“Don't quit a job unless you have another one lined up.”
These are words drilled into us by our parents, society and probably common sense. But then everywhere we turn, there seems to be yet another article from a creative who is blogging from the beach or some remote part of the world (but apparently still has Internet). It's oh-so tempting to quit.
What if we told you that leaving your job makes you better for your next one?
April Lauderdale and Burke Lauderdale are two art directors hailing from Texas and South Carolina, respectively. They met in 2005, married in 2011 and in June 2015 "piled [their] belongings into a 16 ft. storage container, gorged on queso, said goodbye to creature comforts, packed two bags each and embarked on an around-the-world journey."
Since they've been back, they've had a lot of friends ask what they learned from their travels. Below, they take us on a global tour, listing out 11 different countries they got to know and love, and what each country taught them about being a better job applicant and person.
Lesson #1 - Uganda: Squeeze the lemon dry.
We quickly learned that the Ugandan people were some of the most resourceful we'd ever seen. They used what they had ten times over. In Uganda, something can always be working harder or take on a new life entirely.
Are you thinking there couldn't possibly be another idea for your project? There is. No way your budget can work? It can. No matter how boxed in we may feel as creatives, there's most likely a little more to be squeezed.
Lesson #2 - Tanzania: Nature is the world's best inspiration.
Off the northern end of Zanzibar, on a tiny sandbar in the Indian Ocean, we found the most beautiful starfish we'd ever seen. Something we didn't know existed in this world. And there it was, in all its beauty in the crystal clear water for anyone who bothered to look.
As cheesy as it may sound, when you're feeling stuck, try nature. Go outside. Look around.
Lesson #3 - Namibia: Don't sweat the small stuff, because you're really small.
As we drove the protected Skeleton Coast of Namibia, along the beaches, in and out of deserts, through dried riverbeds and up and down endless sand dunes, one thing became abundantly clear: The world is a ginormous place and we are really, really small. Wonderfully small, even.
Perspectively speaking, most of the world doesn't care about your brilliant idea that died in round fifteen. This is not to say you shouldn't put a ton of care and craft into your work. It's only to say, don't hyperventilate and get too precious on a day-to-day basis.
Lesson #4 - South Africa: Get outside your comfort zone.
If quitting your job isn't far enough outside your comfort zone, we suggest swimming with great white sharks.
The surprising thing was that it wasn't nearly as scary as we first thought. Sure, they were still great whites that could rip our faces off if they chose, but they were actually a lot more calm and graceful underwater than we had imagined.
Do presentations make you fearful? Timid to try a new type style outside your wheelhouse? Whatever you are fearful of, whatever is outside your comfort zone, take the risk and jump in headfirst. You just might find it wasn't as bad as you'd expected, and you might just grow stronger for it.
Lesson #5 - Nepal: In the midst of struggle, stay positive.
We traveled to Nepal just five months after the devastating earthquake. It was the worst natural disaster to hit the country since 1934. Yet the people couldn't have been more positive and welcoming. They loved their home and were working hard at rebuilding.
When it seems like something you've worked on for months is crumbling around you, just remember to stay positive. You will rebuild.
Lesson #6 - Vietnam: Be inclusive.
In Hanoi we invited two women who worked at our hotel, Linh and Phuong, out for coffee. Not only did they accept our invite, but that coffee turned into some of the best friends and memories we made during our trip.
Headed out of the office for lunch with a group of people? Why not ask the new strategist to join? You never know who around you, across disciplines, levels or even professions could teach you something new or become an amazing friend. Finding out is an invite away.
Lesson #7 - Laos: Slow down when possible.
Traveling through Laos for us was a bit like floating down a lazy river. The culture was much slower and laid back than anywhere we'd been. Shopkeepers openly napped in their stores, bus drivers pulled over to watch the sunset and night markets were eerily quiet.
At first this was agitating as we just wanted to get somewhere fast, have a quick meal or pass through a market in a hurry. But as we eased ourselves into this slower pace of life, we came to really appreciate it.
Though most days can feel like hurricanes, it's important to step away when possible and let your mind reboot. It might even wander to places it couldn't have before, leading you to your next award-winning idea.
Lesson #8 - Cambodia: Don't take shortcuts.
While in Cambodia, we were fortunate enough to visit Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. It was constructed in the 12th century, took around 30 years to complete and contains some of the finest architecture and reliefs you'll ever see.
Great craft and hard work can be the difference between something being “meh” and amazing. Be amazing.
Lesson #9 - Indonesia: Say no to TV. Say yes to art.
This was easy to do in Indonesia, particularly Bali, an island oozing with art and culture. We couldn't make it far without seeing a local artist painting, a woman constructing beautiful offerings made from colorful flower petals, men practicing their music, children learning traditional Balinese dance.
The art of Bali wasn't something to go and see hanging on a gallery wall, it was a way of life.
So remember to make and take in more. Go to an art show. See the symphony. Make a finger painting. The more we say yes to art, the more inspired we can become.
(Disclaimer: We're not saying to stop watching TV. That would be terrible.)
Lesson #10 - Singapore: Look for the gems.
Compared to the other gritty, culture-packed countries we had been to, Singapore felt a little sterile and robotic. But as we dug in deeper, and explored further, we found hidden gems throughout the city. Striking street art. Incredible cuisine. Beautiful architecture.
So when you have an assignment you're skeptical about, or don't see potential in, try looking a little closer. There could be a gem in a seemingly unglamorous project. Look for it.
Lesson #11 - Malaysia: It should be fun.
The small island of Penang, off the northwest coast of peninsular Malaysia, is home to a rich street art scene. You could tell the artists had fun making the pieces. People enjoyed finding them, interacting with them and taking pictures with them.
This is what it should be all about. Let's have fun making things that our audience can interact with and enjoy.
This article originally appeared on Free Range, the Working Not Working blog.