Every once in a while, we come across ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Backed by the proliferation of social media, and ever newer ways to do conventional things in more creative ways, sometimes they find an audience to applaud and revel in their deeds.
Quitting your job to travel isn’t new, especially in the West where taking a break from an education or a job to explore the world is considered fairly normal.
Even then, when Stevo and Chanel, decided to chronicle their adventures as a couple who quit their advertising jobs to travel the world in a creative blog, they had the world’s attention.
A few months later, the same couple is back in the limelight again.
The same media that created a phenomenon of this couple’s big plunge is now aflutter with a rather disappointing revelation about the couple’s seemingly perfect life.
At first glance, the news purports to make you feel rather sad about the couple’s hardships, but if one digs deeper, it reveals more problems with our mentality than we’re aware of.
Here’s why I think it’s wrong, on quite a few levels, to consider the fact that Stevo and Chanel are “scrubbing toilets and doing tasks” is them having failed in the adventure.
The notion that idolises people who quit their jobs is the same that makes you feel let down that these travelers have not lived up to your assumed expectations of doing just that- traveling, having fun, posting photos. This seems to imply that it’s wrong to work while traveling. Traveling by no means is cheap, and not at all about converting a chunk of your savings into foreign currency, swiping your many cards at the airport shopping malls, and leaving a life of hard work behind for a temporary escape. It is a lifestyle. It is exploring the world beyond yourself, forgetting who you were in a cubicle, and most importantly, being open minded. If you are disapointed by the “bitter reality” of having to work to support your travels, and earn food in exchange for being helpful, then the idea of traveling is pretentious and flies in the face of a sound economy.
The second problem with this kind of reporting is the constant highlight on the nature of jobs.
“The couple that quit their jobs to travel is now cleaning toilets”, “The couple that quit to travel is *now* poor and broke, says another article. Goes to show and reinstate the old mentality of considering everything other than a white collar job beneath our dignity. It is in some ways a cruel reminder of the fact that the act of cleaning toilets is deemed to be a menial dirty job, fit only for the working classes. There’s as little wrong with cleaning others’ toilets for money as it is cleaning your own. Why’s one shit worse than the other? Also, if you happen to be Couchsurfing, and helping yourself amply to your host’s generosity like it was your own home, it’s only fair you give it what you would to your own home.
Lastly, people I know have been sharing the links with a smug, “I told you”-esque tone, implying that the fact that *they* didn’t quit their jobs to resort to such foolishness is worth validating.
As a traveler, I can vouch for the fact that the thought of quitting my job and traveling has crossed my many times, but as someone who’s held a job every single day for the last 6 years, as far as I’m concerned, it commands respect when I hear of people taking the big plunge. Forgoing the monthly paycheque, the comfort of an office and a “set life” to pursue a risky, difficult, and not to mention savings-breaking pursuit isn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for these, these and these people who have all said no to their big cushy jobs to follow their hearts. The fact that this post is going as viral, probably more than the original post that celebrated the job-quitting part, is somehow sending the message that “look, quitting your job to travel, or to do anything you’re passionate about is not worth it”.
The other and arguably the biggest problem with that article, is that it’s probably taken out of context. What the couple is probably trying to say is that travel is not all pretty pictures, and a perfect life. It’s not about celebrating the fact that they were gutsy enough to quit their jobs. That it’s not an act of defiance, neither it’s for bragging rights. Quitting your job, and traveling is a lot of work, full of challenges and a job in itself. They probably don’t mean to pity themselves, but warn you to not glorify their adventures while overlooking their struggles. Most importantly, they probably also want to tell you that while the couple may have been high-flying advertising executives before they set off on their travels, they were humble enough to do tasks that may be considered too menial or infra dig by conventional standards.
So, S & C might come back broke and beat, but will any performance peaks match up the thrill of having climbed the Everest? Will any of their peer reviews or Linkedin recommendations match up with the innocent joy of being welcomed into a stranger’s house and made to feel like family? Will a classroom training session on housing management beat the practical hands-on experience of having helped construct a home?
Perhaps not. Stevo and Chanel have probably already put it the best on their blog, the part that’s not being highlighted as much as the cleaning toilets part.
But even though we probably have more greys than when we started, dirt under our nails despite long showers, and cheap snack food as a main form of nutrition, this crazy lifestyle allows us to enjoy the freedom of exploring rich Swedish forests, never-ending Nordic fjords, Italian cobbled alleyways, and cosmopolitan cities. We have time to brainstorm our own ideas, and push our own creative experiments. It’s like heaven for us. Sure, wood needs to be stacked, and garbage needs to be taken out (it’s our version of a shit sandwich, as Mark Manson put it), but once that’s done, we’re free to explore, wander and be one with our meandering thoughts. You work under your own schedule, using (a lot of) spare time to jog around mirrored lakes, craft inspired creations and breathe the Arctic air. There’s nothing quite like swopping million rand advertising budgets for toilet scrubbing to teach you about humility, life and the importance of living each day as if it were your last.