Escaping the 9 to 5 with Jo Symo

how to run away and join the circus with Jo Symo

After a bit of a break over Christmas, we’re back with our career transition interviews – and we’re back with a bang! Jo Symo left her job and ran off to join the circus. No, really. She actually joined the circus.

Now that sounds a bit flippant and maybe a bit mad, but the truth is that Jo has been really quite sensible in executing her career transition. She started by taking a few trips here and there, gradually going on more and more adventures, until she had caught the travel bug to the point that she quit her job to join the circus in Australia.

The circus experience showed Jo how many possibilities there were out there in the world, and after another brief stint in the UK working in a leadership and development role, she headed off again, this time for 14 months. She volunteered at a camp for people with disabilities in Colorado, travelled from Alaska right down to Panama, and then headed back to that camp having had an amazing experience the first time around.

When I spoke to her, Jo was back at home doing a five-month contract. This is enough to clear her debts and to pay for the next adventure. As this post goes live, she’s just arrived in Norway as part of an all-female expedition to cross the Finnmark Plateau. Next month, she’s heading back to the circus for a couple of months, and then she has another three-month contract lined up.

I can’t possibly capture our whole chat and all the things that Jo’s been up to in the write-up, so please do watch the full video interview!

 

How to run away to join the circus

Jo Symo

Jo Symo is a leadership expert in the corporate world who helps all levels of managers lead their people to greater success. For a while, when she was tiring of her work, she started going on adventures, travelling… and then joined the circus in Australia! She was the one in the top hat out in front of the tent, bringing people in to see the show. Since then, she has continued to alternate travel and circus antics on the one hand with contract work back in the UK to pay for those adventures.

1) At what moment did you decide it was time for a change?

Well, I think I made a pretty massive change when I left an abusive relationship seven years ago, and I just got my head down, and was rebuilding a life, really. Then, I settled down and I got on a flat, and I kitted it all out again. I made this little home, and then I was going away for lots of weekends. Then, I went to Canada for a while. All the while, it was building in me that I just didn’t want to sit still anymore. I’d been sitting still for long enough.

A couple of things happened at work. My team was made redundant, which meant that I left that business. I got some money coming in, and it all seemed to be pointing in the right direction. It felt like it was time to go and see a bit more of the world, really.

On my last day, my colleagues put up pictures of big tops, and circuses, and people were asking:

“Where’s Jo going?”

“Well, she’s going to join the circus.”

“No, really. Where’s she going? What’s she going to do?”

“Yes, really! She’s going to join the circus.”

I find people are split into two camps, really. Either they’ll say, “Wow, I would love to go and do that!” Or others will ask, “What are you wasting your life doing that for?” Quite frankly, I just ignore those people.

It’s my life. I’ve no responsibilities. I have no children. Why can’t I do what I want to do? I’m not bothering anybody. So I’m ignoring the naysayers, and just going and hanging out with people who want to come and do crazy stuff with me, or just want to hear my stories.

2) What was the biggest challenge you faced in making the change?

I think it was deciding where to go and what to do. I’m still coming back doing these contracts, and I’m working hard, so I want the money I’m making here to go as far as I can, and to see as much as I want to.

Another big challenge is being able to catch up with friends and family. I don’t feel like I’m spending enough time with people, because when I’m in the UK, I’m just trying to see everybody. So the biggest challenge is probably trying to juggle the adventures, friends and family, and work.

I’ve been very lucky on the money side. My CV is strong, and people contact me about work. I’m not chasing work, which I think is very fortunate, and maybe a bit unusual.

But they keep wanting me to go permanent, and that just fills me with dread. I’ve agreed to three months, and then we’re going to have to talk, because I planned a bit of a European road trip I want to disappear on. It does feel odd to turn work down. There’s that part of me that’s thinks, “Someone’s offering me work. Maybe I should just go and get another flat…” – but no!

3) Where did you get the support you needed to make it happen?

I’ve just got the most amazing friends and family, who have stopped rolling their eyes when I say I’m going to do something. One of my friends, who I cancelled on the other day when I forgot I had a mud run on, just responded, “Of course you have! We’ll do it another day.”

I’m incredibly lucky that I have an amazing family who always have a room for me, where I do contribute but it’s the price of having my own place anymore. So, I don’t have to worry about that so much. I live with my aunt and my uncle, and when I came up with the idea of walking across Central America, my aunt just said, “Sounds great. Go and do it. Just be safe.”

I also have my brother, who totally supports what I do, but just wants me to do a bit more work for his business!

I have other friends who live vicariously through me, so will be egging me on to go and do stuff. Then, the more you do… I feel like I’ve got friends all over the world now. So the more I go out and do, and see, and talk to people, the more people I have in different places.

So, I’m really, really lucky that I have all of these people around me saying, “Go for it!”

4) What’s the best part of your lifestyle today?

Jo Symo travellingI like the flexibility. I like the fact that when people say, “Do you fancy this?” or when I see something on Facebook, I can just say, “Well, actually, do the dates work?” That’s really what I’m looking at, rather than when I used to sit there thinking, “Oh, I’ve got to pay the rent. I’ve got the bills coming in…”

Also, the amazing people that I get to meet all around the world, who are happy to chat to this crazy English girl, and make me feel really welcome.

5) What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is considering making a big career or lifestyle change?

Just do it.

You can sit there and work out the sums, and work out what you owe, and what you don’t owe; and what you’ve got to earn, and what you don’t; and it’s all irrelevant. My mum always said to me that you can never afford what you want to do. When people say, “I can’t afford to have a child,” she’d respond, “Well, when can you, unless you win the lottery?”

“Oh, I can’t afford to do this…”

Well, when can you?

Life is really, really short. I would rather regret the things that I did do than the things that I didn’t. So far, I’m not regretting them.

So just go for it. Give it a go. What’s the worst that could happen? You end up where you were – but at least you’ve had fun trying.

 

You can find out about Jo’s new project ‘My Great Escape’, aimed at getting survivors of domestic abuse out into the great outdoors for healing, adventure, and a bit of a challenge chucked in as well, on Facebook and on the website. Follow her other adventures on her own Facebook page.

 

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Facebook
Pinterest
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You might also be interested in these articles

“Everything you’ve ever
wanted is one step outside
your comfort zone.”

Book a free consultation

If you’re feeling a bit stuck and not sure how to move forward, let’s get on the phone to explore how we can work together to help you achieve your goals, and which option is the best fit for you.

Find a way to quit your job and start your own business

Download this free roadmap to start planning your transition out of the ‘9 to 5’ and into working for yourself.

We will use and protect your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Find a way to quit your job and start your own business

Download this free roadmap to start planning your transition out of the ‘9 to 5’ and into working for yourself.

We will use and protect your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Outside of the 9 to 5

Anna continues the journey in her new book, where she details what’s needed to sustain your initial escape from the 9 to 5 in a guide to designing and building a profitable business that gives you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment.

We will use and protect your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Privacy Policy

This privacy policy sets out how One Step Outside uses and protects any information that you give One Step Outside when you use this website (https://onestepoutside.com/).

One Step Outside is committed to ensuring that your privacy is protected. Should we ask you to provide certain information by which you can be identified when using this website, then you can be assured that it will only be used in accordance with this privacy statement.

One Step Outside may change this policy from time to time by updating this page. You should check this page from time to time to ensure that you are happy with any changes.

What information we collect and why

We only ever collect the information that we need in order to serve you.

Generally, this just means collecting your first name and email address that you enter, for example, when you request a resource, register for a webinar, or submit a message via a contact form.

If you are a paying customer, we also collect your billing information including your last name and your postal address.

Comments

When visitors leave comments on the site we collect the data shown in the comments form, and also the visitor’s IP address and browser user agent string to help spam detection.

An anonymised string created from your email address (also called a hash) may be provided to the Gravatar service to see if you are using it. The Gravatar service privacy policy is available here: https://automattic.com/privacy/. After approval of your comment, your profile picture is visible to the public in the context of your comment.

Contact forms

We use Gravity Forms to allow you to contact us via the website. We will use the information you submit for the sole purpose of that specific form and will explicitly ask you to provide your consent to allow us to do so.

Embedded content from other websites

Articles on this site may include embedded content (e.g. videos, images, articles, etc.). Embedded content from other websites behaves in the exact same way as if the visitor has visited the other website.

These websites may collect data about you, use cookies, embed additional third-party tracking, and monitor your interaction with that embedded content, including tracking your interaction with the embedded content if you have an account and are logged in to that website.

Advertising and Analytics

Google

We use Google Analytics to track and optimise performance on this site as well as embedding video content from YouTube, and this means that your web browser automatically sends certain information to Google. This includes the URL of the page that you’re visiting and your IP address. Google may also set cookies on your browser or read cookies that are already there. Apps that use Google advertising services also share information with Google, such as the name of the app and a unique identifier for advertising.

Google uses the information shared by sites and apps to deliver our services, maintain and improve them, develop new services, measure the effectiveness of advertising, protect against fraud and abuse and personalise content and ads that you see on Google and on our partners’ sites and apps. See their Privacy Policy to learn more about how they process data for each of these purposes, and their Advertising page for more about Google ads, how your information is used in the context of advertising and how long Google stores this information.

Facebook

We use the conversion tracking and custom audiences via the Facebook pixel on our website. This allows user behaviour to be tracked after they have been redirected to our website by clicking on a Facebook ad and enables us to measure the effectiveness of our Facebook ads. The data collected in this way is anonymous to us, i.e. we do not see the personal data of individual users. However, this data is stored and processed by Facebook, who may link this information to your Facebook account and also use it for its own promotional purposes, in accordance with Facebook’s Data Usage Policy https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/.

You can allow Facebook and its partners to place ads on and off Facebook. A cookie may also be stored on your computer for these purposes. You can revoke your permission directly on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences/?entry_product=ad_settings_screen. For more guidance on opting out you can also consult http://www.aboutads.info/choices.

Who we share your data with

We use a number of third parties to provide us with services which are necessary to run our business or to assist us with running our business and who process your information for us on our behalf. These include a hosting and email provider (Siteground), mailing list provider (GetResponse), and a payment provider (Stripe).

Your information will be shared with these service providers only where necessary to enable us to run our business.

How long we maintain your data

If you leave a comment, the comment and its metadata are retained indefinitely. This is so we can recognise and approve any follow-up comments automatically instead of holding them in a moderation queue.

For users that register on our website, we also store the personal information they provide in their user profile. All users can see, edit, or delete their personal information at any time (except they cannot change their username). Website administrators can also see and edit that information.

The main reason for collecting this information is to be able to send you resources, updates and, sometimes, information and products and services, as well as for internal record keeping.

The rights you have over your data

If you have an account on this site, or have left comments, you can request to receive an exported file of the personal data we hold about you, including any data you have provided to us. You can also request that we erase any personal data we hold about you. This does not include any data we are obliged to keep for administrative, legal, or security purposes.

How we protect your data

We are committed to ensuring that your information is secure.

Where we have given you (or where you have chosen) a password that lets you access certain parts of our site, you are responsible for keeping this password confidential and we ask you not to share a password with anyone.

Unfortunately, the transmission of information via the internet is not completely secure. Although we will do our best to protect your personal data, we cannot guarantee the security of your data transmitted to our site; any transmission is at your own risk. Once we have received your information, we will use strict procedures and security features to try to prevent unauthorised access.

Links to other websites

Our website contains links to other websites. This privacy policy only applies to this website so once you have used these links to leave our site, you should note that we do not have any control over that other website. You should exercise caution and look at the privacy statement applicable to the website in question.

Changes to our privacy policy

We keep our privacy policy under regular review. Initially created on 18th November 2016, it was last updated on 23rd May 2018 to be compliant with GDPR.

Contact information

If you have any questions or concerns related to your privacy, you can get in touch here >>