You Don’t Have to Ditch the 9 to 5 in Order to Travel

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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.

Amanda at Fort Island Gulf Beach

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.

Reasons you SHOULDN'T quit your job to travel

1. 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.

Amanda on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland
Some parts of the world just simply are not cheap – like Iceland!

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.

2. 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??

GowithOh apartment in Barcelona, Spain
Remote work isn't always this scenic.

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.

3. 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.

Amanda at Horseshoe Bend

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.

4. 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.

Amanda in Cleveland
Hey, I like being home in Ohio, too!

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.

Amanda in Seattle
There are tons of great destinations for long weekends – like Seattle!

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.

Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie
Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie in Ohio (less than 2 hours from where I live!).

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?

Amanda at Moraine Lake
Travel photography is tough to make money from, but it's an option!

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.

READ NEXT: 10 Tips for How to Travel More with Limited Vacation Time


What do you think? Do you think there's pressure to either have a job OR travel the world?

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You don't have to quit your job 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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119 Comments on “You Don’t Have to Ditch the 9 to 5 in Order to Travel

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  1. The stability of a 9-5 career provides the financial capitol to travel frequently – just have to use those vacation days.

    There are so many places that I want to visit. I want to be able to go anywhere and knit. I enjoy reading your experiences. Thank you.

    I agree with this post. I have job 9-5 and I still managed to see 60+ countries. Even write my blog about it.
    So answer is YES, you can do both

    Amazing article! Traveling is definitely not a black and white thing and I love how your article talks about the gray areas in between!

    An amazing blog, I’m currently studying and I’m ‘romanticizing’ about quitting my degree and just travelling but i don’t have the money and i also want to make something of myself in my career so it would be foolish to just drop out and travel. I think that the best option is to finish my degree, and during my 3 years of articles save up time and money and do 2 weeks of travels along different parts of the world.
    That way i would be able to succeed in my career, which I’ve sacrificed a lot for, and fulfill my love for travelling.
    Also like you said you don’t have to travel far and there is so much in my home country i haven’t done that i really should do.

    PS: I’m South African and i don’t know if you have ever been here but its beautiful and not expensive if you come from overseas. Definitely recommend it

      I definitely agree that it wouldn’t be smart to quit your degree to travel, especially if you don’t have the money to do it right now! Once you’re able to save up a bit, I promise you’ll enjoy traveling just as much (if not more!). I have indeed been to South Africa, and you’re right that you have a lot to explore right in your own country!

    I couldn’t agree more! While I do enjoy hearing about the adventures of full-time digital nomads, it’s not the life for me! I studied abroad twice, took a post-university gap year, and have taken several trips in-between. These days I started my own business so I could have control over my schedule and the flexibility to travel frequently, but not full-time!

    In the end, everyone should figure out their travel ambitions and make it work for their own life. There is no right or wrong way to do it, as long as you are being true to your goals!

    Hi Amanda,
    thanks for the beautiful post!

    I loved how you wrote this post. I have been living outside of my home country for more than 10 years, and before moving to Lisbon, where I now live, I travelled with my backpack for almost 3 years in a row, mainly working casual jobs and volunteering.
    I do believe that happiness isn’t necessarily connected to travelling, and for those who have little experience of it, sometimes they do look just at the ‘novelty’ of the trip.
    However, I do agree with St. Augustine. Not because travel is something we all should do, but because by knowing only the reality where we grow up, we may think we are always right.
    Our religion is the right one, our policticians are the right ones, our set of customs are the best ones.
    I think that someone who travels to experience the place and the people might have an eye-opening experience in terms of opinions. He or she should have it, if the travel is done right.
    This sometimes draws a line among those who travel and those who don’t. It’s about open mindness, and the certainty that there is none/nowhere better than another one or place. We’re all equally worthy and beautiful in our differences.

    Keep up the good work!
    Chiara

    This is fantastic advice, I’ve currently got a growing career and balancing this alongside travel can be hard at times as there will always be sacrifices to make along the way. My passion is to travel and experience new things no matter if it’s 100 or 1000 miles away.

    I agree! I get so envious when I hear about the Australians who save up their vacation time for 2 years and then use all 6 weeks at once every two years. aah thats grate

      I’ve always been envious of how much vacation time people in other countries seem to get!

    This is awesome but i’d still prefer not to have my job and to travel. I think I could be happy blogging or doing something else

    The best thing I liked about this article was that you actually took a neutral side. You said that there’s nothing wrong if you don’t want to travel that much. And I truly loved that portion because it cleared a big myth.

      Travel is like anything else in life – some people love it, and others don’t really care about it. And that’s totally fine!

    Loved this post. Some people can’t or don’t want to travel full time, but they shouldn’t feel like they’re less of a traveler if they’re still working. And some people are totally content without traveling, and that’s fine too! I loved your insight on this.

      Exactly! There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to travel style.

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