Ten years ago, I graduated from college and entered the corporate world. I was supposed to write for a newspaper but my impatience led me take a call center job instead. During that time, the BPO industry was still growing in the Philippines. It was not as big as it is nowadays, but the pay was already enough.
One thing I liked about my call center job then was that I NEVER handled calls. Due to a hearing impairment, I was only assigned to answer emails. In a way, I still did what I wanted which was writing, but exhaustion hit me after 2 years. Instead of looking for a new job, I applied for a management position and got my wish for a new transition.
I may have learned so many lessons from 4 years of management, but I went through HELL. I lost myself in the process and couldn’t find my way out of a maze. My frustration at work along with the money I was earning brought me to a destructive state.
I was spending about EIGHT THOUSAND PESOS on alcohol almost every month. I spent lavishly on material things. Worst, I got into horrible situations such as getting hit by a truck because I was sleeping on the wheel of my car due to intoxication or getting beaten up black and blue after unhealthy discussions over alcohol.
Everything was falling apart: my faith was slipping away, I neglected my health, I hardly spent time with my loved ones, and I really didn’t care about my future.
Then I lost my job.
Due to the recession, the company I was in had to downsize. At the same time, I got out of a situation that was slowly ruining my state of mind. From then on, I started to reflect on my life. I had so many questions, but the most important one was this:
What do you want to do in life?
Five months after losing my job, my friend and I embarked on a South East Asian journey that opened my eyes to a new world.
When I came back home, I started working again, but this time, I chose a path that I knew would make me happy. I vowed to never become part of the management team of any corporate company EVER AGAIN (and I’m holding on to this). For a very low Php 13,000 / month wage, I took a writing gig. I was satisfied then as I’ve always wanted to write full time.
Despite all the writing, I still didn’t know what to do with my life.
Months passed and I decided to just develop my skill – got a few articles published, took MA classes, and got a new writing job that would expose me to the advertising side of writing. Yet, there was something missing.
In October of 2010, I traveled alone to Vietnam and experienced more that I could ever imagine. That trip made me feel the impact of traveling, but I didn’t really listen to the voice inside. I still worked in a cubicle and thought of myself as someone who will eventually have a nice home, a nice car, and occasional travel money.
2011 was supposed to be my year for traveling to Laos, but that didn’t turn out well. A family financial crisis forced me to find my own place. From the business district of Makati, I found a new home somewhere near the North. In the past, I would just go home and wait for someone to serve me dinner, but in my new situation, I learned to do things on my own such as cleaning the house and cooking my food. I rode the jeepney everyday and sacrificed so many things to survive with a minimal income.
I started to feel depressed. Things weren’t going my way. I thought I would travel out of the country yearly, continue to drive a car, and eat at expensive restaurants. A few months later, while trying to find my way, I discovered Vagabonding.
Vagabonding is “The act of leaving behind the orderly world to travel independently for an extended period of time” and “A deliberate way of living that makes freedom to travel possible”.
I learned about Rolf Potts, Jodi Ettenberg, Wandering Earl, Nomadic Matt, and Sherry Ott among many. These folks aren’t rich. But they quit their jobs to travel the world. Some continue to earn online, while some teach English to earn money or work at odd jobs to fund their travels. Everything these people are doing at the moment (decisions, lifestyle, work) is for one purpose only: to travel.
You know that EUREKA lightbulb moment? Well, I didn’t really feel that. But I felt something deeper, something more celestial when I found out about vagabonding. It was like a calling. I started to sense that traveling is no longer a mere vacation. It’s my life. And it’s not a selfish endeavor. It’s my way of inspiring the world or teaching the world that your house, your money, your car, your clothes, your CD collection, your books, your magazines don’t really matter. Your experience does, and if you can change someone’s life through your experiences, it only means you have succeeded.
Since then, things started to piece themselves together. I started to understand why my past was…well, a bit fucked up.
If I did not screw up earlier in life, I would have unleashed my demons now and who knows if I’ll even be writing this?
If I did not get into tough health situations, I would not have quit smoking.
If I did not move out of my house, I would not have found the will to survive on my own (an essential part of vagabonding)
I used to despise and regret EVERY SINGLE MOMENT that happened to me right after my graduation and before I lost my job. But I have come to believe that everything happens for a reason.
Right now, I am saving up for my first ever long trip: my one month travel to China and Laos overland. Reason why I cannot extend is, I have plans to go to Europe next year so budget has to be planned carefully. Yet! I’m keeping an open mind of course (I only purchased a return ticket in order to get a Chinese Visa). If there are work opportunities related to travel or can help me travel more, then I might give up my cubicle space. I’m just keeping my mind open to all possibilities.
There are those who may say that I should just quit my job and take the leap. I believe I’m taking that leap, but I’m keeping my job for now to help me travel again because TRAVEL and WORK go hand in hand. Anyone who disagrees is being unreasonable.
And I always believe that traveling is something that you shouldn’t rush into (eg. you have to see 50 countries in a year). Every situation, no matter where you are, presents an experience. It’s really up to you to embrace it or let it pass you by. And so far, I’ve learned that it’s never the destination. It’s the TRIP itself that matters more.
I guess I speak for all those who nearly lost hope or have lost hope. My response to that is: NEVER GIVE UP. You have to endure something difficult if you want to realize something good later on. And no matter how screwed up the past was, there’s always a way to come back.