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. […] Traveling is my passion. And so is writing about it. But, over the past couple of years, I’ve struggled with turning those passions into a viable career. The pay is inconsistent, and it gets stressful always hustling for that next paycheck. It’s part of the reason why I ended up NOT quitting my job to travel full-time. […]

    Good on ya. 🙂

    The last-$100 thing? It seems to be all too common in travel-related freelancing. I’ve been there a couple of times and I haven’t even traveled that much yet. I remember Adventurous Kate saying she was down to $200 with $6k owed to her….yeah, it’s common and it’s painful. Unless you have a decent lump of savings to act as running capital, the lead-time on getting paid as a freelance travel writer//blogger is usually abominable. Gigs that pay up immediately are gigs to be treasured.


    >>”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.”

    Hell yes. That. When it’s affecting the quality of your work, I don’t reckon it’s worth persevering. That’s a downward spiral.

      Definitely. Since I decided to more or less “give up” long-term travel in favor of shorter trips that I can actually afford to take/don’t have to work as much during, I’ve enjoyed myself so much more!

    YES! I’m very much in the same boat. Travelling and blogging while maintaining a legal full time job in a country I wasn’t even legal to work in… until now. This kind of lifestyle is full of ups and downs, and sometimes a job is that little bit of stability you need!

      I totally agree! I love the stability of a job with a steady paycheck – and it makes traveling feel that much more exciting and special!

    Thanks so much for this post. I’m currently working full time and trying to be successful with my travel blog. My job doesn’t offer many options for travel, although I traveled and lived overseas a lot before taking this position. I’ve been trying to find a balance as I don’t like my job limiting my travel, but I don’t want to worry about finances if I travel full time. I just recently starting thinking about trying to work remotely. After reading your post I will look into it more. Thanks for sharing your experience!

      You’re very welcome, Natalie! Remote work is (for me, at least) the perfect balance!

    Great post! It’s very easy to be fooled into believing that every travel blogger out there quit a job in their 20s to travel the world and get paid for it. I am in my 50s and work full time. Granted, I was lucky enough to get a job in Germany so I can easily travel Europe. I have managed to visit over 30 countries in Europe in 4 years while working full time, so it definitely is possible. Oh, and I also don’t like the word “quit”. First of all it’s overly dramatic and makes it sound like everyone just said “F*** it” one day and walked out of the office never to return. Maybe some people do that, but I’d venture to say most planned their long-term travels and saved some money long before “suddenly” quitting. Second of all it makes you sound like a quitter, which has a negative connotation. Maybe “left my job” or “resigned after giving reasonable notice” is a better thing to say. 🙂

      A lot of travel bloggers save up for a while and then DO quit their jobs to travel and live location independent. There’s definitely nothing wrong with that, but it didn’t work for me! That’s awesome that you’re living and working in Germany now – plenty of opportunities to travel, I’m sure!

    Every now and then who love travelling are torn by this very decision, we ourselves have been into this kind of a confusion and have decided exactly what you have described, very nice write-up and a perfect portrayal of the mind-set.

    We have been travelling not as a quit your job and travel kind of thing, but more of the have a job, get money and travel as much and when ever possible kind of an arrangement which seems to work out better, at least we know we have the money flow and if we need that little urge to spend a little on luxury we still can do it once a while…..

      Knowing that you have the money coming in and can afford to take a trip is SO nice!

    Thanks for writing this. I’m at a point where I want to have a travel blog and I want to travel, but being constantly on the move sounds exhausting. I actually did quit my jobs and I’m heading to Colombia tomorrow, but even there I’m planning to move from volunteer gig to volunteer gig, which means I’ll have a base. My plan is to do 2 months in Colombia (or maybe another country also if it makes sense), get working on my site, and then see how I feel. I think that finding a job that allows me to move around would be great, so I may start looking after a month and a half or so. The security of income would be a load off.

    You’re right, it doesn’t have to be one way or the other! I think part of me feels like if I’m not doing the constant travel/hostel for 2 days in every city thing, then I’m not a “real” traveler. For me, that’s fun for a limited period of time, but not as a lifestyle.

      That last bit is it exactly, Liat – so many people assume that to be a “real” traveler you have to be staying in hostels and eating bugs and going places normal tourists don’t go. But that’s NOT sustainable (and often not very fun, either!). Visit ANY travel blog run by someone who has been doing it for years, and I guarantee that 95% of them have slowed waaaay down in their travels!

      You have to figure out what’s right for you, and then just own it!

    I love this post! I have been a reader off and on for a couple years (mostly when I am planning trips), but I am starting to get serious with my own blog and posts like this inspire me to think differently about the direction I want my site to go. I am still in the process of writing content and finding my voice and direction, and in doing so I am having fun going back through blogs I had combed through for travel tips with new eyes of an aspiring blogger.

    I married young and my husband is in grad school getting his Ph.D., so we are not in a position to drop everything and go traveling (as much as I want to somedays). We have been able to travel a lot since graduating from college, but I get major travel envy when I read nomadic type of blogs. I love what you said about taking a different approach to employment and it is refreshing to read a blog written about loving travel and making it a priority, but needing a more balanced life as well.

    When I am not traveling I am a substitute teacher, which is steady enough to keep my bank account happy but flexible enough to take a two month trip to Southeast Asia this winter.

    Thank you so much for putting this out there!! I am bookmarking this to help me remember that I am not the only one taking a different approach to employment and travel.

      Thanks so much for this great comment, Heather. There are SO many travel blogs out there, and a lot of them ARE written by people who are constantly on the road. And sometimes I think we forget that that’s not the ONLY way to have a travel-filled life! I’m very lucky to have lucked into a remote job like I have. It works for me, and now I get the best of both worlds! Good luck on your blogging journey!

    What a coincidence, I just finished writing a post about working online.

    I read a lot of these posts about “go quit your job and go travel” and always end up disagreeing with people.

      I agree! You see a lot of those “quit your job to travel” posts. But, in reality, that doesn’t work for everyone!

    […] not a full-time traveler. The digital nomad thing didn’t work out for me, and I decided that having a home base and steady income was more important to me than traveling […]

    Hello Amanda,

    You are right about that we don’t need to quit our jobs in order to travel all around the world. Now I am a small business owner working at home and I also have the other job that I can work remotely for a few weeks out of the year. I also have to travel a lot for my job. I love traveling while keeping my jobs. It’s a great read. Thanks for sharing!

    Also – 156 comments? I love how engaged the travel community has been around this post! Awesome!

    -Todd at Visit50.com

    Amanda, thanks so much for sharing your perspective! While I’ve considered going the way of many full-time travel bloggers, I decided to keep my career. Instead, I get in my travel dosage in two ways:
    1-maximizing vacay time, as you’ve noted
    2-gap years. In between jobs I went to take a 6 week trip, which would have been three times longer than any non-work trip I’d ever taken. Along the way I decided to extend it…for nearly a half year through 15 countries!

    It was such a crazy move for me – if interested, here’s the story:

    During that trip, which was primarily SE Asia, I started what became my travel blog, Visit50.com, and have been sharing my adventures ever since. I try to get out of the US (I’m NYC-based) twice per year to get to my travel goal (which the name Visit50 is based on).

    I’m ready for another extended trip…

      Sounds like you’ve had plenty of adventures of your own! And good for you. See, the whole “quit a job to travel” route isn’t the best for everyone!

    Good points Amanda! It is not always a luxury to quit job to travel the world. I visit my family in India every year or so. I make sure I get a ticket so I can have a lay over somewhere in between. This way I get to see an extra location and I’m not stuck in the plane for over 20 hours at a stretch.

      It’s something a lot of people dream about, but you’re right – quitting your job to travel isn’t a luxury everyone has. But, as you’ve learned, that doesn’t mean you can’t still travel!

    Such a great article, it’s so good to see someone giving this view on travel. I’m not against full-time travel in anyway, but its nice to see other people like myself, who choose to fit in regular travel around a fixed job. It can be done and it can be enjoyable! 🙂

      Yes it can certainly be done AND be enjoyable!

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