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. I love this post & it’s exactly what I was after. I’ve read dozens upon dozens of travel blogs over the years and most of these are the I-Quit-My-Horrible-Job-To-Travel-The-World types and now most of these people are backpacking all over the world in a very strict budget.

    The thing that I find in common with all those blogs is that they all hate their desk jobs and want to escape it but what if you actually LOVE YOUR JOB like I do? I love travelling and I go on overseas several times a year but I also love my career (and my pay) and I don’t want to quit it and live hand to mouth in a foreign country.

    Another thing is that I’m not quite the backpacker type, I love homely comforts so I save up and travel not in luxury per se but let’s just say I like being comfortable when I travel.

    So thank you for this post.. I think I’m going to continue with what I’ve been doing. There is not only ONE WAY to travel as some others might think which is to leave their cubicle jobs. Maybe instead they should look for a job they actually enjoy?

      Such a great comment, Jade! And you have a great point – why should you be encouraged to quit a job you actually like? Especially one that still allows you to travel a lot! You keep doing what your doing and focus on what works for you!

    It’s great to read your post and its quite inspiring that you can work and travel together. I love travelling, but leaving the job for travel could be an expensive idea. In 2015 I am planning to take two offs for 15 days each and would like to visit 6 countries.
    Thanks for the encouraging post !!

      You definitely don’t have to choose – you can have both! Hope your trips are both great.


    Not only did I quit my job to travel – I quit my dream job in order to travel my own country! Crazy, right? For the past 8 months I have been on a road trip to volunteer in every state. In order to do afford it, I have to work along the way (of course). You’re right – it is hard! Of course it is also amazing and stressful and inspiring and exhausting. But it isn’t for everyone. Thank you for such an honest and open post!

      Wow, that sounds amazing! Glad to hear you’re making it work!

    Thank you for this! I would love to be a travel writer someday, but I also want to pursue a career in sign language interpreting. In sign language interpreting you can do freelance work and after I get a few years of experience working for companies (and save money) I would like to become a freelance interpreter and a travel writer. I was wondering how many trips you take (on average) per year in order to keep your blog successful?

      That sounds like a pretty good plan! As for trips… that’s hard to say. Last year I only took 2 big international trips (6 weeks in Asia at the beginning of the year, and 5 weeks in New Zealand at the end of the year), with shorter trips in the US and Canada in between.

        That seems doable. Thanks for the reply. 🙂

    […] from Ohio, who balances a normal life with amazing travel adventures. Instead of quitting her job, she found one. Her lifestyle and work life fits perfectly with her passion to travel. Amanda doesn’t travel […]

    I love this post, while I admire and sometimes totally wish that I could be like some of the travel bloggers I read who have packed up everything, and are always in new places, it isn’t for me. I normally am ready for my own bed at about the 3 week mark. However, I have worked in the travel industry for the last 7 years and have been able to use my various jobs to enable more travel. Although a good 75% of my time is sitting behind I desk I do get opportunities to do a fair amount of travel, not to mention when I am sitting behind a desk I’m talking about travel! so it seems like a win – win.

      I totally know what you mean about wanting your own bed after a few weeks! I definitely agree with you there. It’s good that you like your job, though – I’m sure you get lots of travel inspiration from it!

    What a refreshing point of view! I loved reading this. Being a travel nut myself–and just getting back from living in London for a few months–I’ve been reading a lot of travel blogs about “quitting your job to travel”. And they talk about how it’s possible and some hardships, but they don’t talk about it in a personal way like you did.

    I work for a global infrastructure software company that allows remote work–and that’s how I just spent 3 months in London–working out of my company’s office there, doing the same job I have been doing.

    It wasn’t easy–I did all the groundwork. I asked to move, and because I was so passionate and determined to travel–my company allowed it. But they did not support me. I found my own temporary apartment, I paid for public transportation, rent, food, and all other daily living costs (which were astronomically pricier than my daily small town US living in Pensylvania!–I had save a lot of money so I could live comfortably because my U.S. salary was not sustainable for a long period of time there). I was still being paid an American salary and using American holidays, but it gave me the freedom to do that in a new place. Live in a new place. Work in a new culture. And even though I’m with the same company, the work culture is different than it is in the U.S. I didn’t have to hear stories of people anymore-I was able to experience it firsthand. How their personalities, interactions, office nuances were different from the United States.

    But anyway–in a nutshell, your post definitely made me think about how I can best use my job to a travel advantage, rather than do something drastic and quit to travel! THANKS 🙂

      Thanks so much, Danielle! I’m so glad this post has resonated so well with a lot of people.

      It sounds like you definitely know how to make the most out of your situation – I would LOVE to live in London for a while! 🙂 Bummer that your company didn’t really support you, but very cool that you were persistent and made it happen! Good for you!

    I did quit my job to travel… with the intention of picking up another job after a few months on the road! That’s exactly what I did. Quit my job in Melbourne (I really liked my job) sauntered around Asia for eight months, found a job in Tokyo where I had frequent business trips, left after a year, back to Australia, found another job that is flexible enough that allows me to travel often. I quite like having a conventional job and the jobs I’ve had compliment each other so it works for me! There’s no reason why you can’t find work overseas.

      Very good point, Michelle! Though, sometimes it CAN be a bit tough, depending on where you’re from. I, for example, would have a really hard time finding (legal) work in Europe or the UK since I’m American and work visas can be hard to obtain. BUT it sounds like you’ve got a great method that works for you!

    Thanks for this post! Just curious, how did you find the job that you work at now? I think looking for a job where I can work from home is ideal for me, but I wouldn’t know where to start looking. Any tips?

      I got this job after doing an internship with the company – and I found the internship through a Facebook group I’m in where people post leads to Social Media Jobs. You can also use regular job search sites but, instead of searching for jobs in a specific location, many have a “telecommute” filter – use that!

        Great! thanks for the advice! 🙂

    I guess quitting was optional. You can always do what you love to do while you are also working. Besides, it keeps you active and excited so you don’t have to travel all the time.

      Yes, it doesn’t have to be an either-or – you can work AND still have hobbies like traveling.

    Amanda, I am new travel blogger myself and you are a true inspiration to me. I am not the type of person i could quit my job so that I could travel. I love some security in my life but I also love to travel. I have the travel bug in me. So I do as you say try to travels as much as possible while working.

      The great news is that you can still travel while having that security. 🙂

    Great post. Self-employment of any kind is stressful in its own way – the buck stops with you. Freelancing is especially stressful. It sounds like you’ve found a dream job with ample opportunity to take time off. I’ve never found one of those myself but would certainly welcome it. Congratulations on finding your own way to success.

      Thanks, Laura! I’m definitely happy with my situation right now. Not saying it won’t change in the future – but for right now it’s a perfect fit for me!

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