I'm a quitter.
July 27, 2009 4:20 PM   Subscribe

So I quit my job. Now what? Creative unemployment ideas, plz.

Yes, I know it's INSANE to QUIT in this ECONOMY. I'm not asking about that. I'm not going to tell you my financial outlook other than to say, let it be. My sanity is way more valuable to me than the job was, so I'm on hiatus for a bit.

How should I use this indefinite stretch of "free" time? I need a break, but I also need structure (and money, if possible). Temporary or permanent relocation is on the table, and assume the freedom to live anywhere in the US or Canada, and willingness to travel. Limitless resources are not available but I am willing to invest in worthwhile experiences.

What I'd like to know is, now that I've given my two weeks' notice, what can I do in the time between now and...whenever I buckle down and get a day job again? I am especially interested in creative volunteer opportunities, or options which provide some income while still not being a traditional day job (ie: working tourist visa, etc).
posted by SassHat to Work & Money (28 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

It might help to get some better answers, more targeted to you, if we knew a little more about you. So, want to play?

Name three places you've always wanted to see.
Name three things you wish you knew how to do.
Name three things you're good at.
Name three things you wish were different about your life.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:31 PM on July 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Congratulations on deciding to change! Change may lead you down wildly unexpected paths, but you are still you, so you'll be OK.

The working tourist visa/teaching English abroad/volunteering abroad pathways are all fulfilling in non-monetary ways, are often not 9-5 (try 9-9!), and are perhaps wildly different from what you've done before. If money-obtaining isn't your main goal right now, look into them.

I've been abroad for three years now, supporting myself teaching English in Indonesia, Latvia, and Poland, and have met people from all walks of life doing it. I love it. Economically, I get by, but I'm not really saving much. If you want a year out, it's one way to go, but it's still a job, with all the itinerant hassles that entails (a commute, owning work clothes, an office, meetings, etc.). It's probably the least-different path you could take, but the one with the biggest (note: this is not that big) financial payoff.

If you're a US/Canadian citizen, it's also relatively easy to just up and head to Mexico for extended periods - see this thread.

What's the rest of your economic life look like? How old are you? What sort of savings are you sitting on? (Working holiday visas often have age limits and a minimum amount of money you need to take into the country with you - here's New Zealand's page for Americans.) Do you own a car, have a mortgage? And is this just you moving on, or have you got other people in your life making the same move?
posted by mdonley at 4:45 PM on July 27, 2009

I'd take a look at GapYear.com. It's largely focused on UK gap year travelers, but it will give you a good idea of the kinds of paid volunteer/work abroad options that are out there.
posted by elfgirl at 4:52 PM on July 27, 2009

Response by poster: Female, white, college (aka university) educated, dual US/Can citizen, under 30, no kids, no car, no mortgage, two houseplants I can probably find a good home for.

Name three places you've always wanted to see.
Name three things you wish you knew how to do.
Name three things you're good at.
Name three things you wish were different about your life.

Answer: Everything
posted by SassHat at 4:54 PM on July 27, 2009

"Name three places you've always wanted to see.
Name three things you wish you knew how to do.
Name three things you're good at.
Name three things you wish were different about your life."

Answer: Everything

Um...."everything" is kind of broad.

We can't suggest much in the particular unless we have an idea of some particular things you like to do. Otherwise we run the risk of us saying things like "hey, you could volunteer in the navy" and have you tell us "are you nuts? I'm a pacifist!" but see, we didn't know that so that's why we're asking you to tell us more abou tthe things you like to do, are good at, etc.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:05 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

May I suggest becoming a freegan?
This thread is also in the same vein as what you're looking for.

If not either of those, I'd say start learning something you've always wanted to (like music, photography, etc.) and find a way to monetize it(playing in bars and clubs, selling stock photography). A lot of these skills are rather easy to pick up.
posted by fizzzzzzzzzzzy at 5:12 PM on July 27, 2009

Walk across the continent. Bike around the world. Go take care of your grandma. Don't have one? Take care of someone else's grandma. Read the Great Books. Turn ATL's questions into instructions: Go three places you've always wanted to see. Learn 3 things you've always wanted to learn. Do 3 things you're good at (but never had time). Change 3 things about your life (you've already started on that one. 1. Quit your job.)
posted by nax at 5:17 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

A few ideas closer to home are some decent charities. It doesn't have to be drudge work either, some involve learning to sail.....

Do you have some hobbies? eg Dancing, photography etc.? There are a few social meetup groups in the city that are cheap / free and can keep you busy while you get things organized.

Kudos on being brave!
posted by rooster416 at 5:18 PM on July 27, 2009

Answer: Everything

IIAP, IINYP (but can be, if you would like)

Have you taken LSD?

If your answer is that you want to do "everything", well I am sorry to break it to you but that is too much. This is our curse as finite beings, SassHat: there is not enough time to see and do everything. What you need, before you do anything else, is to go on a vision quest.

Start by taking LSD, in a safe place, preferably with a trusted minder. This experience will provide you clarity of purpose and set you on the Right Path. If you would like further help in this regard, call me for a detailed consultation about 6-8 hours into the trip, just as you are levelling down and no longer solely in the Astral Plane. (MeMail for contact info and setting an appointment)

Good luck on your excellent journey.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:19 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Couch surfing! You can go anywhere!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:20 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's a link to that charity that's looking for volunteers. They teach the volunteers how to sail so they can take disabled people out. It's right by Queens Quay.
posted by rooster416 at 5:39 PM on July 27, 2009

Congratulations on leaving work -- it's a very liberating experience, but as others have said, wanting to do everything is just too broad - you at least have to prioritize.

Your answer to A Terrible Lama reminded me of a somewhat more flippant version of Lewis Carroll's Alice (in Wonderland):
'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'

'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.

'I don't much care where-' said Alice.

'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
Enjoy your adventure.
posted by dirm at 5:48 PM on July 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Name three things you wish were different about your life.

Answer: Everything

I know the perfect volunteer activity for you! Work in a homeless shelter that takes families. I bet there's one not far from you now. It will change how you view your life, your prospects, what's really important and what's really not, people, politics, the world.
posted by Houstonian at 5:56 PM on July 27, 2009

Well if I found myself in your shoes and wasn't immediately worried about making some cash, I would volunteer at a national park. They are in a variety of locations and are looking for a variety of skills in their volunteers. Heck, I might even turn it into a cross country trip and volunteer at several.

But that's just me.
posted by geeky at 6:14 PM on July 27, 2009

A good friend does this regularly and usually works entry level positions as a groundskeeper in a National Park / other outdoor get-away type places. Pay is nominal but they provide room and board and an interesting group of friends. She's had good experiences doing this in California, Washington, and Alaska.
posted by oblio_one at 6:16 PM on July 27, 2009

Congrats, SassHat! Sounds like a change is in order. First, take a little time off to relax and decompress from the grind that was eating away your sanity. When you start to get a little bored, think about an apprenticeship in a field you're interested in. Maybe use the time to figure out what you might like to do in your next incarnation. Or what about a class or two in a subject that intrigues you? I've done this more than a couple of times, and every time, I find it truly liberating. Hope you find what you're looking for..
posted by Cheeto at 6:33 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Habitat For Humanity.I did a week one summer in High School, and it was a great experience. Working with your hands is very gratifying in a way most jobs aren't. And it's pretty neat to help someone have a home.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:41 PM on July 27, 2009

Female, white, college (aka university) educated, dual US/Can citizen, under 30, no kids, no car, no mortgage, two houseplants I can probably find a good home for.

Wow... are you me?

I quit my job a few months ago and worked on an organic farm in northern Alberta for a while. Now I am looking at grad schools. I might au pair in France or Switzerland between now and grad school.
posted by jschu at 7:56 PM on July 27, 2009

You mention travel. Do you have a car? Aside from "higher gas prices" (c'mon, has everyone forgotten it was $4/gallon less than a year ago) now is the best possible time to travel. If you're up to roughing it, bring a tent, otherwise couchsurf or go to cheap motels.

See the whole damn country.

The fact you said "everything" means you're directionless. Which means you should really spend as few resources as possible doing things until you have some kind of direction in mind. Cross-country road trips are great for this. They take forever in your mind, because actually driving through vast expanses on your own is pretty boring, but in a week and a half you could easily cross the country twice if you don't stop too often.

I'm not sure whether any kind of volunteering abroad thing is a good idea. Whenever jobs are scarce, people all go the volunteering/travel route and the whole system get clogged (just as it did in the wake of the dot-com crash). Far better to just slack off for a little while and travel cheaply. Don't try to "discover" anything just yet.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:43 PM on July 27, 2009

Well, if you do want to couch surf, remember you've always got an available couch in Montana. Just a few hours from Yellowstone Park!

No matter what you do, takes lots of pictures, and keep a photo scrapbook / diary of what you do and learn during this time. The introspection might be good for making decisions about the future.
posted by The Deej at 9:16 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Name three things you wish you knew how to do.
Name three things you're good at.
Answer: Everything

It looks like you could benefit from learning to pay attention to detail in the world around you. Ditch the apartment, and spend the next year driving around the US and Canada with a drawing pad and a camera. Observe and notice all that you can.
posted by yohko at 9:59 PM on July 27, 2009

Is there something you've always thought wasn't really in your character to do? Give it a go (well, as long as it's legal and ethical) and see how you feel about it.
posted by divabat at 10:13 PM on July 27, 2009

You have two weeks? Go to a place with a huge fall colors tourist season (New England comes to mind), and get a silly tourism job for a few weeks this fall.

Then, spend from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day working on a Christmas tree lot. Many places give you a trailer to live in on the lot with no running water, so it's quite an adventure. Take the few thousand dollars you earn there, and then travel in your favorite non-European, non-resort part of the world in January and February.

Alternatively, get a seasonal job at a ski resort in Utah this winter. After you spend this fall couch surfing... though that will be difficult without a car.

After this you might be ready to get back to a regular job! Or you might find yourself on a new path of adventure.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:42 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Answer: Everything

Man, you are not a list maker, are you? If this were me I'd have a ranking system on an Excel spreadsheet. Christ, I'm boring.

Okay, well, jeez. Maybe a job on a cruise ship?

I suppose that in the absense of all other measurements, and as a person in need of some sort of system to make a decision like this, I think kind of aiming for opposite of wherever you are is a good place to start. If you're in Jamaica, try Norway, for example. If you had a sedentary job, try getting a job leading hikes or blazing cross country trails or something. If you've been living alone, try living with people. It sounds like you weren't in love with whatever you were doing, so the opposite seems as good a place to start as any.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:42 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

In the short term, milling about aimlessly will provide a welcome contrast to the daily grind of commuting and working. However, this can only be maintained by someone who is very self confident and focused, ironically. Not ever getting any feedback from anyone is quite Zen, but you have to want to be in that state of mind, which is not what you are saying.
A friend of mine who quit because he hated his job boss, spent a good six months getting depressed about his situation. Then he found a role helping a community organisation with a creative task and he genuinely seems happier than I have seen him in years. He has affected other changes in his life since and seems more 'at the helm' than ever before (I have known him for most of my life).
posted by asok at 6:24 AM on July 28, 2009

You can always WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). There are farms all over the world where you can work in exchange for housing and food. All my experiences have been wonderful (throughout Italy and the Northwest US). It's a nice option to have, because transportation is your only expense. If you have decent savings, you can see many beautiful chunks of the world, while eating fantastic food, and spending time with local individuals/families/communities, and getting great recommendations for further travels in the area.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 10:49 AM on July 28, 2009

Sleep your way across the continent or around the world, using MeFites as couch-hosts. Who among us would not wish to have a SassHat visit for a day, a week or a month? Room & board in exchange for light chores and errand-running! See the world on no dollars a day.

I did this in 2003 (not MeFi but another 'net group), and it changed my life immeasurably for the better. You can read about it by following along in my journal; first "Tour" post here: LiveJournal. I started in West Palm Beach, Florida and circumnavigated North America over a span of eight months before finally ending up in Kitchener, Ontario with a new best friend and soon-to-be wife.

Good luck, and if you want somewhere to start, look us up.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:19 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Things I would consider if I were in your situation (these may be more long-term - I'm not sure how long you're anticipating your hiatus to be):

1. WOOF-ing at one or more farms, perhaps in different locales, depending on your travel budget and ability to save.

2. Volunteer Overseas with an org. like CUSO-VSO, or one the many CIDA - funded partners to do development work.

3. Use the Working Holiday Visa either by itself or in conjuction with one of the above. (A high school friend of mine took a year off to NZ on working holiday visa and spent some of her time WOOF-ing for a small stipend.)

4. Volunteering locally, or working just part time for a charitable organization I really care about.

5. Apply for a small student loan, get a certificate in something somewhere between useful and fun (depending on your career/field, this could be any number of things), and then work part-time in a mindless but social job.
posted by Kurichina at 12:33 PM on July 28, 2009

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