traveler

I Got a Job, and My Trip Helped it Happen

October 13th I started a new job. I’ve been meaning to write about this for the past month, but a) didn’t know which route to take, and b) was way too busy to get my thoughts straight. Now that it’s been over a month and things are finally settling down a bit, I have decided this will be a two-part post. This is Part 1.

Last weekend a friend asked me, “How did you get a job?” Not that I’m unqualified, just that I have been out of the typical workforce for two and a half years, and that sizable resume gap seems like it would be a huge hindrance to getting back into the professional world. This is actually a question I’ve heard a lot from people leaving work to travel as well, whether the experience of travel outweighs the “seeming irresponsibility” of being out of work for so long.

Let me be living proof to you all: you can leave your career for over two years and have no problem getting a job when you’re ready for it again. In fact, it may help you land an even better job for you than you expected to find, as happened for me.

Over the summer I updated my resume, and instead of shying away from the past two years I decided to highlight them. Next to my “Work Experience” section I added a “Life Experience” section. Formatted in the same way my job listings were, it made my trip into a professionally-digestible asset.

kb_lifeexp

I got interviews at the first two jobs I applied for. Three rounds at each. The first one was an international architecture firm that wanted someone to help with their markets in South America and Japan, but they didn’t seem to care much about my experience in either. In fact they didn’t seem to notice that I’d even taken time to travel. They were focused solely on my work experience before I left, and for some reason that actually bothered me. My trip was a huge part of my life, and would help with this job opportunity, but they acted like it never happened.

This is also an important thing to highlight for anyone worried about being interviewed post-travels: you are also interviewing them. I found I was annoyed that something so important to me had been so blatantly ignored. Just because a place has decided you are worth talking to doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you. Don’t just take a job because you’re relieved someone is taking a chance on you, take a job that wants all of you – professional and travel version – there.

The second job I interviewed with not only appreciated my travels, but partially hired me because of them. Also an international firm, they focus on hospitality design, and were in need of a Project Manager to help open a new mezcal bar. Now my experience working at Cafe No Se was invaluable to my being hired. The combination of my work experience before and during my time abroad combined perfectly into a role at this fantastic firm, not to mention the personality match that both sides sensed.

I am happy to say that my job search ended there. I know, some of you probably hate me for how easy that was, but when it’s right it’s right. And my new role at this incredible restaurant, bar, hotel, retail, and residential design firm is very right.

Moral of the story: taking time off to travel will never hinder anything in your life, it will only enhance everything, down to finding the perfect next career move.

The Expat Ending

Last year when I came back through the United States I knew I had a series of wrap-up blog posts to write – photo projects, how my planning worked out, how it felt to be done with that trip and moving forward, highlights of places I visited. The list was long and comprehensive.

This year I feel like I should do the same, but I don’t have a list. I don’t really know how to neatly wrap things up like I did before. Going through some pictures the other night I was reminded that my Central America adventure started much like my round the world trip, hopping from place to place seeing the sights of a new region. But in December that got derailed when I decided to stay in Antigua for an unknown amount of time. Over the next six months I built a life there, and that’s what has defined this part of my Travel Abrodge. I became an expat.

And I couldn’t imagine any better way to end this adventure.

One thing that I craved when I set out again in September was to get stuck somewhere. I’d encountered places in my first year that were tempting but I was so set on my moving itinerary that it wouldn’t have been possible to really enjoy stopping. This time though that wasn’t the case. I was intrigued by what it meant to be an expat, to get to know a place on a deeper level. Antigua became that place.

Antigua, the expat haven. It’s not a unique choice for this kind of experience, but maybe that’s also why it was appealing. I entered a place where expats were a huge part of the community. For better or for worse, I wasn’t alone.

I straddled a line between expat community – Cafe No Se – and Guatemalans and backpackers – Lucky Rabbit – in a way that made me feel like I got a pretty well-rounded experience of what living in Antigua was like. And on top of that, I had a more grounded life than I had maybe ever had before. I had a house, I had a relationship, I was caring for two dogs, I started to know people in town, was invited to parties in the city, became a person people would come visit at the bar, and couldn’t walk around without running into someone I knew. For the first time in a long time I felt like I had a real home and it was in Guatemala. A little bubble of Guatemala called Antigua. But it still had the market and the water issues and the language and the characteristics of being a town in Guatemala.

It was everything I didn’t know I was looking for, and even though it came to an end somewhat abruptly, I will forever be happy I experienced that life. My first year away was world exploration, constant movement, the backpacker life. My second year was dominated by this expat life. It’s the best combination that really made me feel like I’ve done it all now. Of course it’s not possible to have “done it all,” it never will be, but without that expat time I would not feel like I could come back to the States. Come back to a job. Come back to a life I never knew I would want to return to. It’s because of Antigua that I realized I did want to return to it.

Thank you to Antigua – to everyone there for making me feel so welcomed, so at home, and to the town itself for being the picture perfect place to stay.

Over the next couple of months I will probably write a handful of posts on concluding thoughts from the past two years. I don’t know what form they will take yet or where they will lead me. I just know that I can wholeheartedly say that I have just lived some of the best years of my life. It is bittersweet saying that it’s over, but if I’ve learned anything from it all, something wonderful still lies ahead. It always does.

I Can’t Keep Quiet About the Brexit Vote

I usually stay away from politics. It causes heated arguments that never seem to reach a conclusion, in fact they seem to do more damage than good. Plus I am admittedly less informed than those who want to fight about it so why enter into a conversation I don’t think I’m fully qualified to discuss in depth.

Today though, I don’t care. Because today I’m worried about the world.

As everyone knows by now, the U.K. has voted to leave the European Union. More specifically, the rural upper class in England have voted to leave the EU. This decision has serious consequences for my friends in the UK and across Europe, as well as millions of people I don’t know in those areas and around the world. I can’t even begin to fathom the economic impact, other than knowing my trip to London in October just got significantly more affordable. Silver lining?

The part that worries me most? Felix Salmon said it best:

“The result is that we are now entering a world in retreat from progress, a world of atavistic nationalisms and mutual distrust, a world in which we demonize foreigners and prefer walls to bridges.”

Demonize foreigners. Walls to bridges. Xenophobia. A misunderstanding of the world.

As a person who just spent two years of her life dedicated to exploring and better understanding the world, this is heartbreaking. How can two countries – now I am including the United States, whose upcoming presidential election terrifyingly mirrors this Brexit vote – who pretend to be so progressive, such leaders of the free world, be in favor of shutting their minds and their borders to the unfamiliar?

At no point in my travels did anyone in a foreign country tell me I wasn’t welcome there. Quite the opposite. Colombians yelled “Bienvenidos!” to us on the streets, people in Myanmar gave me the thumbs up when they greeted me with “Obama!”, and when I moved to Guatemala I was not questioned as to my purpose of being there or hounded for taking a job, I was admitted into the community with nothing but smiles and “Buen Provecho”s all the time.

The world has its terrible people and places, I will never deny that. But get out from behind your TV set, leave your comfortable rocking chair, and you will see that those people are not the majority. They are the exceptions that get the attention, as most exceptions to the rule do. The reality is that the world is full of kind, good-hearted people. If only that was the message that was broadcast around the world instead.

I know I can do nothing to change what has happened, and come November I will be like my friends in the UK – my fellow travelers who are saddened and angered by this outcome – and vote to stop the xenophobia from taking over. I can only hope that enough of us turn up to the polls to tip it in our favor. But outside of official elections, I will continue to do whatever it is I can do in my own little sphere of existence to spread the good news of the world, to share the stories of kindness I have received abroad, and to keep in mind that though today may seem bleak yesterday and tomorrow do not have to be.

2016 Year of Possibility

This morning I received a reminder about a status I posted on this day 2 years ago:

It’s official: 2014 Year of Travel. Thanks everyone who talked me through the past few weeks and helped me decide what to do next year. Stay tuned for the itinerary…

Two years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life when I said no to an incredible job opportunity and gave five months notice that I would be leaving my current position to follow my dream of traveling the world. Looking back on it now, I can’t imagine what my life would have been like had I chosen the other path. Not having been where I’ve been, seen what I’ve seen, met who I’ve met, and lived how I’ve lived in the past two years. I would not be who I am today.

Two years later I find myself in a strangely parallel place, but this time I have chosen the other path. When faced with the decision to continue traveling or put down some roots I have opted for stability – a house, a job, a life in one place. For the first time in a long time I can answer the question “where do you live?” with “here.”

Contrary to popular belief, I am not freaked out. I have lived nomadically long enough. It’s because of the past two years that I felt ready to make this decision. Do you know how nice it is to not pack up my backpack every other day? To sleep in and watch movies all day because I don’t have to rush around to see and do everything? To have a favorite lunch spot, cocktail spot, or walk? To have people around who aren’t going anywhere, who I don’t have to say goodbye to but instead see you tomorrow?

Everyone loves to post end of the year recaps. 2015 was quite a year – I started it in Thailand and am ending it in Guatemala, not to mention everywhere I went in between – but this isn’t about a recap for me. I’m more focused on what is about to come in 2016. I am making a life somewhere I never predicted I would live. Whether that life lasts a month or a year I have no idea. Maybe that is part of why staying here feels so different. Living in New York and San Francisco I always knew I would leave to travel; I had an expiration date of sorts. Living here, I know nothing about an end. Sure I have ideas about what could happen when I leave here, travel dreams and stability dreams, but nothing that I am so committed to like I was before. It’s flexible stability. It’s go with the flow. It’s live for today. It’s my traveler mindset in a home.

2014 year of travel. 2015 year of continued wanderlust. 2016 year of possibility. Possibility for a calmer type of life, for a deeper connection, and for absolutely anything whenever I feel ready to move on. It should be an interesting year.

At Home on the Road in Mexico

At 3:00 am my alarm went off. Time to get up for my flight.

Last year that alarm was overwhelmed by anxious nerves that caused me to jump out of bed at the first note. This year I groggily exerted the effort to shut it up and stumbled to the bathroom to wash my face. That’s when it happened – out of nowhere a song popped into my head that would not leave me until I was speeding through the air thousands of miles above the earth.

Here I go again on my own
Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known,
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone…

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I was aware of what I was about to do, and apparently that somewhere decided Whitesnake was my best departure anthem.

Pre-Departure Face

Pre-Departure Face

So with an apropos 80’s rock anthem playing on repeat in my head, I went through the motions like the veteran traveler I had become. Nothing phased me about the flying routine: I swiftly removed and replaced my laptop and shoes; I easily fell asleep upright without even an eye shade; I was on the free Phoenix wifi faster than it took my coffee to reach drinkable temperature. No on-board meal or entertainment? No problem, my body remembered how to survive on snacks and my mind on wandering.

Then I landed. I had mild reactions to the stimuli that come with being in a foreign place, but I was still waiting for the “holy shit I’m actually here!” feeling to hit. Sure the signs around me were in Spanish, but I was just trying to see how much I could understand when I read them. And I had to go through immigration, but I just smiled at the colorful new stamp and was grateful that the officer continued my passport flow by putting it on the same page as Canada. And even though the questions I was asked were not in my native tongue, I just automatically responded with “Hola” “Si” and “Gracias,” even eliciting an, “Ah tu hablas Español?” To which I responded, “No no, un poquito.” I calmly walked through the terminal searching for and fairly easily acquiring the two things I needed – cash from an ATM and a Mexican SIM card. No big deal there either. Then I got an Uber (now that was a change from the normal sketchy cab negotiation) to my friend’s apartment.

I stared out the window at the new city passing by. I was fully aware of where I was, and I was excited about it, but it wasn’t stomach flipping, heart pounding, pulse racing excited, it was just excited like I was excited to go to dinner with friends last week or go on a hike in Vermont.

It’s like Whitesnake said, “Like a drifter I was born to be alone … Here I go again.” Let me try to explain it a different way – when you’re home, do you feel a stomach flipping excitement? On the road I am home. I cannot properly express my joy at being in Mexico City because it’s so natural that it doesn’t feel worthy of over-embellishment.

I may not be making any sense, I did only get 2 hours of sleep, so just trust me: I feel like I’m where I should be.

In case this is a strange let down of a post about my arrival in Mexico, I will leave you with a scene of how I spent my first evening here.

After dropping my stuff at the apartment, I realized how starving I was, so I walked two blocks to a recommended and delicious cafe. I ate my mango chutney pollo sandwich at a counter looking out at the street – no headphones, no books – watching life go by. I left the cafe and walked the ring of Avenida Amsterdam in Condesa, where I’m staying. In the center of the street there is a pedestrian path surrounded by varying thicknesses of flora through which I saw the diversity and attractiveness of the architecture here and the many bars and restaurants this area has to offer. As I write this, the sounds of a live band playing upbeat, dance-inducing Mexican music is wafting up to the apartment from one of those bars below. If you asked me to move onto this street today, I would say yes. If this first impression holds up, I have a feeling Mexico City will find a permanent home my favorite cities list.

This scene and the travel experience before it have one majorly important thing in common: I am back at it again, and I couldn’t be happier. I don’t feel lost or unsure of this decision, I feel like I have jumped right back into the swing of my life. Hopefully that is what this first post of Round Two: Round the Central America conveys.

Avenida Amsterdam

Avenida Amsterdam