Saturday, September 08, 2012

How to take one year off with minimal interruption to your life and my story!

Ask yourself this - if you just stopped doing what you're doing right now and went off and did something that you always wanted to do for one year before returning to your current life, what is the worst that could happen? 

The common answer I hear is that what if I can't find a job again, especially in this economy? But if you are actually qualified to do the job, I'm positive you will find another job. And if you are not to begin with, then maybe another career path should be considered. The point is that we simply shouldn't let fear be a prison cell which dictates how we should live our lives. 

How I did it and my experience 

I always had a list of things I want to do written down somewhere. It is usually in my "Someday/maybe" folder. In April of 2012, I decided that "now" is as good a time for "someday/maybe" as it'll get, so I took the plunge. When I decided to quit my job to take on a trip around the world and learn martial arts I was interviewed by another blog. The interview here explains my reasoning quiet well. And here is my farewell email to the world. 

Dear friends,

After living in HK for 5 years, I have finally had enough of the HK taxi drivers!

I'm kidding... I love HK, but I am actually taking a year off from the hussle and bussle of the city life. I will be training with some of the world's most fearsome fighters from Thailand to Brazil to Korea and Japan for one year. I have resigned from MS last month and planning to leave HK in early July. I will travel first to Thailand to train at a Muay Thai (Thai boxing) camp for three month. Then I will go to South America for six month, where I will train in Jiu-Jitsu as well as Capoeira. Afterwards, I will spend the final three month in Korea or Japan to learn Tae Kwon Do or Judo. 

While it is extremely difficult to leave the comfort and familiarity of the city, with amazing friends, great job, and incredible girl/guy ratios. In order to grow more as a person, I'm looking to put myself outside of this comfort zone for a year to seek out situations that are unfamiliar and scary.  Given that I'm still (relatively) young, have no major obligations, and the Dow being below 12000, today's opportunity cost is pretty low. And at the end of my travel, I'm still excited to come back and work in the field that brought me to HK in the first place. 

I will setup a blog with frequent updates on my wherabouts, which you are all welcome to join me. And I will be in and out of HK until early July; I would love to catch up with many of you. So please let me know if you are in town. 

Since I'm leaving for a year, I'm going to sublet out my apartment which I'm sharing with my awesome roommate right now. The location is awesome. It is in Hollywood Terrace in Sheung Wan, which is 5 min walk from Soho, 10 min walk from LKF/IFC, and 2 min walk from Sheung Wan MTR. It's a three bed room apartment so I have 2 bedrooms and a bathroom to myself while my roommate has the en-suite. We're paying 27K between the both of us right now. Fully furnished since I'm leaving all my furniture behind. Let me know if you or your friend is interested and want pictures or see the place. 


I wanted to do this ever since my family bought our first television set way back in China when it was a big deal to own a TV. We turned it on and the first show we ever watched was called "The Legend of the Condor Heroes" (射雕英雄传) about... you guessed it... Chinese martial arts masters. =D

Everybody is kung-fu fighting...

Two quotes that inspired me to do this - 

"Change is not something we should fear. It is something we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom. And nobody in this world would ever move forward to become the person we are meant to be." - B.K.S lyengar

"Have you ever wondered if there was more to life than just being ridiculously good looking?" - Derek Zoolander 


Some have asked me why didn't I just do an MBA which is seen as more acceptable way to take some time off while still doing all the traveling and life experiences (some have even called the MBA the Asian gap year). I think MBA is definitely an worthy pursuit for most people. In fact, I've taken my GMAT already several years ago with scores that would get me in a top 5 program, but as I progressed in my career, the thought of switching out of finance did not sound appealing to me at all. Maybe I'm just a closet masochist, but I actually quiet enjoy my finance career! 

When I eventually pulled the trigger, I was blessed with lots of support from everyone around me including my parents, my boss and my friends. The planning was very time consuming but being organized helped to contain the mess. I was able to knock the things off my list one at a time 

My one year travel plan - 
  • Three month of muay thai training in Chiang Mai and Phuket
  • One professional muay thai fight in Phuket
  • 2 week backpacking trip around Myanmar (the land of thousand temples, with no cell phone services and no ATMs) 
  • 11 days to bicycle around the island of Taiwan 
  • one week to finally visit the west coast, where i've never been before
  • couple days at home in NJ to attend my high school reunion 
  • Travel around south america (peru, brazil, bunerous ares, argentina, easter islands)
  • Several month in Brazil to learn BJJ and surfing
  • travel through europe on the way back to HK (will go to rome to see the Colosseum to see first hand the arena for one of the oldest fighting competitions in the world) 
  • hk for a week to recharge before making my way to korea for some tae kwan do training for several month
  • back to HK to conclude my trip 

How I would suggest you could do it too 
The disclaimer is that this is probably not for everyone. Conservatively speaking, the target audiance for this trip is someone in his/her twenties, have some money saved up, does not have a family, and who is able to stomach some degree of risks. 

  1. Make a list of everything you want to do, including the things that you are afraid to do. Plan out how much time you need. 1 year is usually enough to do most of the things. 
  2. Wait for an proper moment to quit your job (such as recession/now, gotten laid off, changing careers, going back to school, etc). Be accommodating and don't burn your bridges! People will be shocked by your decision, but most will understand and support you 
  3. Quit your job and then announce to the world what you are about to do so that you are committed and can't backtrack 
  4. Taking care of the little things 
    1. Now that you are unemployed, buy travel insurance 
    2. Look at the recommended vaccination for your destination and get them done asap. 
    3. Realize that you don't need much of the material things that you accumulated over the years and throw them out or donate them. Put the rest in storage (i use hk storage) 
    4. Rent out your apartment 
    5. Miles for redemption flights 
    6. Make photocopies of all your important documents and save the softcopies on your computer/usb. (I use evernote) 
    7. Open a safe deposit box and put your valuables in it, such as gold bars, silver coins, family heirlooms, special edition pokemon cards 
    8. Get a international drivers license 
    9. Get the required visas 
  5. Pack as light as possible and then get out of here! 
  6. Option - keep a blog and update the rest of us 
Thank for reading. Follow me on this blog, or join me on my adventures! 


stukalide said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Hey hi there!

I stumbled across your blog while researching cycling around Taiwan (great resource by the way, thanks!), and decided to meander through some of your other posts. This one feels particularly relevant to me, as I'm planning on an extended travel season sometime in the near future. It's still a ways off and in those early formative stages, so trying to get as much info as possible before I make definite plans. If you don't mind my asking, what sort of budget did you end up following on your trip? Obviously some places are no doubt more expensive than others, but averages? If you already have a post somewhere about this, feel free to just point me in the right direction!


P.S. Zoolander is an excellent quote.