From Graphic Design to Travel

“Overcoming doubt is hard, but once you decide to just do it – that's when it gets exciting.”

Image of Adam Groffman

From Graphic Design to Travel

Adam Groffman had trodden the 'expected' path after university. But a weekend in Reykjavik taught him that he didn't have to follow the herd – he could design his own working life, on his own terms. Find out how he's created a bespoke career that combines his passions and lets him see the world.

What work were you doing previously?

I was a graphic designer for a book publisher.

What are you doing now?

I'm now Online Marketing Manager for an independent tour operator in Europe.

I also run a successful travel blog.

Why did you change?

I quit my job to travel around the world.

I loved my job, but I felt that, at that point in my life, I needed to travel more; the job wasn't able to provide the travel experiences I was craving. I saved up my money so I could take a gap year / career break and figured I'd go from there.

To make myself feel less guilty about quitting a job in the height of the recession, I started a travel blog as a way to keep me doing new things while I wasn't at work. It started for fun, as a hobby, but as I learned about how to build a successful blog, I became more and more interested in marketing and social media strategy.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I was visiting Reykjavik, Iceland, with a good friend.

We were only there for a three-day weekend, but during that time we met so many interesting people and fellow travellers that I felt inspired to make up my own life plan.

I've been lucky enough to travel and study abroad throughout my life, and I see no reason why that should end with a full-time, 9–5 job. I started working two weeks before I had even graduated from university. Without any transition period between school and 'real-life', I spent most of my early twenties busily making a career and being responsible.

It wasn't until I met people my own age from all over the world (doing very different things to what I was doing) that I was inspired to take action. It seemed unfair to think that they had all these amazing stories to tell, and here I was, beginning to feel more and more complacent in my generally comfortable life.

It was on my IcelandAir flight back home from Reykjavik that I realised there was no reason to stop travelling. I could make something work somehow, whether through my job or on my own. In seat 19F, I wrote up a list of questions:

  • Could I travel and not work?

  • Where would I go?

  • How much would it cost?

  • Would I be able to live like that?

  • What would I learn / do?

  • When would I go?

I didn't have all the answers (actually, I had none at that moment), but I knew they were questions I would be able to answer. Honestly, I'm surprised at how easy it was to make the decision to pick up and leave without answering a single one of those questions.

Are you happy with the change?

Yes!

I loved working as a graphic designer and I loved working in the publishing industry.

But working in a large corporation sometimes meant my creativity was being stifled.

Today, owning my own publication (a very popular travel blog), I get to control the entirety of the publishing process. My work as an Online Marketing Manager at Eating Europe Food Tours is also exhilarating. Working with such a small company, my decisions have more meaning – making the job that much more rewarding.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

I do miss working as a designer – I got used to working with Adobe Photoshop every day and still find reasons to use much of the Adobe Creative Suite for whatever projects I can.

I don't miss the stress of working for a large, multi-national company full of corporate bureaucracy.

How did you go about making the shift?

As my round-the-world travels wound down, I had to make a difficult decision: do I return to America and look for a job there? Or do I try my luck one more time and pursue my dream of living in Europe?

I took a chance and moved to Berlin, Germany.

I worked in a few different tech start-ups before going completely freelance. I've pieced together a career from my experience in design, marketing, tourism and writing, and of course I'm now managing the online marketing for Eating Europe Food Tours. It’s a great job which combines all my passions: travel, food, tourism and marketing! I've also built up my blog as a way to bring in income.

What didn't go well? What 'wrong turns' did you take?

After taking my gap year to travel around the world (and blog about it), I struggled to find what it was I wanted to do.

I didn't even know where I wanted to live! Thankfully, with the savings I had left after my travels, I was able to spend several months trying out some internships with different types of companies until I could decide what I was most interested in doing.

How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?

I spent a lot of time building up a savings account and was lucky to graduate from university without debt (thanks to a financially savvy family and a lot of scholarships).

My savings were a big help in making the career change possible.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

The doubt.

Changing careers can be scary and, as is probably natural, you go through a lot of self-questioning – Is it the right decision? The right time? The right thing to do?

Overcoming that doubt is challenging, but once you decide to just do it – that's when things get exciting.

What help did you get?

In the process of moving to a new city (a new country, even!), I made a lot of new friends.

Meeting new people while I myself was looking for new things to do and experience just opened up my world to so much more. I was able to hear other ideas and see more of what other people were doing. The more I learnt about other people, and saw what they were doing, the more curious and creative I got with making changes in my own life. I suppose it was this curiosity with the world that helped me to make the change.

What have you learnt in the process?

It's important to try new things – to test them out and see what works, and what doesn't.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

I wish I'd kept in better touch with my co-workers and friends from before the shift.

Graphic design was such a big part of my life for those few years in college and afterwards; I miss the conversations about typography, about the importance of colour, about the evolution of design.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Continue to be curious.

Be willing to take the smaller risks, so you can eventually take the bigger ones.

To find out more about Adam's travels, visit www.travelsofadam.com

What lessons could you take from Adam's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hello@careershifters.org.