Last July, my husband and I packed up our NYC apartment, put it all in storage, and traveled to Bali for 3 months.
The reasoning on why we planned this trip was a long and winding story, but what it boiled down to was that we both needed time. Time away from the city, the grind, and all the loud noises! We needed time to focus on ourselves, learn new skills, reflect on the past, and we needed time to consider our future.
It all started when my husband quit his full-time job in April of last year. There was a situation at his work, and out of principles, he resigned suddenly. At the time, we had discussed it, and we agreed it was the right thing to do. In deciding that, he planned to spend a year or so on self-teaching himself backend website coding. He had always had an interest in it, and he was committed to it now more than ever. We had always focused on my career growth, and it was an excellent opportunity for him to concentrate on his own.
Unfortunately, the timing of Jonathan leaving his job wasn't super aligned with what I had been envisioning for my own future.
In February of 2019, I was still working my full-time gig as a Swimwear Designer when I landed my first freelance job for KRSTN NDRSN. That first job turned into a sort of big deal, taking me deep into a rabbit hole of potential opportunity. By the time my husband was making the decision to quit his job, I was already deeply (and I mean...deeply) invested in the idea of leaving my job to start freelancing full-time and soon. It was way more exciting to work on a variety of projects and to use my brain in more unique ways.
So, when we decided that he'd quit, I was immediately bummed that my move to full-time freelance wouldn't take place (or so I thought). It felt like I was going to need to wait at least a year or maybe longer, depending on how long it took Jonathan to find a job. We only had one income and to continue our lifestyle the way it was, it'd be imperative that I remain fully employed.
So, I side-lined my idea of leaving my full-time job for a while.
It started small, little snappy remarks here or there, but not too long after Jonathan gave his notice at work, we were bickering a lot, and I knew why. I was bitter and frustrated about him doing the very thing that I was eager to do myself. I had been so ready to leave my full-time gig, and then this happened, and it was clearly the right call. I was upset about not having my chance, and it was pretty selfish of me. Looking back now, I was also stupid to feel this way, and that's because we're never really trapped in our situations. We always have options.
One morning in late March on a subway ride, I had a small but very typical (at the time) fight with my sister, but the fight made me go back and reconsider all the other plans we had made for the year before things started changing. We had thought about looking to buy a house, so we didn't want to move our apartment, but instead switch to month to month. We were also considering moving closer to my family instead of closer to NYC, but I was really unsure if I wanted to leave my life in NYC for family fights and bickering. Thankfully, these moments are now a thing of the past, and I think Bali helped quite a bit with that -- more later!
The fight with my sister made me realize with everything we had going on, we were in NO way ready to buy a house yet. It was also really costly to live in our apartment, so it would make sense to move to something smaller if we were going to stay in NYC. We didn't have enough for a down payment for a home, so buying a house was put on hold. A million thoughts were running through my mind of how to make things work.
Our lives had so much uncertainty and stress at the time, just considering how to manage our rent without Jonathan working and still save something for a home was a big worry.
I'm not sure exactly when the spark hit me, but at some point during the day of the fight with my sister, something happened, and it all clicked. Several of my friends had been talking about taking sabbaticals lately. One gal pal took a 3 month trip for her honeymoon, and her company let her return! Sure, she was in Europe, so it's a little different, but still! Another took a month after his wedding, and again, it was A-OK. I was amazed by that, but I realized that as valuable as these people were to their companies, I was too, so maybe it could work for me.
So I thought about it all day and pitched the idea to Jonathan. He was totally on board. I suggested we go to Bali because I knew it was a nice, tropical, and temperate place and inexpensive. I had been talking to a potential client that was living there at the moment, and he made it sound dope. It was a chill place with a pretty low cost of living, so we could go to Bali and potentially SAVE money, even if I was only working a little.
Once we decided it, that was pretty much it. It was a done deal in my mind. This journey was happening, and I was going to make sure of it.
Before all of this happened, in February of 2019, I had asked my boss if going freelance was a possibility for me, once I had that first gig. In April, we were still working on how we could get to it, so she wasn't super surprised by the sabbatical and then returning as freelancer concept I pitched her quietly in her office, sorta off the cuff.
She told me she'd talk to the CEO and see if it was feasible. At that point, I was working nightly to craft a pitch deck to basically explain the whole thing. It was intense! It covered what I was really asking for, why I needed it, ROI, how it would work, extra benefits, the whole shebang.
Here are just a few slides, some of them had personal info, so I'm not including:
It turned out that after my boss and I spoke to the CEO, it was possible! They had a few other people in similar situations, and they remarked how hard it was to find me in the first place, so they were willing to try and make it happen. We just had to work out some of the kinks. So exciting to hear that!
In one of my more ballsy moves, I asked to be compensated during the sabbatical in my pitch deck. I was planning to focus on learning print design while I was there, as it's something I really love to do and beneficial for our swimwear company. So I would return with a new skill set as well. This was part of my bargaining chips! Still, it was crazy to ask because I wasn't even planning to come back full time, probably the only way most companies would go for that.
They didn't want to pay me outright for not actually working for them, but they DID offer to give me a no-interest loan that I would pay back through working with them when I returned. It would be a long-term payment plan that allowed me to pay back with wages from working at the company as a freelancer when I returned. I was on board with this, as it seemed like the best option to give us a little security.
This meant that we could go to Bali and not break into our house fund. This whole arrangement also gave me some peace of mind that I had some sort of recurring gig when I came back. I wasn't entirely without a net, which gave me the confidence to actually go through with it all. Now, my perspective has changed a bit. The net slowed my fall, but in the future, it might be better to crash land so I can get up faster.
I was SO excited to have this opportunity to travel, rest, recharge, and learn. After most of this was figured out, the time leading up to the trip flew by. I did my best to wrap up projects and share my direction and boards for the next presentation that they'd have without me. On my last day, it was a Friday, and I worked until 6:30, and I was the last person to leave.
There was no great send-off. Not even goodbye drinks with a few of my colleagues. It was nothing like my last day at Adore Me, which was pretty remarkable, to be honest. A slow-clap standing ovation of the 40+ people at the office that day. So many tears that day, I basically had to run out of the room to stop myself for bawling!
I cried this day, too, when I packed up and left at 6:30, the last person to turn off the lights in our room. I knew that things would never be the same again, but I did not know how true that would be or what it would mean now, almost a year later. I think I was also sad because I realized that sometimes jobs are just jobs. They don't exactly make you, but they do help you figure out what's next if you pay attention to the signs.
Some jobs are just much more meaningful to the spectrum of your life. For me, working at Adore Me was that job because it inspired my own bouts of entrepreneurism. It gave me a glimpse at what success feels like, and that feeling is pure addiction. I feel like I'll be chasing it forever in some way or another.
Ultimately, I didn't return as a freelancer to that job when I returned. This was probably for the best. Being on my own has really allowed me to take my business to the next level. Now I get to work on some of the most creative and exciting projects. I'm continually meeting have new and exciting people with similar spirits. I'm engaged with groups that inspire me to do things I never thought I'd do. Being fully on my own has given me great revelations about past failures and successes.
The truly amazing part of the whole experience was that even though I thought I needed that net, I didn't need it after all. Sure, having it helped me, but only enough to realize that I've got this. And I do.
In an upcoming post, I'll be talking about some of the lessons learned while traveling in Bali, and how it's shaped my journey!! Please sign up below to be updated on new posts as soon as they're live!