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I Was at the Top of My Career. Then I Quit My Job to Travel the World for 13 Months

The logical part of me knew this feeling could just be part of “adulting,” the realization that the bloom can’t stay on the rose forever. But the voice inside me that I’d learned to listen to to get me the career I had said I needed a breather. I told my husband that night that I had to quit. My exact words were, “I need a break. I can’t keep this up. I just want to stop.”

“What happens after that?” he asked. I didn’t know. I’d never quit anything before.

His next question was, “Should we go travel?”

He had worked in the restaurant business his entire life. When he moved to New York from the midwest to be with me two years earlier, he’d taken a job that he didn’t love but that paid the bills. He put in long hours that were at the opposite end of my day. Weekends together were non-existent. As I finished at the office in the early afternoon, he would head into the restaurant. He’d get home around 2 a.m, an hour before I got up for work. Twice we had dates in that late-night-early-morning window: an after-work drink and dinner for him, an early morning coffee and breakfast for me. On one of those occasions we were sitting in a diner near our apartment around 3 a.m. He was eating pancakes and an ice cream sundae; I had a BLT. The TV on the wall suddenly played the all-too-familiar Special Report music and the graphics reserved for breaking news. William and Kate’s first baby had just been born. My phone started to buzz with emails, and the alerts rolled in. Date over. I kissed him goodbye and headed into the studio.

So that night, when he asked, “Should we go travel?” I didn’t hesitate. I pictured a year of uninterrupted dates and going to sleep at the same time.

Yes.

To be clear, I didn’t want to eat, pray, or love. I wasn’t in the dark days of a breakup, and my job hadn’t ended. I didn’t need to find myself. There was no crisis (yet), but I knew that a pre-emptive strike was needed. A pause for pause’s sake. It wasn’t so much an epiphany as that internal voice, telling me this was the right thing to do. It was the same voice that had guided my previous life-changing decisions—studying abroad, moving to New York, marrying my husband. It was always louder and clearer than the strains of fear and anxiety and confusion that often haunt big choices. When this voice spoke, it was never a matter of should we do this, but rather how soon can we?

Over the next few weeks we hatched a plan to leave New York and began to tell family and friends. Some people thought it was completely crazy, that we were being irresponsible. Just as many said they wished they were doing the same. I gave my bosses 10-weeks notice. It was by far the scariest moment of the entire process, not because I had doubts, but because once I uttered the words, I knew there was no going back. (I spent the moments before the meeting panicking in a bathroom stall.) The first executive reacted in disbelief, then said he understood that I might need a break and asked if I wanted to take off a month or two or even six, as a sabbatical. He suggested that he could find a different spot for me at the show, with different hours. I was honest and direct with him: I wanted a year off to travel, and my last day would be mid-January. I think he mistook this announcement as a whim. He ended the meeting encouraging me to think it over. But I’d made up my mind.

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