Are you thinking of taking time off to ‘figure out your next move’?
In knowledge work world, it’s a good time to switch things up and explore different avenues.
But first, surfing!
When I decided to take time off between jobs, the one thing I kept thinking of was this hot, tropical location, where living costs are cheap and I could surf everyday.
I could maybe even pick up freelance work while I was there.
El Salvador was my pick.
Reality quickly set in.
Reducing your living costs is a smart move if you’ve just turned off your primary income source. My monthly costs in El Salvador was something like 700 USD, for food, rent, everything. But it’s a trade off, obviously. Internet speeds were glacial. I had incredible meals, but good quality food (think basic stuff like fresh milk, fresh bread, fresh eggs etc) was a mission to find. I was staying in cheap locations and moving once a week or fortnight. Again, uprooting yourself continuously is not conducive to productivity.
The weather was incredible. I hardly needed to wear shoes or a shirt, there was a fresh breeze off the beach in the afternoon and the most vivid sunset every night. But it was stinking hot for the majority of the day. And once the honeymoon period finished, I realized I could barely string two coherent thoughts together. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t analyze. I couldn’t plan. My brain had gone offline. I probably had less anxiety and was more present than usual, but it was painful as I attempted to find work or prepare for interviews.
By quitting a 9-5, you’ve freed up about 40-50 hours a week. At first this feels like a miracle. You see this meme on twitter, a screenshot of an empty week on google calendar with a caption like “the true meaning of wealth”, and there’s something to that. At first I filled this time with relaxing, fun activities. Reading, socializing, eating, surfing. Then I tried to be more productive. I would go on day trips, head into town or up the coast, dealing with zero English speakers, crazy chicken buses and a million other minor obstacles and curiosities. Turns out there’s such thing as having too much free time.
Productivity and wellness isn’t everything. If that’s the goal, we would all be living in some sort of Equinox x WeWork hellbox, but these turn out to be big lumps of your waking life, and ripping them out, heating them up and smashing them to bits will have fairly serious impacts on your mental health and ability to ‘get stuff done’.
It’s healthy to ask yourself questions like ‘where do I want to live’ and ‘what do I want to do next’. But that ‘next step’ will not magically appear – no matter how beautiful the sunset is!