Anna is an escape member who recently returned from taking a 7 month sabbatical to cycle through all 50 states of the USA. She used the journey as a platform to inspire kids to get active, and get exploring. You can read the post she wrote at the start of her journey here.
I remember the exact moment it happened – the escape, that is. I was standing in my London living room musing over an extract from a book called Vagabonding.
Something about the passage I was reading struck a chord. Years of feeling suffocated by feelings of wanderlust clawed to the surface. And a thought popped into my head: “How about I just… go?”
12 months later, I was on a plane headed to the start of my first big adventure. Though the trip was fraught with challenges, by far the most difficult part was that single moment of realisation – that leaving a day to day routine was even a possibility.
So, in the hope that it helps you to do the same, here’s the process that got me to the start line.
List your excuses
Write down every possible reason not to go. Get wild. Go over the top – mortgage, job, relationships, money, fitness, health, family. Leave no stone unturned, it’ll only rear its ugly head somewhere down the line.
Then ask yourself one simple question. ‘Are any of these things, individually, a good enough reason not to leave?’
My biggest excuses were: my job, a lack of funds, and telling my parents. The latter was by far the greatest barrier in the end – largely because it was so wedded to emotion. I felt like I was saying “Thanks for all the struggle, the education, university n’all, but I’d actually quite like to just go and ride my bike around a bit.”
List your fears
At a glance these seem the same as the excuses, but they’re a lot more difficult to find. They’re probably nestled somewhere in the recesses if your mind, or lounging at the pit of your stomach.
You might even need a little quiet time to find them. Mine included things like: being hit by a truck, getting attacked by a bear and feeling lonely. Next to each fear, I wrote a rational response.
The ‘rational’ column next to many was left wanting as I departed, but I resolved that that was okay too. Because, either way, somehow fears seem smaller and more manageable when they’re down in black and white.
Time and time again we’re told how ‘tough’ the job market is, and it roots us to the spot. I planned to quit my job. I didn’t know what I’d do when I came home, but the compulsion to go was so great that it mattered more to me than any structured career progression.
Plus, I figured that I was a good worker. I know my strengths (and weaknesses) well. If you’re going to have the balls to follow a passion, have the equivalent balls to know that you’ll always find something to fall back on if needs be.
Exit with grace
I was on one month’s notice at work, so when I told my boss with 7 months still to go, my peers said I was crazy. I felt it important to be honest. I wanted to treat her with the same respect I’d like to be shown, and to not land my team in a whole pile of ugly.
It paid off. To my complete surprise I was offered a sabbatical. Jacking in your job, busting out in a blaze of glory is all very well and good, but the reality can be far less dramatic.
You don’t have to be reckless. Coming home to a pay-check can be a possibility, as can negotiating a period of extended leave.
Trust your gut
I hadn’t a clue where this trip would lead – beyond the physicality of it, I mean. It just felt like the right thing to do.
I’d stay up until 2am working on the website and emailing local communities. I took a weekend job in a bike shop to learn basic bike mechanics and a bit of extra cash.
I didn’t sleep more than 4 hours a night for a good 5 months, but I was ecstatic. More alive, excited and inspired than I’d ever been. That showed me it was the right choice. And passion is still hard work, but it’s never a chore.
Life post escape
People often ask if what I did was life changing, and I reply that it was life affirming. That is, I always knew it was the kind of thing I should spend my precious days doing. And now I know that for sure.
Of course, I’m still nowhere near the finish line, and in honesty I’ve returned to the UK in a greater state of turmoil than before I left. But I’m making baby steps, and at least I’m on my way.
So if you’re reading this before making your first big leap into the unknown, all I can say, in honesty, and with earnest is … just go, and go now.