 10 or 11, I’d head to bed.
Alternatively, I could hop on my bike and travel around Europe with my partner and my dog.