Since our recent dinner-time conversation where CAM berated us for being irresponsible parents for abandoning our jobs in order to go travel for a year, I’ve been thinking about the reasons behind my confidence in making this choice now. CAM is right, it is a little crazy to leave a well-paying job in the middle of a recession but I argue that taking a trip like ours is never a financially prudent decision and there are other reasons why now is a good time for us to leave.
Our children are the perfect ages for family world travel. We first considered the idea of taking a year to travel in 2001 but with a new baby and a kindergartener who struggled with change, we parked our plans. In 2007, when CAM was coming to the end of 5th grade, we discussed the trip again with our kids. BigB’s response was to run to get his toothbrush. CAM flat out refused to even consider the idea. Just a year later we started talking about 2010 as our proposed departure date. Never enthusiastic, CAM resigned himself to the mercy of his crazy parents and at least entertained the idea as a thought experiment.
Even at this point, we could have kept on talking and never actually taken the trip if it were not for two things. Firstly, a friend of mine here in Seattle took five months and traveled in South East Asia with her husband and two boys who were just a little older than my boys – and they had a fantastic time. Secondly, the recession brought us some financial turmoil, enough for me to think, “OK fine, I’m going to have to re-build my retirement savings anyway, why not take a break and then start saving again when we get back?”
But neither of these reasons would make someone comfortable with the risk of leaving a job and perhaps having difficulty finding another one in a year’s time. That confidence – if it is confidence, not hubris, only time will tell – comes from the career experiences I’ve had over the past 19 years working in technology.
This will be the fourth time I’ve resigned a position without having another job to go to. The first time, when we moved from Dublin to the U.S. I was way too excited at the prospect of moving to a new country to worry about something as minor as work – at least for the first couple of weeks. And once we started looking for work, we were gainfully employed within days. I left work again when CAM was born, finding a new job just as quickly once I realized that I was not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom. Similarly, I stayed at home for three years after BigB was born and my job search in that case amounted to a phone call to my previous employer. Who knows what the job market will be like when we return to Seattle, but I’m pretty bullish on my employment prospects. (You can check my LinkedIn profile if you think I’m making this up.)
There’s a general point here relating to working in technology and how the business of building software is new enough to have counter-culture tendancies such as being more tolerant of people taking a break from work now and then than other industries. There is a price for this, as anyone who has worked on shipping a software product or who has supported software systems will tell you: long hours are expected, no required when you’re in the middle of a project. But this is a true ‘work hard, play hard’ world and I’m glad that I can take advantage of it.