State Of The Dropout
It’s a bit over six months since I quit my job in Singapore and dropped out of the rat race for a more relaxed life in northern Thailand.
Not much has gone to plan since the big dropout, my second supposedly-more-planned-and-adult exit from my career.
I left Singapore with a promise of part-time work and plans to build a location independent copy writing business. The plan was to spend six month building the business and then take it on the road, to Provence in France and Delft in Holland, where we’d organised non-simultaneous home exchanges.
I had visions, as you do, of our six months in Thailand involving a lot of lolling on a hammock tapping away at my laptop, baby gamboling (quietly and non-destructively) at my feet, while Darling Man did vigorous and bare-chested things in the garden. I had visions of strolling through wet markets greeting the vendors, of exploring ancient temples and zipping into Myanmar for the weekend. I had plans to start every day with a yoga class so I could regain my youthful glow (and no longer be asked if I was Miss M’s grandmother).
But 17 days into the dropout, my father died and we rushed back to Australia. It was a completely unexpected and devastating event, one that left me floundering for months. I was an emotional wreck, unable to concentrate on anything, completely obsessed with the unfairness of life and the brutal silent swiftness of death.
The flights home also blew an enormous hole in our savings. And it turned out we weren’t insured for this kind of thing, even though I thought we were.
When we returned to Thailand, I kept putting off the yoga and the business-building plan. I did a bit of work here and there but I didn’t market the business at all. We ate through a bit more of our savings because the promise of part-time work remained a promise for many months. Even though I knew agreeing to work for a start-up could involve delays, those delays were a bit frustrating.
In the end, without really making a conscious decision, I became a part-time remote editor, rather than a location independent entrepreneur. I chose to wait for the start-up to get started rather than start my own business.
In some ways I’m a bit disappointed with this outcome. But I think in some ways, at this stage in life, with a young child, it is easier for me to be an employee. I have been working predictable hours for an hourly rate of pay. When asked to take on other projects, I don’t even know how to estimate how much time the work will take. I’ve undercharged every time. For me, entrepreneurialism is a burden I just can’t handle at the moment. But … I’m going to give it another try after our European adventure.
The slightly underhand part of my dropout plan also failed. Darling Man did not fall in love with Chiang Mai or the concept of location independence. The past six months just made him more homesick for Vietnam, his friends and the career he put on hold for me two years ago. So we will set up a new home base in Ho Chi Minh City in July so he can resume his life. Miss M and I will still do as much travel as possible, with Darling Man joining us whenever he can (or wants to).
The last six months have been a blur of grief and work and quite a bit of worry. And worrying was NOT supposed to be part of this dropout plan. I had to work many more hours than I expected to make sure we had enough money for the Europe adventure. And most of the work came in in the last few months, resulting in a bit of a mad scramble.
Our six months in Thailand has been a wonderful family time. I have had much more time with Miss M, who, at two and a half, can no longer really be called a baby. I have loved watching her learn to talk and explore the world.
When we arrived in Chiang Mai, Miss M’s absolute priority was lurching towards danger. Now, I find her much more manageable. She regards so many things interesting, such as talking, jumping, singing, pointing at things, standing in the rice cooker, putting her feet on the table and ripping pages out of books.
We are leaving Thailand with less savings than when we arrived. But we manage to rebuild from the alarming dip in our bank account after our trip home to Australia. We did, sadly, miss a dear friend’s wedding because we couldn’t afford it. But despite the leanish times, we lived very comfortably in Chiang Mai, in our furnished three-bedroom house, eating out often and becoming regulars at our local market.
Reflecting on the lessons of the last six months, I realise:
- freelance writing follows something very similar to Boyles Law, with the amount of time required to finish the work expanding to fit the available time.
- paid-by-the-hour editing work is easy to walk away from. When the work is done, it’s done.
- computers should not be used to decompress from a day of working at the computer.
- life should be enjoyed, not endured, because you don’t know how long you’ve got.
- worrying about money doesn’t actually make you any more money, it just makes you crabby.
- two-year-olds are hilarious.
- paying someone to do the housework is a great investment, if only in terms of the arguments over housework that are avoided.
- I may have forgotten Western table manners (which is not going to make me popular in Europe).
- you never ever, no matter how much you try, can completely convey how much you love someone. But you don’t realise this until they’re gone.
- the fact that I spent time on this blog rather than doing some paid jobs is a big hint that I may have found my passion.
- Thai food is wonderful – and much easier to cook than I expected.
- I have a weird obsession with Buddhist monks.
- as well as being smart, funny and handsome, Darling Man is the most incredibly patient man and the best father a little girl could dream of.
At the end of this six-month experiment, I think I have proved a number of things.
First, location independent work is possible. I am quietly proud that I have managed to support my family for six months, and fund a European adventure for us. Even though it is going to be a super-budget European adventure.
Second, traveling with a toddler is possible. Sometimes it’s even fun. A 16-hour train ride with a toddler is infinitely more tiring than a 16-hour train journey without a toddler.
Thirdly, although I call myself a career dropout, if I hadn’t spent so many years dedicated to my career, I don’t think I would have been able to pull off my crazy plan. I took a huge risk, quitting my career again. But I was able to draw on skills I developed over many years. The path I’ve taken is not for everyone, but it is possible.
I hope you’ll continue to follow us on our next adventure. Stay tuned for more food, family and travel fun as Miss M and I set off for Europe. Hopefully Darling Man will get the Schengen visa he needs so he can join us in a few weeks.
Blog posts may not be as regular as in the past while I’m a solo mum, so please be patient with me.
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11 years ago