I’m sitting here on my sunbed-makeshift-office looking out onto the Indian Ocean on the coast of Mombasa, Kenya. It’s just me, my laptop and the sound of the waves and I’m wondering what on earth took me so long to make the decision to get out here.
I’m Katie, and I’ve just quit my job to take a career break in Kenya for a few months while I worked out what my next step is. I worked in travel for five years and, while I loved my colleagues and the variety on my role, office life just wasn’t enough for me.
Working in travel is hard if you have the travel bug because you’re surrounded by travel, you can’t get away from it. Everyone is going off on trips of a lifetime and you’re left behind wishing them well but secretly grinding your teeth with jealousy.
Let’s rewind to July 2012. I went to Kenya by myself for one week and it was amazing. That was my third trip to Kenya but I crammed so much into one week and saw so much. I was devastated to be back home after such a whirlwind trip. Most people get over this feeling, but mine seemed to eat away at me and was very persistent.
Let me interrupt this story to tell you at this point that I am married. We’ll call him The Boy.
I wanted more than to work Monday to Friday and live for the weekend. Sure we travel a lot using our annual leave, but it was never enough. I wanted to be selfish for a while but The Boy didn’t share my passion for quitting our jobs to travel and was happy enough using annual leave to see the world while earning a decent wage. I asked my company for a career break of three months but sadly the time wasn’t right, which I totally understood.
Cue a few tense weeks of discussions and stubborn sulks (from me, I’m ashamed to say).
The turning point came after spending a weekend at a friend’s parents’ house in September. I was talking to my friend’s Dad and telling him what I wanted to do. He told me that when he was my age he’d taken some time out of work to travel in Africa and that it had been the best decision. More reassuring was that he’d said it had actually helped his career by stepping out of the loop for a few months.
Unbeknownst to me, The Boy was listening in to our conversation…
After the weekend came Monday. Ah, Monday. Mondays get a hard deal, but this one deserved everything it got. It was cold, wet, dark and I’d had enough. ENOUGH!
The Boy came to pick me up from work on his way home and said he had something to tell me. Those words are not good. He refused to tell me until we were sat with food and wine, so we diverted to a pub.
At which point, he revealed that he had also had enough and was wondering why he was sitting in a traffic jam on a cold and miserable night, when we could be off having adventures together while we could.
Music to my ears!
The problem was that I wanted to go back to Kenya and to stay there long enough to learn Swahili. The Boy wasn’t so keen.
So, we drank red wine and made a plan. I would go to Kenya and do my thing alone, he would come over and visit me, and we’d come home, earn money and then take off together indefinitely.
I decided that it was now or never. The very next morning I walked into the office with my letter of notice and talked things through with my boss. It was really important to me that I left on a positive note, so I told her that my dates were flexible so that I didn’t leave the company in a bad position.
In the end my notice period was two and a half months, but I needed that time to get my head together and work out how to earn money while I was away.
So, that’s where you join me here, on my sunbed, typing away furiously before the sun sets over the Indian Ocean. I’m working as a freelance copywriter and social media consultant for clients back home. I feel free and my resume is looking healthy. If you want to take a career boost, you need to take time to set everything up, this isn’t just a holiday for me and sitting down at my computer is sometimes the last thing I want to do.
But, I am content which is a great feeling, what’s the harm in stepping out of your comfort zone? I’m learning more about myself every day. Plus, absence makes the heart grow fonder and as I type this, The Boy is heading to the airport to board a flight to Kenya… it’s time for adventures.