April 24, 2014

Why Quitting the Rat Race Was the Best Decision of My Life. ~ Louise Belinfante


After a recent epiphany during a fire show in Goa, India. I decided to quit the nine to five rat race for a year of experimental living to see if I could design my life around what interests me.

Immediately I felt enormously liberated at the idea of having a blank canvas to do whatever I liked for a whole year and also a little bit anxious about how I would fill my time.

Previous to my three month sojourn in Goa, I had spent three years volunteering in Nepal with NGO’s, which had triggered my realization that there are many different ways to live my life that may be more fulfilling. After Nepal I simply could not bear the idea of going back to the UK where I was born, to re-enter the system of working 9-5, the dreaded rat race.

The thing about the rat race is that until I stepped out of it I didn’t realize I was in it.

I just accepted that it was normal to get up five days a week drive to the office, work for eight hours and return home exhausted and stressed. In fact, to be honest, I judged those who didn’t work full time as lazy and unfocused. But after three and a half years of living outside of the UK, I had changed my perspective on every aspect of life and now I valued freedom and choice over what I had viewed previously as security.

My first challenge was changing how I think about how my life should be into how I want my life to be. I wanted freedom and adventure but also a sense of purpose.

Working out how much money I needed to live on and where that money is going to come from was a big concern. I worked out that I need approximately £6000 for the entire year to live on. Accommodations are expensive; a shared house in the north of England costs around £4000 per year making this option out of the question.

I chose a cheaper option living in Goa for 5 months costing £750 for the entire time. The rest of the time I am staying at my mother’s house, friends’ homes, housesitting and my summer job provides accommodation.

Eating and drinking out in the UK I have limited to special occasions, in Goa I can eat and drink out more frequently and the price of buying fresh fruits and vegetables is a fraction of the price of that in the UK and it’s a lot fresher.

I decided that all of the work I chose had to have some benefit to society as this not only coincided with my values but also my skill set. So I chose one job which I can do anywhere, working for a social enterprise in Mumbai promoting responsible tourism. It’s unlikely I will make any money from this job, but I enjoy it and it may lead to something in the future.

My second job is working freelance as a grant writer for charities, which again I can do anywhere. And my third job is working over the summer as a program leader on a youth program which is paid. If I make £6000 from these three jobs over the course of the year I will be lucky, so I have to be prepared to dig into my savings.

Although I am only one month into my experimental living I generally feel more relaxed and content than I have for a long time.

I sleep better than I have ever slept and feel excited about my life. I have spent my first month visiting friends and getting my freelance work established. It’s great to have time to spend with my family and friends, nurturing those important relationships. I have enjoyed simple delights like cooking nice food, walks in the countryside, yoga, running and just sitting and thinking. I have time to make phone calls and socialize.

Occasionally I have to fight the impulse to look for a ‘proper’ job as that is not only my default position it is the norm of this society. My friends support my new way of living, but I think it confuses some of my family members. I spent ten minutes talking to my Uncle about the three jobs I am currently doing and at the end he said very sincerely, “I really hope you find a job, best of luck.”

Now I have made the mental switch to living this way it’s amazing what opportunities pop up. I am house-sitting over the summer for various friends and there are plenty of house-sitting websites, which offer global house-sitting options in all sorts of exotic locations. I am helping my friend with her organized hula-hooping weekends. And there are plenty more options like working on a farm in exchange for accommodation and food (Willing Worker on Organic Farms,) working at festivals and volunteering for organizations, the list is endless.

I don’t know what I will do after my year of experimental living, but I am excited to find out what the year will bring.

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Apprentice Editor: Jen Weddle / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Flickr/ Matthew Heptinstall

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Louise Belinfante