Two Years Without A “Real” Job – Lessons Learned And Next Steps

Matt Long Cambodia

The anniversary came and went without fanfare; in fact I even forgot about it. But it has now been two years since my job and I left each other, tired of each other’s company and annoying demands. I’ve learned a lot over the last two years and while there are some things I would change, what I wouldn’t change is the new path my life has taken.

I was in France on a press trip, appropriately enough, when I learned that my services were no longer necessary at my old job as a DC lobbyist. I had mentally departed long before then and while it was a shock to the system at the time, it was long over due. I mentally struggled at first about what to do. I’d been brought up thinking that there was only one true path to happiness. School-college-grad school-job-relationship-retirement-death. That was it. That was my grand plan and I never, ever thought twice about it. In retrospect I should have probably thought twice about it.

I started my web site more than four years ago as a creative escape, a way for me to share my experiences and love of travel with friends and anyone else who cared enough to read. I realize now though that it wasn’t an escape; it was my self-conscious fighting against me, struggling mightily to put my life back on the right track. I’ve always loved learning about new cultures, that’s why I have two degrees in International Relations. I always meant to pursue that as a career but life stepped in the way and I ended up working in domestic politics, something I hated desperately. My inner self though knew differently and once a couple of vacations a year were no longer enough, it intervened.

Starting this site in very real terms saved my life. It woke me up to what is truly important in life; happiness and doing what one loves is key. Money, power and all of their trappings are not nearly as important and at the end of the day one has nothing but a full wallet and a heart that is empty. Two years ago I set out on the course to follow my passions while still making a living. I didn’t have a choice, I have a partner, mortgage, we have two cars and three dogs. I had to not only make money, but I had to match or exceed my old salary. For those entrepreneurs out there you know how hard this is, but if successful there’s nothing quite like it.

Through massive amounts of trial and error and working harder than I ever have, I think I have finally eked out my own spot in the world of travel and I’m pretty happy with the way things are going. What is even more amazing to me is how much better everything else in my life has gotten as a result. I’m not a new age, hippy dippy kind of guy but I do think there is a certain power in positive thinking. I’ve seen it. This has also influenced my partner to a certain degree, who left his own nose-to-the-grindstone job for one that gives him much needed free time. But I’ve learned a lot along the way and while I know I have a long way to go and much more to learn, I thought I’d share some of my own take-aways from the last couple of years.

Lessons learned:

  • If a business opportunity doesn’t feel right, walk away and fast.
  • Know your own limits and respect them. You can’t be all things to all people.
  • Stay organized. I’d be doomed if I weren’t hyper organized.
  • Hard work does pay off. I’ve never worked harder in my life, but I’ve never been happier doing it.
  • Don’t fall back into old habits. Remember to balance family/friends with being an entrepreneur.
  • Help others, but don’t let them walk over you.
  • Stay true to yourself and always be honest.
  • There is no such thing as a dream job, but without a doubt some jobs are better than others.
  • First impressions are almost always right. Don’t think potential business partners will change.

I’ve used the term entrepreneur several times in this post and that’s what I am. This site and my brand are my business and I am very much a small business owner, working with companies in a variety of ways. I’m an editor, consultant, spokesperson, marketer and so much more. They’re all skill sets I honed working with LandLopers and are all extensions of who I am. In order to be successful in this business you have to think of yourself of a business, otherwise you’ll just putter along.

It’s been a crazy two years, but they’ve been productive ones. I think I’m getting to the point where I can finally achieve a balance between travel, work and home life and I am confident that 2015 will bring even more exciting opportunities and more ways for me to share my love of travel with the world. Ultimately, that’s what this is all about. I love seeing the world and meeting new people and I try very hard to impart that same spirit and feeling of discovery through my words and photos. That’s what this site is all about, it’s what I’m all about and I can’t wait to continue doing it well into the future.

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

25 thoughts on “Two Years Without A “Real” Job – Lessons Learned And Next Steps”

  1. Congratulations Matt – I love following your journey and aspire to follow in your footsteps having recently left my own job to travel the world too. Keep up the good work, keep learning and most importantly keep being happy :)

  2. This is really inspiring and also really handy for me. I’m coming up to my one year anniversary and I can totally relate to everything you mention about working harder than ever before but reaping far more profound inner rewards. I still struggle with the getting the balance right, so it’s wonderful to hear that you’ve ironed out those kinks. I’m hoping that I’ll get there too one day. It’s all about the positive thinking! Thank you so much for writing this – it has re-fuelled the fire in my own little belly to make this incredible lifestyle work. Bryony :)

  3. Congratulations on reaching 2 years! So glad to see a pragmatic and real reflection on what spurned your decision, and the lessons learned within the 2 years. As for myself I am at the moment balancing the ‘real job’ with travel blogging, which surprisingly I don’t mind at all (at the moment). You are correct to use the term entrepreneur for yourself (and most travel bloggers) because it’s mostly a one-man show (you are the manager, photographer, writer, voice/talent, financer, etc). Keep up the awesome work!

  4. Congrats my man! It’s been fun following your journey these last few years as we’ve gone down similar (but also divergent) paths. Continued good luck to you!

  5. So inspirational. I just started my own blog and I’m going to bookmark this post so I can look back during the inevitable down times to motivate me through them. The lessons learned could and should be followed by anyone, let a lone a blogger/entrepreneur. Thank you so much, Matt.

  6. Great article. I am so happy for both you and Scott! You’re awesome and I think you’re right .. doing what you love to do is most important! You’ve done a great job here! Love watching where you next journey will take you :)

  7. Thanks for sharing this story Matt, and congratulations on all of your successes! I look forward to cheering you on as you continue your meaningful work.

  8. Congrats, Matt! Those lessons learned carry over to so many aspects of life, but ring very true with respect to travel blogging. I’m looking forward to your continued great work and you certainly are someone to look up to in this community. Cheers!

  9. Congrats on two years of being an entrepreneur. I’m learning there are many challenges to establishing a small business, especially while trying to also have a day job. I have a job I enjoy and is tied to my small business as a travel writer, being a newspaper journalist. But it’s great to hear that things are going well for you two years after leaving your day job.

  10. Has it really been two years? I remember how miserable you were in your old job, compared to how happy you seem now. Glad you made the change and that you’re still alive and kicking (and a force to be reckoned with) after all this time.

  11. It’s always inspiring to read about success stories such as yours Matt. I’ve been free of my job for 10 months, and so far, I’ve been doing OK as a content writer. Looking to hit new heights in the next year, so thanks for the inspiration dude!

  12. Congratulations on your two year anniversary, that’s awesome! I was just struck by how similar our stories are… I too studied international relations (majoring in Arabic in Middle Eastern Studies), did some study abroad trips, had dreams of working overseas or in something related, then ended up working in DC domestic politics on Capital Hill for five years. My boss ultimately retired and I took the opportunity to set out traveling. It’s been a year and half now and I’m not looking back yet. Thanks for sharing your story, I hope I can see some of your success down the road! :)

  13. Congratulations! I am so happy I took that decision so early in my life! It is true what you say. Everyone needs to work in some way or another in order to support their lifestyle, but doing what you love and being able to call it work is a true achievement!

  14. Wow Matt, it’s good to hear a success story. I’ve always enjoyed reading about your travels. The posts are insightful and filled with lovely photos. Keep up the good work & happy travels!

  15. Marilyn Terrell

    So proud of what you’ve learned and accomplished, Matt. I remember two years ago when you lost your job and things were pretty up in the air, I always believed that if you accepted the uncertainty,this apparent disaster would lead to a wonderful new life. Congratulations!

  16. Massive congrats Matt! Guys like you are so inspiring. You’ve recognised you’ve ‘mentally departed’ (that did make me smile a lot as I’m feeling the same now) and have worked your ring out to change it. Please keep sharing your journeys as they are always a pleasure to read! As the old saying goes ‘everything happens for a reason’.
    Cheers, Anna

  17. Congratulations Matt. As a fellow entrepreneur I know how nerve wracking it can be at times, even though for me it is 7 years ago that I took the plunge and left my job (which I loved by the way, but had grown old and boring) and I haven’t been sorry about that decision ever… Life can take surprising turns and I am glad yours worked out so brilliantly!

  18. Congratulations on the anniversary. I hope you achieve greater success in the years to come. I just quit my full time to go the freelance way and people like you are my constant source of inspiration :)

  19. Congrats Matt on 2 years. This is such an inspirational post. You spared no BS, hard work, determination, quality in your friends and business partners are so key. Oh and learning and growing from your mistakes. I’ve been there with a new business, its hard work and there are set backs, but in the end, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, except world travel :)

  20. Bravo! Matt, I leave you for a few years and look what you accomplished! HA!
    Seriously, I was delighted to read about the life path you chose – I’m not sure if you know, but we left on our amazing world tour after experiencing our 6 year old son’s unexpected heart procedure. Best decision we ever made! I look forward to reading all about your adventures (and I’ve been an entrepreneur for 10+years – you’re right- it’s a ton of effort but passion and purpose never feel like WORK.)
    Congratulations Matt!

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