Why I DIDN’T Quit My Job to Travel

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You all know the story: cubicle-dweller dreams of travel, saves up money, and eventually waves adios to desk job and embarks upon a global adventure.

It's a pretty standard story among long-term travelers — and especially amongst travel bloggers.

Go to many of the “big” travel blogs out there, and you'll probably find a post titled something along the lines of “I Quit My Job to Travel the World.” With so many travel bloggers being digital nomads and working as they hop from country to country, I feel like readers sometimes assume that this is the only way to do it; that the only way to travel the world is to quit your job, sell your stuff, and buy a laptop to take your show on the road.

Well guess what? You definitely don't have to quit your job in order to travel the world.

Travel quote

I've written before about the fact that you CAN, in fact, have your cake and eat it, too. You CAN fit travel into a more “normal” lifestyle — one that includes a job and a fixed address.

And so I'm here to tell you about why I DIDN'T quit my job to travel the world.

To be fair, I HAVE quit jobs before. I quit a waitressing job after college in order to take a “big kid job” at a newspaper in 2009. And I quit that newspaper job in 2011 in order to go back to school once I decided to get my master's degree. After I finished graduate school in 2013, I chose not to look for a new job right away. Instead, I decided to try my hand at blogging and freelancing full-time — so I could travel more, of course.

This might *sound* like quitting a job to travel the world — but in reality it was taking on a completely different form of employment.

Office on Mykonos
My workspace went from a desk at Kent State's library to places like this.

Right after grad school, I took off on what was supposed to be a 7-month trip around the world. I was going to lay on beaches in Greece and play with elephants in Thailand and eat ALL the pasta in Italy. I was going to visit markets and soak up history and meet all sorts of cool people.

I decided my blog was at a point where it could support me financially (as long as I picked up some freelance work along the way, too), and only saved up a small amount before flying to Europe.

You probably think this sounds awesome. And, in many ways, it WAS awesome. Traveling is the single best thing I've ever done in my life, and it's changed me in so many ways.

Travel quote

But, before you idealize it too much, let me tell you that this sort of lifestyle is HARD, guys. Like, really hard. Yes, I got to see some amazing places. And yes, it was nice being my own boss and making my own hours. But, in the end, I just couldn't hack it.

Flashback. It was the summer of 2013, a couple of months into my epic around-the-world trip. I was in a hostel bar in Florence at 1 p.m. on a Friday, ripping my hair out as I fought to connect to the hostel's woefully weak wifi signal. It only worked in the afternoons (when nobody else was trying to use it), and so naturally getting any work done meant skipping out on other things like art museums and walking tours.

I cried myself to sleep one night because I was so stressed out about meeting my deadlines when I couldn't find a decent wifi signal — it almost ruined my week in Florence.

Flash forward a few weeks to me on a bus in Poland, close to tears once again because I was down to less than $100 in my bank account as I waited for nearly $2,000 in freelance invoices to be paid — of course they were ALL late.

Living this way was beyond stressful, and by the time I hit the 3-month mark of my trip, I realized that this sort of lifestyle wasn't really for me. I couldn't deal with hustling so much for work, and never knowing when I would get paid (and having to chase down money I was owed) gave me my first gray hairs.

I decided to go home early — mostly because I was broke, but also so I could spend some time re-evaluating things. For so long, I thought that the whole “I quit my job to travel the world” thing would become my story, too. But, as it turns out, my story was about to take on a slightly different plot.

Travel quote

I knew I didn't want to stop traveling, and I knew I didn't want to give up the freedom that goes along with being location-independent (i.e. not bound to an office). But I also knew that being permanently nomadic, jumping from city to city and freelance gig to freelance gig, wasn't going to work for me.

Yet, I knew I couldn't stop traveling, either. I've been bitten by the travel bug, and, as Michael Palin once said, “I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.”

Giving up travel was not an option — so what was left to do?

Travel quote

Eventually, I decided to take a few months off from traveling and focus on finding work that I could do remotely but that would guarantee me a steady paycheck each month.

And that's exactly what I did. I GOT a job instead of quitting one.

Taking time to search for work that would still allow me a lot of flexibility paid off — I'm now working part-time for an awesome social media startup. The pay (coupled with the other freelance work I'm doing and the occasional blog ad or brand partnership) is enough for me to feel secure, and the fact that I work remotely means I can put in my hours from anywhere in the world.

GETTING a job instead of QUITTING one was actually the best thing to happen to me.

It means I have more balance; more stability. I don't have to rely on advertising on my site quite as much anymore to ensure that I can pay my rent (or my new health insurance bills — yuck). I can plan bigger and cooler trips. And I can be more selective about which companies I do and don't work with.

For me, it's the ideal situation. In 2015, I'll be visiting at least 2 new countries, and will be going back to about 4 more that I've visited and loved in the past. I know I won't have any of those crying-in-my-room-because-I'm-so-broke moments any more, which will mean I can tell even better stories than before.

Hooker Valley Track at Mount Cook
There's no telling where I might go next!

I'm not saying you have to table your dream of ditching the cubicle to travel the world — feel free to keep that inspirational calendar on the wall and to keep squirreling away money in that piggy bank. I'm just saying that the travel lifestyle you've been dreaming of might not actually exist.

Instead of quitting your job and selling all your stuff to travel when you don't even know if you'll LIKE that lifestyle, find out how to pack more travel into the lifestyle you already have.

There are plenty of ways to travel a lot that don't necessarily require you to completely quit your job. The 9-5 doesn't HAVE to suck.

Here are 5 ways you can keep your job AND spend more of your time traveling:

  • Maximize your paid vacation time — In the U.S., I know that our paid vacation time sucks. Companies aren't actually required to give you ANY, so most people are pretty happy to get 2 weeks of paid vacation per year. If this is all you get, try to maximize it by planning travel around other paid holidays and weekends. If you're able to work holidays and “bank” extra days off, do it and extend your travel time even more.
  • Ask if you can do your job remotely — In a day and age where smartphones and wifi are the norm, many jobs can now be done from home — or remotely. Even if you've worked in an office all your life, that doesn't mean that your job HAS to be done from an office. If you have a good relationship with your boss, consider having a chat to see if your job might be able to be done remotely. You would still have to work, but this would give you a lot more flexibility when it comes to travel.
  • Ask if you can work remotely for a few weeks out of the year — If working remotely permanently isn't an option, see if you can negotiate a few weeks per year. You could then pair this with your paid vacation time to go on longer trips abroad.
  • Look for a job that requires you to travel — If you're not tied to your current job, consider looking for a new one that would require you to travel for work. A business trip on a Thursday or Friday could easily extend into a long weekend in a new city — and you could probably rack up a decent amount of frequent flyer miles, too.
  • Consider if you have skills/knowledge you could leverage into a freelance position — Lastly, take stock of your skills. Do you have any specialized ones that you could take advantage of? Maybe start a part-time business on the side and, if it does well, do what I did and go freelance! Now, don't get me wrong — being a freelancer can be more work than a normal 9-5 job. But getting to be your own boss and travel whenever you want certainly makes up for the extra hours.

And, at the end of the day, just remember that you don't HAVE to quit your job in order to see the world. I didn't, and it's working out pretty well for me!

So what do you think? Have you ever considered quitting your job in order to travel?

 

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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214 Comments on “Why I DIDN’T Quit My Job to Travel

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  1. Sounds like a good plan to me. I think I responded to another post one time saying that I’ve figured out that I don’t *like* traveling more than 4-5 weeks at a time before returning to a home base. Which doesn’t necessarily have to be “home” but does need to be a place where I can just chill, do laundry and not do “travel” stuff. Home is clearly the best place for that, but friends’ homes work too.. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I actually really like my career as a software geek, and the kind of software I do requires that I sit in a lab with equipment that doesn’t travel well. So I’m in the “work a lot, then travel” mode of life. Except that I did that so much in 2012,2013 and 2014 that I’m just a little bit burned out on travel. Sitting on the plane home from Spain a month ago I was totally “screw this – I’m not leaving home in 2015”. That changed, of course, but I *did* cancel my trip to Vietnam that was scheduled to happen two weeks after I got home from Spain.

    This year I will actually have travel – just not a “lot” of travel, and not all involving passports. A week in Bali at the beginning of May. A week hiking the Grand Canyon and a week hiking the Colorado trail in July/August. A bit less than a week in Singapore in the early autumn, and I’m teetering on the edge of December in New Zealand to escape the first month of winter, and do a bunch of hiking.

    That’s it – three “passport” trips that will allow me to maintain my United Gold status and give me a bit of adventure and beyond that lots of work and wallowing in the joys of Colorado – a place *other* people travel to on vacation. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Sounds like an awesome plan to me! I didn’t do a ton of traveling in 2014 – big trips to Asia (at the beginning of the year) and New Zealand (at the end of the year), but then just a few smaller, US trips in between. It was exactly what I needed. Now I’m ready for some serious travel in 2015!

      But yeah… I always love knowing that I have a “home” to come back to at the end of my trips. And, like you, 4-6 weeks seems to be my sweet spot when it comes to the length of a trip!

      I totally agree with the idea of needing to get back home once in maybe every month. In addition to the relaxing opportunity it provides, it also better allow me to put my travels in a context. It gives me the chance to step back and better asses each country I have been to from the comfort of home. Burcu (www.burcubasar.com)

        Yes, I’m the same way! I need time in between trips to decompress and process my travels (not to mention edit photos and get caught up on work/emails!). Going on shorter trips really works for me.

    This is so refreshing to read. I’ve followed your blog for some time so I know that you don’t travel full-time as so many other successful bloggers do, and that’s cool because, like you say, it’s whatever works for you as an individual. Much as I love travelling, and I love long-term trips because they allow you so much more time to really get under the skin of a country or a destination, I also like having a base to return to, and family and friends to spend quality time with. My goal isn’t to sell everything I own to travel, it’s to find a balance just like you have. Granted I have a long way to go, and it has been difficult juggling writing, social media, and photo-editing with a full-time job, whilst still having time to live and to enjoy life. But I’m just as passionate about my blog now as I was when I started it a little over a year ago, and I hope one day to be able to use the skills and experience I have acquired through running it to help me find work outside of local government administration. Thanks for sharing your words of encouragement and inspiration! ๐Ÿ™‚

      It’s good that you’re still loving your blog, Kiara! I totally can relate to how difficult it can be to balance everything, especially when you’re working full-time. I’ve been there! I’ve found a really great balance now – a mixture of freelance and contract work that still allows me to spend time on my blog. Though there’s always a trade-off – there are never enough hours in the day to do everything! Haha. But I definitely wouldn’t be able to sustain what I’m doing if I didn’t have a home base to work from.

    I didn’t quit my job to travel – I quit my stable, reliable, frustrating job in London to go freelance. I’ve always wanted to work for myself, run my own business. I worked my ass off for two years, sometimes 80-90 hours a week, but I’m now at the point where I work 8-9 months of the year and enjoy time off over winter, and if anything crops up, I have two part-timers who can take care of anything while I’m away. True I work nearly all spring, summer and autumn, but as my job involves a lot of travel around the UK, I fit in local excursions and weekends away. And since I love my work, I don’t consider it a job ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like you, I’m happy with travelling around work, I’m happy working. Long-term travel isn’t for me, I like having a home to come back to, to put my feet up and look back through photos with a cuppa and smile, knowing that I have paid work to go towards another week away somewhere!

      Sounds pretty awesome to me, Rachel! I think a lot of people mistakenly think that it has to be either-or when it comes to work and travel. But the reality is that you definitely CAN do both.

      And, like you, I LIKE working. I like having things to do and goals to work towards.

    It’s great to see that it is possible to travel a lot even with a job. I was planning on taking months off to travel, but didn’t want to be stuck at a job I hated for awhile, so I ended up taking a working holiday visa instead. I still work full time but being in a new country makes me feel like I’m travelling, and when I get days off I get to explore the country.

      Oooo I should add that to my list! Working holidays can be a FANTASTIC way to still make money, but also explore a new country at the same time.

    There should be more posts like this! I’m lucky enough to get a regular job that allows me to work remotely. The longest I’ve traveled while working is only three months. I still prefer to work from home, and be completely free of thoughts about work while I am traveling. I don’t want to be worrying about deadlines and other work concerns instead of being in the moment and savoring the experience! Also, wi-fi woes are the worst!

    The key is to balance between work and travel. I make do with small weekend trips between bigger and 2-week long trips. Maybe if I do try to work away from home again, I’ll make sure to stay in one place for at least a month, so I can really get into work mode, instead of forcing myself to work while I’m in my holiday mode.

      Isn’t working remotely the best? There are definitely more and more remote positions these days – you just have to look for them! I’m lucky now to be working with a team that supports my “other job” (i.e. this blog), and doesn’t mind me taking a week off here or there, or working from the other side of the world.

    Great post! I learned in my last round of travel that shorter trips are definitely more my style. Or at least break them up with a ‘home base’ once in a while…wherever that home may be. I’m off to Europe for a few months, then I’m planning on coming back to the US for the summer and getting a job, then back to Europe for the fall. It’s a nice way to regroup, earn back some of the losses from an expensive Europe, and then I can be off again ready and excited to travel! It’s so important for everyone to learn, understand, and respect their own travel styles and to not try and travel like ‘everyone else’ just because that’s what you think travel should be like. Find what works for you and own it! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Yup, it’s so important to explore your travel style before committing to this lifestyle! I would actually counsel people AGAINST completely quitting a job to travel unless they are absolutely SURE they can’t imagine life any other way. Travel isn’t always as dreamy as people imagine it to be!

    You have definitely found what works for you and that’s the thing, the ‘dream’ is different for everyone. I have been working contracts for most of the past 10 years then travelling between jobs. Also, living as an expat is a great way to experience a new culture which is also what I have been doing.

      Yup, and someone else’s dream may not end up working as well for you! I can definitely see myself living as an expat someday – it would allow me the sort of balance I need, yet still allow for plenty of travel!

    I love to travel and work. It helps me pay for my travels, makes me feel like less of a bum and makes my CV look a lot better. I’ve learned a lot of new skills because of it too!

      Haha, I like the part about making you feel like less of a bum! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      But yeah… you can definitely pick up new skills – and it definitely doesn’t look bad on a resume!

    I love this post. You’re right that a lot of travel bloggers follow a similar path but its nice to know people can still travel significantly without going down the same path.

      Definitely! It’s all about finding out what works best for YOU, and not worrying about what everyone else is doing.

    Excellent post, so refreshing to see someone promote this type of lifestyle amidst of all the “I quit my job to travel” stories!!

    This is actually almost EXACTLY what my other half did. He’d worked as a software developer at the same company for four years and had seen a project off from its birth to maturity. He wanted to travel, but now that he was in such an integral position (with a paycheck to match!) there was no way he was going to give that up!! But all he had to do is offer up an alternative arrangement, one where he could work remotely in a support role to other developers. Reduced hours and a reduced salary, but infinitely more freedom! Now we’ve been travelling for a full seven months, and the financial stability this arrangement offers us allows us to travel on a small budget with occasional big splurges, and with an emergency fund.

    Hopefully more budding full-time travellers will heed your words and learn that they don’t have to give it all up to “live the dream”!

      Sounds like your other half is super smart, Semi!

      I personally never felt comfortable without a steady income coming in. And the whole idea of saving up a huge sum of money and quitting a job to travel never appealed to me – because eventually the money will run out, and then you’ll HAVE to find a job!

    Are you psychic?! This subject has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s refreshing to hear this level of honesty about life on the road – I’m not sure full time travel would be fore me either. Thanks for presenting an alternative. Happy Trails!

      Haha definitely not psychic – just honest!

    Another great read as always Amanda! Thanks for the refreshing take on things. Everyone’s path is different and you don’t have to have the “heroic sounding” I quit my job to travel. I love the honesty in all of your posts. Keep up the wonderful work!

      Thanks, Jessica! Just trying to keep it real and be honest!

    I couldn’t agree more with you! Yes, it’s certainly not needed to quit your job to be able to travel. However, I did quit the cubicle (maybe not exactly for the road, but it so happened that I have turned into a digital nomad). As you said, IT IS very hard to not have a job and travel. I believe as long as you have a secured job that pays you well and leaves you satisfied at the end of the day, stick to it. Save lots of money and go on a long vacation somewhere. In my case, I was never really paid well or satisfied to want to stick to it. So when an option of freelancing came my way, I thought to myself, why not?

      Yes of course it’s one thing if you aren’t being paid well and you really hate your job. But, even in that case, it might be smarter to look for a job you actually like rather than just quitting everything and going on a trip you can’t afford!

        Well said! In my case, I was kicked out to travel! I hunted for a job diligently, but didn’t find any. Everyone has different destinies. The point is to be happy at whatever you are doing.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have also seen so many of those ‘give up your job to travel the world’ articles and then I start to see articles about how much money they are actually earning and I realise that it is not an option for me and my family. But I can do lots of local travel, occasional bigger trips etc and I am ok with that.

      Heh, yeah, this whole freelance/blogger thing certainly doesn’t pay the greatest! BUT, then again, neither did my newspaper job. In fact, I’m making more now than I did then! (Which really says more about the sad state of newspaper journalism than anything else.)

      But, like you said, you can definitely still travel without quitting any sort of job!

    Love this! I got my degree in a freelance-heavy field before realizing… I suck at freelancing. At this point, I’m hoping to earn a teaching license in my subject so I can have two months of (extremely well deserved) vacation, along with benefits and a steady paycheck. There are so many ways to travel – thanks for highlighting one that’s not talked about as often!

      That sounds like a great plan, Polly! I considered teaching (for the exact reason you mentioned) but then realized that I would really suck at teaching! Haha. But there are different paths for different people – you just have to find the right one for you!

    I loved reading this, Amanda! It’s relieving to hear that I wouldn’t be the only one to find the idea of freelancing and always hunting for WiFi abroad way too exhausting to ever make a living out of it.
    I’ve thought about traveling long-term and sustaining myself with blogging after I graduated from grad school, but I got a job offer I just couldn’t turn down (medievalists don’t usually get job offers!), and I haven’t regretted my choice yet. Of course, sometimes it’s a little draining to be working and blogging at the same time — but at least, when I’m on vacation, I really am on vacation.

      My work-life balance is still a *little* out of whack (especially when I end up working remotely when I’m traveling), but I definitely stress about it less now that I’m not relying on advertising and sporadic freelancing gigs to pay for everything. I definitely feel like I have more freedom!

    Great post- a unstable salary is definitely not for everyone (and not for me I don’t think- although I have yet to experience it). It’s nice to read an article about having a job whilst travelling with so many other posts out there encouraging people to quite their jobs to travel. Both are attainable!

      Yup, both definitely ARE attainable, and both are valid ways to live/travel!

    I completely agree with everything you’ve said here! So much so that I wrote this blog post a while ago which resonates with yours. It’s quite frustrating actually to always be told ‘drop everything and go travel’ because realistically, that’s not always possible. Thanks for sharing the same feelings!
    https://aworldlyaddiction.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/why-its-not-so-easy-to-travel-the-world/

      In fact, for MOST people it’s not possible. (Or at least, most people view it as not being possible for them.) But that certainly doesn’t mean that they can’t travel!

    This is such a refreshing post (as many others have said!) While I personally had to quit my job, my husband and I moved abroad for his job and we have loved every moment of it. For many people, quitting their jobs to travel just isn’t realistic. While I think I may love it, like you I also somewhat crave a routine and familiarity. You can definitely still travel without quitting your job, you just have to make it a priority!

      Making travel a priority really is the key! If you decide you want to travel, there are almost always ways to make it work. It might mean making slight lifestyle changes, and it might take a while to save up enough money, but it’s definitely possible.

    I recently quit my job to travel and it didn’t take long for me to realise that this lifestyle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’m actually seriously considering cutting my trip short and going back to university next year. I think I’ll definitely be taking a leaf out of your book and just going on shorter trips when I can instead. Long-term travel really isn’t for everyone.

      Nope, long-term travel won’t work for everyone. But that’s okay! If you do cut your travels short and go back to uni, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, you’ll probably feel a lot better if you listen to your gut and do what’s right for yourself!

        I’ve applied for a course starting 2016 ๐Ÿ™‚ I still have this year to travel but I’ve now decided that I’m going to do shorter stints with visits home in between. I think 4 months is the magic number for me. I visited home last week and it was so good to see family and friends. I used to think that I didn’t have anything tying me there. Now I realise that I do. It’s funny how travel can teach you so much about yourself.