From EA to Founder...

I had spent a little over two years working like a crazy person at a tech start-up in NYC. It was the most insane time of my life. I was (or at least I thought I was) the happiest girl in the world. I loved my company. My CEO was by far the best boss ever. It was definitely the first time in my life I had actually uttered the words “I love my job.” I was respected for the work I did, and I was trusted with responsibilities that didn’t necessarily fall under the EA umbrella. I was treated like a team member, and not a servant. Like most EA jobs, my hours were basically 24/7, but I came and went as I pleased. After all, I was treated like a responsible adult.

Then I had a moment of realization when I saw myself in the mirror, and I looked like I had aged 10 years. I was stressed and overworked and angry and depressed and simply not happy. I even gained 20 lbs. Ugh! All I had going for myself was a job I loved. I hardly had any social life, and zero potential for anything romantic. How did this become my reality? I completely neglected myself. All of my needs and desires became almost non-existent. Thank god for that nagging voice in my head that kept telling me, “You need to focus more on you.”  I needed to make some serious changes, but I had absolutely no idea where to begin. The only thing I knew for sure was that if I kept going at that pace, I was going to have a mental breakdown. Luckily, my solo trip to Bali was quickly approaching, and that would give me ample time to think. I told my boss I that I needed to completely detach in order to recharge, which he understood. Then I said, that means I’m shutting off email and not checking it until I return to the office in 20 days. WHAT? Who says that to their boss? I do! That could have completely backfired, but frankly, I didn’t care. Did I mention I was on the verge of a mental breakdown? BTW, I do not recommend ever saying that to your boss, unless you really don’t give F, then go for it!

I arrived in Bali without a care in the world. I never felt so free in all of my life. I spent the first four days at a five-star hotel laying in the sun, surfing, swimming in the pool, and reading a book. Saying I was relaxed was an understatement. Then I made my way to a women’s sanctuary, where I had 3 hours of treatment daily. Massages, facials, head scrubs, etc. Ok, I was seriously in heaven, and ready to open myself up to all things Bali. I watched mother nature beautifully paint the sky every night at sunset. I visited the temples, and fully immersed myself into a long-lived tradition of making my big wish at Tirta Empul Temple. I spent time walking through the Monkey Forest in Ubud, which was unbelievable especially because I’m obsessed with monkeys. A few little guys jumped on me as I fed them bananas. It was absolutely bananas! I climbed an active volcano in the middle of the night just so I could watch the sun rise from the top, and then I relaxed in a hot spring. I met with all sorts of healers from a light & crystal healer to a massage healer and everything in between.

Bali is a very spiritual place. All you need to do is open up your ears, and actually listen to the messages being sent. For me, it completely changed my life. The Bali gods were sending me a message loud and clear… career change. Immediately, I said no way! I’m too old for a career change. Plus, I love my job. I met with a tarot card healer, and he basically predicted the next year of my life. Everything he was telling me did not make any sense at the time, and most of it was based on this career change I wasn’t going to make. All I could think was that he and the Bali gods had the wrong girl. I made a mental note of a few things that stood out, and then I pretty much forgot about the session.

I came back to NYC feeling like a new woman who could rule the world. I enjoyed a relaxing New Year’s Eve with friends and family, and then it was back to the grind. I walked into the office, and I immediately felt like I couldn’t breathe. Almost like I was being suffocated by stress and anxiety. There was so much going on, and my plate was completely over-flowing. I was juggling a thousand balls at once, and trying my hardest not to let any of them drop. It was absolute insanity, but I still loved my job! Before I knew it, it was March and I still hadn’t come up for air. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders, because I’m only one person and I am only human. For some strange reason, as an EA you’re expected to be magician and make the impossible happen. There are so many “Are you FN kidding me” moments that I would have throughout each and every day. Instead, I bit my tongue and smiled, because I loved my job.

One day, my boss took me to lunch and delivered some really difficult news. While he was speaking, I remembered a few things the tarot card healer said, and I realized it’s all starting to happen. I went home and immediately played the recording of our session. My mind was blown! How could he know all of this? Everything he said was making complete sense. I had no intention of leaving my job, but unfortunately, I didn’t have a choice. I was laid off, and it was time for me to figure out my next move, and all I could hear in my mind was career change. I respected my boss and his opinion, so I asked him what he thought I should do. He said, “Kelly, don’t take this the wrong way as I think you are an amazing EA, but maybe it’s time for you to do something else. Honestly, you hate being an assistant.” I never really realized it until I heard him say those words, and couldn’t have agreed more. I hated being an assistant. So, what’s next? The wheels began turning…

I needed to find something I loved. Something that warmed my heart. Something that made me feel fulfilled at the end of the day. Something that would have impact on other people’s lives. Something that has a healing element to it. Something that would make me feel like the woman I was when I returned from Bali. I spent a few days in my head thinking, and shortly after Travel Souly was born. I couldn’t be prouder of myself for creating this company from nothing. I have already come so far, and this is only the beginning! I am beyond excited to see where this journey leads, and how women all over the world will be positively impacted by Travel Souly.

It’s certainly not the most traditional career path, but I would say being an EA has more than prepared me for this role as Founder. Finally, I can honestly say I love my job, and I truly mean it!

Kelly Bates