Rehab phase 1 is almost complete; Phase 2 is coming

Rehab phase 1 is almost complete; Phase 2 is coming

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Today is our last day in Chile. Tomorrow we return to Argentina. Next week we return to the US.

Phase 1 of rehab has been intense

We have been unemployed and in South America for almost exactly 6 months now.

For 6 months we have had no deadlines and no responsibilities.

We’ve had neither cellphone nor blackberry and we’ve tried to exclusively spend our time doing things that we want to do rather than things that we were supposed to do. For instance, look how long it’s been since I last got a haircut:

I need a haircut image

Luckily, I'm getting a haircut later this week

We’ve slept for as many hours as we chose to every night (except for the damn 4am geyser tour in Atacama).

Geysers de tatio image

Stupid geysers. Stupid 4am. Stupid, stupid.

We’ve taken lots of daytime naps, we’ve enjoyed bottles of wine for lunch and we’ve consumed more steak then we had eaten in the previous 10 years combined.

Dinner in Buenos Aires: Perfectly cooked Argentine beef image

And we'd do it again

At times, we’ve seen amazing landscapes. At times, we’ve sat on park benches and watched dogs play for hours. At times, we’ve sat on benches and had people try to steal Jen’s purse – that was entertaining.

We’ve read lots of books. We’ve tried to read many Spanish newspapers. This has gone poorly.

We’ve lived in 2 countries and immersed ourselves in their cultures- Argentina for 4.5 months and Chile for 1.5 months. We are happy to help you plan your trips.

We’ve sat in cafes for hours – in the beginning we had lots to talk about… later we just stared at each other… then we started bringing books… then we ran out of books… Now we don’t go to cafes so much.

Each of these things has been a critical part of our rehabilitation. By completely removing ourselves from our old environment and the associated pressures/peers/challenges, we were forced to gain perspective. We were humbled on a daily basis. It was annoying.

Through immersing ourselves in foreign cultures in which nothing is expected of us and no one cares about our resumes or has a vested interest in what we do next, we found perspective on who we had been and on who we want to be. At times it was freeing, at times it was frustrating – both are part of the process.

Through meeting people on the road (both travelers and locals) our perspective on what life can look like and the sheer number of different possibilities that exist and can lead to happiness has expanded immensely. As has our definition of happiness-now we think it requires frequent napping.

Finding this perspective was the goal of rehab phase 1. This isn’t the end. We don’t have any answers, but this new and broader perspective will serve as the foundation for phase 2.

Rehab phase 2:  Re-entry / where we go from here

Next week we will fly back to the US and begin phase 2. We are not sad to return, we are excited to start a new chapter of this adventure. It’s like a choose your own adventure book, except written for adults instead of 8 year olds.

To say that we are ‘returning’ is not entirely accurate… we don’t have a specific home to return to. We have a storage unit full of stuff in San Francisco and a car in Seattle. We have no jobs and no place to live that is our own. And, due to poor/rushed planning all of our other clothes are in that storage unit, so we will have to continue wearing the same 5 outfits that we have been wearing for the last 6 months even though all of our sweaters and socks have holes in them. This should make a strong impression in job interviews.

We won’t be picking up where we left off, we will be starting fresh in a new city. We are planning to live in Seattle for a variety of reasons. It will likely rain a lot, but also be much cheaper.

The prospect of starting fresh is a little intimidating at times, but with our newly broadened perspective, we are excited to construct lives that offer us balance. We don’t know what it will look like exactly. From a distance, it might look like a dancing penguin. No one knows. That’s what makes it exciting.

dancing penguin image

Let's hope that it doesn't look like this dancing penguin

Jen is looking for a ‘real’ job. I plan to pursue a number of entrepreneurial projects that I have been toying with for some time. In both cases, we will only consider things that we think we will genuinely enjoy. We have already accumulated plenty of option value in our careers and are ready to cash in and find things we love. The evil mongeese can suck it.

We’d like to have a dog. And we’d like to have lives that allow us to keep the dog alive. We suspect that the dog will appreciate this as well.

We plan to have hobbies outside of work. We’ve heard that this is possible. Jen would like to teach English as a foreign language in the evenings. I’m excited to return to improv comedy. Maybe we’ll even do something athletic–fear not, we pledge to continue drinking enough wine to keep ourselves firmly out of shape.

We believe that we are ready for phase 2, but re-entry comes with a number of risks. We need to be ever-vigilant for any signs of relapse.

Signs that we might be relapsing:

If any of the following occur, we may need to buy plane tickets or at least some steak…

  1. We don’t actively pursue hobbies
  2. We eat take-out dinners more than twice a week
  3. We have more than 3 days in a row of unhappiness at work (a couple of days can happen anywhere from time to time – at 3, we torch the place)
  4. More than 50% of the friends that we spend time with on a regular basis have MBAs
  5. We spend more than 10% of our social interactions complaining about our jobs
  6. We eat lunch while still typing
  7. The idea of getting a dog dies due to impracticalities of work schedule
  8. The dog itself dies due to neglect
  9. Multiple instances of cancelling social events occurs due to last-minute work conflicts
  10. We check emails on our phone while mid-conversation with others
  11. We don’t manage to leave the country at least twice a year
  12. We achieve Starwood platinum status (and are proud of it)

There are almost certainly others. We will need your help to avoid relapsing. That is why we absolutely plan to continue this blog. It will become less about South America (though there are still tons of topics we’ve been meaning to write about on Chile/Argentina and still plan to), and more about Seattle and our re-entry.

We hope to be an example not just of a couple that left our jobs to travel for 6 months, but one that also made a successful return to our careers and are better off than we were before we left.

Stay tuned.

Any other relapse warning signs you can think of that we should watch out for??

Please leave a comment, it will make us feel special!

  • Frances September 9, 2010 at 12:50 am

    13. You find you are not laughing as much as before.
    14. (because 13 is bad luck) You feel guilty because you are doing nothing much and enjoying it.

    Good luck and happy landings! Come back soon.

    • ryan September 12, 2010 at 6:23 pm

      Good advice, thank you Frances! We’ll miss you guys!

  • Juju September 9, 2010 at 9:54 am

    15. Sleep is interrupted by anxiety.

    Love the bit about the dog. It’s really symbolic to living holistically and truly appreciating others company and caring as much for them as they do you.

    • ryan September 12, 2010 at 6:23 pm

      Thanks Nigel and Juju!

  • Nigel September 9, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    People who have dogs are happier and live longer!

    Good luck with keeping within the rubrics!

  • John September 10, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    mmmm….pisco sours

  • Crack September 10, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Just seen this – was going to suggest a glass of wine later this year when we arrive hmmpf! Good luck on your return, i’ve thoroughly enjoyed your blog and will be using as a reference going forward.

    • ryan September 12, 2010 at 6:24 pm


      Sorry that we’ll miss you :( You’ll have to start a blog so that we can read about your adventures!


      • Crack September 20, 2010 at 7:17 am

        Hope you don’t mind the shameless plug re my new, all singing and dancing blog! I’m loving Mark Adkins comment – wise words i’m sure….

  • MarnieWDC September 12, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Enjoy your last days in BsAs – and then have a soft landing in Seattle. Remember: patience, patience patience – and then a lovely Malbec, Luigi Bosca reserva ! I have enjoyed your blog from the earliest days – sad to see you leave SA, but hope to run into you there one day.

    • ryan September 12, 2010 at 6:25 pm

      Thank you Marnie! Yes, hope to run into you in SA sometime in the future. Best!

  • nikki September 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    love the dog bit! :) I would add “neglect friends and loved ones because you’re working or you’re too miserable to interact with anyone because of work”. hope that having an mba doesn’t mean i’ll never get to see you again ;) will miss having you in sf…

  • Mark Adkins September 18, 2010 at 10:46 am

    You guys are nuts for deciding to come back. You’ve established yourselves down there….now just make it stick. How many gringos can say they have discovered countries full of beauty and opportunity, while also finding that relaxed pace of life. Your coming home to high unemployment, political bickering and gridlock, and just poor quality of life in general. My gut tells me, you’ll be home for about 6-12 months before you realize “We should have another go of it down south…” My two cents…(by the way, just so you don’t think I’m some disgruntled Yankee who wants to sit and complain, we are making our plans for a move to Santiago…)

    BTW – Loved reading everything you have posted during your adventure and hope to see more posts again….from South America.

  • Betsy Talbot September 22, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Welcome to Seattle! Sorry to be leaving for our own adventure just as you are landing here, but we are happy to make introductions for you to the great cast of characters we call friends. I will be interested to follow along as you re-enter “regular” life and see how the trip changes your perspective on things.

  • Jeff L December 16, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks so much for all the great info. One quick question that i didn’t see covered anywhere…what are your thoughts on getting health insurance to cover you while in BA? Did you maintain US insurance, pay for local, get travel insurance, etc.?

    Much appreciated!

    • ryan December 17, 2010 at 1:49 am

      Hey Jeff, Thanks for commenting. We maintained our US insurance for the first few months just because our previous employer covered it. Later we got a new US based non-employer plan mainly because we knew we’d need it when we got back and didn’t want to have a gap in coverage. That said, there is a free public healthcare system in Argentina that works for tourists as well and if you want higher-end services it’s quite inexpensive to get private medical insurance down there (I think it was in the neighborhood of ~Us$100/month when we checked) through one of the private hospital networks (e.g., German, Swiss, etc.) and you can basically buy the insurance the day that you need it without any problems from what we heard. We never had any medical issues down there, but we heard that it was very easy and the services were quite good. So, I’d probably reconfirm elsewhere just to be sure, but as far as we could tell it wasn’t something you had to worry much about.

      enjoy your trip!

  • José January 18, 2011 at 1:32 am

    You are a bad rebel boy! Quit work, quit the Blackberry, let your hair grow (in a Jimmy Hendrix style). Wow, that needs balls (especially for the hair!). But why so much advirtising?

  • Patricia August 18, 2011 at 6:31 am

    What a great blog! I came across this while researching for my own sabbatical (4 months, including 2 months in Argentina). Loved the story, the adventures, and the ending. I’m dreaming of a dog as well, but with my old job, it would’ve totally died within 2 weeks bc of all the travels. I have just left the job last month and will start the trip on September 1! Thanks for the inspiration!

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