TAMPA — When Alonso High School assistant principal for administration Scott Hazlett announced he was resigning his position to take a year off and travel the world, the reaction ranged from shock to disbelief to some envy.
"I'm truly envious and I'm also proud of him,'' Alonso principal Kenneth Hart said. "It breaks my heart because he's a dear colleague and friend. But I can't say one bad thing about his decision.
"He said he was concerned about getting locked into the system, then a few years down the road, wishing he had done it but couldn't because he was in line for a principalship or another district position. He is truly seizing the day. I think he will come back a better man.''
Hazlett leaves July 4.
"My own Independence Day,'' he said.
Hazlett, whose job included serving as the school's athletic director, said timing makes this a perfect occasion for a life-changing adventure.
He's 32. He's "not currently in a relationship'' and he has no children. There are no health issues in his family.
"Initially, I was kind of shocked and a little bit apprehensive,'' said Karen Locklear, Hazlett's mother. "I thought, 'You have this career going and you're going to give it all up? Now what?'
"But you know, life is really for living. If you have this opportunity, you should do it. Too many times, we all hold back and let our fears get in the way.''
Upon his return, Hazlett plans to enter the teaching pool and be assigned to another campus as a social studies instructor for the 2018-19 school year. He's not counting on a return to Alonso, unless there's a perfectly timed opening. It's possible, but unlikely, that he could immediately plug back into an administrative post.
"Maybe something happens to me on the road that puts me in a different position,'' Hazlett said. "I would expect my life to change in some way. The more you travel, the more you get an understanding of how people live in other places.''
Hazlett, who has taken an extensive vacation almost every summer of his professional life, has always been interested in traveling to different cultures. He considered majoring in geography. As a child, he insisted on having a world map painted on his bedroom wall.
Three years ago, Hazlett had a serious car accident. He shattered his kneecap. He was young, but began considering his mortality and was reminded that he wasn't invincible.
"You start to realize how things can change in a split second,'' Hazlett said. "I've known a good amount of people that got cancer out of the blue. My own father died of a heart attack when I was in eighth grade. He was 51. Sometimes, you see people who are doing just fine, then all of a sudden they are faced with a struggle. Even when they are successful in their battles, they still can't do the things they wanted to do before.
"I always told people, 'Never delay something you really want to do.' Now that applies to me. I think this takes a certain amount of guts. Most people get very comfortable with what they're doing and they don't want to make a change until somebody forces them to do it. I take pleasure in knowing that I've made this decision. Now we get to see what happens.''
Hazlett, who estimates a budget of about $30,000 for his year-long trip, has generally planned his trip, but will keep many things open-ended.
He begins in South America. It's Peru, specifically Machu Picchu, then some jaunts to Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
He returns to Tampa for three days, then will be joined by his mother and brother for the next destination — Barcelona, Spain. Then it's Berlin and Budapest. Other likely stops: Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and New Zealand.
He will conclude with a 23-day transpacific cruise from Australia to Seattle — stopping in Hawaii and a series of South Pacific islands.
He will blog regularly about the year-long journey on his web site, InScottsShoes.com.
Hazlett said he's not a crazy risk taker, but he has a spirit of adventure. He has plotted his course, taken the necessary precautions (such as travel insurance and a series of immunizations). He will stay off the beaten path and visit smaller sites as opposed to large cities.
"Things can be replaced, but you can't replace experiences,'' Hazlett said. "Having experiences and sharing time with people, that's the best part of life.
"There will be things that happen on this trip that I could have never predicted. That's what makes it so fun. People always ask, 'What are you looking forward to the most?' I'm looking forward to the journey, the anticipation of it, the process, the experience. I can't wait.''
Contact Joey Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org.