If there is one really important thing I’ve learnt recently, it is that surfers make bad careers advisors. They are unquestioning in their admiration for any travel plans that include a coastline, while their only critical comments tend to revolve around crowds, swell consistency, prevailing wind direction, and the availability of beer.
Therefore when discussing my plan to quit my job with my surfing friends, I rarely encountered a response other than “go for it”. Not deterred by this support, I turned to my parents and colleagues to talk me out of it. I would be leaving an enjoyable job, perhaps even a nascent career, to spend the six months of winter travelling through France, Spain and Portugal. I had spent two and a half years working seasonal and short term contracts in conservation, but had been made a permanent member of staff this January. My foot was on the ladder. But I wasn’t sure I wanted to start climbing.
We often put our parents in the difficult position of wanting to support our plans (and come along if they can fit in the back of the van), and giving us critical advice. Yes quitting our jobs during a recession and in the face of public spending cuts may seem a little irresponsible. But should I wait till I am of retirement age - which keeps going up by the way – before getting on the road?
The phrase “burden of responsibility” springs to mind. I have a responsible job. I enjoy my work. But I am not ready for the burden that comes with it. This burden is nothing to do with work, but more to do with 9 to 5 living, 25 days holiday a year, council tax, mortgages and trying to fit a weeks worth of fun into the 48 hours of the weekend. So I decided that it was time to get on with living before settling down for Life™.
I had recently read about the “FOMO” theory of behaviour. It stands for Fear Of Missing Out, and has been used to predict and explain the behaviour of teenagers and adolescents. The world of surfing reaches all the backwaters of Britain through the internet these days, with constant videos and pictures of the best waves from the biggest swells. As a self confessed surfing geek, I fear I suffer from a severe fear of missing out, and it has been starting to get to me. There’s only so much chilly dribbly surf you can endure before your mind starts to wander. I was fed up of hearing about how good everyone else was having it. Time to do something about it!
On top of my urge to find better waves and elude the shackles of responsibility, I have a problem with my feet. Every two or three years, just when I start to get settled in a place or a job, they start itching. It can lead to depression, a tightening of the purse strings, and red eyes from too much internet time searching for flights or ferry tickets. Luckily my girlfriend also suffers from this problem, but I don’t think that’s my fault; I don’t think I’m contagious. I’ve inherited a certain amount of wanderlust from my parents, and this has grown due to recent immersion in saltwater for hours on end.
So after six months of talking about what we were going to do, we finally decided that it was now or never. We both went to work one Monday morning with a nervous burning in our chests and handed in our notice. We knew our colleagues would be jealous and supportive, but we were scared of being on the receiving end of a serious telling off. Christ, it was like being sent to the headmaster’s to own up to a being a very naughty boy. The relief was instant. No shouting, just encouragement and envious comments.
But then that nervous feeling crept back into my mind. Had we just done the hard part or the easy part? Now we have to hit the road…