You Don’t Have to Ditch the 9 to 5 in Order to Travel

Amanda in Scotland

I've been at this whole travel blogging thing for a while now – nearly seven years, in fact.

And in those seven years, I've noticed a trend that has remained fairly constant throughout my world of travel blogs and Instagram accounts: the insistence that you'll only ever be happy and fulfilled if you quit your job to travel the world.

While many cubicle dwellers probably do dream about handing in their two-weeks notice in order to go gallivanting around the globe, there are plenty of others for whom that's either just not feasible, or who simply don't have the desire to leave their current lifestyle behind in order to travel.

And I just wanted to say today that that's okay.

Amanda at Fort Island Gulf Beach

The people out there who insist that travel and a 9-to-5 job can't possibly exist in harmony together in someone's life have missed the mark, in my opinion.

Sure, I love the location-independent life that I've been lucky enough to be able to build for myself, but I would never tell someone else that this is the only route to happiness and a travel-filled life. I never truly “quit my job to travel,” mostly because I never felt comfortable enough to do so – and I also realized fairly early in my travel career that being a digital nomad without a home was not the lifestyle for me.

You don't have to ditch the 9-to-5 in order to travel. And here are a few reasons why you maybe shouldn't:

Travel is not cheap

There's no way around it: travel costs money. And, depending on where in the world you want to travel, the amount of money required can balloon exponentially (I'm looking at you, Australia and the UK!). Unless you've spent years saving up money in order to take a long-term dream trip, chances are it's not going to be financially feasible for you to quit your job to travel.

Amanda on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland

Some parts of the world just simply are not cheap – like Iceland!

And this is fine! Quitting a job to travel when you aren't financially able to do so just isn't smart. I can tell you from personal experience that stressing about money on the road takes away from your enjoyment of your travels.

Remote work isn't for everyone

Many people will tell you that, in order to afford the digital nomad lifestyle, you just need to get a job that will let you work remotely. And, while this is good advice in theory, the reality is that it's not always easy to just “get a remote job.” Many remote jobs still require you to work a certain number of hours per day – and sometimes even a specific set of hours per day. Remote work can also be challenging if you've never been your own boss before. Do you know how difficult it can be to get motivated when you have the freedom to work in your pajamas and check Facebook whenever you want??

GowithOh apartment in Barcelona, Spain

Remote work isn't always this scenic.

And, when it comes down to it, some people actually do enjoy working in a corporate or office environment with a set routine every day. Maybe it's not everyone's dream to work in a cubicle, but I don't think anyone has the right to judge people who do really like things like set work hours, a steady paycheck, health benefits, and a 401K.

Long-term travel isn't for everyone

Like I mentioned before, I discovered a while ago that long-term travel and I just don't mix. Even though at one point I assumed I would be perfectly happy to travel indefinitely, I learned that a state of constant movement just wore me out and actually made me a little unhappy. I really *like* having a home base and familiar things to return to after being away for a while. My travel style, it turns out, is one more suited to shorter adventures.

Many bloggers and digital nomads will tell you that you can't truly “travel” on shorter trips, and that you need to spend a lot of time in a place to truly experience it. And while it is true that you'll probably never feel like a local in a destination if you only stay for a few days, it doesn't mean that one travel style is inherently better than the other. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes and interests, and this means that one travel style doesn't fit all.

Amanda at Horseshoe Bend

So if you feel like the only way to “really travel” is to quit your job, pack a backpack, and hit the road forever, I'm here to tell you that that definitely is not the only way.

You don't *have* to travel in order to be fulfilled

Lastly, this whole post kind of assumes that you do actually want to travel, or that you feel that your life will be more fulfilled if you go out and explore the world. This has certainly been true for me, but it would be naive and maybe even ignorant of me to assume that this is true of everyone.

You've probably heard this travel quote by Saint Augustine before:

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

It's a good quote, to be sure, but it actually kind of bothers me. If you think about, it basically suggests that people who don't travel are uneducated and close-minded; that they're somehow missing something vital in their lives if they don't travel.

But I'm calling bullshit on this one.

Travel is not a priority for everyone, and not all people would be upset if they never left their home country, state, or even city. And yet we're supposed to look down on people for this? That's just silly.

Amanda in Cleveland

Hey, I like being home in Ohio, too!

I *do* think that travel helps break down prejudices and can teach us a lot about the world, but I don't think it's fair to judge people for whom traveling just isn't important.

For me, traveling and running this blog help me feel fulfilled. But for other people, working a 9-to-5 and raising a family might be the things that make them feel fulfilled. And neither scenario is “better” than the other.

So if you've never been inspired by all those “I quit my job to travel the world” posts, that's totally fine. That doesn't have to be your path.

You don't have to quit your job to travel

Let's say you DO want to travel, but leaving your job isn't something you want to do. There are definitely ways to have both a job and home base AND still travel a lot.

Some ways you can do this include:

Make the most of vacation time and holidays. If you're an American, you probably don't get a lot of paid vacation time. But assuming you do get *some* time off, be sure that you're taking advantage of it (don't be like all those people who leave vacation days on the table every year!). You can stretch your 2 weeks much further if you plan travel around paid holidays, or if you can elect to work your holidays and save them up for later. And if you have a work trip during the week? Extend it into a weekend so you can have time to explore without using any vacation time.

Amanda in Seattle

There are tons of great destinations for long weekends – like Seattle!

Keep an eye on travel deals. Going back to that point about travel being expensive, you can make it more manageable by keeping an eye on and taking advantage of travel deals. Check sites like Groupon for local deals, and sign up for mailing lists from specific airlines, or from travel aggregators like TravelZoo, so you can be alerted to big savings opportunities.

Travel closer to home. Many people assume that “traveling” has to include long plane journeys and far-away destinations. But this isn't true! You can travel closer to home, too, which costs less and usually doesn't require nearly as much vacation time. And no matter where you live, chances are there are really interesting things to see and do within a couple hours of you.

Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie

Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie in Ohio (less than 2 hours from where I live!).

Take a sabbatical. If you think that long-term travel *might* be something you'd like to do, I always recommend trying it out first before you go all-in. Before you completely quit your job and sell all your stuff, see if it's possible to do a trial run for at least a few weeks. Talk to your boss about taking a sabbatical or some unpaid leave – it won't work with every employer, but some might be agreeable to it. And this way if you decide you hate the nomadic lifestyle, you'll still have the safety net of a job to go back to until you figure out what to do next.

Look for jobs that require travel. Even though traveling for work usually isn't the same as traveling for fun, there *are* plenty of jobs out there that require some amount of travel. Maybe looking for a job like this would help you scratch that travel itch while still giving you the financial security of a full-time job.

Cultivate skills that can be done remotely. Think that maybe the 9-to-5 isn't quite the right fit, but can't rely on savings to feed your travel habit? This is the case for many people, so don't feel like you're alone. Before you quit your job, I would figure out what skills you already have that could be translated to freelance or remote work. (Can you write? Edit? Build websites? Design awesome graphics?) And if you don't already have a skill that could potentially give you some location freedom, figure out if there's a way to cultivate one of these skills. Is there a night class you could take after work, or a weekend seminar, or even an online course?

Amanda at Moraine Lake

Travel photography is tough to make money from, but it's an option!

At the end of the day, just remember that you are living YOUR life, and you know far better than anyone on the internet what will and won't work for your lifestyle (and hey, that applies to me, too!).

If you don't feel the urge to quit your job and travel, don't. And don't let anyone make you feel bad about it.

Because the truth is that you can absolutely have a 9-to-5 job and still enjoy traveling the world.

What do you think? Do you think there's pressure to either have a job OR travel the world?

 

You don't have to quit your job to travel

 

53 Comments

  • Kristin says:

    Thank you for writing this article! As much as I’d love to quit my job and travel, I also love the stability of my career that I went to college for and worked really hard to get. It also easily funds my trips that I want to take. I just wish America was nicer to us with vacation time! C’est la vie!

    • Amanda says:

      Ugh, I know, I wish the US was more generous! But I totally understand where you’re coming from – having a solid career that can fund your travel is awesome!

    • Ying says:

      I agree! I get so envious when I hear about the Australians who save up their vacation time for 2 years and then use all 6 weeks at once every two years. What a dream!

  • Kirsten says:

    This is awesome but i’d still prefer not to have my job and to travel. I think I could be happy blogging or doing something else.

    -Kirsten // http://www.porkandcookies.com

    • Amanda says:

      I’m sure plenty of people would agree! Maybe you’ll have to pursue that at some point and see. 🙂

    • Totally agree with you Kirsten! I quit & traveled for 3 years without selling anything & not working. I took trips every month vs. being on the road. I believe the people who want to quit want more freedom in their lives. Also, there is a difference between working remotely and just taking vacations….you are still working. But, it is an individual choice. Glad I quit & went on my sabbatical.

      • Amanda says:

        It’s absolutely an individual choice! And yes, working remotely definitely does not equal just going on vacation, no matter what some of my friends and family seem to believe. 😉

  • Angélica says:

    I love this article! Very honest and refreshing as well. I think I feel the same as you – I love traveling, but I also just love short trips and coming home. I don’t think I’d be good at traveling full time either, it’s nice to recharge at home. Nowadays it feels like you should really be a digital nomad and on the road all the time but I agree with you – it’s not for everyone. Definitely not for me!
    Great tips as well 🙂 I love exploring cities in my own (tiny) country as well!

    • Amanda says:

      Exactly – it’s just not for everyone (either lifestyle-wise, or financially). And that’s fine! I love the balance I’ve struck between traveling and being at home!

  • Leigh says:

    Great points! I feel like people get so judgy about this when they’ve left behind the 9-5, but there are definitely perks – health insurance, paid vacation, free bagels 🙂 (Although I’m leaving mine behind in 4 months, haha!) Also, set your priorities – you can earn way more than 2 weeks vacation a year if travel is important but you still want a steady gig. I earn 4 weeks a year, plus another week of personal/sick time. Government jobs and teaching seem to get a lot more paid holidays than the rest of us, too!
    Leigh recently posted..Chelsea Market Food and Culture Walking Tour

    • Amanda says:

      All such great points! But I agree – I hate when “digital nomads” look down upon people who haven’t decided to follow the same path for whatever reason!

    • Polly says:

      I feel like bragging will make my job magically disappear… but as a teaching assistant at an independent school, I get almost ten weeks off each year. This is the first year I’m in this position (full-time employee *with* summers off) and I’m planning to celebrate with a couple of two-week trips this summer!
      Polly recently posted..Hamilton – An American Muscial

  • I tried both of these (a full time corporate job and full-time traveling with a remote job) and neither worked out for me…now I’m what I call a serial expat 🙂 I live abroad and work non-remote jobs in that place – right now I’m teaching English in Japan. I love the experiences I get living like a local by staying in places for years instead of days, but it does come at a price – I think I traveled MORE when I had a corporate job, because I had a higher salary and more disposable income! But you are right – people need to find what works best for them and it’s not the same for everyone.
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Months 54-55 Roundup – January and February 2017

    • Amanda says:

      Excellent example of how one travel style definitely doesn’t fit all! It sounds like you’ve found a great alternative to both options, though!

  • Mary Janes says:

    I think life is all about balance and I feel we have found our perfect balance between travel, pursuing creative endeavors and having a home life in San Diego.

    For us, it’s more important to own a business or work for an employer which allows us to have enough time to travel than to limit the other aspects of our lives. Scott enjoys the steady paycheck of working for someone else and I personally have always loved working for myself, supplementing my income with very flexible part-time work.
    Mary Janes recently posted..Best Wide Cycling Shoes Reviews 2017

    • Amanda says:

      It’s great that you’ve found that balance! Me and my partner are similar – he likes the security of his corporate job, and I love the freedom of working for myself and being able to travel more frequently!

  • Bea & Csaba says:

    It was so good to read this post! That’s why we like your blog so much – you show how to find balance between travel and everyday life. We are passionate travelers but we also couldn’t think of giving up on our home and our jobs. Travelling is a very good thing and coming back to our sweet home is also good, and when we can mix these things perfectly that’s happiness 😀 – that’s how we feel.
    Sometimes we feel the pressure of becoming a full-time traveler – it seems like it’s the new norm and having a home and a job could only be part of a boring life – but as we come to think of it, actually, most of our favorite travel bloggers are not full-time nomads. Not that being one would be bad. But it’s not the point and we believe there’s no ultimate way to happiness. Everyone can find their own way though. 🙂
    Bea & Csaba recently posted..How We’ve Fallen In Love With Milan In 12 Steps

    • Amanda says:

      Traveling full-time is a lot of work and sometimes very stressful. I actually think you find that even full-time travelers eventually slow down or settle down in some way – it’s not a lifestyle that’s sustainable for everyone! But I’ve always been of the opinion that there’s no “wrong” way to travel, as long as it works for you.

  • Anwar says:

    I’ve had mixed feelings about some of the options people mention in terms of remote work. I have a “9-5” job and I’ve managed to travel more than a lot of others. Sometimes even your employer will work with you in terms of allowing you some time off in-between projects or something. I don’t love fully-remote although it seems I”m going that way regardless as I do love having coworkers and some structure and of course the ability to network with people even internally for other opportunities.
    Anwar recently posted..Reviews of the Best Travel Surge Protectors

    • Amanda says:

      So true – sometimes you just have to work up the courage to ask your boss about the possibilities. Some jobs can be much more flexible than most people think!

  • I think it’s rather unrealistic for most of the people to quit their job and just travel. it costs a lot plus not everyone’s job is suitable for remote work
    Tanja (the Red phone box travels) recently posted..My English memories: Norwich

  • Dominique says:

    I completely agree with your post. I love my 8 to 6 job (I keep Fridays off so I can travel long weekends) and I also love travel. I personally find it easy to combine both. I actually prefer doing both because I like to separate my hobbies from my work so that my hobbies remain fun 🙂 I certainly don’t want my travels to feel like a chore.
    Dominique recently posted..Thalassery Fort

    • Amanda says:

      That’s so smart! Travel is more or less my job these days, but I understand what you mean about not wanting to turn something you love into something you no longer enjoy. Thankfully I still love what I do. But if that ever changes, I have nothing against getting a (flexible) “real” job again in order to keep loving travel.

  • Natalie says:

    I love that you point out that what be good for one person isn’t that good for another. I romanticize the idea of full time travel, even now with kids. But the truth is that hotel rooms are usually not designed with kids in mind, so that part isn’t relaxing or fun at all.

    However, sometimes B&Bs are pretty awesome. I stayed at a great place in Vermilion, Ohio, which is another underrated neat place to visit. My kids loved Lake Erie.

    Also, I really wanted to go on a grand beach vacation, but money was tight last year. Vermilion really hit the mark for us. It was closer and cheaper! I’m sure every place has hidden gems.
    Natalie recently posted..Eating with Careless Abandon in Mexico (with Celiac Disease)

  • Yasmina says:

    I love this article! I myself just started a travel blog because I love traveling. But I still work and so does my husband. We wouldn’t be able to travel full time and that’s ok. As long as we still travel when we can. I’d love it if you would follow me on Bloglovin’!
    Yasmina recently posted..Bucket List Worthy! – Ice Hotel Quebec City

  • Ying says:

    Thanks for this article! I get 10 days vacation per year so I always dream about quitting to travel at my leisure. But it’s nice to be reminded that I can still travel with the job that I do have.

    I thought about the quote from Saint Augustine and it doesn’t bother me, actually. I read it more as gently reminding people that there are many perspectives in the world and by not traveling, you see only what’s in your own little bubble in the world. I do think it would be really beneficial if everyone gets the chance to explore other cultures and meet people of other backgrounds. You know, seeing the world with their own eyes instead of through the lens of the media. It might foster more understanding and empathy. But I do agree that it’s silly and mistaken to look down on someone for not wanting to travel.

    • Amanda says:

      I would love it if everyone in the world could travel somewhere different than where they grew up – travel absolutely is beneficial, especially when it comes to smashing stereotypes about places and people. BUT, it’s not realistic for everyone, and I don’t think anyone should feel like they’re missing out if they can’t afford to travel to the other side of the world!

  • chewy says:

    Thanks for this encouraging post! I am one of those people who wants to have a job and travel at the same time, so it’s nice to hear this from you! It’s not an all or nothing game, and no one needs to feel like they are “losing”!

  • Crystal says:

    I loved this post. It spoke directly to my heart. I’ve always wanted that nomadic lifestyle, but I know I don’t want to give up my 9-5 job either. Good job 🙂

  • Hayley says:

    This post speaks so much to me. As a remote worker who tries to travel as much as possible while still maintaining a home base, I can tell you: it can be logistically challenging. I’m lucky to be able to take my job anywhere but I have to maintain an 8-5 PST schedule. Currently, I’m focusing more on travel within my own state and trips I can do over the weekend.

    • Amanda says:

      Ooo yes, having a set schedule of work hours definitely makes it tough! But it sounds like you’re striking a good compromise – and actually you could travel virtually anywhere in North (and South!) America and be able to stick to those hours.

  • Kendal says:

    Thank you for writing this post. Every word you wrote is 100% true. Although a sabbatical interests me, I could never travel full-time; I need the comforts of a home! Plus, where can I display and enjoy all those goodies I’ve collected while on the road?

  • Denis says:

    Good points but in practice unfortunately travelling only couple of weeks a year keeps the unfilfillement sentiment all along and the attempt to do as much as possible within the holiday period is ending up typcially in higher spending costs all across, not mentionning flights in itself, willing to see as much as possible in as short time as possible. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!=)

    • Amanda says:

      I don’t necessarily agree – and there are plenty of people who, frankly, don’t have any other choice. Not everyone is able to have unlimited vacation time, as much as they might like it. (Not to mention that not everyone would feel “unfulfilled” with only a couple weeks of vacation every year. Not everyone loves travel!)

  • Ioanna says:

    Yes! I also try to combine my regular full-time job with travels. I’m a teacher and I try to use my holiday and break time to go hiking. I hope to go more often for long weekend trips and use my summer vacation to the fullest.

    I not only can’t afford quitting my job, but I also like it! Writing a blog helps me re-live my trips for much longer (going back to my photos and writing a focused story on it).

    As I’m mostly a hiker, I probably wouldn’t be able to do more than a month in a row of hiking non-stop, it’s actually really tiring! 😀

    Happy travel, Amanda and thank you for this post!

    Ioanna (A Woman Afoot)
    Ioanna recently posted..Between Goat Eyes and Fresh Strawberries: Why Visiting La Boqueria Market in Barcelona is a MUST!

  • I think there is so much pressure to quit your job and travel if you want to travel “for real.” I’m glad you’ve called this out because it’s just ridiculous. Personally, I have a location independent business and my husband has a 9-to-5. When I’m at home (which is most of the time!) I run my business based on his works schedule so that we can make the most of our time together. And I love the routine. I enjoy quitting work at 6 and cooking dinner in my own kitchen. But I love location independence too because offices exhaust me and when I do travel I can stay a little longer because I don’t have to take off from work. I imagine it’s better (at least for me) than the vagabonding existence I wanted for myself when I was 22.
    Erin Southerland recently posted..An Easy Tool for Planning Weekend Trips: TravelWits

    • Amanda says:

      Different things work for different people, but I’m absolutely with you! I’m technically “location independent” now, but I actually find it really difficult to work when I’m not at home in my familiar “work” environment!

  • Exactly!

    This is so what my blog is about!

    I have a corporate job which I absolutely love and I still travel a hell of a lot. In fact, I’ve already been to 4 countries, and we’re still only in March!

    p.s. Even though I love travelling to exotic places my husband doesn’t, and that’s perfectly alright! ‘Nice one Amanda!
    Victoria @The British Berliner recently posted..Vienna – the world capital of music, music everywhere!

  • It drives me crazy, the stigma in our travel universe that you’re only a true traveler if you live the life of a full-time nomad. Anytime, I have back-to-back trips and am gone more than 10 days, I start to feel panic with all the work that piles up in my absence and am more than happy to get back home again. I like living a life of balance and I LOVE owning a home. So excited for you to start your next chapter, too =)

    • Amanda says:

      I’m with you – back-to-back trips tend to stress me out because I can never fall into my “work routine” when I’m on the road, and I end up falling so behind on everything!

  • I just came across your blog today. (3-27). Very inspirational. As a retired air traffic controller who travels with my disabled daughter, I haven’t been very focused, but I did recognize sitting at home 24/7 isn’t an option. I am switching to aviation photography so I can remained connected to aviation. 2016 was a fun summer for my daughter and myself and 2017 promises to be even better! Following your blog will allow me to get a feel for the blogging thing. I look forward to joy of travel even more!..…….Tom

    • Amanda says:

      Aviation photography sounds cool! I have a few aviation fans in my own family. 🙂 I hope you do indeed have an even better travel year in 2017!

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