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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

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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