I left New York City in March of 2013, 2 months before my would-be 5-year anniversary of living there. I had put my notice in back in February, and in the month leading up to leaving, I had a lot of explaining to do. “You loved your job!,” my friends exclaimed, and I had, right up until the very end. “Where are you going? For how long? What’s next?” everyone asked, both thrilled and frustrated with my vague response of “Traveling. Who knows!”
When we (my husband and I) left NYC, we were surrounded by many friends, but we were also surrounded by people who were constantly, well, busy. I imagine this culture exists in many places, but we found the answer so unbelievably common in NYC. Even I, at times, found myself responding to “How are you?” with the dreaded word.
While I loved my job, I always clarified to those who commented on my love for the work that I was “working to live, as opposed to living to work.” How quickly we trade happiness for business, or busy-ness, especially when it comes to work and salaries.
And so, we put on the brakes. While we loved NYC, we wanted to explore the world. We wanted to be less busy. We wanted to see our families more. We wanted permission to put down our phones, to avoid email. We made excuses about why we couldn’t do it for one week, and then spent the next three planning our departure.
We sold our kitchen island and our desk. We gave away our couch and most of our clothes. We hosted a party where we invited our friends to help us drink the rest of our booze, and take anything that was left in our apartment. And that then we left.
We traveled to Germany, Croatia & Australia for previously-booked speaking gigs, but otherwise became decidedly less busy. We read books, we explored cities, we drank coffees over long conversations. We talked to strangers, visited friends & family all over the world, made more friends, and Skyped with those we weren’t physically close to.
Someone asked if we could help their advertising agency with a pitch they were working on for one of the big airlines. We brainstormed from the beach in Bali. Another asked if we could help a brand with their digital/social strategy. We did that remotely as well. And because we had decided to take a break (& live cheaply in Southeast Asia) we said no to plenty of projects that we weren’t interested in. But before we knew it, we had clients. And then a company. And then more clients.
We never stopped traveling. Together, my husband (who is now also my business partner) and I have traveled to countless cities in 47 countries. Our strategy & innovation consultancy is location independent, and we make it a point to work 20 hours a week or less.
“Don’t you miss having a community?” someone once asked and I stumbled over an awkward “No…” struggling to articulate just how big our community is, how rich the relationships are. It’s just not in a single place. But then again, neither are we.
We’re not busy, we’re just having fun. And home? It’s wherever we happen to be.
Rosie Siman Yakob is the Managing Director of Genius Steals. Before founding Genius Steals with her husband Faris, Rosie was a teacher at Miami Ad School and a Senior Strategist at 360i, an award-winning digital marketing agency named by Fast Company as one of the world’s most innovative companies. She helped brands like Oreo, Bravo, Dentyne and NBC navigate the world of social & emerging media from creative ideation through to activation. Her work has been awarded by Cannes, CLIO, Facebook and the Addy’s. You can follow her adventures on twitter, instagram, and the Genius Steals newsletter.