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. LOVED this post! As a wife and guardian of 3 cats with huge rent and bills to pay, it’s impossible for me to quit my job anytime soon and travel. Your post has been inspiring for me and gives me hope! Thank you for your lovely blog btw, I’m so glad I found you! See you around 🙂

      So glad to hear it, Lydia! It definitely doesn’t have to be either-or when it come to traveling. Sure, you may not be able to travel for months at a time when you have pets and bills to pay, but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel at all.

    Such a refreshing post! One thing always niggling at the back of my mind when considering if I could do this full time was definitely money and being stressed about having to write instead of just experiencing! I don’t think quitting my job to travel is the right thing for me (several things in life I don’t think I could do without a home base),but I will say I am enjoying myself learning the ins and outs of blogging as I am very new to the blog world as well as documenting my trips for other people to see.

      I find it incredibly tough to find time to do quality work when I’m on the road, too. I have such a sense of FOMO that unless I actually plan work days, I find I do too much during the day and then have no desire to write once evening comes around. It’s definitely difficult!

    Hi Amanda,

    I loved this post! Travelling is important to me but certainly I cannot live with the uncertainty that comes with being a freelancer.
    The best way is to find a job in a Travel agency so that you can search more about the places you can travel and get discounts on air tickets and hotel stays 🙂

    Amanda, this is why I find your blog so refreshing. I respect the fact that you aren’t cookie-cutter, you’re not necessarily into hiking and you don’t lace your blog posts with profanity. I’ve unfollowed several big bloggers because of their “Don’t call me blessed, I did all this f****** work myself” ungrateful too-self reliant attitude and obsession with f-bombs.

    And I am a travel writer and landscape photographer.. but know how I pay the bills to travel? I’m a news photographer. That’s my gravy that makes it possible. So I travel several times a year. And I have a family with 4 kids (older now, so I can travel more) and a husband in the Army so I cannot be selfish and just make everything all about me. Oh, and I love my cats! So I like having a home. The Army is nomadic enough for me, I wouldn’t want to do it 24/7.

    But that doesn’t mean I don’t love the loneliness and nomadic nature of travel because I do. But I can still do it while working a normal job. And I don’t have to be like every other travel blogger out there.

    I appreciate your common sense, down to earth approach to travel. There is no one-size-fits-all way to do it.

    Thank you!

      Your last sentence really is key, Amy – there’s no one-size-fits-all way to do it, whether “it” is traveling OR blogging! And a news photographer – that’s so cool! I worked at a newspaper in my former, pre-blogging life. 🙂

    I love seeing this post Amanda. I actually DID quit my job last summer (after years of saying that I would) to train to become a yoga teacher, travel and hopefully make a living as a freelance photographer/writer/yoga teacher/future online store owner. So great!

      That’s awesome – good for you! It’s a path that works great for some people, but isn’t really feasible for others. But I’m glad it worked for you!

    This is very interesting because it’s different from the “norm”. I like how you were honest and told your story about this trip, I also would love to spend months traveling, but when I’m traveling I’m a bit lazy and feel like that I should be doing something other than sitting in a room or coffeeshop trying to work.

    Most famous travel bloggers don’t really tell their experience and a lot of people think that if you just quit your job and get out there, you will be successful.

    I couldn’t imagine leaving my job for a permanent nomad lifestyle. But being a flight attendant allows me plenty of free time and the chance to see a lot of different new places (plus cheaper tickets).

    I guess there is no right or wrong and what works for some might not work for others. I’m happy that you managed to balance your work/travel life!

      The last part of your comment is definitely the most important: there’s no right or wrong way to travel, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another!

    Maybe people who quit their (often) 9-5 job and go on a nomad tour, are just (or also) fed up with their job, fed up with society in their country, fed up with…
    I can understand. Fight or flight? (tired of fighting…)
    All different people all with their own style. It’s so interesting.

    Depending on “money available or not???” would stress me, but travelling for 2-3 months is not a problem.On my roadtrips, I don’t miss “home”.
    And I would like to quit my (now frustrating) job for a long time. We only live once.

    Again you just sort of solved my second problem, in one day! thanks again
    This is my eternal dilemma, you know? I have a very nice job that makes me live in Mexico and travel in the Caribbean, how do I dare complain? I know I should not, and in fact since I had decided to write my blog I found motivation in staying longer where I am and gather material for my articles, and that’s great! BUT, there is a BUT, I would love to have more time to read more and write more and improve my photography, things that you cannot do when you have a 9-7 job and/or I always feel overwhelmed feeling that there is no enough time for everything! So for now I am taking my time, until February 2017 for sure, when will keep working on the blog and photography and studying social media, save money and then I will see …anything can happen by then and yes I need to take the leap and publish the blog sooner or later 🙂 thanks again for the great hints. cheers

      The eternal dilemma, indeed! You’ll figure out what works for you in the end – just remember that it doesn’t have to be an either or; you can work AND travel!

    This idea fascinates me! I’vebeen bitten by the travel bug for a long time now, but studying full time at music college means I often don’t have the time or funds to afford all the travel I’d absolutely love to do.

    Thanks for talking about travel from a different perspective. I’ve always known being a digital nomad was never an option for me, and I didn’t really realise there were other viable options out there!

      There are plenty of other options – travel isn’t a “one size fits all” type of activity! And you definitely CAN have a job and still be able to travel a lot. 🙂

    I absolutely love this post. I totally agree with you in terms that you don’t need to quit your job to travel. i actually get paid to travel as I am a flight attendant. All this blog posts about “how i quit my job to travel” is so over-rated. thanks for sharing a different perspective on the topic.

      My pleasure, Laura! I definitely think you can have a job and family and “normal” life AND still be able to travel. 🙂

    I love seeing this post Amanda. I actually DID quit my job last summer (after years of saying that I would) to train to become a yoga teacher, travel and hopefully make a living as a freelance photographer/writer/yoga teacher/future online store owner. 😉 However, I wouldn’t recommend this route to everyone. I basically have no idea exactly what I’m doing next! I don’t mind taking the leap of faith, but I’m afraid too many friends look at what I’m doing and say “Why can’t I do that?” The truth is, they could! However, it’s good to know that it’s not for everyone. My past job didn’t fit in with my ethics in life, but leaving job just because you “hate your boss” may not be a good enough reason! Also, I traveled PLENTY of places for 5 years with my boyfriend on vacation time and weekends. I was willing to take a 3 day weekend and go to Europe if I couldn’t get the extra days off. Who cares that I was jet-lagged, I came back home with memories from Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona! I asked for two weeks off to go to New Zealand and Australia. My bosses weren’t thrilled…but they ultimately gave me the time. I think a lot of people are AFRAID to use their vacation days, which is really unfortunate! My advice, like yours, is to maximize that vacation time! I also love your suggestion of finding a job that you can do from anywhere in the world. That’s a big direction these days, and there’s nothing wrong with having a steady paycheck. Love all your tips!

      In the US especially, many people definitely are afraid of using their vacation days, since so many bosses frown on people taking time off. Which is ridiculous! People need a break every once in a while!!

    Working 9-5 isn’t my kind of gig either, but I couldn’t just travel a lot without stopping sometimes to work on some articles or to manage my website.

    I would just feel useless.

    It’s nice to travel, but that comes with expenses and you need to get a stable money source.

      Definitely! A lot of people DO work while they travel – but it’s not easy to balance the work with moving around a lot! It’s not my kind of lifestyle, personally.

    Hi Amanda,

    Rightfully said that you need not quit your job in order to travel. Over the weekends we can always make short trip to places on our mind but to travel to foreign destination it does require heap of money.

      And usually foreign travel can’t be done over a weekend, unless you’re just crossing a nearby border. However, foreign travel isn’t nearly as expensive as many people assume! It’s all about making travel a priority and saving up for those larger, more expensive trips.

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