Lea Lane

Lea Lane
Florida, USA
August 26
author, Travel Tales I Couldn't Put in the Guidebooks, available at Amazon.com and on Kindle
“I’ve discovered the secret of life,” Kay Thompson, the eccentric entertainer and “Eloise” author, once said. “A lot of hard work, a lot of sense of humor, a lot of joy and a lot of tra-la-la!” And that's been my life: As a travel writer for over 30 years, I've been around the block (more like around the world), and I write true stories about interesting people and places. (Check out my travel site, Travels With Lea.) I've lived an unconventional life in conventional trappings. Been a corporate VP, worked with foster kids, acted in an Indie ("Nurse 1"), was on Jeopardy!. I've been managing editor of a travel publication, written for the Times, and authored books. OS is my home, but I also blog on The Huffington Post, and I've contributed (mostly anonymously) to everything from encyclopedias to guidebooks. Married young, divorced late; married late, widowed early, I dated lots in-between -- and survived a scary illness. After being happily, peacefully solo for many years, I'm now happily married again. I founded and still edit www.sololady.com, a lifestyle Website for single women. I'm truly grateful for each precious day, each well-earned wrinkle, my family, my cat. Truth, laughter, friendship, late love. And this blog -- on this wonderful site!

Lea Lane's Links

Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 18, 2011 12:05PM

Fleeing a Gilded Cage and Flying Away!

Rate: 41 Flag



In this time of high unemployment it seems like an impossible idea to quit a seemingly ideal job when another isn't on the horizon. But 21 years ago I did. And that move gave me the chance to literally fly away, far beyond my wildest dreams.

It was April. 1990, and I was hired as managing editor of a lifestyle magazine. It seemed perfect for me. I was a single mom, and the writing workshops I had been giving to corporations for the previous 10 years were now in competition with too many other companies. I had to market heavily to sell my workshops, and I decided I preferred a 9 to 5 job, and a steady paycheck.

The magazine I was starting at was a monthly regional lifestyle glossy. My commute was about half an hour from my Westchester County NY home, and the office was in a charming village. 

There was just one problem: the owner/publisher of the magazine, let’s call her Barbara. She ran the place like it was a socialist country. When I went to lunch she made me sign out on a pad just outside her office, and when I returned, I had to sign in, just like study hall in high school. Her office was right by the door, and she would always lift her head and glance at me going and coming, to let me know she was watching.

She badgered me constantly. When I first arrived she had written a travel article for the magazine, and asked me to edit it. This project took three weeks, with her sending my corrections back with more corrections, and with nasty comments about my edits.

Her retired lawyer husband hung around, looking over my shoulder and voicing his non-writerly opinions. Her two entitled, non-talented grown sons worked for her and called her by her first name: “Barbara," they’d shout, "I'm not doing that. FUCK YOU! "

And she'd shout back to them, "That's no way to talk to your mother! Fuck YOU." 

The yelling rarely stopped. I'd hear it reverberating as I drove home and as I fell asleep. The over-the shoulder opinions continued by her husband. I felt like I was held captive with a despotic family of drunken dictators. 

I lasted at that magazine position one month, long enough to get my name on the magazine masthead as managing editor. But I knew that if I didn't get out right away, I might never escape.

How did I quit? By signing out for lunch, giving Barbara a wave and a smile, and a silent FU, and never signing back in.

And I never looked back. I gathered some samples and my nerve and soon was writing a travel column for Gannett newspapers, and from that became a travel guidebook writer. My sons had long ago left the nest, and to extend the analogy, I went from feeling like a caged bird, to a bird on the wing,

The money I earned from freelancing was sporadic and minimal, but the lifestyle allowed me to spend a month or so in countries, on my own, researching and getting to know places I would never otherwise have visited: Paraguay, Cyprus, Guatemala -- more than a hundred in all.

I had little money, but I was happy.

Change is hard. Freelancing is an insecure business, and if the working conditions at that regional magazine had been better, I would have stayed.

But the freedom to flee compelled me to fly away, throughout the world. And it's been quite a trip.



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Wonderful story of courage and willingness to make sacrifices, endure some pain, in order to realize greater joy. I completely understand, having done the same thing (well, sort of) three years ago. There are a lot of "Barbaras" out there and they must not be allowed to prevent the flow of freedom and happiness. Thanks for this piece.
Great to read this-not only because I am delighted at the outcome!-I am looking over the edge of the nest myself, at the moment. I'll take this as inspiration.
Hope no one ever clips your wings. Keep on soaring. An inspiring story from an inspiring life.
good story, lea, and -- look~! -- we all benefited from your decision. :)

life's way too short to spend any more time than absolutely necessary around awful people. sounds like she, hubs and the icky kids deserved each other.
Change isn't easy. But it leads to growth. And options.
There's a deep and very potent message embedded here, beyond the obvious: We don't have to be slaves to anything, and in this remarkable country of ours we most often choose to indenture ourselves. Living free may not make one wealthy - though then again sometimes it might - but the riches of living one's own life outweighs any corporate benefit I can think of off hand. Wonderful story! r
You were so lucky to have had the resources and the wherewithal to escape that madhouse. So many people remain trapped in horrible conditions such as those you described either because they need the paycheck to survive or they're just too afraid to fly. Thank goodness you got outta there and into the travel writing business. Otherwise who would take us around the world to eat strange foods and meet interesting foreign folk?
I'm 'bout ready to chew off my own leg to get out of the job I'm trapped in.
Lea, so glad you too advantage of that "freedom to fly away". It's inspiring.
What a great tale, Lea.
It is harder to imagine leaving a job these days without another lined up, but the moral of your story to me is to not be too bound by fear or insecurity to leave a situation that needs leaving, regardless.
It sounds as if you landed right side up, and had a great turn in life by just being willing to fly, to flee....to fly !
I did something similar with my corporate job and it was the best decision I've ever made. Some people don't understand my decision, but that's ok. I do. Rated!
Good for you for taking the plunge and being free! Rated.
I think you did a very right thing. You would have been smothered or drained if you had stayed there, and for what? If you are alive, you must live, and live the very best way you know how.
Those family kind of operations can suck -- and look at where your path took you --- good for you..
Thanks for the support guys. And Hells Bells, I wish you luck in getting out of what sounds like a terrible situation. This economy is so awful I know that it isn't easy. Back then there were options.
Glad to hear that, T. Life is what matters, and sometimes money is not the issue.
What Jonathan said but it mirrors an experience I once had. There was nothing right about the time to quit and it scared me half to death worrying about how to support myself and my young children. Still there is a limit to the kind of insult to one mentality beyond which there is no return. Like yours, it was a great move. Terrific post as usual. rated
When I was in about second grade or precisely then, my dad said to me, "I cannot ever work for another person." So he floundered for much of his life but I took that in very deeply and when I went out to work it was to be a psychologist, make my own hours, which were many, and after the internship no bosses. This by the by was true of most of us in Cambridge MA. Good for you, Lea.
What a Great story! An inspirational description of courage and personal growth. And as usual, told with humor, self reflection and grace. Bonus: a perfect life lesson in how to know when to hold em and when to fold em. And, how to move on. You didn't flee, you flew!
here's to more adventures!
You're my hero!
I love how, if we let it, our inner destiny carries us on to where we need to be.
When you follow your instincts you rarely go wrong...and this story is a perfect example. I was on the masthead of a magazine too...I remember as an editor I got paid a whopping $5 an hour. Obviously the pay sucked, but I did see my name in print.
Great story Lea...and great for us you got away from that totally toxic family!
Brave lady. Not only did you leave, you made sure you burned the bridge to that hateful position.
Pity how some people never do leave work they hate. I believe "golden handcuffs" is the term for those who earn a good salary. Makes their life and so often that of the people they encounter pure misery.
Sometimes change seems harder than it is. leaving a job is daunting at th best of times but a bad boss makes life hellish. Good for you that you had the wherewithal to get out pronto.

It was a necessary ending that led to something much better. Congratulations on the EP.
Lea, you clearly knew the score at the magazine and were wise to break out of that crazy office as rapidly as you did! I can envision the place as the basis of some new reality show--surviving the magazine publishing family from below the earth's surface!
You're truly a lucky gal.
There is nothing that compares to freedom Lea. Almost un-beknownst to me - it is all I ever craved. My hope is that women like you and me aspire other women to that freedom. I should write more and inspire more, but I hope my work under the radar does the same. Your work above the radar is appreciated. All women should be, simply, FREE!
Sorry, I even tried to proof this one, aspire was misplaced. I think it should be inspire, but even that is not the word I wanted. Pleases edit Mom :-)
Wow! That sounds like a great place to work! They still have a need? . . .

Congrats to you. I, too, have no regrets over my decision to freelance. (I hate wearing shoes!)
And you are still traveling aren't you or are you back? Sometimes the leap of faith that we take, get the best results!
Great story and congrats on the EP!
I loved this. I work at a job I really don't like. I am good at it, it pays the bills and my family is worth it. Thank you for letting live vicariously through your story. Most def rate.
Yes, I'm still traveling. Once freed, I never stopped.
Good for you. Laughed out loud at your depiction of the workplace madness. I knew a guy who worked for a Gannett paper shortly after Neuharth started USA Today. The guy said Neuharth was indeed the SOB he admitted to being in his book. But it sounds as if Gannett was better than the job you fled.
This is so inspiring. I'm so happy you walked out and took an "extended lunch" that day!
This was AWESOME!!!!!! I loved it!!! Good for you!!! hahahaha!! I absolutely agree. "Security" in a job is not worth losing your peace. And the silent FU made you the dignified one. Blessings.
I just re-read this again...this time out loud to my husband, who also laughed. He said I should invite you to South Africa. The big cost is getting here, but once you're here, you'll fall in love with this country.
Risks vs. rewards is a thing I picked up from playing golf. I could feel that sense of freedom when you signed out for the final time. Yes! I am right with you on this topic. I wonder what you would have become without the confidence to take such a risk? Not the vibrant, world traveler that is for certain.
If the act of signing in and out makes it a socialist country, what would happen, God forbid, if you had to punch a time clock?
I love knowing this about you seeing through your eyes why, who you are and how you got there. I'm so glad you had the courage to quit.
Amazing, but not surprising! You're a flier if ever I saw one.
the logical endstate of the atomization of of work that has been going on for 100 years.
I walked away from an editing job 11 years ago. My financial situation, complicated by illness, is a disaster, but I'm happy. Glad to know there's a community of us with what a friend calls a low tolerance for BS. My mom worked for a tyrant family and felt she had no choice, but the matriarch made her life hell. We've been luckier or braver.