Confessions of a Serial Job Quitter

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“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.”

― John Green, Paper Towns

 

I have just quit my second job this year. Actually, if we’re going to be picky, it’s the second job in 10 months to which I have said au revoir.

This makes me sound like a really changeable person. I’m not. Honest. I’m quite a loyal employee (I was at my previous company for 5 years, even transferring to the London office) and, to be honest, I feel guilty and bored when I don’t have a job. The two months I spent unemployed at the beginning of 2014 were horrible, and I was a complete mess because I felt like I should have been doing something else other than writing or getting my head together.

And because of this, I just accepted the first job that was offered to me.

Luckily, this worked to my advantage. I was able to work with some lovely people who will be missed, got paid reasonably well for the area I live in, gained more experience and managed to save some money for my travels. It also gave me the time and security to figure out what it was that I wanted to do next.

Some may see my decision to travel as flighty. Or reckless. I am, after all, giving up a stable income to spend my savings on a 12 month jolly. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl and have been known to not fully think things through before taking the plunge (in most aspects of my life).

However, I can honestly say that I have never researched, agonised, and reasoned over something more in my life. I am so excited to head off on an adventure and I’m hoping it gives me the space and courage to make better decisions.

“I began to realise how important it was to be an enthusiast in life… if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

― Roald Dahl, My Uncle Oswald

 

And it seems that I am not alone.

This week I read an article in Stylist Magazine about women who have given up their successful and/or stable careers, to do something they’ve always wanted to (you can read the article here) While they are talking about setting up their own businesses, and not travelling, the sentiment and motivation behind the change is the same.

“I work longer hours and take home less money but I have much more control over my life”

Sometimes you need to jump in and say a little prayer… you never know where you might end up!”

“Fortune favours the brave – you won’t regret having a go, but you will regret not trying!”

 

Stylist states, that “all from very different backgrounds, [the women] are united by the fact that they traded their reliable, well-paid day jobs to pursue a passion.”

And it got me thinking about that word: Passion.

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By definition, passion is a “strong and barely controllable emotion,” or “a state or outburst of strong emotion.”

Now I don’t know about you lot, but I’ve always been under the impression that some of these words come with a side order of negative connotations.

“Barely controllable” suggests instability and rebelliousness, and “outburst” suggests a break or an explosion of some kind.

But why is it that we feel so ashamed and afraid to admit to having a passion? Or to feeling passionate? In life, in our careers, and even in relationships we remain subdued. I mean come on, are you really telling me you don’t “play it cool” when you’re into someone?

Why is it that we are so afraid of taking the plunge or giving into something that has the potential to make us happy?

Surely it has to be better than lying awake at night wondering if there’s more to life than the rat race.

Right?

What do you think? Is it important to follow our passions? Do we allocate enough time to thinking about what it is that makes us happy? Have you got a job that you are both passionate about and provides financial security? Are you on the brink of making a huge change?

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Character Assassination

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“I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books are supposed to be likable. Books are not in the business of creating merely likeable characters with whom you can have some simple identification with. Books are in the business of creating great stories that make you’re brain go ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgerbudbaaarr.”

– John Green

I haven’t posted anything about writing recently and there’s a reason for this little omission: I haven’t been doing any writing.

I even signed up to NaNoWriMo and had every intention of participating, but a number of things seem to have gotten in the way (namely holiday planning and panicking about getting my driving license before I leave for New Zealand) but I have now run out of reasonable excuses.

After a brief hiatus, I’m back working on the novel and, in particular, The Neverending First Draft.

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But I’m struggling with my main character. I don’t think I like her. If I’m completely honest, she can come across as a bit of an entitled wimp. I mean, she does change during the course of the narrative and she does have her reasons – which I suppose is the whole point – but she’s very much an introverted character who exists in her own head, and she often forgets about other people.

And it got me thinking about all those books I’ve read where I wasn’t too sure about a character. Did it put me off? Did I enjoy reading about someone that I didn’t particularly like? Does it matter?

For me, it makes no difference as long as the character has substance, or there’s something about them. I like a flawed character because its more realistic, more true to life. No-one has a great time all the time. Sometimes we moan and grumble because its human nature.

“As a writer, I demand the right to write any character in the world that I want to write. I demand the right to be them, I demand the right to think them and I demand the right to tell the truth as I see they are.”

– Quentin Tarantino

We see flawed characters all the time in adult fiction (take American Psycho for example – uh hello, serial killer!!) but what about YA fiction?

Are teenagers drawn to negative characters? Or are they put off?

Well, I don’t think there is a definitive answer as its all about personal reading taste, but I don’t think it hinders the plot, success or reception of a novel.

Take the success of the fabulous Sallie Greene’s Half-Bad. We’re not sure if we’re supposed to like the main character (he is half-bad after all) and he spends quite a lot of the novel locked up and talking about how all the others around him have treated him badly (which, to be fair to the guy, we realise that they really have treated him appallingly). He is a brilliant character and this is one of the edgiest YA novels I have read this year.

And then there’s Eleanor in Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. She can be a bit of a mard (albeit for very real reasons) but she is a compelling character. I may not have liked her instantly but I was rooting for her in the end. That situation is happening to so may children right now and I love that she wasn’t nice or kind to the people that were trying to help. She was pissed off and that’s brilliant.

Do you constantly overthink your characters’ every thought, line, and movement? Do you think its important for a character to be ‘likeable’? Or is it more important that they are real? Do all main characters in YA fiction in particular have to be nice?

Check out my main character below!

 

Beth doesn’t even knock, just comes in and plonks herself down on the end of the bed. She’s wearing this really short skirt. It’s blue and sticks to her like cling film, and her thighs ripple where the hem digs in.

‘Hey.’ She’s looking at me strangely as though she’s surprised to find me in my own room. I don’t turn round to face her. I just carry on brushing my hair in front of the mirror.

Beth has her blonde hair down and she flicks it over her shoulder as she talks. ‘Where were you last night? I thought you were allowed online?’

‘I was for a bit,’ I say and then I think about Mum and Ryan and the incident with the telly, and I turn my body slightly so I’m facing Beth. ‘I tried to call your house phone.’

Beth flicks her hair theatrically over the other shoulder. ‘OMG.’

‘What?’

‘I thought we were BFF?’

I tell her we are.

‘Then can you talk about someone other than yourself for, like, five minutes.’ And then I’m confused because I’ve hardly said a word. ‘I’m having a serious life crisis.’

I have to bite my lip to keep from laughing. I turn away in case Beth catches me and goes off on one because she’s obviously in one of her moods, but she doesn’t even notice.

‘I really needed to talk to you.’ She twiddles a strand of hair around her index finger and flops herself back on my bed. ‘Michael text me.’ She’s got her phone in her hand, looking at it like she’s expecting it to ring.

I turn back to the mirror and pull the brush through my hair. It gets caught on a knot and I pull harder because I like how it tugs at my skull. I think of the tiny follicles buckling under the strain and wonder if it’s possible to pull all your hair out if you wrench the brush hard enough. I’d rather yank it all out with my bare hands than listen to Beth bang on about the time she let Michael Belcher touch her up behind the chippy.

‘Sorry,’ I say, even though I’m not.

‘But I don’t know what to say to him.’

‘I’d start with, “sorry but I’m not blind,” if I were you,’ I suggest.

‘Shut up!’ Beth squeaks excitedly because she thinks I’m teasing her. ‘He’s such a fitty.’

I give her “the eyes” but she’s not looking, she’s glaring at her phone again, moving it around in the air like you do when you’re trying to get signal. ‘I’m going to say yes. Tonight.’

I really hope Beth just leaves it at that because I have just had my tea and any mention of Michael shuffling around in Beth’s knickers is guaranteed to make me vom.

‘I don’t know. The first time is a big deal. Look at what happened to Tracey.’ Beth wrinkles her nose in disgust.

Tracey Smith was a girl in the year above who slept with this older guy and got knocked up. She left school when everyone found out and it sort of sparked these rumours about him being a perv and her having pictures out there on the internet somewhere. I don’t think this is true, you know, about the grooming and the internet, but it didn’t stop the lads in our year trawling the web for proof. I feel sad for Tracey and don’t like thinking about her. The man was pushing thirty-five and married with kids, and she’d only just turned fifteen. Sometimes I see her pushing her baby round the shopping centre at the weekend, it’s all red faced and wailing, and she looks weary. You can see it on some people –weariness – they wear it like a heavy necklace.

‘I mean being With Sprog would completely suck because I’m going to Florida next summer and want to look hot in my bikini. It took ages for Kim Kardashian to get her body back.’

I catch Beth’s eye in the mirror and shake my head.

‘What? I’m joking, obvs.’

But I just say, ‘Aren’t you really cold?’ because her skirt is really short and I can pretty much see her knickers. She shoots me a scornful look then stands up and takes off her coat. She’s wearing a white t-shirt and I can make out the outline of her bra beneath the gossamer cotton.

‘Well, it’s like a fucking sauna in here,’ she says, walking over to the window and opening it. ‘Why has your mum always got the heating on? It’s like she’s fucking ninety or something.’ Beth likes to experiment with swear words; “fucking” is still a relatively new addition to her vocabulary.

‘What do you want?’ I turn and watch as she leans out the window, putting all her weight on the ledge and lifting her feet off the floor. The wall is chalky where she’s stood; the paint peels white as if diseased.

‘Michael’s mate is having a party.’ She’s still staring down at the garden and I want to know what she’s looking at but she just says, ‘I thought we could go.’

I don’t know why she keeps on trying. I guess she thinks that I’ll suddenly be open to shimmying down the drainpipe or making a rope out of my bed sheets like they do in cartoons.

‘Come on, Andi.’ She’s looking at me now, all big blue eyes. She once told me that she can cry on cue, conjuring tears from nowhere like a magician. She wants to be an actress when she leaves school. That or a glamour model. ‘It’s Saturday.’

I set my brush down on the dresser. ‘You know I’m not allowed.’

‘How can you stand it?’ Beth says dramatically. ‘I’d go fucking mad.’

‘She’s not that bad,’ I say but Beth turns and shoots an are you kidding look in my direction.

‘She’s like a prison warden or something,’ Beth says, now inspecting her fingernails. She frowns, draws one finger to her mouth and starts chipping away the red paint with her teeth. ‘I’m sure you could sue her. It’s definitely child abuse.’ And then she’s giggling. It’s amazing, the sound of her laughter, as it cuts through the stagnant house, shaking the dust from the surfaces, the skirting boards, the walls. ‘Perhaps I should’ve baked you a cake and hidden a file inside. But I bet your Mum’s got metal detectors on the doors.’

I think I’m laughing at this but it doesn’t sound right. It comes out different than how I meant it to.

‘What’s up?’ Beth is sat up now, perching on the end of the bed with one leg tucked underneath her, and for a minute I catch a glimpse of my best friend hidden underneath all that make-up. I start to tell her I’m tired, that I’ve been having these dreams. But Beth isn’t listening. She’s got her arms crossed now. ‘Can’t you just ask your Mum?’

‘She won’t let me.’

‘It’s like you don’t even want to go.’ I tell her I do and the lie feels slippery in my mouth. She sighs. ‘FFS, my mum’s letting me go.’

I just shrug and she makes a huffy noise, throws her hands in the air.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if Beth’s mum, Julie, was my mother. She’s an artist so she’s really laid back and lets Beth do pretty much whatever she likes. Julie has a studio at the bottom of their garden. It’s a shed really, but it’s big enough to hold a couple of canvases and an easel. Beth and I went in there once. It was cold and damp and I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to spend time in there alone. Cobwebs clung to the rafters and I shuddered at the thought of spiders crawling all around us. We were looking for paint, Beth said, but she stopped looking when she found a joint in a drawer. I wanted her to leave it there but she stuffed it in her pocket anyway and we fell out for three days because I refused to smoke it with her. When we eventually made up, she told me that it had tasted like mud and leaves and wet bark, and that her Dad had found her before she could even smoke half of it. She was in her bedroom, wedged between her bed and the wall, freaking out because she didn’t have any bones in her neck and she’d thrown up on her new leggings. He grounded her for two weeks but Julie forgot and let her out after a couple of days.

6 Places I’m Currently Obsessing Over

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“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

– Henry Miller

As you know, I’m new to this solo-travel malarkey. I have never travelled anywhere on my own outside the UK (except for one very boring, very sleepy plane journey back from Ghana to London) and, although I am an expert at travelling alone in the UK, journeying further afield (alone) is a whole new ball game.

In between the planning and the calculating, the panicking and the excited jumping around I’ve been doing over the past month or so, I’ve also been getting a bit off track. Ooops.

I am planning my own itinerary (which has changed massively and which I will get to later) for my trip and I keep getting hit by wanderlust for EVERYWHERE. Although I have decided against a RTW trip in favour of spending more time somewhere at my own (lazy) leisurely and flexible pace, I keep feeling bereft about all the places I want to visit but won’t have the time to in this particular trip. I have a serious case of I Want to See Everything Now and it’s getting pretty serious.

So here’s 6 Places I’m Currently Obsessing Over – all the places I’ve been coveting recently and will definitely try to get to in the not so distant future.

  • New Zealand

I have always wanted to go to New Zealand. Always. This is number 1 on my list and flashing in neon lights. And I’m in luck. NZ immigration have just granted my Working Holiday Visa which means I will be heading to the land of Hobbits, wine, rugby, and breath-taking scenery in January 2015 for 6 months. EEEK!

  • Germany

I have spent a little time in Germany. Cologne as part of a mini-European road-trip, and Berlin as part of a holiday away with friends. I’m hoping to go to Oktoberfest next year as part of my 30th (urgh) birthday celebrations, but I would love to spend more time there. I hear Munich is stunning.

  • Amsterdam

This is mainly the fault of TFIOS. It just seems so beautiful. I’d like to go to the Anne Frank House and take a trip along the many beautiful canals. Do you think Ryan Gosling is free for the weekend and fancies a trip to the dam?

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  •  Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu

Oh, the South Pacific. Stunning. Beautiful. I’m hoping to take a trip to the islands during or after my time in New Zealand.

  • Texas, New Orleans, Nashville and Memphis

This is a road trip, isn’t it? I tried to factor this in to my trip but this should be a road trip. I have no license. I can barely drive on the right side of the road properly! Anyone want to road trip with me?

  •  India

I’m building up to India. To me, it seems like the ultimate solo travel destination full of challenges and beauty in equal measure. I’m hoping to do this November 15 – January 16 but that all depends if I spend all my savings on boys and beer in New Zealand.

I’m getting dreamy-eyed as I write this list!

I mentioned above that my itinerary has changed. Well, I’ve been trying to factor the US into my plans for some time now. I’ve always wanted to spend more time there, every visit I’ve made has been fleeting. I love the idea of travelling to as many cities as possible – chasing my love of music – but it is so freaking expensive to do this as a solo traveller! Particularly if you aren’t planning to drive. So this is what’s happening:

I am travelling to New Zealand in January where I will (hopefully love it and) stay for six months. I’m planning to “island-hop” in the South Pacific (Fiji, Vanuatu, and Samoa if possible)  while I’m there and then fly back from New Zealand (when I’ve probably run out of money) via Hong Kong for three nights. Phew. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

But back to reality!

So what’s on your travel bucket list? Do you – like me – obsess over countries and wish you could go everywhere all at once? Where are you going next? Let me know here or over at Twitter @EmmaYatesBadley

***P.S. I have FINALLY figured out how to use the photo gallery bit of wordpress so now my photos will be linear and not all wibbly – I can have circles, mosaics, all sorts. How exciting?! I have also been changing the appearance of this blog A LOT recently. Sorry for that, but I wanted to find something that would make more of the pictures I was posting. I have decided to opt for something simple. I hope you like it. I promise that’s it with the changes now!

An Idiot’s Guide to Planning: Part Two

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“You can’t get a suit of armour and a rubber chicken just like that. You have to plan ahead.”

– Michael Palin

I started thinking about planning my trip six months ago. It started off with a desire to travel the world for a year and visit as many places as I could possibly stuff into one RTW package.

I have always wanted to go to New Zealand and it has been high up on the List of Places I Want to See Most in the World – I can thank Peter Jackson for that – and I was worried that I wouldn’t get to experience it fully in only a month. It’s a pretty small place and I could easily visit the tourist traps in four to six weeks, but the whole point of travelling – surely – is to go away and experience living somewhere new, and what better way to immerse yourself in another culture than with a Working Holiday Visa (WHV)?

So my plans have changed and, as silly as it sounds for a 29 year old woman, I am really proud that I’ve made this decision without completely freaking out and losing the plot. I have mentioned this before, I am such a terrible planner because I hate decision making.

OK, so I am not going to lie, there were a few minor freak outs, but I seem to have evolved from my usual coping mechanisms (do something else, put it off, worry about it some other time) and actually focused on the task at hand. Mostly.

So what have I been up to?

  • Booking Visas –  I mean, everyone knows that these are super important. No visa, no entry. My advice for booking visas are as follows:
  1. Don’t leave it until the last minute – most visa services are speedy and, if you’re not expecting problems, there’s no harm in booking as close to the date as you want. But if you know you’re definitely going somewhere, then what’s the point in leaving it until the week before you go? Allow time for problems.
  2. Look at Visa options – UK peeps are allowed to visit a number of countries as part of the visa waiver programme. Each country differs on how much time you can spend there and most of them usually require some sort of admin (e.g. ESTA in the USA) But is it the right option for you? Remember you can’t work using a tourist visa and, if you’re on a budget like me, you might want to supplement your travel expenses with a few weeks working here and there, or you might find somewhere you’d love to spend a bit more time and it’s an excellent way of funding this.
  3. Flights first? Personally I would book my visa first but again it’s all down to preference. It’s a myth that you have to book flights first – most places simply ask that you have enough for a return ticket and a brief estimate of your departure dates. If it’s a holiday with cheap flights, I’m less inclined to worry about it, but if all your savings have gone to pay for flights, I’d be a bit more cautious.

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  • Researching flights – As mentioned above, I am going to wait until I receive my visa before booking as the flights I’ve been quoted are pretty pricy. I am undecided about my full itinerary and how much I want to pay so it’s been a bit confusing. Here’s what I’ve found:
  1. Get someone to explain RTW flights and how they work. I read about them in a travel guide and got confused. I read about them on a blog and felt a little better. So I called STA with my questions. They explained. Simple.
  2. Multi stop tickets might be your best bet – there are some great tickets on offer out there. Check them all out. STA have some great routes ranging from 2 or 3 stops to mammoth multiple stop journeys! You will have to book your stops in before but these are changeable
  3. RTW might not be the best option for you – it sounds amazing but it might not be right for you. It may work out more expensive/restrictive. Do your research. If you’re wanting to spend time “living” in a country – why restrict yourself? While you cant buy a single ticket to most places anymore, you can buy a return and alter the date for a fee (if the air fare has increased, this may also alter the fee so be careful and make sure you check with the airline before booking).
  4. Budget flights also exist in other countries, not just the UK – Remember with a working visa you can leave the country and return as many times as you want (although this time will still count as part of your 12 months even if you’re not in the country) In the UK we have budget airlines and sales on flights, same goes for everywhere else.
  5. Don’t dismiss your local boutique travel agents. Ring and compare prices with the smaller agencies. You might be pleasantly surprised.
  6. Don’t Panic. I had a small panic that I’d left things until the last minute. I still have almost three months left to book my flights!
  • Planning my itinerary – I went travelling around Europe a few years ago with my friend. We meticulously planned one week (accommodation, timeframe etc.). The other we left to chance. By the time we’d reached the second day of the second week we’d discovered three things: 1) you cannot pitch a tent in a sandpit 2) there are no petrol stations in The Hague 3) Never “go off itins.”

Now I’m not saying an itinerary is the be all and end all. I don’t want to fastidiously plan every single stop because a) where’s the fun in that? and b) I lack the ability to anyway. But it’s best to be a bit prepared:

  1. Have a rough idea of how long you will be staying in each country/place
  2. Have a rough idea of how you will get around and the price you’d expect to pay for transport
  3. Plan the first couple of weeks – You don’t have to stick to it but it will give you security.
  4. Book some accommodation – unless you want to sleep at the airport or pay a fortune for a hotel room. Hostels get booked up in advance – maybe just book the first few nights which is my plan!
  5. Stay open to suggestions – remember its supposed to be fun! Will I regret not popping over to Fiji and Samoa for a few extra hundred quid? Yes! When will I ever get to fly to the South Pacific for that price again? After all, it’s the trip of a lifetime for most of us.

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If you, like me, are a reluctant organiser, here are a few helpful resources:

  • STA Travel – although they are big fans of the cross-sell, I have found them to be helpful and friendly when enquiring about flights etc.
  • Independent travel agents – it is worth comparing quotes from larger companies with the small, boutique shops because sometimes they can work out a lot cheaper. You also don’t feel packaged into a certain trip or route
  • Travel blogs
  • Travelettes – I use the group forum on Facebook to ask questions about countries, flights etc. Its aimed at women travellers and its wonderful. The website is great for tips on things such as packing and solo travel.
  • Lonely Planet – most people I know differ in opinion when it comes to travel guides. My preference is for LP. I’m also a big fan of their website, in particular their Thorn Tree forum where you can seek advice from other travellers.

I’m a novice travel planner and the above is only the stuff I have come across as I’ve stumbled through planning my trip. Do you have any brilliant travel trips you want to recommend? Are you a reluctant and panicky planner like me? Or do you prefer to go with the flow? Most importantly, have you ever been to Fiji?