I'm a burned-out millennial who quit a high-paying 9-to-5 job to travel full time
- Millennials are more likely to say they are often or always burned out at work than workers in older generations, according to research by Gallup.
- Other research found that over 73% of millennials reported working more than 40-hour work weeks, with a stronger desire for flexibility over pay.
- Olivia Young was a burned out millennial who quit her job at an LA entertainment PR agency and booked a one-way flight to New Zealand in 2016.
- Here's why she hasn't come back.
Looking back on it, I was doing pretty well for a 25-year-old.
After graduating from a good university in my small Ohio hometown, I immediately fled to Los Angeles to pursue my big-city dreams. I loved the energy of LAc - the perpetually sunny weather, the glamour of the entertainment industry, and the carefree nature of West Coast living.
My first full-time job after college was at an entertainment PR firm where I was hired as an assistant to a man who had Kim Kardashian's phone number in his address book. The 10-hour-minimum days, skipped lunch breaks, and entry-level salary (which was just enough to keep me above the poverty line) were well worth it in the beginning, because I came home every night with an exciting new story.
My days were so long and fast-paced that my feet would tingle when I finally tucked myself into bed. And even then, my phone pinged endlessly throughout the night with email after email.
I had plenty of money, but no time to spend it
After three years at the firm, I was managing my own clients. My boss went on maternity leave twice, leaving me with more responsibility. My friends envied that my company often flew me around the country for high-profile events in New York, Seattle, Park City, Lake Tahoe, and more.
What little personal life I had dissipated as my career - and my paycheck - grew. I finally had plenty of money to have fun with, but no time to spend it.
At the age of 25, I began questioning whether success, wealth, and social status were worth it. I realized when I started fantasizing about being one of the landscapers working outside my office building that no, it wasn't.
"I'm too tired to start over," I would cry to my roommate when she tried to convince me to leave my job. I knew that job hunting would feel like an additional job on top of the one I already had. I didn't need any more jobs - I wanted a break.
My friend told me to travel, I thought she was crazy
Up until this point, the prospect of travel hadn't once entered my career-possessed mind. Once I was complaining about my job to a friend, as I often did, and she told me about a program called the New Zealand Working Holiday, which allows Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 to live and work in New Zealand for a year.
I told her she was crazy. "I have a career!" I said. However, the next day during my daily midday mental breakdown, I typed "New Zealand working holiday visa" into Google on my work computer.
I didn't have much in savings, but I could make money when I got there, surely. I didn't know where I would live, but I could probably work for accommodation somewhere. My career might fall apart if I left for so long, but I would figure it out.
It was going to be a challenge, yes, but I finally felt ready - excited, even - for such an experience. I applied for a visa and two weeks later, it was approved. I booked a one-way flight to Auckland before I could change my mind.
I arrived in New Zealand with $5,000
My mother said I was throwing away my college degree (she later came around).
When I turned in my resignation at work that very week, they said that I was at the peak of my career, but that I had seemed unhappy for a long time. We settled on calling it a sabbatical even though I didn't plan on ever going back. (I've now been gone for two years.)
I terminated my lease and got $1,000 back from the security deposit. I sold my bike, my bed, and all the designer outfits that I obviously wouldn't need while hitchhiking through New Zealand.
I cashed in some vacation time and arrived in Auckland with $5,000. I spent the first few months working on farms in exchange for accommodation and food, until I bought a campervan named Bessie. That's where I lived for the next eight months.
There were times when I worried about running out of money, but a little job would always pop up. I've worked on vineyards, done housekeeping at a hotel, and even painted a house for some extra cash. I've now backpacked through New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia, and I'm writing this now from a coffee shop in Southwest England.
Traveling isn't easy, but it's invigorating and has unexpectedly done wonders for my career as a writer. It has given me the freedom to live a life I'm passionate about, one that allows me to write, roam, create, and grow. Needless to say, I won't be going back to the nine-to-five life any time soon.
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