There have been plenty of stories about people quitting their day jobs to take the road less traveled – be it working from home, starting their own business, or traveling. I am among that brave group who had a good, full time salary job, but walked away from it without looking back.
This is my story.
I had been at my job for 2 years and for the most part I enjoyed what I was doing. I was getting to write 2-3 articles per week, and on top of that I was digging into some marketing work as well. The main problem for me was being stuck in a cube all day every day with no freedom. Over the two years I was there it really started to impact my life. My posture was terrible from hunching over a desk all day and I started having back problems. My vision was getting worse from straining my eyes staring at a screen all day. I started developing anxiety from it, and even suffered from a panic attack at work that landed me in the ER.
It didn’t matter if all my work was done, I had to sit there and stare at my computer screen. The culture at the company wasn’t great either, so that didn’t help. No perks what so ever. The owner treated me like a kid, like he was doing me a favor by giving me a job. I felt underappreciated. I had been going back and forth for a while about quitting, not knowing what I would do instead. The final straw was getting called into HR and basically getting put on probation for taking a sick day without having any sick days left. I was shocked that I was being treated that way by a small family run company (whose HR person was the owners wife,) after being there for two years and never having any issues. I always did what I was asked, and I did a good job at it. That was it for me, I couldn’t waste another second of my life there.
So I did it. I put in my two weeks notice. I was really nervous at first and I had no clue what I was going to do for money, but I knew I would never work in an office like that again. Cube life works for a lot of people, but not me. I planned a two week solo road trip, and decided that when I got home I would pursue my dream of becoming a freelance writer. When I was younger, I wanted to be a photo-journalist for National Geographic and travel the world taking pictures of exotic animals and remote landscapes, writing about my adventures along the way.
It took a while to land something but I am now writing for three online companies, all about things I’m interested in. I write about travel, and the town I live in. I write about relationships and give dating advice to my fellow millennials. I write about health, diet and fitness. I also just had a feature on a Women’s outdoor adventure site. I’m making my way.
Taking that first step was scary, but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Since I quit, which was October 1, 2016, I have traveled all over Colorado, to Jackson Hole (twice,) Boise, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Sarasota and Concordia, MO. In the next couple of months I have trips to New Hampshire and Austin planned. I would have never been able to travel like I am if I were still working my 9-5 desk job – having limited vacation days and strict managers.
Now my days are spent hiking, reading, traveling, writing, taking pictures and being creative – and this is only the beginning. I get to make my own schedule, and do what I want when I want to do it. There’s nothing holding me back.
For anyone who is facing a decision like this, whether or not to quit your job because you’re unhappy and follow your dreams, I highly encourage you to take the plunge. You may not make as much money, or have a stable income, or have health insurance through work – but you will be so much happier and your quality of life will improve vastly. It will be okay, you will be okay, and you won’t regret it – I didn’t. For me, life is not about making money and wasting away in an office cube. It’s about exploration, experience, and personal happiness.
UPDATE: October 3 2017 (one year later)
Full Travel List – All over Colorado, to Jackson Hole (twice,) Boise, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Sarasota, Missouri, New Hampshire (twice,) Austin, Raleigh and Asheville, Nashville, Arkansas, Oklahoma City and Sante Fe.
I’m still writing for the online publications as well as working remotely as a marketing associate and doing digital marketing consulting for a small business. I’ve also landed a few photography gigs doing engagement and outdoor lifestyle shoots.
I stand by my decision of leaving the cube. It’s opened so many doors for me and I’m getting involved with some amazing companies. If you ask me… I’M KILLIN’ IT! I hope my story inspires others to always do what makes them happy and to never settle for mediocre. You’re not a tree – you don’t have roots. If you don’t like where you are, move.
I love traveling and I live for road trips. I am most at peace when I am out in the wilderness sleeping under the stars. But I am always with someone, never alone. When I decided to take this two week solo road trip, it was because I had been stuck at a desk job for two years with limited vacation time. I was so over it and so stir crazy I was about to burst. I had to take this trip, even if no one could go with me, for my own sanity and happiness. I needed a reset. So, I put in my two weeks notice and started planning.
Portland was the fourth stop on my trip. I had already visited friends in Jackson and Boise. My boyfriend flew out to meet me in Seattle where we spent the weekend wandering the city like true tourists and exploring the rainforest coast. Here in Portland, I was truly alone for the first time. I had no one to stay with and I didn’t know a single person in the city.
I was a little nervous when I first woke up in my empty hotel room. For a minute, I didn’t know what to do. Then I realized I could do whatever I wanted. There didn’t need to be a conversation about making plans or deciding on what works best for other people. It was just me. I got in my car and drove about 20 miles out of the city along the Columbia River. A huge tourist attraction, Multnomah Falls, was my destination.
You’ve probably seen pictures of this massive, incredible water fall. I think it’s used as a generic screen saver photo on computers. It’s the one that falls into a high pool, broken up by a foot bridge, and then a second falls down to the bottom where the river continues. Seeing it in person was almost unexplainable, a feeling I struggle to put into words. The size of the water fall, the power behind it, the cool spray that hit you even standing so far away, the lush green forest that surrounded it – it was truly something else. Standing in front of this I felt so small, yet so empowered. I couldn’t help but foolishly smile from ear to ear. I walked up to the foot bridge to see it from a different perspective, this one much closer.
The trail continued up and I decided to keep going, to hike the whole thing to the top. The trail was extremely steep and my calves were burning almost instantly, but I wasn’t stopping. On the way up I saw every shade of green in the leaves and ferns and moss. There were multiple spots where water was trickling down the rock canyon walls around me. The tree roots weaving in and out of each other. It was enchanting.
At the top I observed a few things. First, the people: there was a group of teenagers sitting by the water smoking pot, not trying to hide it at all. A young couple also sitting by the water on a blanket eating sandwiches. A father and son standing on the look-out platform looking at the view. A large family taking picture after picture. And me.
The look-out platform is not something for anyone who’s afraid of heights. It jets out over the rocks and the view is straight down. Here I could see the waterfall dropping beneath me and the river running strong out in front of me. I could also see all the people down below, and all the cars in the parking lot, and the drivers on the road heading back into the city. I stood there and just stared for a few minutes before making my descent. This was the moment I had been searching for. This moment was the entire reason why I took this trip.
At home in Colorado, I hike all the time, it’s one of my favorite past times. In fact, it’s sort of my religion, as cheesy as that sounds, but true. However, I very rarely hike alone. When I do, I’m not really alone because I always bring my dog with me. This solo hike was a special treat.
Once back in Portland city limits, I walked from my hotel out to the river front and through the park. I walked into the downtown area past the university and all the store fronts. I found myself in line at Voodoo Donut where I got three large donuts that I proceeded to eat for dinner that night and breakfast and lunch the following day.
Traveling alone can be so freeing and it’s something I highly suggest every woman do at least once in her lifetime. It can teach you a lot about yourself and allow you the time and head space to accurately evaluate your life. I don’t like spending too much time alone, and this was the first time I traveled by myself. The experience changed me, and opened me up to a part of myself I didn’t know was there all along.
I could have been done after this, just got back in the car and drove home. However, I stayed in Portland a few more days and then continued south. California, is a whole different story.
September 6 2015
The rain had cleared up by morning so we were able to make a small fire and defrost while eating some breakfast. We packed up camp, stopped briefly to cast to some trout, and then we were back on the road. The drive north west was a different landscape than we had seen previously. There were flat valleys that were almost desert like and mesas standing alone.
We got to Grand Junction just before 5pm and found our first winery. We tasted wine, chatted with the owner, bought a bottle, grabbed a map and moved onto the next winery.
Same drill at the next stop. We tasted wine, chatted, bought a bottle, also bought wine infused cheesecake, and moved onto the next vineyard.
Whitewater Hill Vineyards
Our last stop was at Hermosa Vineyards, and we saved the best for last. We pulled into the winery which was actually just someone’s house and garage. Everything was closed up. We saw an older man walking around the back side of the house and we asked if he was still open for business, we waved us in and opened up the garage for us. After tasting the wine he asked us if we were in a hurry. No, we weren’t. He invited us into the back and gave us a special batch of cherry port wine and he filled our glasses to the top and led us to the back porch of his house. We sat out there and talked for over an hour. We bought his last bottle of cherry port wine. We were buzzed from the wine and driving farther into the mountains to find camp was a bad idea. So we booked a room.
I took a much needed shower, we got take-out Chinese food, drank the wine from Ptarmigan and Whitewater Hill (saving the port wine for a special occasion) and watched a movie.
Tomorrow, homeward bound.
September 5 2015
It was pouring down rain and we were driving down a dirt road the guy in the fly shop told us about. We were looking down on a massive lake and making our way deeper into the forest when we realized we had gone a little too far. We had to turn around, but first I snapped a photo of the incredible scenery.
We found a spot to camp looking down on the lake and at eye level with the surrounding mountain peaks. Trying to make a fire was beyond frustrating. Everything was soaked. We even drove back into Telluride and bought a bundle of firewood. That wouldn’t catch either.
“Queens of the Campsite”
We bundled up and hunkered down in the tent. The rain was relentless and our original plan to sit by the fire had changed. We drank beer and played cards until we feel asleep.
Next stop, wine country.
September 5 2015
Telluride is the truest “wild west” cowboy mountain town that I have seen. Everyone was wearing cowboy hats and boots, flannels, the whole get up, while looking classy and high end at the same time. We were there at the same time as a film festival so the streets were closed off to cars. We grabbed a coffee, talked to some locals about good fishing spots, got advice on where we should camp, then continued to the other end of town.
Bridal Veil Falls is the tallest free falling waterfall in Colorado. If you have a four wheel drive vehicle it is an easy drive to the top where you can look down on the city and stand tall above the waterfall. We do not have a four wheel drive vehicle, so we hiked up.
It started to drizzle on us as we were hiking which allowed us to see things in a different setting. Still gorgeous. We got directly underneath the falls where it was crashing into the rocks and spraying its admirers.
Getting underneath was good enough for us. We decided to head back to the car and find a place to set up camp for the night not far from Telluride in the San Juan National Forest.
September 5 2015
Dolores was an unexpected but much needed stop. We pulled over to a local park with a playground filled with kids playing and picnic tables where families were gathered eating lunch. We got out and found a place off the beaten path that led us down to the river where we made sandwiches. Clint wadded out and fished while I threw sticks into the river for Jude to fetch.
As the storm rolled in we were back on the road.
Next stop, Telluride.
September 5 2015
No surprise here, Durango is beautiful. After a few hours on the road we stopped to explore the Animas River. There had been a recent spill in the river and the pollution turned the water yellow. Luckily volunteers, experts, and mother nature returned the river back to it’s natural state.
After walking by the river we made our way to downtown. We walked along main street and window shopped, poked our heads into bars, and watched he train come through town. We grabbed lunch and a few beers at Steamworks Brewing Company.
With full bellies we hit the road again and ventured on to our next stop, Dolores.
September 5 2015
The drive west from Ouray can only be described in one word: breathtaking.
It was literally breathtaking from the thin oxygen at the high altitude. We were in the clouds on U.S. Route 550, a road commonly known as the Million Dollar Highway. We were on the section dubbed the Trail of the Ancient Byway. The road stood up to it’s reputation. We got some haze and rain along the way to Silverton where we stopped to refuel our bodies.
Silverton was a tiny town we could see down from the road for miles. We stopped for coffee and a muffin at what seemed to be the only coffee shop in the town that looked like a scene out of an old western movie. We wandered down to the “Highest” Harley Davidson store, and window shopped as we stretched our legs. Quick stop and we were back on the road.
Next stop, beauty and beers in Durango.