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.
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.
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??
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?