Why I Quit a Good Travel Job

August 16, 2013

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Part of me still feels very separated from the rest of humanity. The part that sees a group of people with whom I have every reason in the world to get along, and get along well, finding more satisfaction in activities I believe I’ve outgrown. Sometimes I’m in the mood to strip down to my underwear and jump into the nearest lake when it’s pouring rain; but when I’m not, and I see others doing so, I imagine there’s an invisible impenetrable wall dividing us, and I brood on this separation… falsely believing myself to be different than them, even superior at times. All it takes is a mental splash of cold water to realize there’s no difference between me and them, just as there’s no difference between me and any human being on the planet. We’re all trying to make sense of the world now as our past dictates; some get lost along the way, some never make it, and some struggle enormously before reaching the end.

I had this year all planned out: leave San Francisco, visit my parents, attend my brother’s wedding, return to the west coast to do a two-month marketing assignment, and then fly into Charlotte to begin training as a recruiter for Reach Out Volunteers. It all fell into place beautifully. I pocketed a healthy chunk of change from marketing, and was looking forward to ROV being “the one”: the job I could truly enjoy experiencing day in and day out; the one I would finally feel passionate about, as it combined travel, talking about travel, volunteer work, and working with others.

It started out that way. I met the Australian crew and a few potential recruiters at the baggage claim in Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and we talked each other up over spending a vacation in Thailand. Listening to new people whose experiences equaled or exceeded my own made me realize just how selfish I still behave in conversations with others, often assuming I have the most interesting travel story, and the only way to get that across is to change the subject to suit my needs, or somehow shift attention back to me. How else am I supposed to learn from others if all I can do is get them to parrot my words back to me?

Nevertheless, this had more to do with personal growth than the job itself. We were shuttled over to a lake house west of the airport and awaited the arrival of the group with snacks and exploration. It was an incredible setup for just 20+ people for a week. A few took their time arriving that Saturday, but everyone woke up at 7:00 AM Sunday to begin what was to be a fairly rigorous (by civilian standards, anyway) training course.

Basic introductions were exchanged, and time for informal conversations with fellow recruiters was plentiful. I got to know and like quite a few people there, though I suspected I was the oldest in the group (though only by a few years). Our first two days were filled with rote memorization, exercises designed to encourage memorization, and games to help us practice the official announcement we would be shouting with energy and enthusiasm at the head of at least fifteen classrooms daily once the season started. To be honest, I felt like things were going downhill for me by day one with this approach; one of the reasons I took this job was I wanted something I could be 100% passionate about. That kind of passion is defined by using my experience to express my words. In this case, there was no Reach Out Volunteer service for me, nor had their been a serious look at the different programs they offered and how others had benefitted from this service.

So, I was skeptical. Not at the integrity or the professionalism of the program, but whether I could perform as a great recruiter when I couldn’t speak truthfully about my experience with the programs; all I was encouraged to do was deflect and spin answers to such questions. In addition, I noticed many of the others, though well traveled, were recent graduates and hadn’t yet had the opportunities to incorporate travel and work like I had. Although I certainly wouldn’t have shied away from a travel job, doing it just for the sake of earning money wasn’t enough this time; I already had the experience of traveling and working, and with a healthy savings from the marketing tour, I wasn’t willing to work for the sake of working. The same questions always floated through my head:

– Will I get burnt out?
– Will I hate the repetitiveness? (see previous post)
– Who will be my partner? Will we get along? (teams of two)
– Will I get enough income?
– Will I meet friends in my travels?

However, I’d say the tipping point was the third day (felt like I had been there for weeks), when former volunteers spoke to us of their experiences abroad, bringing hope to families who had none, telling tales of friendships and relationships made, even when you’re caked in mud and stinking of sweat. One of them spoke with such fervor I had to question whether I have ever had any experience that deep, let alone one I could repeatedly describe in front of a group of people. There also happened to be a birthday party going on, and I was more in a thinking mood than a dance the night away one.

So, got that? Already had the traveling experience; had some money; didn’t have direct experience with ROV; was concerned I wasn’t passionate enough about the cause; I had also seen one person leave the day prior, as both leaders had made it clear they wanted to know if we wished to leave at any time. I slept on it. I ran on it. In the end, feeling as though this would just be a repeat of another travel/work experience, I gave notice at breakfast, and was back in the airport at 9 PM. Waiting.

I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing. I have some savings, some SPG points, and a few friends scattered around the country. In the meantime, I’m enjoying a complementary upgrade to a suite, and trying to remember not everyone is as fortunate as I am.

3 Responses to Why I Quit a Good Travel Job

  1. Tim M on August 20, 2013 at 6:51 am

    Sounds like a bum deal. Luckily, you were able to walk away from it and it’s good you have some options. I read that you lived in Alaska. How did you like it there? I lived and worked in both Anchorage and King Salmon. The work was kind of blah but Anchorage and the Matsu Valley are nice. Especially around the Turnagain Arm and north toward Sheep Mountain.

  2. Turner on August 22, 2013 at 9:57 am

    I was mainly on the Kenai Peninsula. Never got the chance to see all those small northern towns or the aurora, unfortunately. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. David on August 22, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    No worries man, it’s not for everyone. But if it’s raw experience you seek to what you felt you could have been truly passionate about, you should join a program that fits you.

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