Departures and Arrivals. From management consultant to global start-up director and travel blog creator
I first spoke to Matt Trinetti, a director at Escape the City, in 2014 when I discovered their inspirational series of Escape Essays. A few meetings of minds later, our co-founder Alastair wrote for the Essay series and a powerful collaboration began. Matt also told us about a brand new 12-week Escape Tribe programme for people stuck in unfulfilling jobs, and asked Eyes Wide Opened to be part of it. I decided to ask Matt about his own moving journey from corporate life to running a thriving start-up that’s grown into a global movement…
What did you want to be when you grew up?
There was no one thing, but I was always fascinated by mysteries, archaeology and the idea of buried treasure. At one point I got a chemistry set and wanted to be a scientist. And I wanted to be a business man as I saw my Dad leave for work with his briefcase every day.
Did it work out?
I was good at maths and science and so naturally got into engineering. But the career choices I made were more about drifting down a path than about chasing any particular fire. I secured a good job in management consulting for a well-known firm in Chicago, was living comfortably and engaged with it to a point, but there wasn’t a fire about it. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do instead, although I knew I wanted to take some time off to travel, and I wanted to explore writing (even though I’d never written anything before).
Was there a turning point conversation?
In 2012, a friend passed away. She was only 27. I’d been in consulting for five years and her death shook me awake and made me listen to the voices growing louder in my head, telling me to pursue something I really cared about. She dealt me the hard-earned lesson: our time is not guaranteed and every single day is a gift. From that moment, I decided to commit myself to live fully, follow my excitement, and spend my time doing things that matter. I realized there would never be a perfect time to jump into the unknown, but there would probably never be a more perfect time than that moment in my life. Within the next week I booked a one-way ticket to Iceland, departing in six months, and decided to begin a long-term exploration I’d dreamt about. My TEDx talk “Say Yes to Your Adventure” tells the story.
On that journey I started writing and fell in love with it. I began a travel blog, GiveLiveExplore, read a whole load of books (including one of my favourites, ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho) and wandered around Northern and Eastern Europe for almost seven months. During that period I passed through London specifically to meet the co-founders and small team at Escape the City, a start-up I had been admiring from afar. We discovered we had a similar outlook on work and life.That visit sparked a friendship that would see me moving to London two years later to help them build The Escape School in the heart of The City.
I returned to consulting in the US after my seven-month wander, but lasted only two weeks. The time and reflection I’d allowed myself convinced me that I should pursue something else. In 2014, I joined moved to London to join Escape the City and launch The Escape School, a place that helps people escape unfulfilling jobs and pursue more meaningful work. It’s a mission I care deeply about. A mission like this was one of the big things missing for me in my consulting work.
What tips would you give to teens / 20-somethings starting out in their working lives?
There’s a great myth out there you need to pick a direction early on and that’s your ‘thing’ forever. Based on the thousands of people I’ve met through Escape, this just isn’t true. The straight-lined paths of our parents’ generation are the exception rather than the rule today, so marching to this myth doesn’t serve you. If you feel the weight of needing to figure everything out right now, don’t fret. This is a great time to explore several different avenues, even if you have a full-time job. It’s usually a time of little responsibility, so use it to feed your curiosities.Experiment with projects and ideas that interest you. These early years are a short blip of time in a much longer journey to discover a vocation that’s unique to you and the gifts you have to offer the world.
Along the way you’ll probably need to deal with pressure from others who are trying to steer you down a path. They likely have good intentions, but it’s so important to hold onto your own inner voice. It’s so noisy out there, but try to find ways to get (and stay) in touch with yourself, what you want and who you want to be. It could be morning meditation, solitary walks, journaling, or another daily practice – whatever works best for you.
We say at Escape the City that “life is too short to do work that doesn’t matter to you.” You might need to do work that doesn’t matter to you at first, but don’t give up too easily on finding work that feels right for you. The world needs more people who are doing work that they actually care about.
And read as many books that you can get your hands on. A great place to start is ‘The Alchemist,’ a book about following your true destiny:
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. No heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.”