Quit Your Job

My former business coach advises small business owners to, "Sack yourself." It's sound advice because it lifts your head from the day-to-day battle in the trenches to take a more strategic view. It encourages you to grow.

Walking the trail takes you a step beyond that. It's even written in stone right there on the wall of the City Library in Palmerston North, in a piece of public poetry titled, "Final Demand".

The first line reads, "Quit Your Job".

That is sound advice, too, although many will disagree with it.

However, the further I walk down the trail, the more I realise that when you let go of what you think offers security, the more you open yourself up to new ideas, experiences and people.

It is is certainly challenging but the process brings an inner security that no job or amount of money can buy. For example, I had reached Palmerston North, a thriving and forward-looking city on the fertile plains below the Tararua Ranges, after a three day journey from Whanganui.

You can drive the highway in less than an hour, swishing along in air-conditioned comfort, insulated from the world, in a bubble of false security. There's nothing wrong with that. It's as familiar an experience as going to the same job. It feels secure.

However, when you quit doing that and walk the trail instead, extraordinary things can happen.

For example, after leaving Whanganui in the late afternoon, I walked and hitch-hiked to a black sand beach, turned left and camped in the sand-dunes, marvelling as an enormous full moon rose in the east, chasing my favourite constellation, Orion the Hunter.

The following morning, I all but stumbled across a seal washed in with the tide during the night and left abandoned by the retreating waters. It seemed to swim gracefully even in death and I like to think that somewhere, in some other form, it swims, at home in another element.

Leaving the beach, I walked through a fragrant pine forest, missed a turning but found a fence that invited human contact with the happy and vibrant builders.

Later, on a hot country road, a lonely farmer hailed me and we talked quietly about a decision he had been putting off, right there in the middle of the road, me listening as he talked himself to a decision that felt right for him.

Afterwards, I ambled through this sleepy Sunday afternoon farm country before I caught a ride with a successful business owner returning from an afternoon on the beach with her daughter and grand-daughter. She invited me into an airy and graceful home to meet her family. Her husband pressed a sample of her soothing lavender and peppermint foot cream into my hand as I left.

That evening, I looked for a campsite by a river but decided against it after several "muscle cars", V8 engines burbling richly and with tattooed, impassive faces masked by sunglasses just visible behind the tinted windows, cruised slowly past me. I felt hard, appraising eyes on me and opted instead to spend a night in a run-down motor court, cut-price lodgings for cash, handed over to an alcoholic manager, no questions asked.

And the following morning, I took a lift first, with a confident young Army engineer, one tour in Afghanistan under his belt and another coming up in a few months. A retired farmer then took me all the way into the city, happy for the company and the chance to swap stories.

When you quit your job, for a day, a weekend or longer, great things can happen. Or, you may find, a series of small events and encounters are all that's needed to give you a whole new perspective on yourself, your relationships, your work.

So, go ahead and try it. Answer that final demand and put your walking shoes on.  Open your mind to new pathways.