Leaving the Cubicle Life Behind

Updated on February 8, 2018
Eastward profile image

Eastward left behind the confines of the Fortune 500 company office to explore and experience Asia. He hasn't looked back since.

Source

I grew up in a small, Midwestern city. A few rebellious high-school years aside, I did all the things that I was supposed to do. I finished college and got a degree. I graduated, started working full-time in the insurance industry, invested in a home and rental property, and started working towards my MBA. I had a grey cubicle and an altitudinous stack of files on my desk. I answered calls from people wondering if the check was in the mail as they told me their hard-luck tales of losing a car or house because of missed payments. I did what I could to be as helpful as possible but was assured my superiors that I needed to harden my heart. A few speculative promotions aside, this was looking like it would about sum up my life. I wasn't so sure I was OK with that.

Weighing the Options

I looked into joining the Peace Corps but at the time anyone with a mortgage wasn't eligible. I had been speaking with a co-worker about teaching English overseas and he showed me some pictures a friend had shared with him of an apartment in Thailand with a pool. Sitting in the office in the middle of winter, the tropical environment looked like a welcome change of pace alone.

The idea of teaching wasn't alien to me either. I had taken courses in preparation for the art education program in university but the plan was canceled before I could complete it. I did have my substitute teaching certification and was able to find a lot of information about TESOL—Teaching English as a Second Language—certification online. The courses were around $2,000 all inclusive. The process of certification would take about one month, beginning with classroom learning and ending with volunteer teaching. The company would also provide the accommodations and assist with job placement services once the certification course was complete. With all of this in mind, I started to consider teaching abroad more seriously.

I had a good rapport with my new supervisor and we discussed my options for moving on from the company. I was able to sign a mutual agreement to terminate my employment and walk away with a reasonable severance package for my 6 years of service.

Both Feet Out the Door

Now that my day job was behind me, I began putting my other affairs in order. I rented out my apartment and moved back in with my parents for the time being. I sold as many of my belongings as I could and put the rest in storage. As things began to fall into place, I enrolled in a TESOL course that would begin in Cambodia and finish in Thailand. My father agreed to manage my rental properties and put my car up for sale. I began reading up on what to pack, although, the information I found on preparing to move abroad was lacking. Soon enough, it was time to leave the United States behind for my new adventure in Asia.

Heading Eastward

My family took me to the airport where we said our goodbyes. At the time, I wasn't sure if this would be a one-year change of pace or something more. It was all a bit surreal. I boarded the plane and settled in for the first long stretch to Seoul, South Korea.

I didn't sleep much on the plane but enjoyed a few movies and listened to music along the way. The economy flight was uneventful but mostly pleasant. I was fairly new to flying and even enjoyed the airline food. I was beginning to feel pretty uncomfortable about 12 or 13 hours in though. Eventually, the plane began a welcomed descent and we arrived at the Seoul airport. I was glad to be on the ground again, even if it was only for a short layover.

A New Beginning

My last flight to Phnom Penh was the most interesting. I sat next to a friendly middle-aged Cambodian-American who was excited to see his family for the first time in 30 years. I can only imagine the depth of this man's story and I've thought about him as I've learned more about the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian genocide. I wonder what difficulties he may have faced when reading passionate accounts of the tragedy, such as First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung. After reading the author's striking and heartfelt tale, I can only imagine.

The plane landed and we wished each other best of luck on our journeys, his undoubtedly more significant than my own. However, I also stepped out of the airport front doors filled with optimism about what I would discover in this unfamiliar and exotic place.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Eastward

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Eurofile 2 months ago

        Very true. It is more encouraging for the traveller to be able to read information and signs in a familiar language.

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 2 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        @Robert

        You're most welcome!

        @Eurofile

        In my experience, you are correct. I'd also add more multi-lingual support on the well-traveled path to your list of reasons.

      • profile image

        Eurofile 2 months ago

        I think the English are similar, with the majority sticking to the main sites and very few venturing off the main tourist trail. Partly it's due to time constraints and also possibly security concerns.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 2 months ago

        Thank you.

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 2 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        @Robert

        Exactly. It seems to be a tourist phenomenon rather than something uniquely afflicting Americans.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 3 months ago

        So while Americans may have the name for not traveling well everyone plays that game?

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 3 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        @Robert. Americans don't make up a very large portion of Thailand's overall tourists but it does seem they they follow the pattern of most foreigners. You'll find the most in the major cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. A handful of islands would fall into that group as well. If you travel the less-worn path into the rural provinces, you'll find few Americans or other expats. I imagine that it's still probably that way in Korea and possibly in most places in Asia.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 3 months ago

        Have you noticed Americans tend to stick to a few tourist places? I remember when I was in Korea, mid-80s, there were some spots where you could see Americans all over and other spots where I would be the only American in the place.

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 3 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        @Robert

        I think you are right and certain areas do stand out like night club hot spot. Being as popular as Thailand is for tourism, the government is now trying to open up new areas to spread out the tourists (and the toll tourism takes on the surrounding environment).

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 3 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        @Readmikenow

        Thanks for reading and commenting. I can totally relate to feeling more alive by getting out and seeing the world. I'm glad to hear you had such a great, life-changing experience. I know I'll never be the same.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 3 months ago

        I wonder if it will be like night clubs in an area. There are a few clubs that are the places to be then some new places open up and these new places become the hot clubs and the business in these former hot spots decline.

      • Readmikenow profile image

        Readmikenow 3 months ago

        Very inspirational article. I got fed up with the cubical life, strapped on a backpack and spent several months traveling with no real destination. The experiences I had and the people I met made me feel more alive than I ever had before. It changed the way I look at life. I met a man who had been doing the same thing for years and he said something I'll never forget. "I got tired of my material things owning me. I worked for them. I was their servant spending too much of my life working for them. Once I broke free from my material things, I realized what life was actually all about." He had been the CFO of a company and now only had what he could carry in his backpack. Good luck with your travels.

      • Natalie Frank profile image

        Natalie Frank 3 months ago from Chicago, IL

        Wow! What an adventure!

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 3 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        You bet. It does seem there is plenty of competition for tourists. I wonder if that will be the case for long with more tourists venturing out of China. There might be enough to go around soon though I imagine the industry will have to adjust to different preferences.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 3 months ago

        Thank you again. It seems many places may be overdoing it trying to get tourist money. It's not enough to be a popular tourist spot. It seems other places would be trying to draw in tourists at the expense of other tourist spots.

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 3 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        You are most welcome @ Robert. Thanks for sparking the conversation. It is interesting though I'm not sure more tourists that spend less was quite the end goal they had in mind. It seems subsidies related to air travel is fairly common. I also found this article on Russian domestic travel: http://russia-ic.com/travel/tourismevents/3328/#.W...

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 3 months ago

        Thank you. The airline article is very interesting. They are getting more tourists who are looking to spend less money.

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 3 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        @Robert

        I'm finding that other countries are either doing this or considering it. Here's an interesting case study of Spain http://www.agenciasinc.es/en/News/Low-cost-flights...

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 3 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        @Natalie

        It turned out to be a long-term change for me. I've been living and working in Asia ever since!

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 3 months ago

        I wonder if there are other places dong this, or going to do this?

      • Natalie Frank profile image

        Natalie Frank 3 months ago from Chicago, IL

        So was it a year change or something longer? Looking forward to reading the sequel!

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 3 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        @Robert

        A reasonable strategy. I know I'm more likely to visit if the price is of the flight is right.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 3 months ago

        Iceland may be doing a similar thing. It does get people to countries they wouldn't normally travel to.

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 3 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        Interesting! I guess that's one way to do it. I've flown Delta/Korean Air/Skymiles Partners flights quite often. Maybe there's still something to the more reasonable rates.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 3 months ago

        In the '80s Korean Air had the lowest fairs to Asia but the catch was they stopped in Seoul. Apparently they were trying to boost their tourist trade.

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 3 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        Thank you, Robert. There are certainly benefits and sacrifices involved. Overall though, I wouldn't trade the experience. My Seoul layover was short, only a few hours at most. Even my long layovers in Seoul have been overnight when the subway is stopped, so I haven't had the chance to explore the city yet!

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 3 months ago

        I admire your courage to make such a move. I hope it works out well for you. How much time were you in Seoul on the layover?

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 3 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        Thanks, Natalie! It has been an adventure far removed from life in the midwest!

      • Natalie Frank profile image

        Natalie Frank 3 months ago from Chicago, IL

        Wow! You are really courageous! It's definitely food for thought!

      • Eastward profile image
        Author

        Eastward 3 months ago from Phuket, Thailand

        Thank you for reading and commenting, Eurofile. I'll get to the sequel soon!

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 3 months ago from UK

        I enjoyed reading this well written and interesting piece. I look forward to reading the sequel.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://letterpile.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is used to quickly and efficiently deliver files such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisements has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)