Farewell, McKinsey & Hello, World!

Yesterday I returned my phone, computer and access card to the Firm, officially puting an end to my 1.5 years of consulting. I have been planning for this day, packed up all my earthly belongings and locked them up in a 1 cubic meter box in the outskirts of the city, got a Hong Kong sim card to by-pass the Chinese internet blockage, calculated savings from the McKinsey period, placed them into s separate account & marked it ‘to be spent’. Right now I’m on a plane, heading northwest, to start my journey.


My farewell e-mail to everyone I know at the Firm states that I am to ‘take an indefinite amount of time catching up on all the cool stuff I have not been doing enough; to re-gain inspiration and embrace (once again) the endless possibilities of the world’. 

Some has concluded this is a ‘gap year’; but I’d rather think of my time in the corporate world as an adventure outside of my usual routine. Sometimes it all feels like a role-playing game: wake up, put on my ‘consultant costume’ and head out to complete a bunch of pre-set tasks for the day. This world infacinating for an accidental tourist, almost as if there is an invisible bubble dividing us from reality. In this alternative world one gets delivered between planes, fancy offices and fancy hotel rooms; spending their days on calls, e-mails and meetings; making decent amount of money. This can be comforting and satisfying to many, leading to losing track of one’s dreams and goals, to wind up just tagging along and climb the ladder of conformality and prestige. So naturally I found myself steering away and setting sails into uncharted waters, once again.

When trying to come up with a list of things (anything anywhere in the world) I think way back into childhood and ask myself what I used to dream of and haven’t done (or done enough of) yet. Right now I found the major shortage would be building proficiency in outdoor activities – as a kid i remembered that I was no less passionate about the outdoors (from normal camping to expeditions into deep ocean and high mountains) than I was in, say, math or art. One difference, though, is that I’ve realized my mediocre talent in that area from very early on. Hence, I thought, since it’s not likely that I’ll be a great mountaineer or sportsman, this better wait till I have done a few years of stuff I’m actually good at. But this ‘itch’ has always been there. Time to take actions!

4 major themes of activities I would like to improve my proficiency in (some I have no experience in, such as ice climbing).

Note: not my images, for illustration & aspiration only

Ice & Snowimg_0762Landimg_0761Oceanimg_0760Skyimg_0759In addition of course there are less active hobbies I will continue to peesue, such as painting/sculpting and continue to expand my world map =)


It’s difficult to plan for an open-ended journey, so I have attacted like a large oil painting: one starts from a very rough sketch of the composition, then work up the ‘resolution’, one small section at a time, the parts closer to the painter gets more details filled in first while the objects further away remains a sketch with few brush strokes and lots of room for revision. Here is the current ‘sktech’ of 2017:

  • January – Feburary: Snow sports in the Alps, snowboarding, ice climbing and some mixed Alphine climbing
  • Feburary – March: UK, mainly outdoors in Scotland
  • Spring/Summer 2017: a subset of the following activities

– Australia & New Zeland for skydiving/hang gliding/hiking

– Himalayas to observe the mountaineering season and get some high-altitude experience (no Everest)

– Caribbeans/Hawaii/SE Asia for more advanced scuba diving and surfing

  • Summer/fall 2017: Southwest USA for pilot license, burning man and rock climbing (time to take steps towards my El Capitan dream)
  • Fall 2017: a subset of the following

– Europe for oil painting/drawing/sculpture workshops

– Convensional sight-seeing in a few parts of the world I have not been yet (Japan, Turkey, Morocco, Middle-East

– Patagonia for kayaking, climbing and hiking

  • Winter 2017: hopefully I may conclude the year in Antartica

Note that this is what I can come up with through day-dreaming behind an office desk, looking to improve it as I go and meet cool people; So if you have ideas/ recommendations/ couch to host random person in a cool place; shoot me an e-mail! =)

Finally, my New Year’s Eve greetings from Red Square, Moscow as on my way to the Alps~img_0763Let 2017 be a magical year for all!



A brief recollection of my 2016

When the crisp breeze replaced roast chestnut smell on the streets of Shanghai, I realized another year has slipped away…

So I’ve been in this management consulting gig for approximately 1.5 years now. Apologize that I have not been able to post here, there is a number of reasons for that…

Anyways, since this is likely the only full-year I’ll spend in ‘serious business’, I guess giving a brief summary could be interesting to those in & out of academia. (if not, this would at least be interesting to a future me =P) Note that I have to avoid discussing all client and project work for McKinsey.

Here we go~

January: Did an interesting side project of producing a short video for work


February: Got excited about LUNAR (an industrial design Firm we McKinsey has acquired), started to review industrial sketching and went to San Francisco to meet LUNAR


March: My birthday, and through work I somehow got involved in the furniture design scene in Shanghai, made some designer friends and went to various shows

April: Spent the whole month and some more in Korea on a project, but hardly ever got out of the hotel/office (well, except for some shopping at the end)


May: Got on a random project in a 4th-tier city in the middle of China, decided to reward myself to a weekend in Paris (or shall I say Paris Disneyland? >.<)

June: Short business trip in Copenhagen =)


Then took a detour to Sweden and bumped into a very, very old friend (from middle school!)

July: On what’s probably my favorite project in McKinsey, confidential stuff aside, went on a team event with some hardcore partying in Macau (infact I got out from the party in a wheelchair, oh well, good crazy times =)

August: Company retreat in Tibet (we shipped over 500 consultants from 4 offices to Lhasa, largest group in Tibet ever; many passed out due to altitude upon arrival XD) Mostly just spent days staying in a fancy hotel with other consultants, I don’t quite get the point of being in Tibet for that, except for getting a room with huge bathroom, and I got bored so experimented with traditional Tibet costume

September: Project in Beijing, stayed in the trendy W hotel with a round bathtub & view from the office is the CCTV building; but in fact had a rather miserable few weeks

Then went to Singapore for a training

October: Went surfing in Indonesia (after all, I still find super basic hostels with an ocean view better than any glamours place)


Took a week off to go to Australia (completely an impulsive decision, woke up and bought a same-day flight =P) Generally tried various flying (skydiving, hang-gliding, gliding…) during the day and caught shows in the evenings

November: Went to Yangshuo again to enhance my rock climbing skills, finally comfortable with leading some lower grades, rewarded myself with that red quick-draw set I’ve been wanting for years =)

December: I finally visited the Shanghai Disneyland! (ok…I procrastinated for 5 months because I was too afraid it’s not going to live up to expectations…turns out was a good park overall =) Spotted most of my work from 2014! (anyone remember that statue from this 2014 post when I was working in Disney?)