The American Psychological Association’s website indicates that burnout is emotional exhaustion resulting from overwhelming stress at work. It may be caused by a hostile work environment or fears about job security, but it often results from long hours, stressful deadlines, high expectations, worrying about a project, or taking on more work than you can handle—in other words, working too hard. It can lead to serious conditions, such as depression and heart disease, and you should seek professional help if you are experiencing burnout.
Professional help? Haha. I decided to quit. Best. Decision. Ever.
At this time last year I was living through another Wisconsin winter and in the midst of two Epic system Go-Lives. From December 2nd to the 20th I worked nonstop – bouncing back and forth between Portland Maine and Detroit Michigan. I would regularly drink double espressos at 5 AM to get out of bed, and drink double whiskeys at 1 AM to get into bed. Everything done outside of those four precious hours of sleep was related to work. I was mentally and physically killing myself. I hated myself. I hated my ‘life’ – a word that ironically had very little to do with the concept of ‘living’.
Roughly nine months ago I penned a ‘farewell’ email to my co-workers stating that, “…after 8368 hours logged, nearly 500,000 airline miles, 300+ Marriott nights, 145.5 on-site days last year, and (based on the number of trips) roughly 1000 double espressos, it is with a strange sense of accomplishment (some would say ‘A Triumph’) that I currently type out “Today is my last day.””
I had no real plan for what would come next. I packed up my apartment and put everything into storage knowing only that I would travel “for two or three months” and that I was going to one or more of the countries found on the map below.
Today as I approach the end of a 277 day therapy session/adventure through Asia, life is very different. Physically I’m in great shape – getting out of bed at 7 AM six days a week and heading straight to the gym. Mentally I couldn’t be better – one of my favorite parts of the day is scheduled nap time with the two cats that also live in this Taiwanese apartment.
Naps!? What a difference a year makes.
Lately I’ve been looking back at everything that’s happened over the last 9 months. I’ve found things in pictures I previously overlooked. I’ve started thinking about just how far I’ve physically and mentally traveled. I’ve spent an insane amount of time putting together a photo book of my favorite pictures. And I’ve started summarizing everything I’ve seen and experienced into what will be these final few blog posts.
If I’m being completely honest with myself, this trip began three months before I left my job. Last year I spent Christmas and New Year’s between Argentina and Brazil. It was the first time in more than a year that I was able to completely step away from the hundreds of daily emails and hours of meetings that made up my daily life. More than that, it was the first time in a long time that I was surrounded by people who weren’t coworkers. Strangely, I found myself around people who enjoyed their work and daily surroundings. In contrast, I was slaving away at a place where you receive congratulatory emails when you finally decide that you’ve had enough. I decided that I had had enough somewhere between the steaks of La Cabrera Norte in Buenos Aires, the deafening yet peaceful waterfalls of Iguazu Falls, and roaming Copacabana and Ipanema with two-million people in Rio De Janeiro on New Year’s Eve.
By January 5th I was scheduling interviews with companies in Washington DC and Boston. Eventually I was declined one job offer and decided against pursuing employment with another company. Instead of immediate employment, I decided to pursue a two or three month trip to allow myself time to ‘decompress.’
…Which finally brings this story to “The Beginning” of the trip. After doing research about countries I could visit I eventually settled on South East Asia – a group of countries that I previously had no interest in visiting (and even on the day I left New Orleans flying to Hanoi …had no idea why I was going there)!
And so on March 16th, armed with a laptop, camera, six pairs of underwear, five shirts, three pairs of socks, two pairs of shorts, one bathing suit, a pair of sandals and shoes, a small first aid kit, and a roll of duct-tape, (plus some other random crap) – I set off on a quick visit to New Orleans for St. Patrick’s Day before flying (first class!) to Vietnam. In retrospect, that I ended up in Baton Rouge instead of New Orleans was a fitting way for the journey to start. Similarly fitting – is the fact that this is a picture taken in New Orleans …before I flew to Vietnam and the land of straw hats.
I plan to review and explore a number of things that have happened since I left New Orleans over the next few days. I’ll start with a summary of the countries I visited and eventually cover everything from the mistakes I made along the way to the hotels and hostels I’ve stayed in. Perhaps there will even be proof that all of these fortune cookies came true along the way too…