Since we bought the tickets from Germany to New Zealand I didn’t think much about what that decision actually means. I have been abroad quite a bit in the last 4 years but the impact of getting a one way ticket without actually knowing what I will end up doing or when exactly I would come back made the way to my brain just a few days before departure.
How many people get the chance to reset their lives? The usual way to go – at least in Europe – is to finish school, get your Bachelors degree, find a job and girl-/boyfriend before moving out to start your own family. From my experience this is, with minor changes, the same in most parts of the world. You start a career, get a job and have a “grown up” life. You are allowed to have your fun until you are roughly 25 years old; go and have a gap year, a semester abroad or maybe volunteer somewhere in Africa but by the end of that you’d better get a proper job and settle because otherwise you might pay for the consequences later in your life. (Nobody ever tells you what the consequences will be though). Generally there is nothing wrong with this lifestyle! I talked to a lot of friends and many told me they didn’t even want to go abroad, live apart from their parents/families or are glad to have their 9 to 5 job that is reasonably paid without too much responsibility.
But what if – at any point in your life – you could reset it? Not completely of course but to an extent that you stop everything you do and leave (nearly) everything you have behind? Not only putting it on hold by taking a “sabbatical” or a gap year, travelling the world to come back to your old life; rather completely starting a new life until going back to your old one isn’t an option anymore.
Most people will probably find this idea insane. Why would somebody leave everything they have just to start new from scratch? At the same time the internet is full of stories of people that sold all their belongings to move to the other end of the world, just to start a new life. It is some kind of addiction. An addiction to change. Living the same life as everybody else, with the same hobbies, the same people, the same pubs gets boring after a while. It is still great to have a place where you know everything and everybody but soon enough you are trapped in a life where the only change is the destination for the yearly 2-week-all-inclusive-summer-vacation.
Resetting your life is as easy as buying a ticket
Resetting everything is as easy as buying a plane ticket online and at the same time so much harder! It’s like the second before you reset your computer; you are pretty sure that you have a backup of everything important but you still hesitate to click the “Ok” button because you could have missed something. It’s like jumping into cold water on a hot day – you know it’s gonna be refreshing but you are afraid of the short shock in the moment when you are actually in the water cf. Black MIrror – White Christmas .
These were the feelings I had 1 or 2 weeks before leaving Germany. I knew I wanted to go somewhere else. I knew I wanted to quit my job. I was sure that I wanted to see what life could offer me. And at the same time I got aware of the implication it has on my life. Saying goodbye to family and friends, being aware that I won’t see most of them for probably more than 2 years. Ignoring the possibility to get a permanent contract with the company I already worked for for 3 years (that turned out not to be a bad decision). Choosing not to have another 2 years of relaxed student life in order to possibly earn a bit more money after finishing my Masters degree.
The decision was taken anyway and changing it was not a real option. However I was a bit afraid of leaving rather than of being away. I knew I would get along somehow especially as I wouldn’t leave alone; but this “changing of states” felt strange. Changing from a more or less settled life to one where for the next 1-2 years anything could happen. In the end the final act of “letting things go” was not too difficult. I had a convenient “break” in my career anyway, I didn’t have a car to sell or a flat to cancel and all my stuff is still in my old rooms in my mums house. However to be at that point I prepared myself for 4 years. I started and finished my studies, I moved from one place to another every 3 months without a fixed place to live and managed to stay in a long distance relationship for 2.5 years of that time.
While I like to think that I left “just like that”, the reason why it seemed so easy for me was that I actually got ready for that for a long time. I consider everything I did since leaving for Australia 4 years ago, every trip and every decision I took as a step towards this trip. From the outside it might not be too obvious but there was more of a preparation to it than the last 2 weeks before leaving.
Nobody gets the perfect opportunity
To answer the question from the beginning, I think very few people – if any – get a real chance, the perfect opportunity, to reset everything and to start a new life. Everybody can find something that prevents them from quitting their job or moving to another place. However I met a lot of people that did it anyway. My boss in China who left Germany with his wife and two kids, our couschsurfing hosts in Taipei who both quit their jobs in the US to move to Taiwan or the guy from uni who got employed in Russia rather than staying in Germany. All of them certainly had good reasons to stay but all of them ignored these reasons and left anyway. In the end it’s an evaluation if you are willing to take the risks and to spend the effort to do something that sounds crazy. Either because you know you will be better off or you don’t want to live with the alternative: spending your time doing something you don’t really like, not pursuing the things you really want.