Quitting My Job, Traveling to Europe, and Digitally Detoxing
I had just quit my job in New York City. I was deathly afraid of quitting and being a “failure” (or perceived as one), but I was even more afraid of falling apart.
In New York, it’s hard to “escape the city.” Firstly, we New Yorkers work all the time and spend our weekends buying groceries, doing laundry, trying to engage in one or two social activities, and then catching up on movies on Netflix. Secondly, escaping the city is expensive and there aren’t too many options. I once paid for a house share in the Hamptons for one weekend that cost $1000. Given the fast-paced culture of New York, it’s very important to mentally and physically escape the city for one’s sanity.
I was deathly afraid of quitting and being a “failure” (or perceived as one), but I was even more afraid of falling apart.
My escape plan was a two-week European extravaganza: one-week gallivanting London, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, and Budapest with my fiancé; and one week traversing London and Paris on my own, while spending three days in a digital detox (hippy) camping retreat outside of London.
After my week spent traversing Western Europe with my fiancé, I already felt better – both mentally and physically. I laughed for the first time in months, and slept like a baby at night after walking miles each day. He returned to NYC, while I continued onwards on my journey alone. I absolutely love traveling alone, because I learn what I’m capable of.
My first stop was London to visit my extended family in Richmond (West London). My cousin has two daughters, Sia and Indu (8 and 6 years-old, respectively). It’s amazing how spending time with children allows you to get outside of your own head. In this quiet suburb of London, I sat and painted in Hello Kitty journals with my two nieces, while they baked brownies and asked me questions about life. Hanging out with pets and/or children tends to have the same effect on most: your attention is focused upon something or someone vulnerable, and you tend to forget your worries.
I also took the opportunity to explore Notting Hill and meet with old friends. Notting Hill is famous for its Portobello Market and colorful streets. I had remembered visiting as a child with my mother, and the memories came flooding back as I walked through the streets and went shopping. I bought a pair of £5 rain boots to take with me to the camp I’d be attending in London after Paris.
My next stop was Paris. I found a British Airways flight on miles for just $50 and was out of London and in downtown Paris in just under 3 hours. In Paris, I took the metro everywhere and revisited the Louvre, Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Le Marais area – all of which I had once visited ten years ago with my mother.
I did the quintessential Parisian thing and bought a pan au chocolat every morning and ate it at different iconic French monuments. My most memorable moment was opening and anticipating eating a decadent almond croissant while sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower. Out of nowhere, a beautiful Golden Retriever came up to the croissant and ate it in one bite. I laughed, again, for the first time in months.
In Paris, one can simply marvel at the perfectly glazed macaroons, the unexpected street art, and perfume shops – and the intentional presentation with which things are done is transcending. In Paris, I completely forgot about my career woes and savored life.
3 MUST DO’s in Paris
1, Get lost in the Le Marais area for the best shopping, traditional French cafes, and falafels. I stayed on the famous Rue de Turenne and was able to walk to Le Marais in just under five minutes.
2. Have a picnic in the garden in front of the Eiffel Tower for lovely people watching. You’ll begin to realize how ridiculous every person looks taking a selfie.
3. Go by yourself. It’s truly the best way to find yourself when you’re lost and is an entirely different experience.
Escape the City Camp in Buckinghamshire, England
Perhaps one of the best things I did for my mental and physical well-being was a three-day camping retreat outside of London through an organization called the Escape the City. Escape the City organized a Microfestival for Career Change in Buckinghamshire, outside of London. Part of the reason why I wanted to do this trip was because it was completely outside of my comfort zone and my fiancé did not want me to go. But it’s only when I’ve truly gone outside of my comfort zone that I’ve grown and been my happiest. As Sheryl Sandburg writes in her book Lean In: “The cost of stability is often diminished opportunities for growth.”
When I returned to London, a stranger (and fellow campmate) picked me up from Heathrow, along with one of the camp organizers. I immediately bonded with these strangers on the nearly two-hour journey there, and felt true elation and excitement for the weekend to come.
I learned I was not a failure for quitting my job, but someone who took control of my life.
The camp was pretty hippy dippy. We engaged in laughter therapy, sang songs around a campfire, and pitched our own tents with no showers or sinks. Furthermore, the organizers collected our cell phones in a trunk when we arrived to help us with our “digital detox.”
While it was challenging, it was absolutely fantastic. For the first time in over a year, I felt I was with a group of people who got me, and that I had found my “tribe.” I could physically feel the tension in my body release. I learned I was not a failure for quitting my job, but someone who took control of my life.
3 MUST DO’s When You’re About to Quit Your Job and Escape the City
2. One thing I have found that helps is writing a “happiness list”: write a list of all the things that make you happy. Every so often, refer to that list, and make sure that at least once a week you are doing something that makes you happy! A few of my favorite things are walking outside, reading, and writing.
3. Plan your escape. Leave your natural environment for even a weekend to give yourself the mental and physical space you need to reconnect with yourself.