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My Job Kept Declining My Vacation Requests -- So I Quit & Traveled On Savings

I was free to be anywhere and do anything I wanted. And what I wanted was to keep it going.

Travel

I planned the trip of a lifetime for my 40th birthday -- a solo trip to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. They were hosting the World Cup during my birthday week, so even though I don't follow soccer, it seemed like the perfect chance to party in South America with people from all over the world. I booked my flight and put in my vacation request at work. You already know what happened. They said, "No." Well, not exactly "no", but close enough.

They approved me for three vacation days (not consecutive, sigh) and said that if I wanted the rest of the time off, I'd have to find someone else to cover my shifts. I worked in a hospital pharmacy on the night shift. Nobody ever wanted to work my hours. I hardly even want to work my hours. So, I took matters into my own 40-year-old hands and called in sick from Brazil. I'd earned paid vacation as part of my compensation package, so why did I always have to beg to use it?

This was a long-time problem for me that repeated itself over and over again with every job I'd had. I made IVs for hospital patients. Sure, my job was an important part of providing patient care. But I needed time off. And so do you.

Everybody needs time to rest from work and replenish their mental energy.

Courtesy of Stephanie Perry

It turns out that during my wonderful trip to Brazil, I met two millennials from San Diego who put me on to a new work philosophy. They worked jobs that were always hiring. So, they worked and saved up their money to travel long-term. And then they'd quit and travel to places where their money stretched further than it would at home. When they ran out of money, they went back home and got new jobs. I knew immediately that this was what my near future would look like. At least for a year or two.

I went home to Delaware and back to my hospital job -- short a few sick days -- with a new mission. I needed to save up enough money to travel around SE Asia for a year.

Fifteen months later, I was on a plane headed to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I broke into a serious sweat the day I went in to give two weeks' notice at work. But I'd already paid for my flight, so there was no turning back. Once I took some deep breaths and told my supervisor September 15 would be my last day, it was smooth sailing.

Elephants in ThailandCourtesy of Stephanie Perry

For a year, I backpacked around SE Asia right alongside the 21-year-olds from the Netherlands who seem to be everywhere. I slept in dorm rooms in hostels and once volunteered on a cricket farm for free room and board. I had adventures that, at 41, I used to think were out of my reach. I bathed elephants in Thailand. I took a three-day motorbike tour in Vietnam. And I met people who showed me kindness and generosity like I'd never imagined.

The trip was both harder than I expected and more fulfilling. Sure, I got to check things off my bucket list. But I also learned how resilient and resourceful I can be.

And the sabbatical gave me time to dream.

Most days during that year, I set an alarm so I could drop what I was doing and watch the sun set. When I worked night shift, I often slept from sun up to sun down, especially in the winter time. But that winter I was on a beach in the Philippines watching the sky put on a show like I couldn't believe.

A sunset in the PhilippinesCourtesy of Stephanie Perry

When we're always busy and always tired, our minds don't have a chance to play. We don't have the time to ask ourselves if we are who we want to be or set goals for our future that make our hands shake while we write them.

I quit my job just to see the world without someone else being in charge of whether or not I could go. But somewhere during the trip -- maybe while I was riding in a tuk tuk in Cambodia on my way to see the Temples at Angkor Wat -- it became about more than travel.

I was free to BE anywhere and DO anything I wanted. And what I wanted was to keep it going.

I traveled from country to country until my money ran out -- exactly 52 weeks later. I went back home to Delaware and even got offered my old job back. But I knew that the next job I took wouldn't last long. I had to get back on the road. So, I took a different job for a few weeks while I set up my next adventure. I used that time to find better ways to stretch my newly earned money, and I found a few ways to support myself while I travel. And then I quit that job too.

I don't regret quitting two jobs to travel. And I don't regret taking time off of work to explore myself. And most importantly, I'm so glad I don't have to regret never taking the chance in the first place.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Featured image via Stephanie Perry/Instagram

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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