Lately it seems whenever I open my Facebook newsfeed I see yet another story about how to quit your job and travel the entire world. As I scroll through the comments I see tons of people saying things like, “what a dream lifestyle” or “I’m so going to do this one day!” But, there is something I want to first tell you that you should really consider before jumping into the unknown: it might not be the dream life you expected.
In 2010 I graduated with my BA in psychology. My college professors at the time wanted me to directly go into a MA program, which would eventually lead to getting my PhD. I felt totally conflicted about what to do back then. On one hand, I wanted to start working towards my career. On the other hand, all I wanted was to travel the world. I had insatiable wanderlust, and was so ready to pack my bags and head into the unknown.
Towards the end of my senior semester, an opportunity came up for me to move to Germany. I immediately hopped on the bandwagon. I had a place to stay in Germany temporarily, but that was it. No job. No connections. But, I was full of hope and wouldn’t let anything stop me. I figured I would be able to learn a new language, gain international work experience and travel all over Europe. The reality? It was a total nightmare.
I was staying in a small village outside of Bonn, the former capital of Germany. I still remember my first morning there. I woke up, and literally pulled the cover over my eyes. I felt a sort of mountain of emotions pile on top of me. It wasn’t that I didn’t think about my decision to move to Germany; I literally thought of every detail, and even made checklists. But, it wasn’t until that moment of time, when I was actually there, that I realized that I didn’t really know what I was doing.
I fumbled along for a few days, and after weeks secured a job as an English teacher at a kindergarten. I had researched my options before coming to Germany and knew that I probably would do that. Initially I was hoping to get involved doing psychology research at one of the Universities here, but unfortunately, due to my visa, I was not eligible.
So, I taught English to kindergarten children. By teaching, I basically mean finding ways to entertain different classes of children for one hour where both of us couldn’t communicate with each other. I struggled to adapt to the culture. I found it hard to make friends. I barely had enough money to pay my rent, let alone travel through Europe. My idea of an awesome experience abroad in Europe was not turning out how I expected it to be.
What my friends saw me doing was sipping beer on the streets defying the brown bag rule of America, living in a historic city and experiencing the European way of life. But, behind closed doors, I was a mess. After nearly living a year in Germany, I made the decision to temporarily go back to America to regroup and think what I wanted in my life.
That was five years ago, and since then I’ve been through a lot of change. I’ve moved and traveled the entire world, and now in some sort of crazy full circle journey I’m back living in Bonn, Germany. This time I am totally adapted and content because I recognize the reality of the situation. My life here isn’t all glitz and glamour. Yes, I take weekend trips to Prague, Bruges, and Warsaw, but I also have to adapt to a lot of other realities that I wouldn’t have to face if I were living in the States.
So, I’m here to remind you that when you see that person on their article sipping on a Mojito with the caption “my 9-5” remember that there might be more to the story. Yes, it is true, some people are super lucky and are able to have amazing travel stories where they live and work abroad. But, I really want people to be aware that quitting your job to travel is not always what you expect.