Traveling can be such an incredible experience. No matter where you go: somewhere new, somewhere familiar, I feel like your mind opens up just a little bit more. Whether it be from the exposure to new sights, sounds and knowledge or just the familiar memories that flood you as you take steps through places you've been many times. Either way, I often find it a life changing experience.
Before I dive in to our recent (and self-titled) "2017 Jensen Great Escape," let me rewind a few years to 2013. It was just after the new year, with advertising campaigns chock-full of "new, year, new you" messaging. One little ad in my Facebook feed caught my eye as I slogged through yet another day at the office. "Plan your Iceland getaway..." I mentioned it when I returned home and was fixing dinner with my boyfriend (now husband) Joe. He had travelled to Iceland before and had a great time. He looked into the ad casually, and a little while later said something to the effect of "huh...how does 5 nights, 6 days sound to you?" I shook my head furiously and replied, "there's no way we can afford it, plus, I'm not flying 12+ hours for 5 nights." He first let me on to a well-kept secret, that Iceland was a direct flight from Seattle and a mere 7 hours. He then told me the price. It was less money for us to go to this new-to-me country than it was for us to fly anywhere in the U.S. to visit family. Needless to say, we booked.
Upon returning from that fateful trip in February of 2013, the vacation blues hit me hard. We had experienced Iceland as best we could with our short time, but it had ignited something in me that I was fearful to admit prior to the trip - my career was making me incredibly unhappy. There were hints to this over the years, namely the fact that I had jumped from job to job and couldn't quite find my niche. Each day seemed to last far more than 8 hours. I hoped for fire drills, snow storms or epic events that would shut the office down. Iceland had literally expanded my mind to a happier place, and I wanted desperately to feel that on a more frequent basis.
Over the next few months, the feeling did not subside. A few volunteer opportunities arose in the small community I lived near, and I whole-heartedly jumped at the chance to try something new. I started connecting with people and businesses in the community. I started to recognize names and faces in that "Mayberry" feeling that only a small town can provide. I also found myself growing bolder in my job and everyday life. I started asking for what I wanted. As fate would have it, I opened my mouth in just such a fashion one day at a networking event. It turned out that the Director of Events & Promotions - the very one I had been volunteering for - was soon-to-be in need of an assistant. The hours were low and the pay was lower, but my head was spinning with possibilities.
I should add in here that during my post-vacation-blues, I had also been starting conversations with various businesses on how they could better market themselves using Social Media - something I worked with on a daily basis, but at a much more censored and corporate level. The combination of potential with the assistant position and the possibility to start (gasp!) my own small-potatoes business put my brain into overdrive. That very same feeling I had when riding horseback through the country in Iceland thinking "how can I have a reality closer to this on a daily basis?" No, I wasn't going to be starting a horseback riding school, but I think you get my drift.
My boyfriend must have had a similar soul-searching journey, because on a sunny day that July, he proposed. He had just received a well-deserved promotion at work and surprised me in a way that only he is capable of. Talk about emotional overdrive! It seemed the shiny, antique ring that he purchased while we were partaking in one of the very events I volunteered for was the literal "icing" on the cake. After several weeks of serious soul-searching, number crunching and long conversations with my dad and Joe, the proposal clinched the deal. I interviewed for the assistant position, and got it. I talked to a few businesses I had been advising, and they said they'd hire me. This meant that I was going to quit my job, my benefits, my regular paycheck, and take a leap into the unknown.
Having nothing (and everything) to lose, I went into the office and gave my notice in a way I never had before. With confidence. There wasn't an ounce of fear in my body. It was as though my brain was cheering me on with "whoops" and claps. I must have done something right, because they nearly begged me to stay. When asked if they could increase my salary to entice me to stay, I felt something in me nearly snap. Isn't this how it always goes? A person is unhappy in their job, or feels under-appreciated, and decides to look elsewhere. Only when presented with the task of finding a replacement does an employer seem to find someone's worth. The HR person asked me "Is it a matter of money?" I looked at her, cocked my head sideways and said "Isn't it always?" She assured me that there must be something they could do, a number they could offer, to keep my professionalism and hard work ethic. I looked at her and said "I really think that you should start valuing your employees before they decide to leave. If you had a budget to pay me more in my position, why didn't you do that while I was doing a good job? It shouldn't take me giving notice to START the conversation." I added in, point-blank "Sure, more money would be great. If you'd like to double my salary, halve my hours and allow me to telecommute, we might have a deal, but I'm guessing that's not what you had in mind." I ended up cutting a deal that would help me financially for a few more months by working part time to train a replacement, while also allowing me to gain a few more clients. It was amazing how different the remainder of my time felt at that job. I finally felt in control. If something wasn't done, I still got up and left. I took my breaks, I left my desk for lunch. If only it had been that way the entire time. But, I'm not sure that was possible in my case, as my soul new that I needed a big change. I'll never forget that feeling of driving away on my last day. If I had a convertible, the top would have been down, and I would have been littering printouts and reports all the way home. I felt a weight lift and my soul literally expand as this great new journey began.
And all of that began, with a simple Facebook Ad deal urging me to escape to Iceland.