I’d made it. Seven years of training and I was officially qualified as a lawyer. I should have been ecstatic but all I felt was disappointment.
Client meetings, conferences and presentations provided me with more than enough to do, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. It was a feeling I endured for eight years, willing it to get better, but it didn’t.
Meanwhile, during my vacations, I tapped into something that started to fill the void: Seeing new places and exploring new cultures. Year after year I took one trip after another closer to the inevitable truth—I couldn’t be a lawyer any longer.
I threw away years of hard work in search of travel and don’t regret it for a second.
Here’s why I gave up law to travel:
1) I swapped materialism for experience
One of the things a legal career guarantees is a healthy bank balance. A premium Champagne lifestyle was mine, but the satisfaction that came with my material purchases barely lasted longer than the Visa swipe.
Conversely, staring into the inquisitive eyes of an orangutan gave me a sense of awe and inspiration that lingers even now, as does rocketing down a sand dune on a snowboard, taking my first surf lesson, eating chicken brain and making new friends around the world.
Travel has given me experiences that no material item ever could.
2) I gained a perspective on life
Despite my traveling ways, I have an intrinsically bad sense of direction, which, one wandering day, took me into the midst of a residential area in Cambodia.
I was horrified at the poverty—huts made from any item that came to hand or mind, children toddling bare bottomed and shoeless adults sat on the hard dirt floor, but equally I saw a smile on every face within that community.
Seeing other cultures with less but enjoying more from life is a humbling experience. Equally, visiting countries where resources are short has taught me some good survival instincts—always shampoo first and never leave home without a flashlight.
3) I reset my body clock
I used to eat, sleep, exercise and breathe according to a schedule set by my superiors at work. My time was their time and it didn’t take long to lose any sense of what my body really wanted.
Wandering the globe has allowed me the luxury of resetting my internal clock. I rise when I’m ready (earlier than I thought), sleep when I’m tired (later than I thought), eat when I’m hungry (less frequently than I thought) and spend the time in between exercising, not in an air-conditioned gym, but in the beauty of nature.
Now, a working day can involve my laptop, a beach, snorkeling equipment and a picnic. I’m doing all of the same necessary activities, just in a different way.
4) I revisited my dreams
We spend our childhood coming to understand our dreams and our adult life trying to forget them.
Mortgages, jobs, family and responsibilities can quickly remove the time or intention to follow our dreams. Taking a break from the norm can provide a real opportunity to reconsider what it is we want in life and how to get back on track.
With the comfort of a career break backing me up, I was able to take time out, rethink my life and pull my attention in a different direction. I always had my writer’s pen and paper on me; I just wasn’t working on the right script.
5) I’m living life fully
I feel like I have done a lot in my life and most of that experience has happened in the past two years.
During my legal career, I quelled my sense of adventure, diverting my energy into hard work instead. Without the constraints of an office to exhaust me, I can search out the activities that excite.
Mine isn’t a bucket list, it’s a living list. I don’t want to cram my adventures into a one last burst of life before death.
I want to live my life every day to its absolute fullest, and in a few weeks, that’s going to involve my first ever sky dive.
Becoming a lawyer was hard. Making the decision to un-become a lawyer was even harder. But enjoying the results of my choice has been the easiest thing ever, and something I don’t regret for a second.
Have you quit your career to travel or do you dream of doing the same? Let me know in the comments below.
If you liked this article, you might also like: 15 Things I’ve Learned from 10 Years of Living and Traveling Abroad.
Main photo: Once a lawyer, now a world traveler…with no regrets.
All images are author’s own.