In July 2019 I turned 40 and I also resigned from my job to take a career break. You see, behind my smiley birthday photos, my body was staging a revolt. It was a week before my birthday when all the symptoms started, after a very difficult meeting at work, and they lasted for about a month. The day my resignation was officially announced, I spent the entire morning headbanging to the song “Tubthumping (I Get Knocked Down)” and dancing around my house. That night was the first night I slept for 8 hours straight in 5 months! The bliss! It was time for a “career break.”
My Career Break – a Journey of Self-Discovery
I had made up my mind. I was going to travel. My first solo holiday was in Cuba in April and all I knew was that I had an awesome time and I needed more of that in my life.
The idea was to tick a few destinations off my bucket list during my career break. And I would indulge in what I love the most: live music, nature, mountains, beach, books. I would not have a travel plan. I would not book a return ticket. And I would not search for a new job. I had no idea what would happen next, but I was going to do it anyway.
The start of my career break
I booked a one-way ticket to New York for mid-September. I bought a few Lonely Planet guides, I sub-let my house, I made a draft budget and I packed a 20kg backpack (believe me, the latter was the hardest part of all!)
And so, I left… After New York, I went to Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans. I spent 3 weeks watching live musicians play amazing music, sightseeing and seriously considering moving to Nashville, despite my unsuccessful attempts to learn line-dancing!
After the US “music trip,” I went to Brazil, mainly to see Brazil landmarks such as the largest waterfalls on the planet, Iguazu, the magnitude and energy of which is still with me.
Peru – where I began to discover myself
Unbeknownst to me then, the highlight of my career break was going to be Peru. I wanted to visit Machu Picchu for at least 2 decades. I did not expect that Peru would give me my new “how-to-live-life values”!
- Peru was the place where I learnt how to breathe slowly when things go wrong. Try to hike at 5,000 m whilst struggling for air because of the altitude in the Peruvian Andes. If that won’t teach you that you need to take it slow, I don’t know what will!
- In Peru, I also understood the value of simple living when we visited a village in the Andes and saw how happy and healthy people are, despite having none of our western, modern world’s “comforts” and “privileges”.
- In Peru, I felt my heart bursting with love when I saw the faces of the children of the school we visited when we gave them new shoes, as a present. Remembering those smiley, glowing faces will make any day better for the rest of my life.
- And in Peru and in general during this trip, I learned that being humble in front of nature, mountains, adversity, other cultures and people, is what makes (solo) traveling a soul healing experience and life better overall.
Winding down to return home
I did not want to leave Peru just yet, but I wanted to rest. So I flew to Mexico to relax and to start thinking about my next steps back home.
During my last days in Mexico, and while I was nearly 3 months on the road, I felt ready to book my return ticket. But not before extending for another month and adding a couple more countries to my self-rediscovery trip. I was going to hike an active volcano in Guatemala and spend Christmas on the beach in Costa Rica! The volcano was the 2nd biggest highlight. Incredible, goose bump-worthy experience!
I finished my trip with a quick visit to Boston, a city that competed with and beaten Nashville in my “favorite cities” list and I spent NYE at home, in front of my fireplace that I had missed so much!
At the beginning of January, while I was in Athens, visiting family and friends, I had a call from a recruiter who knew me from a previous job. She told me that she had the perfect job for me. Two weeks and two interviews later, I had a job offer!
I start my new job exactly 5 months from the date I left for NYC and one month after my return home. The decision to leave was extremely high risk for me, but this trip was the best gift I have ever given myself!
So to all the women out there who want to take a leap of faith and do something outside of their comfort zone, whatever that might be, big or small: Go for it! It will be the most rewarding experience you will ever have. I promise! My career break was exactly what I needed before starting a new portion of my life.
Live Simply | Breathe Slowly | Travel Humbly | Love Unconditionally
Christina is a Greek from Athens who lives in England, UK. When not traveling, she can be found stuffing her face with dark chocolate, or signing loudly in concerts of her favourite bands, or having long conversations with friends over a glass of wine.