When A Trip Leads To Career Change: 4 Women Who Quit Their Jobs After A Vacation

Anyone with a case of wanderlust knows the feeling of coming home from a vacation feeling refreshed and inspired. These four women took that feeling and turned it into a new career. Here, we hear the stories of the trips that changed their lives — and get some advice for how you can also transform your career through an amazing travel experience.

Photo courtesy of Billy Huys

Jala Smith-Huys, founder of Seek & Swoon, with one of her company’s signature throws in the background.

WHO: Jala Smith-Huys, founder of Seek & Swoon, which designs eco-friendly knit throws inspired by beautiful places around the world, from an iconic church in Iceland to the Madrid sunset. They’re made from recycled cotton at one of the last family-owned and -operated knitting mills left in the United States. And one is inspired by a different kind of journey: $10 from the sale of every Hope Throw is donated to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance to help fund ovarian cancer research, a battle that Smith-Huys’s mom is fighting right now.

The Vacation That Inspired Me: My husband and I both love to travel, and we’d been talking about moving abroad but wanted to visit some of the places we’d been daydreaming about. It was 2015 and we were both freelancing. Our kids were young at the time (2.5 and 5), and although we assumed taking a big trip wouldn’t be easy with them, we knew the timing would never be perfect. So we decided to take a leap of faith. We gave all of our clients fair notice that we would be taking the summer off and left on our trip at the beginning of June. We spent several weeks in Ireland, a month in Spain, two weeks in Amsterdam and just under a week in Iceland. We traveled by planes, trains and automobiles and stayed in vacation rentals. In the moment, little kids don’t really care where they are; all they want are ice cream cones and swimming pools. But they loved our adventures and still have memories of many of the places we visited. We plan to do it again some day.

Photo courtesy of Jala Smith-Huys

Jala Smith-Huys in Tossa del Mar, Spain.

When The Lightbulb Went Off: I left for this trip knowing that I wanted to make a career shift. It was really important to me to create something that utilized my skills, but that also allowed me to work daily in the things that I loved. In this case it was design, sustainability, storytelling, home decor and, of course, travel. The light bulb really went off one afternoon while putting a baby blanket away in storage. This blanket was the very first thing we bought when I found out I was pregnant with our first child. The idea that we were saving something, forever, intrigued me. And then I realized that item was a blank canvas for creativity. So I started brainstorming this idea of designing throws. But because I had worked in marketing and helping other brands tell their story for so many years, I knew that this company needed a story. That’s when the idea of designing throws inspired by travel hit. That story not only made my brand unique from other textile and home decor brands, but it gave me something to ladder my creativity back to. And I knew that as long as I traveled, I’d have throws to design.

Before This: I spent a number of years as a graphic designer and creative director and then shifted to social media strategy, which had been my focus for the eight years prior to launching Seek & Swoon.

Photo courtesy of Jala Smith-Huys

With her kids in Amsterdam.

Scariest Part Of Doing This: Placing the first order with my mill. Up until then, it was a lot of research and day dreaming and planning and more daydreaming and more researching — which I had done for years and years with other business ideas that I never launched. Because I had dragged my feet so long with other ideas, writing that first check meant “this is happening.” And there was no turning back. I was in it for the long haul.

Subscribe:  ForbesLife’s Passport Newsletter
Your guide to luxury travel—and life’s other indulgences.

My Advice To Other Women: My advice to other women who want to start a business: Trust your gut and give it a shot. I know that’s easier said than done because I was terrified to do it for over a decade. But making the decision to leap is the hardest decision you’ll make in entrepreneurship. Once you get past that, I think the rest isn’t quite a terrifying — mostly because there’s no time to think and slow down when you’re in the trenches. Also, lean on your network, whether personal or professional. They want to help you, they want to support you and those things are invaluable.

Photo courtesy of Mary Cecchini

Mary Cecchini, founder of Living Big Travel.

WHO: Mary Cecchini, founder of Living Big, which helps remove the obstacles that women face when it comes to travel. Living Big hosts adventures for small groups of women around the world and throughout the U.S. and offers custom designed vacations for women to take with their family, kids and friends. Living Big also just launched an Adventure Club with single-day adventures in the Pacific Northwest.

The Vacation That Inspired Me: I had always been a traveler (as much as corporate-allocated PTO would allow), so when I was ready to make a change I looked to travel as a compass to determine how to design my next season of life. After a lot of saving, sacrificing and planning, I quit my corporate job and left for a five-month solo sabbatical to reconnect with myself, my passions and my ambitions. It was the best gift I’ve ever given myself.

Before This: Before I started Living Big Travel, I worked full-time as a marketing manager for a consumer product company. It was a wonderful job and a trusted company with great people, but as I climbed the corporate ladder I grew further away from the kind of work that brought me joy. I wanted to connect with people, I wanted to test new programs, I wanted to get outside the walls of my office (sorry: 36-hour trips to Dallas, Salt Lake City and L.A. didn’t count) and find new ways to indulge my curiosity.

Photo courtesy of Mary Cecchini

Cecchini, under a rainbow.

Scariest Part Of Doing This: What wasn’t scary?! Quitting my job was frightening, but I had to constantly remind myself that if I stayed, I already knew what that story looked like. So I had nothing to lose. Now to be transparent, it wasn’t like I quit my job, traveled the world, developed a business idea and then was immediately profitable. It has taken years, with lots of side hustles and many early mornings and late nights. But when I face something scary along the way (hellooooooo taxes, insurance, liability, etc.), I lean on the passion and energy I have for the work, and it helps me move through the scary parts.

My Advice To Other Women: First things first: Take the time to figure out what brings you joy. Figure out what it is that you love love love more than anything so that you’re willing to move through the scary parts, the topics you know nothing about and the questions you can’t immediately answer. Next up: Decide if you want to monetize this passion. If the answer is yes, then start by finding small ways to test the concept to ensure you’re still as passionate about the work when you’re trying to build a business around it. Oh and save: Save every spare penny you can to invest in your dreams.

Anyone with a case of wanderlust knows the feeling of coming home from a vacation feeling refreshed and inspired. These four women took that feeling and turned it into a new career. Here, we hear the stories of the trips that changed their lives — and get some advice for how you can also transform your career through an amazing travel experience.

Photo courtesy of Billy Huys

Jala Smith-Huys, founder of Seek & Swoon, with one of her company’s signature throws in the background.

WHO: Jala Smith-Huys, founder of Seek & Swoon, which designs eco-friendly knit throws inspired by beautiful places around the world, from an iconic church in Iceland to the Madrid sunset. They’re made from recycled cotton at one of the last family-owned and -operated knitting mills left in the United States. And one is inspired by a different kind of journey: $10 from the sale of every Hope Throw is donated to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance to help fund ovarian cancer research, a battle that Smith-Huys’s mom is fighting right now.

The Vacation That Inspired Me: My husband and I both love to travel, and we’d been talking about moving abroad but wanted to visit some of the places we’d been daydreaming about. It was 2015 and we were both freelancing. Our kids were young at the time (2.5 and 5), and although we assumed taking a big trip wouldn’t be easy with them, we knew the timing would never be perfect. So we decided to take a leap of faith. We gave all of our clients fair notice that we would be taking the summer off and left on our trip at the beginning of June. We spent several weeks in Ireland, a month in Spain, two weeks in Amsterdam and just under a week in Iceland. We traveled by planes, trains and automobiles and stayed in vacation rentals. In the moment, little kids don’t really care where they are; all they want are ice cream cones and swimming pools. But they loved our adventures and still have memories of many of the places we visited. We plan to do it again some day.

Photo courtesy of Jala Smith-Huys

Jala Smith-Huys in Tossa del Mar, Spain.

When The Lightbulb Went Off: I left for this trip knowing that I wanted to make a career shift. It was really important to me to create something that utilized my skills, but that also allowed me to work daily in the things that I loved. In this case it was design, sustainability, storytelling, home decor and, of course, travel. The light bulb really went off one afternoon while putting a baby blanket away in storage. This blanket was the very first thing we bought when I found out I was pregnant with our first child. The idea that we were saving something, forever, intrigued me. And then I realized that item was a blank canvas for creativity. So I started brainstorming this idea of designing throws. But because I had worked in marketing and helping other brands tell their story for so many years, I knew that this company needed a story. That’s when the idea of designing throws inspired by travel hit. That story not only made my brand unique from other textile and home decor brands, but it gave me something to ladder my creativity back to. And I knew that as long as I traveled, I’d have throws to design.

Before This: I spent a number of years as a graphic designer and creative director and then shifted to social media strategy, which had been my focus for the eight years prior to launching Seek & Swoon.

Photo courtesy of Jala Smith-Huys

With her kids in Amsterdam.

Scariest Part Of Doing This: Placing the first order with my mill. Up until then, it was a lot of research and day dreaming and planning and more daydreaming and more researching — which I had done for years and years with other business ideas that I never launched. Because I had dragged my feet so long with other ideas, writing that first check meant “this is happening.” And there was no turning back. I was in it for the long haul.

Subscribe:  ForbesLife’s Passport Newsletter
Your guide to luxury travel—and life’s other indulgences.

My Advice To Other Women: My advice to other women who want to start a business: Trust your gut and give it a shot. I know that’s easier said than done because I was terrified to do it for over a decade. But making the decision to leap is the hardest decision you’ll make in entrepreneurship. Once you get past that, I think the rest isn’t quite a terrifying — mostly because there’s no time to think and slow down when you’re in the trenches. Also, lean on your network, whether personal or professional. They want to help you, they want to support you and those things are invaluable.

Photo courtesy of Mary Cecchini

Mary Cecchini, founder of Living Big Travel.

WHO: Mary Cecchini, founder of Living Big, which helps remove the obstacles that women face when it comes to travel. Living Big hosts adventures for small groups of women around the world and throughout the U.S. and offers custom designed vacations for women to take with their family, kids and friends. Living Big also just launched an Adventure Club with single-day adventures in the Pacific Northwest.

The Vacation That Inspired Me: I had always been a traveler (as much as corporate-allocated PTO would allow), so when I was ready to make a change I looked to travel as a compass to determine how to design my next season of life. After a lot of saving, sacrificing and planning, I quit my corporate job and left for a five-month solo sabbatical to reconnect with myself, my passions and my ambitions. It was the best gift I’ve ever given myself.

Before This: Before I started Living Big Travel, I worked full-time as a marketing manager for a consumer product company. It was a wonderful job and a trusted company with great people, but as I climbed the corporate ladder I grew further away from the kind of work that brought me joy. I wanted to connect with people, I wanted to test new programs, I wanted to get outside the walls of my office (sorry: 36-hour trips to Dallas, Salt Lake City and L.A. didn’t count) and find new ways to indulge my curiosity.

Photo courtesy of Mary Cecchini

Cecchini, under a rainbow.

Scariest Part Of Doing This: What wasn’t scary?! Quitting my job was frightening, but I had to constantly remind myself that if I stayed, I already knew what that story looked like. So I had nothing to lose. Now to be transparent, it wasn’t like I quit my job, traveled the world, developed a business idea and then was immediately profitable. It has taken years, with lots of side hustles and many early mornings and late nights. But when I face something scary along the way (hellooooooo taxes, insurance, liability, etc.), I lean on the passion and energy I have for the work, and it helps me move through the scary parts.

My Advice To Other Women: First things first: Take the time to figure out what brings you joy. Figure out what it is that you love love love more than anything so that you’re willing to move through the scary parts, the topics you know nothing about and the questions you can’t immediately answer. Next up: Decide if you want to monetize this passion. If the answer is yes, then start by finding small ways to test the concept to ensure you’re still as passionate about the work when you’re trying to build a business around it. Oh and save: Save every spare penny you can to invest in your dreams.

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