How I quit my job to travel

Mariellen Ward, MW, Delhi, India, travel, Qutab Minar, woman, female, solo

At Qutab Minar, Delhi, 2006

Note: This article was written in August 2014 and featured on BBC Travel in November, 2014, and was one of the most popular stories on the site for weeks after it was published. Thanks to all who read it and wrote to me; I am honoured to have inspired you. Hope it continues to inspire here on Breathedreamgo!

In 2004, when I was at one of the lowest points of my life, I decided to go to India.

I’d never visited India; I’d never even been on a long-term trip. I was emotionally fragile, and at 45, I was at an age when more rational people would be thinking mostly about settling down and playing it safe. But I knew I had to go. I was trying to recover from a deeply entrenched depression brought on by a series of devastating losses, including both my parents, and the only thing that had helped was yoga. Three classes a week eventually turned into teacher training, which lead to a desire – a compulsion almost – to visit the country where yoga was born. It felt like my life depended on it.

So on 5 December 2005, I boarded a plane bound for Delhi – leaving my life in Toronto and my job as a freelance financial writer behind. My return ticket was scheduled for six months later.

Though irrational and counter-intuitive, it’s still the best thing I have ever done. But it required some planning.

It took 11 months from the aha! moment to lift-off. I sold about one-third of my belongings, moved out of my apartment and into a small sublet, temporarily gave my cat to a friend and saved as much money as I could. Rather than continue my freelance work from abroad, I finished all my contracts before departure; for once in my life, I wanted to be free to just be, without the responsibilities of a job or assignments. Meanwhile, I lined up a one-month yoga course and a two-month volunteering stint to work with Tibetan refugee children in Dharamsala.

By the time I left Toronto, I was as ready as I would ever be. Which is to say, mentally, not at all. As we descended into Indira Gandhi International Airport, I had no idea what awaited me, no idea what India would look like, no idea how I would be able to handle six months of travel in such a different and challenging place.

But then I landed – and the adventure began. I was met at the airport by an old acquaintance who invited me to stay in his family’s home in South Delhi. They welcomed me and helped acclimatise me to India. I felt very lucky to have such a soft landing.

From that auspicious start, my trip unfolded with one journey after another. When it got chilly in Delhi, I flew down to Kerala and spent a few blissful weeks at a seaside Ayurvedic resort. I went to Chennai for an intensive one-month yoga course at one of the best schools in India. I travelled to the Taj Mahal and to Rajasthan, where I stayed in a former Maharajah’s summer palace.

When it got hot on the plains in April, I went to Dharamshala, in the mountains. I volunteered with a British-run organization called Art Refuge that helps Tibetan refugee children adapt to their new home in India, and spent my days hugging loving, but disoriented, children. At the very end of the trip, I went to a small ashram near Rishikesh. Within moments of arriving, I relaxed and fell asleep; I woke up after about 30 minutes, feeling more refreshed than I had in my life. I knew I had discovered my spiritual home.

By the time my odyssey ended on 2 June 2006, I was deeply in love with India and heartsick about leaving.

Mariellen Ward, MW, Delhi, India, travel, Qutab Minar, woman, female, solo

At Tiger Fort, Jaipur

India changed me. It gave me hope, inspiration and a new start in life. Thanks to my travels, I developed the attitude that every incident I encountered was meant to happen; everything and everyone was my teacher. I began to view my life as if I were going on a quest – an approach that helped me accept the losses I had experienced.

I left behind both my depression and a career that I’d found boring and unfulfilling. Instead, I began pursuing the career and lifestyle of my dreams.

Today, based back in Toronto, I run Breathedreamgo, which has since grown to become one of the leading travel blogs about India. I make my living as a travel writer, content marketing and social media consultant.

The greatest lesson I took from this experience is that sometimes, there is nothing better than to listen to your inner voice, the one that keeps you awake at night, disturbs your plans and makes you uncomfortable. When you step off the beaten path to “follow your bliss,” as mythologist Joseph Campbell said, you are on a completely unique journey. There is no universally applicable advice from there, because when you truly listen to yourself, you will be creating your own path. Doors will open for you that would not open for anyone else.

As I write this, I am getting ready to leave for my seventh trip to India. I’ll again be crisscrossing the subcontinent in search of adventure, stories and the feeling I love best – that I am truly experiencing my life and doing what I was meant to do.

Thanks again to BBC Travel for commissioning, editing and publishing this article, and giving me permission to reprint it here. BBC Travel is one of my favourite travel sites on the Internet. The editors are committed to publishing the best travel stories — stories that transport and transform you, and inspire you to follow your own travel dreams.

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33 Responses to How I quit my job to travel

  1. Renuka January 11, 2015 at 10:01 am #

    I had read this article on BBC. Nevertheless, it’s a joy to read it again! Thanks so much for sharing it again on your blog. 🙂 People like you are genuine inspiration!
    Renuka recently posted..‘Solo Travel’ vs. ‘Family Holiday’My Profile

    • Mariellen Ward January 13, 2015 at 8:03 am #

      Thanks so much Renuka. I agree that people who take the risk to live life on their own terms can be very inspiring. I’m not sure I qualify, but I try. I do struggle with a lot of issues, like self-doubt, loneliness, financial worries. But I suppose every life and every path has its share of challenges.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Stumbling on the road to my dreamsMy Profile

  2. A.madhavan January 11, 2015 at 2:26 pm #

    so inspiring!!!!!

  3. Martin Waska January 12, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

    I learned about you from the TBCAsia. I liked to read your story, I’m in a somewhat similar transition and I know Travel (and blogging) will be the some of the best things I’ll do to find peace and health.

    I’ll follow your blog, I find it fun to read and very inspirational.

    Happy (life) Travels
    Martin Waska recently posted..Today’s Travel Inspiration – Puerto Vallarta, MexicoMy Profile

    • Mariellen Ward January 13, 2015 at 8:06 am #

      Hi Martin, thanks so much for reading! Good luck with your own transition. Personally, I don’t always find the path of travel blogging to be that peaceful or healthy … but it certainly is creatively rewarding, and offers many great opportunities for experiencing life.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Mirabai Expedition 2: Finding my wayMy Profile

  4. Marian January 13, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    Thank you, Mariellen, for finding the courage to follow your dream and live it.
    One year to go, before the work- obligation in my life is over. The time is now, I’ve chosen to be free and serve my soul-purpose fully, despite efforts of authorities or other parties, having lost their way to live in respect for life in general and to live up to creating a better world in an intrinsic sick society. I don’t disconnect from that world, to be clear, I only choose not to be part of it anymore. Happy new year to you and all those present here 🙂

    • Mariellen Ward January 13, 2015 at 8:11 am #

      Hi Marian, Thanks so much for your comment, I’m excited for you. You will be entering a whole new chapter of life, a whole new way of being in the world. Good luck on your inner journey.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Mirabai Expedition 2: Finding my wayMy Profile

  5. Jennifer January 18, 2015 at 9:49 am #

    Congratulations on your life transforming decisions. We started traveling full-time about a year ago and it was the best decision we ever made.
    Jennifer recently posted..Puerto Viejo To Manzanillo Bike RideMy Profile

  6. Shobha January 19, 2015 at 6:53 am #

    Inspiring! I am trying to convince my husband to quit his job and travel the world with our kids for a year. I’ve now planted the seed, we’re saving up for the trip (he’s the planner!) and hopefully next year. Very similar to the way you did it. I’m more impulsive – I’d just have quit and then sorted out the planning afterwards.
    Shobha recently posted..The Number One Thing I learned From TBEX AthensMy Profile

  7. Sally Munt January 27, 2015 at 4:04 am #

    Love this post. I quit my stressful job 16 months ago and it has been the best year of my life! India is definitely on my bucket list!
    Sally Munt recently posted..7 things you should know before climbing Batur volcano, Bali for the sunriseMy Profile

  8. Enchanting Travels January 27, 2015 at 5:44 am #

    Hi Mariellen,

    Your article was great to read and it will inspire many of our guest to visit India and see it’s culture.
    Enchanting Travels recently posted..The best of Vietnam Tourism: Top food from every regionMy Profile

  9. Rina January 27, 2015 at 6:26 am #

    It quite interesting story of your travel to India… Really inspiring. . When your next travel begin to India then just visit to Gujarat….

  10. Srimanta Ghosh January 28, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

    Very Inspiring story that I found on your blog and glad to know how you quit your job and started travelling. As a Indian, I am so proud that you have choose India.

    Really enjoyed your story!

    Thank you
    Srimanta Ghosh recently posted..Top 10 places to visit in MumbaiMy Profile

  11. Shipra Day January 29, 2015 at 9:32 am #

    Beautiful and so inspiring………………..:)

  12. Wanderer January 30, 2015 at 4:37 am #

    Wish i could live a life like yours. Being an indian it is very difficult to be what you want to be in life. There is so much social pressure. I wish i had guts like you.

  13. Kathryn Barry February 3, 2015 at 11:29 am #

    It was so nice to meet you at the Brand USA Pavilion at SATTE! I loved you story and your blog was very helpful in preparing for my trip. Safe travels and I hope to see you again next year!

  14. Christine Taylor February 4, 2015 at 12:44 am #

    Waoh, it was great to read your experience. traveling is surely a stress buster.
    Christine Taylor recently posted..6 Travel Vows for 2015My Profile

  15. Eli Sunday Siyabi February 4, 2015 at 9:36 am #

    I had been following you on Facebook but never really came to read articles on your blog. Last night I saw your post about Aurovalley Ashram and said “Let me finish my dinner and then read this artcile relaxed in bed before spleeping”.
    Well, I ended up reading most of your articles until midnight! 😀
    Your blog is so beautiful and inspiring that it made me feel good. I’m Italian and next July I am going to attend a one month Yoga teaching course in Dharamshala. I will be accompanied by your words, advice and spirit. I am not sure what I am going to do next. I’t like you, I never wanted my blog to become a SEO and marketers slave. I am happy only when I spontaneously write from my heart.
    Thanks again for touching my sould with your words.
    Eli Sunday Siyabi recently posted..I Tipi Da Sala d’AspettoMy Profile

  16. Manthan Bhansali February 5, 2015 at 11:55 pm #

    Hello Mariellen,
    Quitting your job to travel is a bold venture. Well I’m planning to do that before I get one 😉 I’m glad that the country and it’s never failing charm has lifted your spirits. Travel safe and create memories every day.

  17. Param February 8, 2015 at 2:31 am #

    Inspiring. Its always a tough choice to give up a well paying job and look for freelance, But I guess thats why we are into travel. Always looking for a new adventure.
    Param recently posted..Nandur Madhyameshwar : A Little Known Birding HavenMy Profile

  18. Deb February 10, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    Great read. Coincidentally I quit my job in Jan this year with no idea about the future,. On days when I doubt my judgement I go hunting for inspiration and that’s how I stumbled across your blog and a couple of others who have followed the inner voice. You guys give me hope. Well done, look forward to more. Cheers and Bon Voyage!
    Deb recently posted..Unemployment TimesMy Profile

  19. megha February 27, 2015 at 4:50 am #

    Hey! You are an inspiration for me 🙂

  20. Elissa March 11, 2015 at 12:12 am #

    Thanks for the inspirational post, Mariellen. I loved reading about how your big adventure in Indian began and look forward to following your posts.
    Elissa recently posted..Camino Training Hike: San Geronimo RidgeMy Profile

  21. Laura Isabel March 21, 2015 at 5:01 pm #

    I’ve been reading a whole lot into travel blogs and I am absolutely obsessed. Everyone has a beautiful world of their own to share but I am mostly intrigued by yours. I am trying to find myself spiritually and I want to change the world one heart at a time. I have a lot of plans but I don’t know how to take my first initial step. What is your best advice for me?

  22. Feroz March 24, 2015 at 9:25 am #

    Love your commitment and work. God bless 🙂 Long Live to share us the memories that create magic in our hearts.

  23. srinivasan March 29, 2015 at 4:26 am #

    I would be extremely grateful to people who visit India and wd want insights and guidance to travel in our country having lived here for 40 odd years.

    I am also compiling a book on the travails and travels of a a foreign tourist in India and will be of utmost help to any of u coming here with all logistics.

    I have prepared a website on my own which u may find informative with my email and cell nos.

    thanks and regards to all of u

    Truly travelling is a great reveller and teacher.

  24. Aaron April 9, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    Very inspirational, I too will be leaving my job to travel in around 5 weeks. Scary but like you I just know I have to do it.

  25. Sabrez Alam April 11, 2015 at 6:56 am #

    Hi Mariellen,

    Just landed up here from Indiblogger. Really, a true inspirational blog for traveler which is showcasing India as the true beauty of travelling around its famous places.

    Sabrez Alam
    Sabrez Alam recently posted..For Security, Bitdefender Thinks Outside the Box : Bitdefender Box ReviewMy Profile

  26. Satya Saraswat April 16, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    Please try a visit to Ramana Ashram at Tiruvannamalai if you have interest in spirituality.

  27. Curious Desi June 24, 2015 at 5:42 am #

    Inspirational indeed! You are one of the courageous few who manage to follow their dreams while most of us talk about it. Congratulations!
    Curious Desi recently posted..The Golden Bird called IndiaMy Profile

  28. ajith June 28, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    Best wishes from India

  29. Our Wanders November 24, 2015 at 8:01 am #

    Warm congratulations! It is the greatest inspiration of all to read the story of someone who dared to follow her dreams.
    Our Wanders recently posted..Best Day Hikes In Kauai, HawaiiMy Profile

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