“I threw away years of hard work in search of travel…”

I’d made it. Seven years of training and I was officially qualified as a lawyer. I should have been ecstatic but all I felt was disappointment.

Client meetings, conferences and presentations provided me with more than enough to do, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. It was a feeling I endured for eight years, willing it to get better, but it didn’t.

Meanwhile, during my vacations, I tapped into something that started to fill the void: Seeing new places and exploring new cultures. Year after year I took one trip after another closer to the inevitable truth—I couldn’t be a lawyer any longer.

I threw away years of hard work in search of travel and don’t regret it for a second.

Here’s why I gave up law to travel:

1) I swapped materialism for experience

One of the things a legal career guarantees is a healthy bank balance. A premium Champagne lifestyle was mine, but the satisfaction that came with my material purchases barely lasted longer than the Visa swipe.

Conversely, staring into the inquisitive eyes of an orangutan gave me a sense of awe and inspiration that lingers even now, as does rocketing down a sand dune on a snowboard, taking my first surf lesson, eating chicken brain and making new friends around the world.

Travel has given me experiences that no material item ever could.

Looking an orangutan in the eye was more fulfilling than any material purchase.

2) I gained a perspective on life

Despite my traveling ways, I have an intrinsically bad sense of direction, which, one wandering day, took me into the midst of a residential area in Cambodia.

I was horrified at the poverty—huts made from any item that came to hand or mind, children toddling bare bottomed and shoeless adults sat on the hard dirt floor, but equally I saw a smile on every face within that community.

Seeing other cultures with less but enjoying more from life is a humbling experience. Equally, visiting countries where resources are short has taught me some good survival instincts—always shampoo first and never leave home without a flashlight.

Seeing Cambodian children with so little, but so happy is humbling.

3) I reset my body clock

I used to eat, sleep, exercise and breathe according to a schedule set by my superiors at work. My time was their time and it didn’t take long to lose any sense of what my body really wanted.

Wandering the globe has allowed me the luxury of resetting my internal clock. I rise when I’m ready (earlier than I thought), sleep when I’m tired (later than I thought), eat when I’m hungry (less frequently than I thought) and spend the time in between exercising, not in an air-conditioned gym, but in the beauty of nature.

Now, a working day can involve my laptop, a beach, snorkeling equipment and a picnic. I’m doing all of the same necessary activities, just in a different way.

Swapping an office cubicle for a beach view.

4) I revisited my dreams

We spend our childhood coming to understand our dreams and our adult life trying to forget them.

Mortgages, jobs, family and responsibilities can quickly remove the time or intention to follow our dreams. Taking a break from the norm can provide a real opportunity to reconsider what it is we want in life and how to get back on track.

With the comfort of a career break backing me up, I was able to take time out, rethink my life and pull my attention in a different direction. I always had my writer’s pen and paper on me; I just wasn’t working on the right script.

Quiet contemplation and a chance to revisit my dreams.

5) I’m living life fully

I feel like I have done a lot in my life and most of that experience has happened in the past two years.

During my legal career, I quelled my sense of adventure, diverting my energy into hard work instead. Without the constraints of an office to exhaust me, I can search out the activities that excite.

Mine isn’t a bucket list, it’s a living list. I don’t want to cram my adventures into a one last burst of life before death.

I want to live my life every day to its absolute fullest, and in a few weeks, that’s going to involve my first ever sky dive.

Mine isn’t a bucket list, it’s a living list.

Becoming a lawyer was hard. Making the decision to un-become a lawyer was even harder. But enjoying the results of my choice has been the easiest thing ever, and something I don’t regret for a second.

Have you quit your career to travel or do you dream of doing the same? Let me know in the comments below.

If you liked this article, you might also like: 15 Things I’ve Learned from 10 Years of Living and Traveling Abroad.

Main photo: Once a lawyer, now a world traveler…with no regrets.

All images are author’s own.

11 thoughts on ““I threw away years of hard work in search of travel…””

  1. lovely philosphy to adopt
    Doesnt this also cost money? where do get the money to travel unless you work?

  2. Yes your right. Travelling experience and different cultures encounter is somewhat fulfilling but for those only who have financially stable and lots of resources. So many people like, I, dreamed to become like this one day just to fulfill my passion, but unfortunately, until now its still a dream…years of struggling to earn a living only to prioritize everyday life needs in order to survive….

  3. Thanks for this truly inspiring story…it’s like reading my thoughts exactly…hope I will be able to follow my dream to travel the world soon…it would be nice to travel and spend my vacations without really thinking of my law career for a moment :-)

  4. This is great. I just admire and I congratulate for fulfilling such a wonderful dream. In fact, it is not an easy thing to make such a decision for many a person like us, it takes courage and very strong determination to make things to go on smoothly and not feeling a single slight of regret.
    I have my travelling dreams too and I am preparing for taking offs when I have my budgets and other conditions ready in short times to come.
    Have fun and enjoy every dreams coming true.

  5. I’m pleased to have provided some inspiration by sharing my story. Financial matters is one of the biggest for many people about to take the plunge and it was a huge risk for me too as sadly I’m not sufficiently financially independent as to be able to retire :) I took a gamble and sold my house, which I accept isn’t for everyone, but it worked for me, and I do continue to work as I travel. The good news that most long term travelers discover is that there are many countries where it is possible to live at a fraction of the cost of what you’re used to, particularly in parts of Asia and Latin America where you can eat for a dollar or two and sleep for not much more. From dreaming to doing rarely happens overnight, but I hope you at least continue to dream.

  6. Vikram, Lyn… travelling costs money, and so does living your day-to-day life back home. Long term travel can be surprisingly cheap. Of course it depends on where you come from, where you’re going, what your expectations are… but when I’m in Asia for months at a time, my living costs are a tiny fraction of what they would be in Europe; I make a living from being a writer and from teaching, and the money I make lasts so much longer in Asia than it would back home. I get so much more for my money too. I work wherever I am, I live well – simply and far from luxury, but it’s a good life. Of course people’s life situations are different but don’t let the money be an excuse for not following your dream to travel.

  7. I loved your article! I am currently on a sabbatical and pursuing acting full-time in Toronto. Leaving my job to focus my time/energy on acting has been the greatest adventure!

  8. And i love what you did…really inspiring..when i first take my travel abroad, i realised how wonderful to experienced different unique cultures..i now realized what marco polo and other explorers feel..it made me think that there is so much to learn and discover in this world rather than putting all your energy on the things you dont love to do in life.

  9. I work to travel! Having my own business for the past 10 years has allowed me to take time out to visits remote parts of the world. (My husband was also a practising lawyer). My dream was to show my children the world, connect with its people. My son science project was in Borneo where we spend endless days trying to connect with one particular ornagutan. It was love at first site and we are now very active with the Orangutan Foundation. i climb mountains, cross deserts, live in huts and the occasional 5 stars hotels. i am always in search of the next advanture. Business has taken a real dive, but I will still return to Africa in April…after that…well I have no idea, I will just have to do what it takes to keep the business going so that i can keep traveling!

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