Working a 9-5: How I Barely Escaped With My Life

Nick Wharton Author Bio Picture

Looking back on my life now, I see the working world as evil temptations that nearly kept me from living the lifestyle I do now. I worked for a plastic packaging plant in Calgary, Canada. I was making a comfortable living and I was able to buy things that I wanted. I moved in with Dariece and we shared the mortgage on a nice downtown condo.

Escaping 9-5
The Printing Press: Machine Of Torture

But there was always something missing. There was a feeling I had that I was somehow being hypnotized by this façade of a good lifestyle.

My boss had offered me a big promotion into sales and marketing for the company, which would have got me out of the plant and into commissions on large, multinational orders. When he gave me the offer, I didn’t feel what one would expect to feel when offered a promotion. I felt weary and suspicious. Even though I knew that he was an honest, genuine guy, I felt like he was the devil. He was offering me money in exchange for my freedom and my future.

He sent me to a training program and a personal self-help assessment program, to ensure that I was right for the job. All I had to do was answer a bunch of questions like “would you rather be a salesman or an artist”. The obvious answers would ensure me the job, but I simply couldn’t lie. I looked down at the form and all I saw was a contract. I couldn’t sign away my soul. I decided to answer the questions honestly and as a result, I was the first person he had sent to the program who didn’t get the job.

From that point on I was really looking at my life in a new view. I had taken jobs for money. I had worked countless hours on oil rigs in Canada which pay more and make you work more.

I slowly started to realize that this life was a trap.

Escaping 9-5
The Rigs: Funding The Finish Of Your Future (Image by: Wikimedia Commons)

Although some people have good jobs that they enjoy, the  working life of the average citizen is terrible. We go to jobs that we hate 50 weeks a year, so that we can have 2 weeks off on a “vacation”. These 2 weeks can rarely be taken together and god forbid you ask for an extra couple of days.

I honestly look back on my job then and I feel like I barely escaped with my life… literally.

Escaping 9-5
It Only Takes 1 Dose

9-5 is like heroin, and if I had injected just one more 12 hour shift I may have been hooked for life. My boss was my drug dealer and he gave me just enough to keep me up. I lived out my days in a plant with other junkies just like me, but who had been using for 20-30 years. Their bodies were worn and there spirits were down. They spent their days complaining, and telling me to get out while I still could.

Today I am extremely grateful that I met Dariece and together we deciphered the code of the working stiff’s matrix. We’ve unplugged from a world of overwork and underpay and graduated to a life of underwork and overplay.

We see the older generations now, preparing for retirement, and although we are happy for them, we have seen the cycle. They have worked so much over the past 40 years, that they may not be able to accept their new lifestyle. They may just go through withdrawals from the methamphetamine high (or low) of the day-to-day grind. They might be antsy to complete tasks on someone elses behalf and they may even pick up part-time jobs to keep them “busy”.

Escaping 9-5
(Comic By: Kevin Spears)

People are like that. We are all creatures of habit and if we are stuck in the same routine for too long (good or bad), we begin to crave it. It happens when people are kidnapped and they experience Stockholm Syndrome. It also happens in prison when detainees become institutionalized. The walls that once kept us from the real world, become our home and we drown in a sea of familiarity and conformity.

Escape 9-5
The Bars Of 9-5

If we can look at our life from an outside view, and see that we are sinking, it only takes a few strokes to get our heads above water and see the world for what it is.

Anyone can do what we do. We are not geniuses, we’re not over-qualified and we aren’t rich. We’ve found something we love and we’ve followed it 100%. While people at home still question our retirement plans and stability, we know that everything will work out. If you do what you love, and you eliminate what you hate, then everything always lines up, and if you’re already doing what you love (be it your job or your hobbies) then you’re on the right track and you don’t need this post.

This article is for people who are looking for a change.

It is possible to escape your life (if you don’t enjoy it), and really free yourself from 9-5. You don’t need a lot of money to start travelling or doing what makes you happy (so long as gold doesn’t make you happy).

Escaping 9-5
Do What Makes You Happy

There are plenty of ways to travel for free and there are just as many ways to make money both on the road and location independent.

A year ago, I had never taught English, and now I’m an English teacherA year ago, I didn’t even know what a blog was, and now I’m making money from this website. (I’m no Zuckerberg)

The code isn’t that hard to crack, and if you have questions, contact us and we’ll try to help you with the answers. If you have answers, leave them below and we can learn from you!

There is no one in this world who can unplug you. You just need to find the way yourself. If you don’t like your job then just quit or take a sabbatical. If you do like your job but wish you worked less, ask your boss for alternatives. Think of ways that you can better your lifestyle. Write down your dreams, and things that make you happy and then start making a plan of how to achieve them. Trust us, their more attainable than you think.

Escape 9-5

We escaped the 9-5 lifestyle because it wasn’t for us. If it’s not for you then you can escape it too! Don’t just peer over the edge, take a running start and just jump, there will be something to break your fall and it’s called freedom.

Have you escaped 9-5? Tell us your story!

Do you want to escape 9-5 but don’t know where to start? Leave a comment below… maybe we can help.



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Working a 9-5- How I Barely Escaped With My Life

Nick Wharton Author Bio Picture

Written by

Nick Wharton

Nick is the co-founder, editor and author of Goats On The Road. He contributes to numerous other media sites regularly and shares his expert knowledge of travel, online entrepreneurship and blogging with the world whenever he can. He has been travelling and working abroad since 2008 and has more than 10 years of experience in online business, finance, travel and entrepreneurship.

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20 thoughts on “Working a 9-5: How I Barely Escaped With My Life”

  1. Hi!! I’m from Calgary as well. My wife and I put or stuff in storage and traveled for three months to SE Asia. When we got back, we picked up and moved to Van Island. We lived there for four years while achieving some things we wanted out of life. All the while dreaming of traveling again. Right now we are on month two of our “year” long trip. Really it is a one way ticket and we rented our house out.

    I can understand the desire for escapement from the mon-fri and the fear of wasting your life away for a pay check. But being on this trip has shown me that we had escaped it. I think it’s important for everyone to know, you don’t have to go to China or immerse yourself in a different culture to find a life you really want. I believe it’s important for people to always be striving for what is best for them. Don’t accept someone else’s dogma over their life.

    Love your blog, best of luck on your nex trip!

  2. Hi Dean!

    Nice to hear from a fellow Calgarian 🙂

    We agree with you as well. You may not need to travel to achieve happiness out of life. We believe that doing what you’re passionate about and what makes you wake up with a smile is what life is all about!

    That’s exciting that you guys are travelling the world, good for you. Where abouts are you?!


  3. So I am not going to win ANY points for originality with this question but I have a harder time with this than any other question; I speak, read, and write in a few languages-so the language aspect of traveling doesn’t bother me at all. I have “Traveled as a Tourist”, but never long term as a backpacker, or as I now understand the term option ‘flashpacker”. What kind of budgets do you really start out with when you take off to wherever it is that will be your first stop abroad? DO you have credit cards? Do you have 10K, 20K, 50K, 100K,…A million or more..? How many packers really are the stereotypical budget long term travelers? I am looking at my soon to be first trip with a budget that would be less than any of the above amounts, so I can’t help but wonder If I am being reasonable in my desire to travel abroad long term and teach as I wander…Maybe you’ll indulge me with a detailed answer..Thanks =)

  4. Hi;
    I am retired 66 and am looking at travelling again; there are lots of ways of travelling without a fortune for a nest egg. Work and travel is the most advantageous like this couple here and setting some aside for future travel plans. Last year my older brother backpacked through NZ staying at hostels and taking the Naked Buss around the country for 200 . he met an even older British chap who had for twenty years been spending his winters in NZ. He managed to not spend much as he would pick up jobs for bed and board staying in hostels or at a winery and he always had a great time meeting people. I have worked as a teacher at an International School and as well in my earlier years on a kibbutz in Israel. I am now looking at how I can travel orat least be in a warmer climate to enjoy my senior years not work too much but keep life intresting. the winters in canada are far too cold for me now after spending my time in Europe.

  5. Hello Sharon,
    Thank-you for your long and thoughtful comment. It’s the best one we’ve had in a long time! Your story is extremely inspiring! I can only hope that we are courageous enough to still travel the world at 66. Good for you! People tell us that as you get older, you loose the ability to “truly travel” but it sounds like your living the life!

    Your older brother sounds like a really interesting guy as well! How old is he? We’d love to meet him on the road and he could teach us a thing or two! Maybe he’d be interested in telling his story and we could feature him here on Goats On The Road. I love that he is still a budget traveller. Gives us hope that we can continue doing this for a lifetime.

    We agree that the winters are too cold in Canada! We’re going to try to spend the winters abroad and maybe visit home for a few weeks/months each summer. Canada’s incredible in the summertime.

    Thanks again for commenting and please keep us updated on your next adventure. Best of luck!
    Keep your backpack packed and safe travels.

  6. Hi yes my brother is 67 and will be sixty eight. He was in Costa Rica two years ago and backpacked he enjoys this way of travelling as he gets to meet fellow travellers of all age groups.

    In the fututre we will be looking for someone to come and stay in our house while we travel. At present we are looking into a one way ticket to travel to NZ, Asia and Europe. I have lots of Aeroplan points and need to sort this out. Thanks for your email and I love seeing what you are doing.

  7. Hello!
    That’s exciting that you are preparing for your first budget backpacking journey! Where do you plan to go?

    As far as budgets go, it depends on which part of the world we are travelling to. If it’s Asia, then we save enough money for $50/day. If it’s somewhere like Africa, The Middle East or Europe, then we plan for $100/day. We just multiply that amount by the amount of days we plan to be on the road. We also give ourselves an extra $3000 for flights to and from our starting destination and anything else that may come up.

    Check out our post for the budget on each country we’ve been to:

    Yes, we do have a credit card, but it is used only if we need it for booking rooms or flights online. Otherwise, we use our ATM bank card to withdrawal the local currency.

    Although there less and less “hardcore” budget backpackers, there are still lots of us! We’ve met many budget, long term backpackers on our travels. Many people are giving up their lives at home for a year or more to travel the world.

    We are currently teaching English in China and are making an income that way. Our contract is up in a week or so and we are leaving for our next adventure in 13 days! We think that if you really want something, then don’t let the constraints of the “western” world get in the way. Don’t do what society says you’re supposed to be doing, if you really want to try something different, go for it!

    Let us know if you have any more questions!

  8. Great post! My fiance and I taught English in China for a year and came back to the UK in January. We wanted to come home to get married so that all our family can be with us but we have one way flights booked afterwards and we plan to travel long-term. Your blog is a real inspiration! We’re still doing the 9-5 at the moment and we’re desperate to break free. Although our experience in China was amazing, we did work full time just the same as we do here and sometimes I wonder whether we’ll be able to have the freedom we really want when trying to make an income to sustain our travels. We are thinking of starting a blog in the future, do you have any tips on how to get started?

  9. Hey Lauren,

    Glad you liked the post, as you can see from the comments, it’s had some mixed reviews! Sounds like you guys are in the middle of a big life change, good for you!
    It’s unfortunate that you had to work 40 hours a week in China! We were working 17 hours/week and saved plenty in 1 year to travel for 6-7 months. If you consider China again, look for an easier contract.

    As for the blog, it’s a great idea, because you’ll probably want to document your trip anyway and if money starts rolling in from your blog then you can start to treat it as a business.

    My main advice for starting a blog is to start it because you want to write. Know, that while it can make money, it takes a couple of years (for most blogs) of hard work before you start seeing any results. Having said that, our blog has recently started helping fund our trips and we’re very grateful to be able to share our stories and tips with our readers, while fueling our travel as well!

    Your going to want to start with WordPress as a blogging platform. You can start a free one, then change it to your own domain later. There is a wealth of information on Youtube and Google about how to start/use WordPress to build an amazing blog. If you have questions or need help along the way, we’ll be happy to lend a hand.

    Good luck and keep us posted on your new blog and latest trips!

  10. Thanks for getting back to me, I really appreciate the advice!
    I’ll definitely keep you updated and good luck with your next trip – I’ll be reading all the posts!

  11. We’ve come full circle with the “escape the corporate wheel” mentality. I’m sure you have travel days that make you say “I just want to cook my own dinner, watch a movie and sleep in a bed that’s my own”. At least we did. This taught us that, like building a career, traveling is challenging and frustrating at times.

    We’ve learned that the grass will always be greener on the other side, and that’s okay because grass doesn’t always have to be green to be beautiful. We also hated our jobs and longed for freedom – so we went for it and quit our jobs to travel – and it was the greatest decision we’ve ever made.

    But, traveling is only one part of our life journey. For us, we also wanted family. So we had to find a home and plant some roots again. And with that, a need for more space (for baby) and a vehicle. That can’t happen without a job and money.

    Funny enough, I’m back at my old company two years later, doing the same work. But it doesn’t suck anymore. It’s actually a lot of fun, kinda like when I first got the job. I realized it was all in my head, how I reacted to my environment. It wasn’t geography, it was psychology.

    Long term travel taught us is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can do both. But in less extreme circumstances. We can’t pack up and go trekking for a month right now, but its okay because we’ve replaced that joy with a baby that brings us joy. And, just like aching feet and blisters after a trek, raising a baby has it’s challenges. But the reward and feeling are the same – fulfillment.

    I’m glad you left a situation that wasn’t right for you. But never say never – life is short, but not that short. You may find yourself back in Calgary one day, working a similar job to pay the bills so that you can enjoy the simpler things in life. And that’s okay too!

  12. Hey Cam,

    Thanks for commenting, and leaving such a detailed comment as well! We definitely crave a routine after a long time on the road. After our last 18 month trip, we were so excited to settle down (temporarily) in China that we even bought plants and furniture!
    Life is perceived differently by different people and surely not everyone needs to “escape” something. 9-5, for me, was really 7-7, 6 days a week and i probably just over-did it. The reality is that I was always happy coming home to be with D, but hated the other 80% of my life, which luckily I was able to cut out.
    We now put a lot of that time into the website, which may never pay as much, but we love it. I think the important thing to do is decide what makes us happy, and follow it. For some, it’s travel, for others its building a business, for you guys, it’s all of those things, and family.
    We’re still learning how to better our lives and who knows, I may end up back in Canada… we’re not against that (but my old job seems far off). I find it interesting that you hated your job and then returned with a new outlook and things were better. I felt that slightly, coming back to work after our first trip but then the itchy feet returned.

    We try not to say never because you nev…., you hardly ever know. Things could always change.

    Who knows… Maybe we’ll meet you guys in Canada one day!

  13. People stuck in this ‘9 to 5’ mentality are often narrow minded. Their first question is almost always: ‘What do you do for a living?’ ‘You must have a great job – lots of holidays and money’. But they only know how much a 2-week organised group tour in a glossy luxurious travel brochure costs. That amount may equal my expenses for a full 5 months. I remember living on 6 dollars a day or less in India… (and that was not begging, but eating at street stalls and local eateries, not backpacker oriented rooftop restaurants, or McDonald’s of which the first Indian branch had just opened up at Connaught Place in Delhi at the time at western prices). I hate it also when people refer to long term travel as ‘a escape’. They have never sensed the smell of freedom, the back to basics attitude, the curiosity, the no stress attitude, the unexpected, …

  14. I love this “They have never sensed the smell of freedom, the back to basics attitude, the curiosity, the no stress attitude, the unexpected, …” Well said! I can’t believe you were in Delhi when the first MacDonald’s arrived…crazy.

    Thanks for the comment 🙂

  15. Some of what you write is useful and good. However, It’s easy to say what you’re saying from a white privileged wealthy background. Majority of you bloggers who write baout escaping the 9 to 5 live in cuckoo land when it comes to how people who don’t earn 80 0000 a year make it.

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