WHY WE QUIT OUR JOBS IN ADVERTISING TO SCRUB TOILETS

WHY WE QUIT OUR JOBS IN ADVERTISING TO SCRUB TOILETS

After being gone exactly 6 months, I feel it necessary we share the uglier side of our trip. Browsing through our blog posts and Instagram feed, it seems like we’re having the time of our lives. And don’t get me wrong – we are. It’s bloody amazing. But it’s not all ice-creams in the sun and pretty landscapes. Noooooo. So far, I think we’ve tallied 135 toilets scrubbed, 250 kilos of cow dung spread, 2 tons of rocks shovelled, 60 metres of pathway laid, 57 beds made, and I cannot even remember how many wine glasses we’ve polished.

You see, to come from the luxuries we left behind in Johannesburg, to the brutal truth of volunteer work, we are now on the opposite end of the scale. We’re toilet cleaners, dog poop scoopers, grocery store merchandisers, and rock shovelers.

It’s painstakingly hard and dirty work.

And although the last few months have been the most rewarding, they’ve also been some of the dirtiest and smelliest, and we’ve had to adapt with the least amount of necessities and food (and not because we’re on some crazy crash diet). Whilst visits to town with our new friends in Norway meant buying beer and bags of candy for them, we’ve been forced to purchase floss (because you only get one set of pearlers, right?) and nothing else. The budget is really tight, and we are definitely forced to use creativity (and small pep talks) to solve most of our problems (and the mild crying fits).

So don’t let the bank of gorgeous photography fool you. Nuh uh. I am not at my fittest, slimmest or physically healthiest. We eat jam on crackers most days, get roughly 5hrs of sleep per night, and lug our extremely heavy bags through cobbled streets at 1am, trying to find our accommodation (because bus fares are not part of the budget, obviously).

Although we knew it wouldn’t be easy, we are certainly learning fast that this isn’t for faint hearts, and we need to learn to react and adapt to everything that’s thrown our way. Mentally, it’s also a constant yo-yo between “I have all this time – let me use it productively, let me get fit and do everything I’ve ever wanted to do,” vs. “I have all this time – let me relax and enjoy it.” That, together with occasional bouts of boredom, demotivation and homesickness, makes this one hell of a ride.

But even though we probably have more greys than when we started, dirt under our nails despite long showers, and cheap snack food as a main form of nutrition, this crazy lifestyle allows us to enjoy the freedom of exploring rich Swedish forests, never-ending Nordic fjords, Italian cobbled alleyways, and cosmopolitan cities. We have time to brainstorm our own ideas, and push our own creative experiments. It’s like heaven for us. Sure, wood needs to be stacked, and garbage needs to be taken out (it’s our version of a shit sandwich, as Mark Manson put it), but once that’s done, we’re free to explore, wander and be one with our meandering thoughts. You work under your own schedule, using (a lot of) spare time to jog around mirrored lakes, craft inspired creations and breathe the Arctic air. There’s nothing quite like swopping million rand advertising budgets for toilet scrubbing to teach you about humility, life and the importance of living each day as if it were your last.

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311 Comments
  • Wynand
    Posted at 16:59h, 31 August

    Perspective and coming from you two, fresh! You’re living your own dream and that is what really counts.
    Now good luck with the next batch of toilets. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  • Scott Weiner
    Posted at 17:17h, 31 August

    Hi Chanel and Stevo. I’m curious. How do you find these odd jobs to do? And are these people willing to let you work for just a day or two and leave?

    • howfarfromhome
      Posted at 17:20h, 31 August

      Hi Scott. You can check out workaway.info. There’s a number of hosts from all over the world willing to swop free food & accommodation for 4-5hrs of work per day. Most workaways last 2 weeks minimum, up to about 2-3 months. Mostly up to the host, so maybe you can negotiate a shorter stay. Good luck! We highly recommend it!

    • Scott Weiner
      Posted at 19:16h, 31 August

      Thanks for the reply. I’ll check that site out. Is it always a swap? Can you get cash for a host and move on?

    • howfarfromhome
      Posted at 19:54h, 31 August

      As far as we know it’s always a swop, but maybe give Workaway a shout and see.

  • Olga
    Posted at 17:31h, 31 August

    Hey you guys! I read you are in Athens, Greece…. I live and work here as an marketer at a startup in the digital industry. If you are actually here contact me! I think we might have grounds for service exchange without any toilets involved!!

    Olga 🙂

    PS sorry our website has not been translated into english yet

    • howfarfromhome
      Posted at 14:16h, 02 September

      Ah sorry Olga! Seems we’ve missed you as we are in Italy already. Maybe pop us a mail and share your ideas – if digital, I’m sure we can collaborate across borders 😉 howfarfromhomeblog@gmail.com

  • Kirsten Felbert (@Kirst85)
    Posted at 17:36h, 31 August

    Have you guys ever considered signing up to http://www.patreon.com to help fund your trip? Its a crowdfunding platform allows artists/creators to obtain funding from patrons on a recurring basis or per artwork. Seems like you guys will be “creating” a lot on this trip, its worth a look.

    • howfarfromhome
      Posted at 18:00h, 31 August

      Ah we’ll definitely check it out thanks!

  • Nikhil Mehta
    Posted at 17:39h, 31 August

    I love the way you write your own script with how to deal with life, and i support every bit of what you say about pains vs luxuries. At the end of the day, remember that you are experiencing something far more richer than anyone else around. Kudos to you both!

    Do take the time to go through my own travel experience that i covered in a span of a few minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCRxFIfcvgw
    Hope you like it 🙂

    • howfarfromhome
      Posted at 18:01h, 31 August

      Thanks so much for the support Nikhil! We certainly will 🙂

  • Gabriel Rios
    Posted at 17:40h, 31 August

    Hola Chanel & Stevo. Your perseverance & honesty is inspiring. You are doing something most of us dream about. Even if you don’t stick with the original plan, remember that you had the courage to face this challenge. That accomplishment is much bigger than any milestone or brief due date. Everything you left behind will still be there when you get back. Best of luck.

  • Nina and Giuse | Leaving the old way
    Posted at 17:54h, 31 August

    Hey guys!
    Finally a very honest post about it 🙂
    We quit our job last year, and now we are traveling the world like you 🙂

  • Vanessa
    Posted at 18:13h, 31 August

    Have you had any scary situations?

    • howfarfromhome
      Posted at 18:18h, 31 August

      Hmmm, not that we recall. We both dislike flying, so boarding each of the MANY flights has risen a few heartbeats… But other than that, we’re taking it all in and loving the thrill of the journey!

  • Daniel
    Posted at 18:15h, 31 August

    get a donation button or something(name your funding website), I’m confident a lot of people would have no problem passing you some money to scrub a few less toilets

  • quitoxic
    Posted at 18:17h, 31 August

    And thats Why travelling is nit being on holidays, and if people quit their jobs to travel thinking thats the deal I’m afraid they will get a reality check pretty soon.

    In any case I won’t ever describe it as “The opposite end of the scale” My life is way better, my sense of humanity, my experience, my learnings, the whole thing while I clean toilets and keep on following my dream, And if you still believe this is “the opposite end of the scale” you havene get your priorities sorted at all.

    • howfarfromhome
      Posted at 18:20h, 31 August

      Completely agree with you! All we meant by the “opposite end..” was that this is completely different from the office jobs we had prior to the poop scooping and rock shoveling. This end couldn’t be more rewarding!

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