Why I quit my job


“Before I Die” – global art installation by Candy Chang

When I was about 12, I decided to go and ask my English teacher for extra, harder work. The work she was setting in class was just not challenging. I can clearly remember now a comprehension task on the Titanic that was pretty much nothing to do with anything. Having already been reading reading classic novels for well over a year, precocious snot that I was, I found this task beneath me. And I told her so. “But Vivienne,” she said. “You’re not properly doing the work you have.”  The teacher was pretty damn stupid, but she had a point: it was true. I hadn’t been doing decent work in class. Why? The less stimulating the task, the less I was inclined to do it well. Not because I couldn’t, but because I didn’t want to.

I am the same as an adult.

And so this week, I quit my job that I didn’t like very much and so didn’t do very well at. Not because it’s beyond my capacity, but because I find it interminably dull. It’s not even a bad job. They were generous and flexible. I got to write instead of answering a phone or being a PA. I had autonomy in my day – lunch hour, loo break, take a personal call if necessary. I could even work remotely if I wished. But I just didn’t care enough. The monotony made me unhappy. The answering to clients whose products I didn’t care for or know enough about, and who didn’t know or care enough about me or what I did. The dull anxiety when I realised I’d neglected to do something important.

I promise I didn't write "rite a book"

I promise I didn’t write “rite a book”

The quality of my work declined, steadily, just like it did back when I was 12. As a writer with a journalism background, SEO copywriting is painfully near but so far from what I love. I write articles, yes; but I don’t tell stories. There’s a big difference between crafting a narrative with expertise and insight and simply synthesising a bunch of other people’s thoughts on a subject because you haven’t the time to research it and you haven’t the knowledge of the subject matter to write about the big themes, latest trends or breaking news. My work was getting bad and it wasn’t because I couldn’t do it, it was because I didn’t want to.

The other tantalising thing about this work is that I was working primarily with travel bloggers, giving them money to upload articles I’d written on behalf of clients onto their sites. I realised I was the middle-man, when I wanted to be one of the bloggers. That’s why I started this blog. And this one (and this one and this one – content in development!). Because I’d found out just how many people achieve their longterm travel goals, running businesses from their laptops and finding ways to set up passive income.

I’ve always wanted to travel. I have a list of aims in life from when I was about 8. I wanted to learn lots of languages and travel the world. I’ve also always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I was about 10 I decided I wanted to open a pizza delivery service for my neighbourhood with my little brother. When I was 14, I cooked up a whole business plan for a boutique real estate agency, where the service included a spruce up of the property for sale and a chilled bottle of champagne on handover day. Oh yeah, I had all the ideas. These days, all the ideas centre around my niche – arts, words and digital marketing.

Entrepreneurship runs in my family, too. My parents worked for themselves, and so did my grandparents – none of the major adult figures in my life have ever had a “boss” or manager. For better and for worse, in pubs, caravan parks, illegal gambling deals, building sites and costume rentals, my olds did it for themselves. I put myself through uni by offering tutoring services to neighbourhood kids – no agency, just good old fashioned flyers, word of mouth and an inappropriate use of my high school’s emailing list (I’d already graduated, what were they going to do?).

So what am I going to do instead of have a job now?


“Before I Die” – at Undercurrent Weekend, Shoreham 2012

Well, I’m going to travel on the cheap with the money I have saved and blog and set up my own businesses. I have ideas, lots of them. What I haven’t had is time to implement any. I have blogs and websites, a couple of eBooks, a budding reputation as an arts marketing consultant, the ability to write for SEO clients, edit other peoples’ words, a laptop and a brain and I think that’s pretty much all I need, at least for now. I’m going to discover the joys of coach travel, of voluntourism, of cash-in-hand work and couchsurfing. I’m going to read more from other people who have done what I want to do. Because I don’t want to waste my 20s – or any other part of my life – doing things I don’t want to. I think there are things more important than having a reliable income. These things are harder, but more worthwhile. Better. More interesting. More challenging. Worth doing and worth talking about.

I cannot be more excited.


Doing family long-distance

So I’ve been living away from Sydney since February 2011 and I’ve got used to the whole distance thing, mostly. It’s tough and I miss my mum a lot, but I choose to see the bright side rather than the negative one. I have friends who live overseas whose parents make them feel really guilty about their decisions, and approach the fact that their offspring live far away as something their kid has “done to” them, which is not fair. You raise your kids to give them as many opportunities as you can and then they have to make their own choices. I’m lucky that my mum insists that I mustn’t feel guilty about being far away, even though at times I do. She’s very supportive and she always has been, and in some ways my being far away has done several great things for us:

At Tokyo DisneySea

At Tokyo DisneySea

We’ve been able to travel together

In 2011, mum came to Europe for the first time to visit me. I got to show her around the Edinburgh Fringe festival, showed her around Brighton and saw some theatre with her in London. She then went off on a cruise through central Europe and I met her in Paris. In 2012 we spent two weeks together in Japan, meeting halfway between Sydney and London. In February and March of this year I stayed at home with her and it was really lovely. Later this year, she’s coming for another extended stay in the UK. We would never have done those things together had I stayed in Sydney.

We spend a lot of time talking

We Skype about 2-3 times a week and spend a long time talking. When I was at home, we may not have been able to spend as much face-to-face talk time. We hung out a lot, sure, but actual conversation was probably less than it currently is. I’m so grateful there is a free way to talk to her via video. When my older brothers lived in London in the mid-90s, we’d hear from them once every few months, maximum. This is truly the best time to be alive.

We get to be creative

When you can’t be with someone, you come up with great ways to show you care. Like, for Christmas last year, mum sent me an incredible bed-throw that she’d made with a whole lot of different fabrics (she and I used to make costumes together, so I recognised the different fabrics from different costumes – very special). And today was Mother’s Day, so last night I made her this little video of a day out in Paris (I’m pretty chuffed with my mad video editing skillz).

So yes, it can definitely be really difficult and there are times when being away is really hard and times (like when I was sick recently) that you just want your mum to give you a hug, but there are upsides if you create them.

Engrish lessons

DSCF2730One of the things I looked forward to most about Japan (aside from the food, the culture, the architecture, the bullet train, the clothes, the immersion in a totally different way of life….) was getting in some cracking examples of Engrish, and in no way was I disappointed.

Now, I know it is a terrible thing to mock someone else’s language skills when I sure as hell can’t speak Japanese, but I’m only human and it’s hilarious. I also studied linguistics at university, so it’s kind of like study. Right…?

Anyway, here’s a collection of my favourite examples of English rendered in signage in Japan (click on the thumbnails to embiggen and open up a slideshow).