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:
We’ve slept for as many hours as we chose to every night (except for the damn 4am geyser tour in Atacama).
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.
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.
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…
- We don’t actively pursue hobbies
- We eat take-out dinners more than twice a week
- 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)
- More than 50% of the friends that we spend time with on a regular basis have MBAs
- We spend more than 10% of our social interactions complaining about our jobs
- We eat lunch while still typing
- The idea of getting a dog dies due to impracticalities of work schedule
- The dog itself dies due to neglect
- Multiple instances of cancelling social events occurs due to last-minute work conflicts
- We check emails on our phone while mid-conversation with others
- We don’t manage to leave the country at least twice a year
- 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.
Any other relapse warning signs you can think of that we should watch out for??