"So you've decided to ruin your life"
September 30, 2008 12:17 PM   Subscribe

I've decided that I want to take a year to go backpack around Europe. Now what do I tell my current employer and my family?

The basic gist is that I've finally decided that some time away from school/work/my batshit family would be good for me. I've been attempting to make plans to move out, but they've fallen through several times. So, I've been kicking around this idea about travelling for a while. I've been overseas a few times (all within the tight leash of my mother) and so I've got a pretty good idea of how to travel, what I like and don't like about certain things, etc.

I've even found a flight that is perfectly within my budget and everything! But of course, there are problems:

I'm currently in school, but not seeking a degree (yet). The original plan was to take these 2 non-degree-seeking courses, apply for real in February, and then start the degree program in Fall 2009. Since I want to use my current employer as a reference, I'm thinking that I can apply February 2009 and if accepted, defer admission until Fall 2010. Sounds good, right? There's more...

I currently live with my parents. I've basically gotten to the point where I buy the majority of my own stuff (I eat dinner with them, as required) and pretty much am left to my own devices. They don't know that I'm planning on travelling. I fear that they will completely lose their shit (which is likely, considering their track record on me doing things that aren't within their scope of planning). I've got plans, if they do decide to kick me out, but this means that I won't be able to go to school in this area (because I cannot really afford to live here by myself and go to school at the same time).

How can I explain this trip in a way that will make sense to them?

They are both quite close to retirement (mom retired in March, pops is set to retire in January) and have a serious hatred of "frivolity". This trip would fall straight into that category. As well as the whole 'not continuing straight on with school.' (For those keeping track, this will be Master's degree #2. I took one semester off.) They are very big into stability and the goodness of the US. This is part of the reason why I think applying to school before leaving would be good. They would understand that I did that to plan for my return.

My brother is another ball of wax. I could really give a fuck less what he thinks, but I've hinted at leaving to him and ALL THE PREJUDICE IN THE WORLD came out. According to him, as soon as I get off the plan in whereverville, I'll be raped and assaulted because "those people don't care." Well gee Alex, most people don't really give a shit here either. BFD.

There's also the issue with my current place of employment. I love my job. I'm good at my job. My boss loves me. The problem is: I'm vastly overqualified for this job (requires only a HS diploma) and the pay and hours could be better. I'm guessing that they'll do performance appraisals at some point, possibly at our one year dates. (We're a department of 4 people, including the boss, so everything that is kinda like this is half-assed.) This for me would be in late December. Here's the problem: if we do indeed have appraisals, is there any way I can not look like a complete jackass, considering that I know I'll be leaving in early June? Somehow, telling them in late December that I'll give one month's notice in May doesn't seem like it would go over well.

What should I tell my boss? When should I tell him that I'm leaving?

I bolded the two questions I have. Everything else is just background information to give a sense of the situation I'm in. I'm going crazy waiting but I just can't bail until June because that's when I should have enough cash saved to go (and be able to do stuff for a year) and that's when things are slow here at work, so they'll have time to find and train a replacement before the school year starts. I'm going with or without my parents' blessing. Of course, it makes it much easier for me to handle things like car/health insurance, and my cell phone bill, if they'll be able to send the checks in. (Only the health insurance will be in my name, everything else is under them.)

Thanks y'all, if you made it through all of that.
posted by sperose to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do not tell your employer. There's a lot of time between December & June.
posted by aramaic at 12:33 PM on September 30, 2008

This only covers a tiny part of your question, but if your job only requires a HS diploma I don't think they'll have a ton of trouble replacing you. The standard 2 weeks notice should be fine. Don't tell them 5 months ahead of time, or they might decide to replace you sooner than you're willing to be without a paycheck. Go through your performance review like everything is normal.
posted by vytae at 12:34 PM on September 30, 2008

I think if you swapped things around a little you wouldn't have a problem. If you have enough money saved to spend a YEAR in EUROPE (you know everything costs twice as much for Americans spending euros, right?) then you have enough to move out of your parents house. Once you're independent - you can do whatever you want. You don't have to pitch your plans in a special way - you can just tell them and then hang up the phone. Because as it is now - they're supporting you. They let you live there so you can sock money away and get an education and they're doing that so that you can get a great start in life - it's *reasonable* that they'd be pissed for you to blow the money on a year of fun. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it - a year of travel sounds great to me - but they'd have a right to be angry *now* because right now what you have is their investment. Even your phrasing - "I eat dinner with them - as required" as opposed to "I don't have to buy dinner - mom cooks for me" is adolescent. And that's not weird - I'd be the same way - but it's exactly why adults shouldn't live with their parents unless it's necessary. Move out! Either you're crazy loaded or your budget is off - get your own health insurance, your own car, your own place FIRST - only then are you free to tell them to mind their own business.
posted by moxiedoll at 12:44 PM on September 30, 2008

Yeah, you're overthinking this (probably because you're used to dealing with your parents' paranoia). Your employer won't care that much, and you'll get another job when you get back. What you really need to do is break the leash. When you get back, find your own place to live, and tell your folks you love them but you are going to live your own life and they can like it or lump it (in nicer terms, of course). Good luck, and enjoy the trip!
posted by languagehat at 12:44 PM on September 30, 2008

How can I explain this trip in a way that will make sense to them?

The short answer to this is: you may not be able to, but you can try. And that shouldn't stop you from doing it.

You're an adult, so ultimately it's your decision. But you can try to make things easier by getting them as excited about the trip as you are.

So ask yourself this: why are you excited about this trip? Did you read a particular book, or see a movie, or have a friend perhaps that did a similar trip? Provide those materials -- if there are any -- to your family and try to generate excitement. If you don't have anything, may I suggest the book Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, and the documentary A Map For Saturday. Both do an incredible job explaining the philosophy behind independent travel. Not only will they make you even more excited for your own trip, but it's a great opportunity to pass it along to others who might not understand why you'd want to do such a thing.

It's common for people who have never traveled abroad to fear the supposed danger. Nothing could be further from the truth, but there's really no way you can convince anyone of this short of packing them in your bag and showing them yourself. Take what they say with a grain of salt.

As for your employer, I'd recommend giving them your regular two-weeks notice, and that's it. Frankly, it's none of their business. It's a job -- people leave. They'll get over it and find someone new, just like you'll find a new job when you get back.

Have fun! As lame as it sounds, it'll change your life.
posted by nitsuj at 12:50 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Fucking do it. Really. Stop dicking around, make your plans and tense your bowels - you're going on an adventure.

Q:How can I explain this trip in a way that will make sense to them?
A: Now is the time for travel. Later is for work and family. If they give you shit, let them know that it is indeed entirely their fault for raising an intelligent child that now wants to see the world, and they can remain resolute in their disapproval of their life's work all they want.

Do you have any allies in your extended family? A cool aunt or uncle who could understand your motivations and timing? You should consider talking to them before your parents, they might have further advice on dealing with your parents.

Also, though the possibility may be minute, don't rule out the fact that your parents might be secretly proud and jealous of your plans to travel. You might not like how they react, but they're probably not evil people.

Q: What should I tell my boss? When should I tell him that I'm leaving?
A: More than two weeks, if everything at work is as chill as you make it sound. One month is good. If they drop you right away, it's just extra time to pack.
posted by terpia at 12:55 PM on September 30, 2008

P.S. FWIW, plan on spending $3,000USD/month in Europe on an average hosteler/backpacker's budget.
posted by nitsuj at 12:57 PM on September 30, 2008

If you're getting a second master's degree, then you're certainly old enough to not explain your actions to your parents. Just tell them this is what you're doing. If you overexplain, you risk giving them power to object or place obstacles in your way. Do not give them this power. Just say "I'm going."

Nthing the suggestion to give your boss one month's notice, no more. You're not irreplaceable, and you don't owe him tons and tons of notice just because you like him and he likes you. And you're not doing him a favor by working there. You work, and he pays you; it's a fair exchange.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 1:08 PM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you boss loves you give them 3-4 weeks, they will be excited about your trip and understand that you have a world to see. Tell your boss that you are going on a trip and that is that, you don't have to make up excuses.
posted by bdc34 at 1:09 PM on September 30, 2008

Half a year is a long time. You won't really know in December that you're going to leave in June, even if right now you think you will.

Because you say this is an easy job that a HS grad could do, it should not be so painful for them to replace you, which is good news. So give them the notice you need to give, or a little extra to be kind, but not SIX MONTHS.
posted by rokusan at 1:10 PM on September 30, 2008

You have a Master's Degree and are living at home? Europe is nice for finding yourself and getting freaky with a French guy or girl, but there are much more pressing matters at hand.

Screw the trip. Use the money to get your ass out of the house PRONTO. Get an apartment in a city on the other side of the country. Leave! Now!

Stand up from the computer.
If you own it, unplug it and put it under your arm. It will come in handy.
Grab some underwear and your wallet.
Hug your mom and dad and thank them for being so wonderful.
Crash at a friend's house until you find a cheap apartment. If you don't have friends with couches, figure something else out.

P.S. Three week notice is a nice compromise, and what I give whenever I leave a job.
posted by paanta at 1:46 PM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

As for your job:

I work in a very high-pressure industry (TV news), plus I work in NYC. I walked into my boss's office one day and told him I was going away for two months (also to Europe).

You have to be point-blank, matter-of-fact about it. Don't hedge or cower. Just give him enough notice before you go.
posted by Zambrano at 2:05 PM on September 30, 2008

I think it'd be best if you just gave notice at the last minute, after making all of your plans, and apologetically go. If you think there's going to be any kind of trouble with either your parents or work, that's the best way to avoid it. Heck, call your parents when you're at the airport!

As to your job, I agree with earlier comments that giving too much notice may mean you're replaced sooner than you'd like.
posted by timoni at 4:19 PM on September 30, 2008

*UNapologetically go, I mean.
posted by timoni at 5:25 PM on September 30, 2008

You want to go now because you're not tied down to commitments that will tie you down later (a house, family, children, career-oriented job). There will never be a perfect time to travel, but it seems like you're situation is pretty close to it.

Agree with the others about telling your boss about a month before.

Also, a year in Europe could be a long time - unless you plan on staying in a few places for longer periods. It's also expensive - have you considered Asia / Southeast Asia for part of your year away? Your dollar will go quite far there in comparison to Europe, and it's really not that much more difficult than travelling in Europe (fewer English speakers, but enough to get by).

I'll second the A Map For Saturday mention above. It'll get you psyched to go for sure.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:44 PM on September 30, 2008

Thanks for the advice. I'll tell my boss in May to give him about a month's notice (which is what the last person who left when I started had done).

As for my parents, I'll start hinting at it soon. (Because god forbid anyone in this family actually come out and say something. If you do, it's like the whole world has ended.)

And believe me, if I could afford to move out and not end up having to move back in after 2 months, I would. It's just not feasible (especially because I'm still in between cars right now.)
posted by sperose at 9:16 AM on October 1, 2008

This is slightly off topic, but I should be living in Prague by then if you need a place to crash. I'm a 23 year-old girl, not creepy.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 10:53 AM on October 1, 2008

I think you should make plans to travel at the end of the current semester, either be on good terms with work for a reference or apply as early as possible and leave right after that. Travel until fall, then start your program. You don´t have a car now, so that´s one less expense (although I don´t see why you would be paying insurance on a car you won´t see for a year). If you don´t buy a car or insurance that should help with getting savings together for traveling.

I eat dinner with them, as required

Yes, you need to get out. Middle ground between leaving now and staying until June: leave in December or January and go to Europe.

Of course, it makes it much easier for me to handle things like car/health insurance, and my cell phone bill, if they'll be able to send the checks in.

Online bill pay. You can also just send a year´s worth of payments before you leave, but check on that occasionally to make sure everything is still working OK.
posted by yohko at 10:05 PM on October 1, 2008

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