Sometimes, Getting Laid Off Can Be a Whole New Beginning in Life
Tom Corey was building a successful career in the pharmaceutical world. At 25, he had graduated from university with a 2:1 degree and started working for one of the industry’s most recognisable brands, Pfizer.
But in February this year the company decided to close the site where Tom worked, making him redundant. Or, to put it another way, he’d been Pfired. But he wasn’t going to let that get him down. In fact, he saw an amazing opportunity to use his redundancy pay out to fulfill his dream of travelling the world. Fast-forward to August, and Tom has re-invented himself as a travel blogger and writer. A week before he jets off, he explains to gapyear.com how he made redundancy work.
Hi Tom. First of all, where are you going?
There are many places I want to go to. It mainly depends on money. I’ve booked my flight for 30 August where I’ll be leaving from Gatwick and arriving in Bangalore in India.
India was always somewhere that excited me. It’s more than just a country; it’s a subcontinent, and so diverse in its culture from one state to another. I want to experience the hustle and bustle of the Indian cities, but also the tranquility of places like the Keralan backwaters. I want to travel on a camel to the golden city of Jaisalmer and see how impressive the Taj Mahal is through my own eyes. But most of all I am a foodie, and as Rudyard Kipling said: “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” I really can’t wait to smell and try an authentic Indian Curry!
How long can you afford to travel for? How generous was Pfizer?
In terms of funding my escapade, I am lucky enough to be receiving a large sum of redundancy money and this will pay for the experience. I’m looking to go travelling for at least a year, but it could be longer.
Have you done any travelling before?
My travel history has not been that broad. I’ve been on trips to Dresden in Germany, Krakow in Poland and Prague in Czech Republic. I enjoyed all three places. Dresden was beautiful. Krakow had this mysterious air about the place. Prague I just fell in love with. It was stunning and such an amazing place, especially the view from the castle and Charles Bridge. I could definitely live in Prague.
Where else have you been?
My most recent holiday was to Malta. The highlight was a day trip to Sicily, which was amazing. It involved a tour to Taormina which is known as ‘The Jewel of The Ionian Sea’. And for good reason. It has a spectacular view from the top of the town which is on the mountainside of Etna. It was magical. The tour also involved an amazing trip up to Mount Etna. It was remarkable to think not so long ago this piece of land I was standing on was steaming with molten lava streams running down the mountainside!
Apart from that there is only one other trip I have been on, which was back in 2006 where I flew to Hong Kong with a Chinese friend. We visited southern China, more specifically Canton and Macau. It was like nothing I had done before. A totally different culture. Everyone in such a hurry to get somewhere, the smell of ‘stinky tofu’ being cooked by the street sellers, and crazy amounts of electrical stores. It doesn’t sound that great when I put it like that, but it was astounding. A totally different world. Taking a train to the Victoria Peak for a breathtaking view of Hong Kong and going to the Tan Tian Buddha on Lantau Island was simply magnificent.
How come you haven’t been properly backpacking before?
The reasons for not going earlier are mainly due to work commitments. I had a good career ahead of me and didn’t want to throw it away on a whim. It was always my plan to eventually take a break and go on sabbatical but because of redundancy and the money obtained, it allows me to do it now.
Can you explain the thinking process behind deciding to travel?
This has been a hard decision. I am going to miss many of my work colleagues as some of them came to be my friends. I hope they are all able to find jobs they want. I am not leaving behind a house, or even a partner but I am leaving two main things that keep me going; my amazing family and friends. Without them life would be hard, but I want a bit of ‘me time’ to reflect on what I want in the future and to also meet new people and have some fun!
Are you concerned about heading out alone?
If I told you I wasn’t worried about travelling on my own I would be lying. I have some slight reservations – as anyone would on their first trip away on their own – but I’m also very excited and cannot wait to experience new cultures and see all these amazing places we all hear about but seldom get to glance with our own eyes!
Did you ever consider other options?
If I wasn’t being made redundant I would have considered a career break because it was always my dream. This trip nearly happened three years ago when redundancy first loomed and I wasn’t happy in my job. I asked for voluntary redundancy but was refused. I got really excited about the prospect of travelling, but it all came to nothing so I carried on with my job. Thankfully at that time I changed job roles and started to love my work again so it wasn’t such a let-down. But it was always in my mind to want to go away.
How have economics played a part in all this?
It is definitely harder here with the recession. I would say that job opportunities seem to be there, but they just have to be hunted for and found. I have talked to many people and they do seem frustrated about the lack of prospects. I think there is a clear trend of people (young and older) deciding to take a gap year break as they want to experience the world, get away from the chains of everyday life (having to do a 9 – 5 job with a routine that can get very boring at times) as well as just wanting to see the world. I also think that the time away gives people a chance to assess their previous career and decide what they want from the future. Or if they have just finished university it gives them life skills for when they return home.
What are you most looking forward to about this trip? What are you hoping to take away from the experience?
The things I am most looking forward to about my adventure are having some independence, experiencing new cultures, trying new foods, seeing incredible new places and, of course, meeting new and amazing people from all walks of life, some who I have already met in the UK via a South East Asia gapyear.com meet-up. I am hoping that this trip gives me some inspiration for my future and an idea of how I want to live my life!
What would you say to anyone who found themselves in your position – redundant and considering what to do with their lives?
I would say to people in my position that if you have a partner and house it could be tough, and also if you have a great job lined up with real opportunities then think hard about going away. However, if you don’t have many ties like me it could be very good for you. I’ve known a number of friends go away travelling and I remember one particularly saying that she learnt more in her year of travelling than she had in all her years of working in a large company. That is not to say that it isn’t good to build up a career, but I think this will be an eye-opening experience and will help me learn new life skills. It’s definitely well worth taking a redundancy gap to assess what you want from life, but I can’t speak from experience yet. You have to make that choice. I will tell you what I think in six or 12 months!
What do those closest to you think about your trip?
My family and friends are really pleased for me. I think a lot of them would love to have the chance that I have. I know my mum and sister are going to miss me and I don’t think they have come around to the idea yet, but they understand that I need to do this and are behind me. I know I am going to miss them more than anyone can imagine! I want to look back in 40 years time and say that I lived my dream and have no regrets.
What does the future hold for you when you get back?
I have no idea what I want to work on when I get back. After building a career in science and then having that taken away from me, I am not entirely sure if I want to stay in science. It doesn’t mean to say that I would rule it out but it has knocked me a little. I am thinking that I could do something computer/IT based. The other idea I had was to join a travel company and help others to plan a life trip, or maybe I could do something that has both. I have set up my own website as I have an interest in web design where I will be blogging my trip and giving any tips that I come up with. I am giving it a food-based twist as well, as cookery is one of my passions and I will be trying to learn as many recipes as I can from the places I travel to and will list them on the website.
Any last words? Anyone you want to, y’know…thank?
Thanks to gapyear.com, as it has given me the base from which I could plan my trip and meet other like-minded travellers. Great site! I hope this article has given you some inspiration to make your own trip happen!
What unexpected thanks and praise. Cheers!
Fancy following in Tom’s footsteps and travelling to India? Read more about the country here