Two years ago, I quit my job in London to go learn Spanish in Colombia.
After a solid 5 years of grinding away working in the city, I was desperate to get away.
The trip was only meant to last 6 months. Go away and then return, feeling refreshed and raring to go back to my London life. Besides, even if I wanted to go on for longer, I hadn’t saved up enough cash to last for years. So, I was sure that 6 months later, the real world would force me back.
But 2 years later, I’m still on the road.
Now, I’m living in Bali, I surf every day and I’m building two businesses.
I have to admit that, just before leaving the UK, I was worried that I was making a mistake.
After all, I had worked for 5 years, had been promoted a few times, and was just beginning to pay off my student loan. What happened if no one wanted to hire me once I got back from my trip? My mum liked to remind me that “we’re living in a recession Harrie” and “there’s so much competition for jobs these days!”
However, I’d told everyone I was going…so the embarrassment of telling people I would no-longer-be-going overrode the anxiety of going. So off I went.
I’m writing this post because before I left, I had a big preconception that traveling would hinder my career. Little did I know that traveling would be the BEST thing for it.
I’ve learnt more in the past 2 years than I have in the whole 5 years of my corporate job in London.
- Finally, I’m doing something I actually ENJOY.
- I’m working with my best friends.
- And I’m building a business which is actually making a difference to the environment too.
- Without meaning to sound like a twat, there’s nothing else in the world that I want to do.
So I hope that this post might give you a little bit of inspiration that if you’re in a job you hate, but are not sure whether to take the leap, just to bloody do it. You can always turn around if you don’t like it…
But if you don’t ever go, you might always wonder: what if? 🤷
My journey has been pretty random – and I put a huge amount of it down to luck.
But I also think that a lot of it has happened after being open to opportunities.
I started off just doing anything I could to stop me going back to London:
- I transcribed interviews with leaders of the American navy.
- I scheduled social media posts on Twitter for an English DJ.
- I did customer service for a friend’s matcha tea business.
- And in the background, I started blogging. I learnt about SEO. I taught myself WordPress, and I watched tonnes of videos about how to sell on Amazon.
- (If you like, you can read more about that here)
All of the jobs paid me peanuts. Most of them I found from Upwork – or from people that I met along the way. But the cost of living was low, and I got enough work to kept me going…
Then I went to Canggu in Bali… And I started surfing.
I spent ALL my free time in the water. Despite always being terrible, I got completely hooked.
And with that, came an appreciation for our environment that I’ve never experienced before. Waking up at 5am to watch the sun rise while surfing is one of the most beautiful things I’ve done…. But then imagine admiring the serenity of this setting, and then getting smacked in the face by a diaper or paddling straight into a plastic bag. (Yes, that really happened to me)
So when I found a local Indonesian lady who handcarved bamboo cutlery sets, I thought: WOW this is amazing. With the crazy amount of single-use plastic cutlery everywhere back home, we really need these little cutlery sets. So I decided to buy 100 sets, created a listing on Amazon, and voila – I launched my first brand, Bare Vida, selling Bali-designed handmade bamboo cutlery sets.
I started exporting these cutlery sets to the UK and USA, and they seemed to fly off Amazon’s shelves. I couldn’t believe people actually wanted to buy my cutlery sets! And the more people that bought my cutlery sets = the more people that were buying into the no-plastic lifestyle. Which meant less waste in the sea. And hopefully this will mean there will be less diapers and less bags in there too.
As with any highs, the lows inevitably came. My Amazon listing got hi-jacked which means that someone pretended to sell the same product, yet theirs was made in China and packed in layers of plastic. My brand suddenly had a load of negative reviews and my listing was banned. I was gutted!
This is when Business Number 2 was born.
I met up with my mate David (the tall lanky Australian screenwriter who I met in Colombia) to have a little cry about the Amazon situation. He had a great idea: why not make a whole zero waste shop, where we can curate the best zero waste brands from around the world and help people in their zero waste journey. We don’t need Amazon; instead, we would be the Amazon for zero waste products. Because, let’s face it, Amazon aren’t exactly the most eco friendly of companies anyway.
And boom… together, we began Zero Waste Cartel.
We brought in Dave’s housemate Scott (aka the technical wizard) to help us with our website and the three of us founded the Cartel.
We’ve been selling packs of bamboo toothbrushes, reusable produce bags, reusable make up remover pads, reusable coffee cups, as well as Bare Vida cutlery sets. Every day I look for new products, contact different brands about partnerships, look for influencers who might want to give us a try, design packaging, reply to customers, and write about zero waste.
And when I’m not doing all the above – I’m surfing 😉
So if you have a dream to do something that means more to you than your current job, I really encourage you to pursue it.
Even if you don’t have any idea what you want to do, a little time away can give you the space to help you work it out.
Before I left the UK, I’d never surfed in my life and had no idea what to do. But the time away gave me time to think and now I couldn’t be happier doing what I’m doing.