Why I chose to go back to the 9 to 5
after 7 years of travel
When I packed up my life back in the summer of 2015 to move to Berlin for a year, I had no intention of coming back to St. John’s for many years. Maybe I wouldn’t stay in Berlin – maybe I’d move elsewhere. But, with complete certainty, I knew I wouldn’t be back to Canada’s easternmost city.
Or at least, that’s what I thought.
Fast-forward 18 months later, and… I’m living two streets over from my old place in downtown St. John’s.
I had a favourite supermarket, and a local café (Godshot) where the barista knew my order (caramel latte). I spent afternoons reading or drinking beers with friends at Volkspark Friedrichshain, luxuriating in the hot sun. My favourite wine bar, Sorsi Morsi, was just a block over from me. I was on a first-name basis with the owner, Jonny.
I was happy – very genuinely happy. It wasn’t fair that my working holiday visa was ending and that I’d have to go back to Canada. I explored other options, but in my heart I knew I had no choice. I was broke. Like, owe-the-bank-thousands-of-dollars broke. The kind of broke where I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from.
This was my own fault. I lived my year in Europe like it was my last. I went sailing in Croatia, and I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I spent a week in Mallorca, and another week in Ireland. I travelled Italy for three weeks, alone. And I never, ever turned down a social invitation in Berlin.
So yeah, on a freelancer’s budget? Not smart.
The summer I returned home was one of the hardest I’ve ever had. I lived for free for months, picking up cat sitting and housesitting gigs around St. John’s, and I still couldn’t get ahead. I was even hungry. Things weren’t good.
For some reason, I thought that getting out of debt would be a great deal easier than it was. Three months later, and I had barely put a dent in my credit debt. I needed a new plan.
I started applying for dozens of jobs. Most of them were remote – in the back of my yellow day planner, I kept a list of positions that rejected me. I don’t know why. And then I came across a communications position at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival. I applied, and within a week, I was fully employed.
My initial contract with the festival was just for eight weeks. Having a regular pay-check coming in was a blessing – financial freedom, for me, was jut as rewarding as my freedom to travel. Combined with full-time freelance, I started making some headway with paying off my credit cards.
I found myself working alongside an incredible team of talented young filmmakers and artists. I was immersed in the arts scene, right where I belonged, meeting brilliant women who are passionate about their art. I made wonderful connections. I loved the work, and I actually looked forward to showing up at the office every day. All the skills I had acquired over years of freelance – interviewing, blogging, organizing – were applied to my communications position.
The Festival went off without a hitch. It’s one of those rare jobs where you can actually see all your hard work come to fruition. And when I was offered a full-time year contract, I said yes. I’d be crazy not to. Fulfilling, regularly paying work? No more chasing down clients who have owned me money for months? Goodness!
In the beginning, I worried that slowing down for a year or more meant I’d become less of a traveller. I worried what others would think of me. But after awhile I realized it was never about the number of countries I had visited, but about where the experiences led me.