The Backpacker Diaries: A Junior Doctor’s Year-Long Journey Around the World
The first chapter of my travelogue:
May 9th, 2018
So it has been an extremely long hiatus. The last time I did any writing was years ago! Life has been busy. In the last couple years, I have:
- Graduated from medical school and started work as a junior doctor
- Passed entrance exams into general practice training (family medicine)
- Got married and moved out
- Experienced medical mission work in the developing nation of Papua New Guinea
- Lived in Jerusalem for a few months and challenged my ideas on what Christianity looks like.
So for the last three years, I’ve felt like a pinball bouncing around. No time to catch my breath. My first year as a doctor was a whirlwind. I loved it. But I struggled to find balance in my life. I struggled to find time to collect my thoughts. And I struggled to find time to talk to God.
Then some important things happened last year in quick succession. A close friend died suddenly and unexpectedly. I was devastated: he was a very young, devout Christian and someone I deeply respected. I asked my workplace if I could take leave to attend the funeral. They said no.
Later, on a different unit, I experienced prolonged and serious workplace bullying by senior doctors. I was expected to shut up, keep my head down and get on with it. I was encouraged to do the same by other junior doctors. “Don’t rock the boat” is the prevailing ethos in Australian hospitals, and I was told as such. But something inside of me forced me to stand up. I stood up for myself and things (predictably) got worse. The ensuing escalation was extremely stressful and it came to a stage where I was ready to resign if a solution could not be found.
Thankfully, the doctor’s union supported me to an outcome in my favour. But my bosses were not particularly fond of me after that and made that known on a daily basis.
I became increasingly depressed. As I began to question my work as a doctor and what life was all about, I was further exposed to the tragedy and brevity of life whilst working on palliative care (an expansion on what I had observed in the poverty of Papua New Guinea). I found the work incredibly meaningful and worked harder than I have ever before. But maybe the death I saw also made me realise my own demons: that I am still grieving the suicide of my sister and the accompanying alienation from my church community, who didn’t know how to respond in the aftermath (they chose silence).
All of these events took their toll.
My medical students commented on how cynical I had become. I laughed it off, but It was true.
I struggled to write or blog anything. I felt jaded and did not want to talk to God. What I have written before on this blog and elsewhere feels like a wholly different person. This is something I am still wrestling with – just where am I with God?
A blessing came: I took a long overdue holiday to Tasmania. I went camping with my wife in a remote national park and remembered what it was to live life again apart from work. Perhaps being in the wilderness has that effect on the soul.
With the support of family and a few close friends, I realised that I needed a break. I felt weak to admit it (especially to other doctors), but I was burned out. I felt deeply humbled to admit my weakness, but perhaps the admission out loud freed me at the same time.
I finally decided to take a year off work. I am sad, but extremely thankful that my wife is making a sacrifice to do the same in order to support me.
We decided to spend the year travelling the world. It is hard to explain, but when we finally arrived in South America for the first leg of our journey, things just felt right.
What am I searching for by travelling the world? What am I hoping for this year? I still do not know exactly, and it’s already been three months in this mysterious and wonderful continent.
Perhaps to see humanity with fresh eyes.
Perhaps to see what life can offer outside western paradigms.
Perhaps to see beauty in the vastness of landscapes, and to be humbled by living a minimalist, frugal and nomadic life.
But above all, I wish to see God again.
Next Chapter of The Backpacker Diaries:
Chapter 1: The Strange Feeling of Coming Home After a Year Traveling the World
Instagram – @nathan_and_pk
Photography Blog – https://nathanandpk.com/
9 thoughts on “Why I Quit My Job As A Doctor”
Thank you for your story and for defending yourself amid a very political workplace. I am glad that you stepped back and am looking for God outside of “a western paradigm”. I secretly wish I could do the same. Where there is vision there will be provision. God still has a call and purpose for your life.
Thank you for the kind words!!
I came across your blog a couple years ago and it blessed me so much. Life can be overwhelming at times, but the Word is life, health and healing, let it rejuvenate you (Prov 4:22). As you take this time to rest in the Lord remember that He has always been right with you. Psalms 145:18 says The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. (The whole chapter is wonderful :)) Be blessed and may you be reminded of what the Lord has called you to do. Jesus loves you.
Thanks for taking the time to write, I appreciate it. Ill have a read of what you sent me
Hii, Nathan, I’m a medical student from Nigeria (1 more year to go, yippee!). I’m a christian and i found solace in one of you articles when i was at a really tough patch in school, that was when i subscribed to this blog and I’d forgotten about it since.
Thanks for this; for being strong, for being humble enough to admit when you were not strong enough, and for sharing your journey with us. I pray God opens your eyes in this one year to his heart for you and gives you the strength to pursue it no matter what. Amen
Hi Folasade, Thanks for the prayers. I appreciate it a lot. Congratulations on almost finishing medical school! I loved my last year at school. Good luck for your medical career
Thank you for your article. It is not a “weakness” to be burned out or bereaved or depressed. I was bullied during traumatic bereavement (lost my brother) and was fired after I becam mentally so unwell and while my father was in intensive care, just out of a coma. https://latenightgirl.org/open-letters-to-pret/pret-staff-complaints/
Nathan! I am so glad you’re posting again. I am a christian med student in the U.S. and I can’t tell you how many times and to how many friends I have sent your blog. It has been such an encouragement. Glad you are taking care of yourself and seeking the Lord. You are seeking things that truly matter and matter eternally!
Pingback: The Strange Feeling of Coming Home After a Year Traveling the World | The Glory of God is Man Fully Alive