With my mouse hovering over the little blue “confirm” button I hesitate. Just for a moment, I take a deep breath and stare at my computer screen. It’s 1am on a May Sunday morning and my room is dark, illuminated only by the light coming from my two screens. The only sound in the night is the slight hum from my desk computer and the occasional fox mating ritual outside. But in my head there are a hundred thousand thoughts rushing around at light speed. Then, a moment of calm, everything subsides into tranquil peace. Even the foxes outside have stopped for a moment. I breathe out and click “confirm”. And it is done.
I have just booked myself a plane ticket to Australia via Bali. On its own this isn’t anything abnormal, over the years I’ve booked hundreds of plane tickets, but this one is different. This one is one-way. This plane ticket is start to a new life, a symbol of cutting my old life away and at pursuing what might well turn out to be just a pipe dream.
Why have I done this? From the outside I may appear to have a pretty good life; I live in a nice rental house in London. I have a car. I have a six-figure salary at a large multinational asset management company. I’m a competitive skydiver at weekends and I take my fair share of holidays every year. And all of this at the ripe young age of 26. My parents are proud. But, I am not. See, despite all of this I have not been able to get rid of the feeling that this just isn’t me, and that I am meant to do something far more in my brief existence on this earth than lumber away in the rat race of corporate cogs.
This feeling started about 4 years ago when I first graduated from university and started my first job in London; another corporate office based job in banking. I came into this first job full of passion and longing to make an impact on the big wide world, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Yet terribly naïve. I soon learnt that the bureaucracy, politics and (mainly) complacency of people in large companies stifle any and all innovation or ability to change the world in any rapid or meaningful way. I found myself getting depressed and slowly sinking into a lonely big city routine. Get up, go to work, do something that doesn’t make any impact on the world, go home, live for the weekend, repeat. My only way of staying sane has been my passion for skydiving, surfing and travelling. The only place that I’ve found I have absolute peace of mind, zen, is in freefall or when gently bobbing up and down on a surfboard out on in the sea.
I’ve now been in London 4 years already, and I consider London as my home. Having been born in Germany to two Czech parents, I’ve been brought up in the UK since the age of 7 in a working-class background. I have never really considered calling anywhere a home, and my parents have never owned a house so nowhere has ever really been a permanent base for me. Right now, London is as close to that concept as I have. Yet this is where I’ve also realised that I feel more lost in London than I have in the most foreign and distant places I’ve visited. The cold people, cold weather, grey skies and endless winters make it a bleak place to live. But the fact that in a densely packed city of 8.6 million people you can feel the more alone than you’ve felt in your whole life just makes you rethink your situation (oh, and did I mention the constant mating foxes!).
I can already hear the cries of “another self-righteous millennial” and “just get on with it and think about how lucky you have it” here. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that comparatively many people dream to be in a situation like mine and this could all just be a case of “the grass is always greener-itis”. But I have realised that whilst I could stay on this path for the next 30 years, slowly accumulating a house in the country, a wife, a dog and a 2.4 children, I would most likely turn around in 30 years’ time and ask myself “what have I really done here? What change can I truly be proud of making in the world?”. “What experiences can I look back on and say I have lived through?” and honestly, the answer would be none (or at least, not enough).
So instead I’m choosing to hurl myself off this classic well-trodden path to corporate success and into the unknown grasslands of adventure and opportunity.
Whatever I do, I want that to make an impactful change in the world whilst also doing things that make me satisfied and happy. The money is and has always just been an enabler. Doing the things that really make me happy and allow me to live a non-boring life. Up until now those things have only occupied 10% of my time, whilst the other 90% of my time has been occupied by doing things to make that money that I necessarily don’t find any joy or fulfilment in. Hence, in the wise words of philosopher Alan Watts I have finally woken up to the truth; “if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing. Which is stupid.”
So onto the key question; what the hell am I doing with myself?! Well, the first step for me is to get out into the world to do what brings me joy. On August 30th I’ll be flying from London to Bali to spend 3 months training to be a Surf Instructor. Why? Because I love surfing, yoga and sunshine, and that should be the only reasons! After that my ticket takes me from Bali to Australia’s Gold Coast, and this is where I then land without a plan and the real adventure starts.
The second step, which is running concurrently with the first step is that I am finally launching a business. My expertise, skillsets and passion outside of skydiving and travelling lie in the areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning and software development, and hence, after a lot of thought I am launching a business for my work in that area, with products that will hopefully to revolutionise the world!
I am planning on working on this business whilst I’m travelling. Some regard this as controversial, but I’ve never been one to go with the norm and in this day and age all you need is a laptop and an internet connection and you’re good to go! The networking and investment opportunities might not be as forthcoming half way across the world, but the low cost of living (compared to London) and life satisfaction will hopefully be far more of an incentive to be productive and give me a much more vibrant environment for my mind to thrive in.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified of doing this. It was far from easy to walk away from a secure corporate job and the reaction from many people has been one of “you’re fucking crazy”. The next few months, until I step on that plane, will most likely be spent second guessing my decision on a daily basis. But deep inside I can feel a new feeling of peace and euphoria has awoken and for the first time since I have lived in London, I feel content in the knowledge that I am hopefully, finally, putting my life on a track to change for the better. Where better isn’t measured in the size of my bank balance, but by my experiences, by the relationships I form, and by the change I can bring in the world.
Ultimately, it might turn out that I’m completely wrong about all of this. That I’m just chasing a pipe dream and that my life as it was before I resigned was actually the best I can hope for. If that’s the case, then as a true Bayesian and open minded person I will happily accept this and realign my thinking.
But regardless if what I’m doing turns out to be right or wrong, at least I would have had a fucking good time doing it!