Each week or so I will be bringing in a guest to ask them about their experiences with travel and what it has done for them. Why just take my word for it? Most travel sites and blogs focus on interviewing the “average Joe” that has left everything behind to travel the world. This “average Joe” typically has a travel site of their own and are still out there wandering the globe. Sure I will be tracking down those Joe’s but what about the “average average Joe?” The ones that travel for the sake of traveling. The ones that have no ulterior motives. They are the ones truly experiencing everything out of their trip as they are not tidied to a keyboard, a smartphone, or a deadline.
That’s who I am interested in hearing from.
The Average, Average Joe Series – Cort Smith on Quitting Your Job For Something More
With my first eBook about preparing oneself for world travel AND my first newsletter (“New Beginnings”) coming out shortly I could think of only one person for the first interview – Cort Smith. Cort is a friend, a former band mate, and an excellent kisser (so I’m told). He has backpacked through Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia (twice) and is an inspiration for those looking for more out of life. Cort is literally living a new beginning now. He has recently returned from a year of travel that required him quit his job of 12 years. I sat down with Cort (through an email conversation) and asked him about his process and experience of leaving it all behind.
Cort Smith, 34 years old. I’ve traveled for days at a time, weeks at time, months at a time when I can get the leave from work, and most recently I traveled for one year after quitting my job.Last year, my girlfriend and I threw everything we owned into a storage locker and flew to Bangkok. The next year saw us in Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Australia and New Zealand.
What was the proverbial straw that set your trip in motion?
In my mind, this trip had been in motion since I was 18 years old. It’s always been a dream to travel for a year or more. I’d been able to get months away at a time, but never anything longer. I had a nice little career going as TV Journalist, and it’s a career where if you stop for awhile, you get left behind really quickly. So it was a little unnerving to step away and give up what I had put 12 years of my life into.
But really, there was no tipping point that made me say “That’s it, I quit!”, just the constant beckoning of adventure and intrigue abroad. You can only ignore it for so long.
Do you miss anything from the 9-5?
Lunch breaks? Honestly, I can’t think of a single thing. Freedom is everything to me and the 9-5 was the antithesis of that.
How did it (quitting) go down? Many people dream of telling off their boss, can they live vicariously through you?
Sorry to let down your readers Shaun… it was really just a brief, pleasant conversation. My ex-boss is really a nice guy, and I had no desire to tell him off. In fact, I gave him double the notice that was required, just so I wouldn’t make his life too difficult!
Besides, It’s a small fraternity of an industry. I really didn’t want to burn any bridges.
TLITs: Not even one “Son-of-a-BOOM?”
CS: Not so much as a “Go fuck yourself, San Diego” on the air.
So it’s safe to say they were understanding on why you had to go?
Definitely. The journalism industry is full of vagabonds and wanderers, so everyone was pretty understanding about why I would make this decision. In fact, most of them were pretty jealous.
TLITs: Yes it seems like a lot of people don’t realize that most employers, although sad to see you go, encourage this kind of growth.
Did you look at any other options before quitting or was your trip an excuse for something more?
Good question. Yeah, I think it was my way of kick-starting a new lifestyle. I found myself wanting a much quieter, simpler, more flexible life. And that just didn’t jive with an industry where all the best jobs are in the biggest markets like Vancouver or Toronto. In my mind, I had made the decision that I wasn’t going to live out the rest of my days in a big city. So I think I was forming an exit strategy for some time. And I wanted that strategy to include traveling.
Then it all kind of came together when I met my girlfriend, who wanted a lot of the same things. And we said “screw it.. if we don’t do it now, we never will.”
TLITs: Interesting. So it was your GF that was the “straw?”
CS: Well, she is a tall drink of water.. So you could say that.
What was the hardest thing about quitting your Job of 12 years and leaving your career behind?
My career was enjoyable, but I wasn’t in love with it. So it wasn’t that hard for me to leave, despite the fact I had put so much into it.
So really, getting off the proverbial teet was the hardest part. That safety net is suddenly gone. It’s kind of a scary feeling, not having that bi-weekly paycheque. Not having medical benefits and free trips to the chiropractor if I need one. Don’t get me wrong, you get over the feeling pretty quick! But that was the hardest part at the time.
TLITs: So you’re still alive?
CS:The dude abides.
TLITs: and you don’t dumpster dive, sleep on the street, or beg for money?
CS: I didn’t not dumpster dive.
TLITs: Moving on.
Would you have handled anything differently? Any regrets?
I’m a firm believer in the notion of “You don’t regret the things you do in life, you regret the things you don’t”. I’m healthier, happier and am seeing so much clearer now than I ever have in my life. And I think a huge reason for that is the perspective I’ve gained from being able to travel. Regrets, I have none.
TLITs: Amen. Also, you smell amazing.
CS: That’s the smell of slacking.
So what has traveling done for you?
- Given me a renewed sense of awe and wonder.
- Made me fatter.
- Made me appreciate my home country even more.
- Made me a lot poorer and a lot richer.
- Improved my terrible organizational skills.
- Increased my fear of flying somehow. Not sure how that works.
- A lot of new friends.
- Some of the best culinary experiences of my life.
- Made me realize how much more there is to see.
What are you up to now? Any future travel plans?
I’m Canada’s newest entrepreneur. I’ve created a new brand of electronic cigarettes Called Rare Air Electronic Cigarettes. It’s an amazing product that is changing a lot of people’s lives. And I’m having a lot of fun doing what I feel like I should have been doing all along – building something.
TLITs: That’s awesome. I have been hearing more and more about Electronic Cigarettes and how they can help people quite smoking. Where can we find out more about Rare Air?
Any parting words for someone thinking about quitting their 9-5 for a life changing experience?
As fun as it is to dream of giving it all up and going traveling, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the reality of it all. There is so much to consider.
- How much money will I need? How will I get it?
- What about the mortgage and car payments?
- Where am I going to go? How am I going to get around there? How am I going to stay safe once I’m there?
- How do I pack for a year (or more) away?
- What vaccinations do I need? What visas?
- What if I get sick? Where do I get health insurance?
- “A new strategy isn’t enough. You have to execute it.”
Get to work. Stop talking about it and take some steps, even if they are small ones. The enormity of the task can make the goal seem out of reach. But if you break it up in to little tasks and start checking them off the list, you’ll be amazed at how your momentum will start to build.
Do some research and find out realistically how much money you will really need for the trip you have in mind. Take a sobering look at your expenses. Ask yourself how much you can put away per month, and what expenses you can start cutting. Be merciless. This is your dream. Make sacrifices for it.
Leverage the experiences of others who have done it. There is an incredible amount of resources out there on awesome travel blogs like this. Use them. There are couch surfing sites, home stays, work stays, travel hacks.. It can be done for a lot cheaper than you probably think.
TLITs: Well said.
Yes, I’m glad you asked. If you got poop on any other part of your body, would wiping it off with paper suffice? Why is it OK when it’s the ass? Please join me in supporting Water Bum Guns for every household in western civilization. Thank you.
TLITs: Well said?
That first beer after getting off the plane in Bangkok. Having a beach picnic out of our camper van in Australia while watching Humpback whales breach right off the beach.
Taking an emergency flight from Phnom Penh to Bangkok when my girlfriend got Dengue Fever, putting her in the hospital for 5 days.
Best tourist site?
The temples of Bagan, Myanmar.
Worst tourist site?
The 468th waterfall we visited.
Favorite nationality to travel with?
Other than Canadians, I like the Dutch. They are super friendly and funny, and just weird enough to keep things interesting.
Least favorite nationality to travel with?
Best thing you put in your face hole while traveling?
That’s tough. We had some incredible meals. I ate Khao Soi, a northern Thailand specialty, every day for a month. It’s breathtaking. And the fish and chips in New Zealand are like nothing else I’ve ever tasted. They’re like some kind of magic potatoes.
Anytime a Southeast Asian tries to make a hamburger.
Best quote from your trip?
“So, the bus leaves at 5 o’clock?” Me, to the bus driver in Myanmar after being dumped in some random town at 3am by another bus.
Bus Driver : “Yes… 5 o’clock… 30 minute.”
Me : “So 5 o’clock? Or 30 minutes? Because it’s 3:00 right now. So 30 minutes would be 3:30.”
Bus Driver : “Yes.. 5:00. 30 minute”
Me : “But 30 minutes would be 3:30.. So are we leaving at 3:30 or 5:00?”
Bus Driver : “Yes.. 5:00. 30 minute”
It goes on literally for about 15 minutes like this, before I say..
“Oh, do you mean we leave at 5:30?”
“Yes.. 5:00… 30 minute.”
I miss Myanmar.
Australia. I think my girlfriend would agree.
Myanmar. It was like stepping into a time machine. We were so incredibly lucky to be there at the time we were. The country is opening up so fast and so much change taking place right now. I think in 5 years it will be a completely different country, and I feel so fortunate to have had a chance to see it before it becomes another overrun Thailand.
Thailand. Though as mentioned, New Zealand has by far the best fish and chips in the world.
Myanmar. Incredibly warm and giving people. We felt like rock stars the entire time we were there.
Thailand. Where else in the can you get an ocean front swimming pool with a bar and a world class view for $20 per night?
Best place to take a nap?
Parked on an Australian or New Zealand beach, snoozing in the back of the camper van, with the ocean breeze lulling me to sleep.
Party hostel or clean and quiet?
The cleaner and the quieter the better. I’m a 34 year old man, dammit.
This is great. Cort sounds like he had an amazing trip. Burma! wow.
Right?! Burma is on my list thanks to Cort.
Nice. Are you stopping there on your 2014 RTW trip??
Not planning too but am in Thailand for 3 weeks so you never know!
I have been to Thailand many times but never ventured into Burma. I might just have to check it out based on this!
Very inspiring story Shaun! I’m off to check out some ecigs now…