“I’m taking an leave of absence,” I said to my manager. With a blank stare, he respond, “Ugh… OK… when do we have you until?” That’s how it all started. I didn’t know much about what I wanted to do, but I knew something needed to change, and I didn’t need a small change like switching colognes after getting bored with one; I needed big change. Short of quitting my job and disappearing into the mountains during peak snowboarding season, I decided to do what others tend to put off in their lives. Travel. Though I didn’t know much about what I wanted to do at the time, I did know a few things: I wanted to travel, I love the Spanish language, and now, if any time, was the time to pursue my interests and do something as ridiculous as taking a month off of work and going to a foreign country.
Before I get much further, I’ll back up a bit and preface this story. Very seldom in life are our futures clear. We all have dreams, goals, and visions in life, but the journey from A to B never goes as planned. I myself have many goals and dreams of who I want to be and what I hope to amount to some day. Over the past year or so I’ve struggled with this, searching for clearer insight on where I’m heading in life. By most people’s standards, I’m in a great position; I graduated from a great university with a great degree, own my own house, and have a great job… by most people’s standards. The problem with all this is that I’m bored and I don’t see were I’m at leading to where I want to be. This is when I decided something needed to change; complacency is death. At the time that answer for me was Bizdom U; a 3 month entrepreneurial incubator program, hosted in Detroit, sponsored by a Detroit mogul, Dan Gilbert. I saw it as a great opportunity to pursue my entrepreneurial endeavors, meet some great people, and learn more about what it takes to be successful in business. Short of quitting my job and taking a desperate leap of faith, I resolved to take a leave of absence (LOA).
Shortly after the conversation of taking a leave, I began to think about what I would do if the Bizdom U program plan didn’t pan out. Good thing, because a month later I received the LOR (letter of rejection!) Back in the summer a good friend of mine, Julian Mancia, had been talking about taking a month to travel South America. I loved the idea and thought about visiting for a week or two during his time there. That trip never happened. Nonetheless, the Lonely Planet book, “South America on a Shoestring” remained on my night stand. The idea festered; it evolved. More and more I began to hear about Buenos Aires and what a phenomenal place it is. I decided I was going to BA.
Initially I was convinced that I was going to take the three months of LOA and spend it traveling South America. After some further conversations with HR, I realized that taking a leave is basically like quitting your job with a loose agreement that you can come back to work after the time off. Thus, I settled for a month of PTO (yes, I get that much PTO… what can I say?).
So, by this point, everything was in place. Got the OK to roll off my current project, got the OK from HR to use my PTO and prepare for a new role. Now I needed to figure out how I’m going to work Argentina. After some quick research, I figured it will cost me $30-$40/day to live, I can stay in hostels for $10-$20/day, and plane tickets are around $1600. $1600!?!? That’s not going to work! Enter reward programs. For those of you not familiar with these, here’s a quick synopsis. Basically, all hotels, airlines, and car rental companies have reward programs in which you can sign-up and earn points. Depending on the program, you can redeem these for services, products, hotel rooms, and… wait for it… plane tickets! Being in the consulting industry, you tend to travel a lot, so these programs are particularly valuable. After about 6 months of traveling back and forth to Dallas, TX, I had nearly 40,000 American Airline points. That was enough for a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires! Plane ticket, check.
Once I finally got the courage to book the ticket and commit to the trip, the next step was figuring out my return trip. I didn’t have enough points to get a return flight and one-way return tickets were nearly as expensive as the round trip flight; airlines are smart like that. So on to plan B. I knew I had other points through other programs and I knew that sometimes you could sell or trade points. When I was staying in Dallas, I was staying at a Starwood hotel and had about 50,000 points. Could it be possible to transfer them!? After a little digging, not only was I able to transfer the points 1-for-1, but I got a 10,000 point bonus just for transferring them. That left me with over 60,000 American Airline points allowing me to book my return flight for free (not including taxes and fees)!
Since I’ve put things in motions, a few amazing things have happened. Previously, I mentioned the one who inspired this trip in the first place, Julian Mancia. As soon as I booked my flight, I sent him the itinerary and said, “I’m going to Argentina, let me know if you’re down to visit!” Jules is coming down for the first two weeks. In addition to that, another colleague and friend of mine will be visiting for the first week and a half as well. None of this would have happened had I not taken a gamble and created this trip for myself.
This leads me to the purpose of the this post and this blog in general. For me, this blog is an experiment. For myself, I want to reflect on my adventures and thoughts, as well as get in the habit of writing. Additionally, I want to put myself out there. It takes something to open yourself up for scrutiny or criticism, a vague fear within all of us.
For you, I hope to allow you to live vicariously through my adventures and share in my experiences. Additionally, I hope to show that it is possible to get what you want out of life, you just have to put it out there. So I hope you can join me in my adventure to Argentina! In the weeks preceding the trip, I expect to write once a week or so on preparation and other topics. Once I arrive in Argentina, my goal is to write daily or every other day at a minimum. So, until next time!