Why I Left My Job and My Favourite Place in the World

Emma Canavan is a former journalist with BBC Northern Ireland and is currently travelling around the world this is her story from her blog and we wanted to share her story with you.

When I was younger, through my teens and university life, I had high expectations of what life has to offer. I wanted to be a journalist and a presenter. I wanted to travel the world, see amazing places, meet amazing people and, somehow, help make the world a better place.

At 21, I believed the world was a place of infinite possibilities.

It didn’t take long, however, for that belief to be shaken.

When I left university I got a job at the BBC in Belfast, where I stayed for almost five years. Walking through that newsroom and being a part of the daily newsgathering, producing and broadcasting process was a dream come true for me.

I was working with some of the most talented and experienced journalists in the industry and I was learning a lot, yet, month by month, I was losing the bubbliness and enthusiasm that had, in many ways, defined me. My ambition waned and the world began to seem a much smaller and more confined place.
Home Canavan Tyrone Ireland

A photograph taken by my Dad from the hill opposite our house

This was partly due to the constant battle to secure temporary contracts, which is an exhausting and soul-destroying reality of the media industry and workforce casualisation. But I was also dealing with the reality that I was not living that greater dream of travelling the world or making a difference, and when I looked up the ladder I was fighting to climb, I could not see where it was going.

And I didn’t know what to do about it, which was so frustrating. It seemed a little crazy to consider leaving an organisation like the BBC and altogether impossible to finance it. So for a long time I didn’t do anything, just kept fighting for contracts.

It reached a point though where I knew I had to leave or I never would. That point was one normal June day, sitting at my desk in the Politics Portakabin of BBC Northern Ireland with the latest contract application form sitting in front of me and I just decided ‘no, I’m not doing this anymore’. I stood up, went to my editor and told her. No turning back.

My bosses and colleagues at BBC were brilliant, very supportive, and I felt wonderful. Liberated. Like standing at the top of a mountain, looking at a world with no limits once again. I started to see ways around obstacles where previously I could see none and the details just started to fall into place.

Through various ways I got the money together. I got a visa for Australia and I booked my flights and I had enough time left in work to savour it and to say goodbye to the many fabulous colleagues I had. Then I had enough time with friends and family to savour that and to say goodbye to them. And then I was off.

And that sounds easy but the goodbyes most certainly were not. They broke my heart so much that I still feel like crying when I remember them. Saying goodbye to my parents…now I am crying. But I didn’t at the time because I forced myself into emotional lock-down, focusing on the practicalities of the situation and refusing to be sentimental.

That may seem a little dramatic to many but I’m very close to my family. Home, to me, is an absolute haven. I love it. When I think about the people that have surrounded me all my life – friends and family – I’m kind of incredulous that one person could be so lucky. Not to be corny but I genuinely feel very blessed by the people I have in my life. People that have your back. And are warm and kind and really fun to be around.

Anyway, it suffices to say that at the point of saying goodbye to these people, I didn’t exactly feel like I was standing at the top of a mountain anymore.

But I got on the plane. Destination, Australia (via Bali). And I’ve had a few flights since then. Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, Thailand. Eighteen months later and I am currently sitting in a little studio apartment in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I’ve rented it for a month but I don’t know how long I’ll be here. Maybe just the one month. Maybe two…

I’ve had so many happy moments in those eighteen months. Fabulously drunken, fun moments; so many delicious food moments and some profound moments in which I knew, by the sheer beauty of what I was seeing, that the world really is a place of infinite possibilities (some of those moments were even sober! Sunrise as viewed from the top of a volcano in Bali; sunset as viewed from Darwin’s Mindil Beach Markets).

I met people that I can only describe as inspirational: a 40-year-old American woman who was fighting terminal cancer linked to her military service in the Gulf War; a 19-year-old German girl who had just driven half-way across Australia, through the outback, on her own. Brave, crazy and wonderful people who I’ll probably never see again.

I met people that I now count in my circle of loved ones, that I miss so much when I’m not with them and that I am so grateful to have in my life.

And I had loads of shitty days. Grey-skies days when you’re trying to keep your head above water and the thought that life is full of potential is something that doesn’t even enter your mind. Days when those career dreams seem to have fallen back into the realm of the impossible. Days when you’re a little lonely, a little scared, a little tired of worrying about money and just tired of trying.

But I am still trying to build the life I believed possible when I was 21. That’s why I left home.

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  • Turgon

    Sounds absolutely wonderful and all those inspiring people and exciting places. Most of them financed by people staying at home and working and providing a long term societal and financial safety net for the bold travellers when they come home.

    Enjoy your adventure but remember it is possible because of all those who do not go. That said I would be happy for my children to do it for a while: middle class hypocrisy at its best.

  • Lorcs1

    Well aren’t you the party pooper?

    One of humanity’s greatest strengths is the ability to migrate, travel and learn from one another.

    Should those who have always retained the relative comfort and close proximity of their homes and their families, thank those travellers who go out and bring new cultural experiences to both their destination, and their home community when they return?

    There’s no moral high-ground to be gained by staying at home, and not taking a chance. It’s a bit disingenuous to say that those that have never travelled, do so to provide a financial and cultural safety net for those who wish to travel.

  • Turgon

    Yes but if something goes wrong people far away are suddenly remarkably keen on being transported home: usually not at their own expense. If they have insurance fair enough: otherwise it does seem to be a safety net they are using.

    Also of course being able to do this sort of travelling tends to be much more available for the middle class.

  • Lorcs1

    Yes they do, it’s only natural. The bonds developed during our formative years will, in most cases, be stronger than any we create later on in life (e.g. whilst abroad). Therefore we will always yearn for home in times of strife. Likewise, in the unfortunate circumstances where someone dies abroad, it’s only natural for their loved ones to want their remains repatriated.

    But to say that the above points make migration possible is incorrect in my opinion. I would argue the converse. Those bonds are what keep people at home, as opposed to enabling them to leave.

    Would more or less people travel and migrate if those bonds didn’t exist. Would little Jonny from a tiny parish in remote rural Fermanagh, stay there for eternity if he didn’t have that family bond holding him so close?

  • William Carr

    My Children worked hard and saved up their own money (we are simple working folk,guv) to travel, they didn’t need nor want a safety net supplied by others.
    A sense of adventure made them pack up a ruck and go and a sense of worth made them pay for it themselves.
    Your stereotype is both inaccurate and just a little offensive to all those young people who work hard to pay for their own travels.