People Who Have Quit Their Job To Travel The World Share Their Experience.
People on Quora were asked: "What it is like to quit your job and travel the world?" These are some of the most insightful answers.
When I left my job, I'd estimated that financially the worst case scenario would be a 30% salary cut for around 3 years. When I came back, people were eager to talk to somebody who had seen so many things and I had a job offer before I really finished traveling. If you are savvy enough to write on Quora, you'll find that earning money is pretty easy. If not, go to Australia.
Without doubt you'll go through some lows during your trips. Mine typically occurred when I was sick, exhausted or changed location to frequently. These things regularly happen all the same time. Solution: find a comfortable spot for a bit and continue traveling once you're rejuvenated.
Yes, you'll lose quite a bit of acquaintances. But gain many more. Real friends that you had before, will be with you after you return.
I did things during my long term travel that a lot of people would consider [wild]. However, barely had any health issues despite traveling to Iran, India, Nepal, sailing the atlantic ocean, motorbiking 10.000+ miles, etc. Some of it is luck, most of it is being careful.
You'll encounter a lot of "lost souls" when traveling: broken relationships, kicked out of a job, no friends etc. Travel might solve these issues, but aggravate them as well by increasing the disconnect with a "stable life" in a bad way. Once this starts to happen: reflect very carefully and start to enjoy at the same time.
This past April I quit my job, crammed some stuff into a backpack, and went to Southeast Asia (and a few other places) for about six weeks. Not exactly "traveling the world" as we only went to a few countries, but it was more of a backpacker/adventure travel experience than I had ever had previously. Last month I did another 2.5 week trip with a backpack to Australia & New Zealand, so this has gotten a lot less scary since then.
The trip was a lot more modest than others described on this thread, so I won't act like it was some kind of transformative experience or anything. That said, I did learn a few things.
1. I don't need that much "stuff" to exist. My travel clothes consisted of two pairs of shorts, three pairs each of underwear and socks, about six t-shirts, and a sweater. That's it. Whereas back in the U.S. I had amassed closet and a dresser full of clothes, most of which I never wore. Why did I accumulate so much stuff when a backpack's worth of clothes could sustain me perpetually? Sure, I didn't need a winter coat or a sports jacket on my trip, so those deserve some shelf space. But why did I own 6 different suits and 35 different dress shirts?
2. I vastly underrated "home" while I was living there. Adventure travel is a tempting siren when you're sitting at your desk job and dreaming of grand adventures at Mt. Everest or the Great Barrier Reef. I think this caused me to pine for the future and underrate the present. Home is awesome. I live in a country where I can freely travel and live in any of 50 states, where all of my friends and family are easy to see and contact, and where I'm relatively unmolested by the police/government/taxman/whatever (I'll grant that this doesn't describe everybody's experience in the USA, and that I'm luckier than most in this regard.). For some reason at the beginning of my trips I always think I'll never want to come back home, but each and every time I'm mistaken. It's made me a little more thankful and observant in my regular life in the States.
3. People are people are people. No matter what country you go to, people put their pants on one leg at a time, so to speak. Even though different cultures can be vastly different from one another, most humans share quite a few common experiences. I suspect that the media caricatures of the miserable daily live of people in North Korea / Iraq / Afghanistan / etc. are somewhat overstated. Not to understate the horrors of political tyranny, but most humans go to work in the morning and tuck their kids into bed at night just like the rest of us.
4. There's nothing "special" about backpacking culture. Some people describe backpacker/hostel culture as more "authentic" than traditional tourist/hotel/hospitality culture, like there's something more "real" about sharing a room in a dirty hostel instead of staying at the Hilton. And sure, I'll grant that you are less likely to grasp local culture if you spend your trips at five-star resorts. But if you go to any hostel in the world you'll see the same scene: A bunch of 19-year-old British/German/French/Dutch/Australian backpackers in tank tops smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. Is that any more unique or authentic than middle-aged Americans in Brooks Brothers oxfords drinking rum & Cokes in every Ritz-Carlton on the planet?
But.... it's still awesome. I think everybody should take at least one backpacking trip, even just for the opportunity to have a really bad time and learn a lot from the experience. There's a lot to see out there.
It was 2012, and I had just booked my first trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, for two months. I had promised myself that I would start traveling by January of that year, but out of fear, I had waited until the last possible day to start my trip while keeping that promise.
Two months seemed like an unbelievably long time. What if I showed up in Costa Rica and hated it? How much would it cost to move my flight earlier? What would I say to my friends if I came back early? What if I got robbed? What if I forgot something I needed? I had found hundreds of things to worry about.
Within a week, I had forgotten about all of them. Sitting on a surfboard, waiting for the waves, watching yet another perfect sunset, I had nothing left on my mind but wonder.
Now I've been traveling for two and half years (I go home to spend Decembers with my family and friends) and I've seen a lot of other travellers go through their first few days of long-term travel.
What I've found is that on any long trip, you tend to be anxious for about three weeks. After the third week, it's like your mind finally accepts the reality that you are free to do whatever you want, and finally stops trying to find the man behind the curtain.
And that's what I call bliss.
A year ago I quit my job, sold everything I owned, bought a bicycle, a tent and set off for a ride. I cycled through UK to France and then to Spain.
It was scary. Fear of change, of how I'm going to cope, where am I going to sleep, how will I communicate without knowing the language (I've done it once already when I first came to the UK, but still...), how will my life look like if everything I know is here and I'm setting off to the unknown...
It was amazing experience for many reasons:
I could probably go on forever but what I want to say here is: This is experience that will make you grow, that will show you who you are and teach you some important lessons in life...
Do it! You'll thank yourself for it.
It started as a quiet voice in my head. You should quit.
At first I ignored it. But the voice proved to be a persistent little devil. It continued to surface on my weekly Thursday or Friday late night commutes, each time louder and with an increasing sense of urgency.
The thing that seems to hold us back from letting that voice come out and play is were worried that a rash decision to quit or do something different will end drastically.
Rationally, this makes perfect sense. Its easy to imagine failing. The decision to quit, to take a bold leap, to embark on an uncertain adventure is wrought with the potential of falling flat. Its scary to consider that listening to that voice could be a massive mistake in time.
One of the simplest questions we can ask ourselves when thinking about quitting a job is: Why?
Do you want to quit because youre lazy? Because you want to sit back, twiddle your thumbs, and watch other people take care of you for the rest of your life? I doubt this is the case.
Chances are youre a talented and motivated professional. Youre thinking about quitting your job because youre striving to better yourself and grow as a human being. Maybe you dont feel as if youre living up to your full potential. Maybe youre excited about a new opportunity or business idea. Maybe you believe your best music is still left unsung, even if you dont know exactly what kind of song youre meant to be singing.
The impulse to quit likely signifies a running away from something — soulless work, a spineless boss, or just a nagging, empty feeling inside. Which is fine. But its imperative to ask another question: What am I running toward?
While on the surface your desire to escape or quit may look like running away, the more realistic notion is that youre running toward something better. Maybe youre running toward a life you think youll be more proud of. Or just running toward work that makes you feel a little less empty inside.
At 22, my life took a difficult turn. I was depressed most of the time, feeling like I was stuck in a life I did not really choose and certainly did not like. I did not see how I could change this situation and it got worse every day. My mom, seeing my predicament, told me: go to Europe!
In retrospect, these 3 simple words probably saved my life.
I ended up leaving my job, cancelling the lease on my apartment and storing my belongings. This allowed me to spend 9 months over there, traveling in 16 countries, covering over 30,000 km and mostly, turning into a much better and smarter human being.
It is now what I recommend to those who feel what I felt back then, but to be honest, it very seldom works. Dropping everything requires quite a bit of guts and/or pure desperation. I was scared by the idea, so I went because of the latter.
A lot of questions went through my head back then: How? When? Where? Leave my job? With what? With who?
I traveled before, but never for long periods and always with others who planned the whole trip for me. So I needed help! As you already know, finding someone willing to accompany you on your journey is no easy task.
So the question is: should you go alone? I have traveled solo in about 25 countries and I absolutely loved it. Then, I traveled with my best friend in one country, and I found it to be a very different experience.
Just remember this: The one thing I learned about traveling alone is that you are mostly never alone. You'll find travel buddies at every destination and this will allow you to make awesome friends all over the world. So do not panic if you cannot find someone to accompany you.
You might not see this one coming, but stress is going to be a major issue if this is your first long trip abroad. Remember the first time you invited someone on a date? That, times a hundred, is what I felt like on the bad days. I kept going from "It's a great idea!" to "It's the worst idea EVER!". There is not much you can do about that. Just keep in mind that it will be the most memorably time of your life. Good news though, it goes away a few days after you arrive.
If your situation allows it, I suggest not to plan the length of the trip. Buy a one way ticket to a big city (Paris, London, Berlin, Madrid) to keep it cheap, and go from there. I never thought that I would work for 4 months in the French Alps before leaving and yet I did. Do not set yourself limits unless you absolutely have to.
Constantly living out of your comfort zone is what you need to learn about your capacities and limitations. It also enlarge that same comfort zone exponentially, enabling you to deal with a lot more difficult situations at any given time.
You will also come back with a more open mind about different cultures. It does not mean you will like them all, or like their habits, but you will at least understand them better. I only wish everyone could do the same.
So go on, save up some cash and get ready, because the longer you wait, the more this quote from Tyler Durden becomes undeniably true: "The things you own end up owning you."
When I was 23, I dropped a promising career in high-tech, a CS degree from Berkeley, my car, friends, and my life in SF Bay area to travel the world. For me, routine was frightening and the prospect of going about life in a linear fashion (school, work, marriage, house, die) was not too appealing. I desperately wanted to mix things up and find 'myself'.
So with enormous optimism and a lot of chutzpah, I set off and drove from California to Florida, bought a one-way plane ticket to Brazil, spent a year in South America and then another 6 months in Asia before finally settling down in Bali.
In the beginning, I clung closely to a budget and travel plans. I'd read the Lonely Planets on where to find food in Rio, and where to get the best deal on changing currency in Thailand. After a year or so, I could be dropped in the middle of the Bolivian desert and find my way out. I didn't have more money, I had less. I didn't have as much 'stuff', I had less.
What made up the difference was that I had learned Spanish & Portuguese, how to barter in any language, where to eat/sleep/shower for cheap. I found out that a smile goes a long way anywhere in the world and people genuinely want to help someone on a mission to see the world. And I learned about the networks of people and communities that could accommodate a solo traveler. I learned to live and think as a local would in the place I was staying.
Your journey can be unique and personal. The more you rely on planning and guides, the less you'll trust your own senses to discover, react and improvise. There really is a "Force" that connects people, thoughts and places. If you put away the guidebooks, you'll be able to detect it and use it.
Believe in hospitality. It's found universally amongst most major cultures. I often found by accepting or offering a drink, or a small other token of friendship from a stranger, we could become friends. My Brazilian buddy Sandro and I met in a wine bar during Carnival in Bahia, and I later went to stay at his home in Rio's Leblon district. He was one of Gracie's first students and introduced me to the world of Capoeira and BJJ.
The most important tip I'd have is to stay open minded and flexible. When you arrive with a plan, you're going to resist a lot of the local cultures and influences that can add to your way of thinking.
Brazilians have a very different outlook on the future than Germans. Balinese are religiously devoted but different than middle America Mormons. Thais are Buddhist and Burmese are Buddhists, yet these two cultures despise and fear each other. You're going to see a lot of new truths that you perhaps wouldn't have found any other way. Instead of carrying a mindset from my past to a new area, I always tried to shape my mind around how the locals thought.
On a similar vein, stay humble and give up pride. I learned to speak fluent Indonesian, Malay, Spanish, Portuguese and reacquaint with Mandarin during my travels. My 'secret' was to swallow my pride and blurt out whatever I could remember until I could be understood. The first few attempts were humiliating but I could usually find a sympathetic young lady nearby that would be charmed by my failed attempts to speak her language. Most often, the locals would find this very endearing and I made good friends being goofy.
During the time I was abroad, I slept in hospitals and dorms, worked on film sets, snuck into hotels to use their pools, and kept my spending to a pittance, $10/day or less. I learned that a large portion of the world lives on less than $2/day and yet they're not miserable or unhappy. So I allowed myself 5x more than they did. You can be scrappy and be comfortable sharing.
Let go of self-pity and be ready for some bad things to happen. There's going to be bad days in ways you never thought possible. I still have a scar from where my shorts and butt got slashed open by a pickpocket in Salvador, Bahia during Carnaval. I remember hearing the crackle of gunfire in Rio as the military police swept the Rocinha favela behind where I slept to recover guns stolen by local drug dealers. I remember almost drowning in a muddy river in Teman Negara in north Malaysia when I lost my footing on a sandbank and got caught in a strong current. My friend saved me that time. Or the time I was stuck alone in a bus station boarding house in LaPaz, Bolivia, vomiting for four nights with food poisoning and altitude sickness. Or the time a fanged spider bit me in Buenos Aires and my foot swelled up to the size of a football. Or the time I "whited out" from the pain of a having a Colombian 'doctor' slice open a pustulating abscess on my thigh with a razor blade. Bad days are like good days, the memory of them fades away as you progress to the next destination. As long as you're still in one piece, every day is a new beginning.
I learned the art of the hustle, of charm, of bargaining, of knowing when to raise and when to fold. As a protected Asian American suburban kid who was smart in the classroom, I learned a bunch of 'real world' skills that aren't taught in schools. To this day, I think most of my advanced people-interfacing skills, I must have learned while traveling.
So what was the outcome? I ended up meeting my future wife in an art-shop in Bali. Missed my flight home, dated and married her. Had a daughter, worked at travel and hospitality companies, started a villa rental company
The night before my 24th birthday, I decided to do something I always wanted to do. I hated my corporate job. My favorite time-pass on my workstation used to be updating an excel file containing my tentative itinerary to travel the whole of India. It used to be my only source of entertainment amidst the mind-numbing, monotonous routine.
3 days after my birthday, I put in my papers. My boss was more confused than angry. I was in charge of doing some technical work for a lots-of-money-involved project. And I was literally tinkering with the deadline. I told him I wanted to see India. He didn't get it. Still hasn't.
Those few days, while I served my notice period, were awesome. Surprisingly, my body aches vanished. I got my voracious appetite back. And I worked like a mule, to complete my tasks ASAP. My parents came to terms with my travelling alone, though they thought I was doing so because none of my friends would get such a long break. I stopped telling people about my plan, mostly because they thought I was being immature, not grasping the gravity of the situation.
And then I left Mumbai. Man, it was liberating! 3 days into the trip, I cancelled all the tickets. Then onwards, it was just impromptu planning, everyday. I ate on the streets, sometimes slept in the open. Did whatever I was cautioned against.
I made almost 4-5 friends daily. They helped me chalk out my next destination, making sure they were the best hosts of my trip. I hitch-hiked whenever I could. I asked for free food and free stay, shamelessly. And I was welcomed with open arms. I befriended a dog in Goa, learnt how to travel without a ticket in Jan Shatabdi, observed with awe as a Kathakali performer put on his makeup, stayed in a hut alone all day, just breathing, witnessed Deepavali on two consecutive days (Tamil Nadu celebrates a day before the rest of India). And I conversed with people without having any common language.
There were numerous experiences. I felt like a toddler, suddenly starting to walk, and looking at the world from a very different angle. And then I came back to Mumbai. Only this time, I was much more calm. I felt a sense of satisfaction, having learnt a lot about nature and life. And never once did I feel any regret about leaving my job. I met Veenu, who was working double shifts for 2 years, just so he could spend Rs. 50k for a distance MBA course. There were many people like him with far worse conditions. But they all smiled at, and laughed with, me. Somehow, my own life seemed far easier.
And about the risk. The biggest risk you can ever take, is holding yourself back from doing what you want to. That way, you risk death while you're still alive.
Perhaps the single greatest feeling in my life came on the the first day of my first (of three) "quit your job and backpack the world for months" trips.
My friend and I had arrived on one-way tickets to London the night before. It was a beautiful day and we were sitting in St. James Park trying to decide what to do. And not just what to do that day but what to do in the weeks and months to come.
It was exhilarating. With no plans, we were literally just throwing out ideas: let's go to Marrakech, they say Prague is beautiful, can we get above the Arctic Circle?, could we take the Trans-Siberian railroad?
We ended up doing all those things, and I saw and experienced things that changed (and I think improved) me forever. But to be honest, none of those topped that incredible feeling of freedom we had that morning of infinite potential.
I don't believe there is any other way to get that feeling than to full-on commit to a step-into-the-void, open-ended, I'll-know-where-I'm-going-when-I-get-there adventure.
One of the worst feelings I've ever had has happened to me on all three of my multi-month trips. And each time I felt it, I knew it was time to go home. It is the flip side of the freedom coin.
The first time I was in Shanghai—seven months into my trip—walking to the train station. Suddenly I became acutely aware that every single person who was hustling along that sidewalk was going somewhere or doing something that mattered. Except for me.
They were going to work. To meet friends. To see the doctor. To play soccer. Whatever. I felt rootless, decadent and parasitic spending my days, weeks, months wandering through museums and temples.
I could not wait to get back to work, to relationships, to family, to permanence. I don't believe there's any other way to appreciate the importance of purpose and community other than to consciously cut those ties and float free of them for a while.
It's not just about risk, it's about sacrifice. I just got back from one year of traveling around the world on my own. I experienced more in that year than most people do their whole lives. I trained with the best muay thai fighters in Thailand, I dove to the bottom of the ocean to kick it with some thresher sharks, I rode an ATV up a Volcano then zip-lined down a wall of lava rock, I road tripped through Tuscany, got super high in Amsterdam, floated in the Dead Sea, camped in a meteor crater watching shooting stars light up the sky, drank Brandy with local Filipinos on a canoe in the middle of the night watching trees light up with fireflies, dated a Colombian beauty queen, walked six hours through Singapore on NYE because I couldn't find a cab, got lost at sea in the Philippine Islands, got lucky in the middle of a rice field in Bali, missed my flight out of Australia because I was stuck on a farm three hours outside of Sydney, filmed a Red Bull commercial during sunrise in Bali, made out with a supermodel with my motorcycle helmet still on, and I launched a successful web app from cafes around the world.
After I got back from my year of traveling everyone I met would say to me, "I've always wanted to just go travel BUT", and that's when I stop them, and I tell them, don't wait for all of lifes traffic lights to turn green because they will not. In other words, you can't have it all. There are always priorities like your job, your family, school, making money, that can stop you from seeing the world. The key is, traveling has to trump all of them. At that time in my life, traveling was my biggest priority so it was an easy decision for me. The good news is, most of the time, those things will be there when you get back and the time away from them, will only make you appreciate them more. The even better news is, when you are gone, you don't have to deal with any of those things! Other peoples problems, issues with family, old girlfriends/boyfriends, no need to worry about them! All you have to do is focus on what would make you the most happy at that moment in your life.
Now coming back to your old life is something that no one ever writes or talks about. Depending on how long you travel for you should also put in a little cushion when you come back to get adjusted, because it is not easy. Especially if you live in a big city like New York. After a life changing trip around the world, the life you used to have makes a little less sense to you and things seem a little less colorful. It eventually gets better once you get settled back in, find a job, a place to live, etc.
I quit a mind-numbing, soul-sucking job to travel Europe for 6 months a few years ago. I didn't know what I would do with my life when I ran out of money but I was 23 and already had two jobs that I didn't love and knew I needed a life change, even if it meant starting at an entry level job again afterwards.
A lot of people were against the idea. But the idea [of] actually staying at a job out of fear for financial instability? Life is simply too short.
In my experience, each month travelling felt longer than an entire year of the job I quit, where months passed by in the blink of an eye. I cannot stress that enough. Each day I learned and tried new things and to this day have vivid memories of nearly each day of the trip. And there's a good reason for it. It's proven that seeing new things and trying new experiences builds new neuronal connections in your brain, which in turn makes time feel slower. Conversely, if your brain doesn't have to process a lot of new information, time seems to move faster.
Before leaving, I had lost a lot of my passion and creativity for many facets of life. I could barely distinguish one day, or month, from the next. That feeling of getting back lost time invigorated me and make me feel refreshed and re-energized. For the first time in years, it didn't feel like time was going by faster each year.
In terms of financial fears - if you are thinking of quitting your job and travelling the world, you are already more interesting and open-minded than half of the population - which means you're likely the type that will be able to a better job afterwards, when you feel energized and inspired. After my trip ended, I found a job temporary job to hold me over for a few months until I got a job I love in the industry I'm still working in, and continue to love. In under 3 years since, I've more than doubled my salary and gotten 2 promotions - and it's because I love my job and it inspires me to do my best work. After traveling, I relentlessly sent out my resume and scheduled interviews to find a job in 1 week or move home. That back-against-the-wall position gave me the motivation to do whatever it takes to find a job. The temp job I took wasn't my top choice, but it took me out of my comfort zone and gave me sales experience, which has helped me in public speaking and account management at my current job in marketing. That's just my experience, but the moral of the story is given the chance to succeed or go home (literally or metaphorically) you will find a way to make it happen.
I still travel to new places as often as I can, and aspire to spend many more months traveling in my life, because even at a job that stimulates you intellectually and challenges you, time still goes by fast. Traveling is the best way I've been able to make it slow down. Life is short enough as it is. A month feeling like a day is frightening.
What's actually [wild] is succumbing to your fears and letting your life pass by in a situation where you're unhappy.
So my advice is this: Go for it. And soak it all in. Don't let financial stress creep into your thoughts while you travel and distract you from your experiences. In the end it will work out and you will be a more cultured, open-minded and attractive job candidate than before. You might even learn things about yourself and the world that help you find out what you want to do in life. I often interview people and I will tell you this: I would look at the experience of traveling the world as better experience than some admin internship or several years at a job someone hated. And that's not just because I did it myself. It shows the bravery and curiosity that I want in an employee.
As my Greek grandfather used to say: O Tolmon Nika: Who Dares Wins.
I did that since two years ago. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. That said, it was one I did not make lightly, one which I'd have to prepare for, and one that kept surprising me. Here's how I did it...
1) Know why you're going
For me, the reason why I quit my job to travel a 17,000-island country was to answer a lifelong question in the core of my being. It had to do with making sense of the myriad of realities that shaped the world that I live in, and how people in other parts of it experience it, and how despite all this diversity we really are more similar with one another.
Since I'm a writer by trade and have mostly done this through journalism, one of my dreams was to bump up my career by writing a book. This did not happen on my first or second journey, though they played significant roles in forming the backstory of the book I based on my third and fourth journeys. Maybe this is not your goal. But travelers are almost always storytellers, so it might be a good idea to figure out what the essence of your story is, why you believe in it and want others to buy into it too, how you will tell your story, and how to make the whole process worth it.
When you feel that you're stuck on a dead end job living a dead end routine, it is easy to romanticise the idea of escaping to some exotic faraway lands and living the ultimate holiday life. In reality, travel is not like that. You'll be working just as hard, if not harder, on the road than you would at home. Being in foreign places far away from your loved ones and everything familiar can be lonely, stressful, and draining. That's why it's important to know why you bother to travel at all--what makes leaving your comfort zone for unfamiliar cultures, the company of strangers and the unfriendly outdoors worth the effort and immensely rewarding.
By the way, after my first practice trip I decided that I'd rather settle in a hometown with flexible working arrangements, and plan a few 4-8 week trips in a year. But then that's just my style and how I've worked my situation out.
2) Don't quit your job yet!
I waited at least two years before biting the bullet. During that time I did much research on where I wanted to go and why, planning my finances, and prioritising where to go on the first budget I could pull off. And while still having my day job, I took evening and weekend jobs on the side for extra money, and used my spare time to research my dream destinations (since I did freelance journalism on the side, this meant working on stories that gave me opportunities to find out more about the places I intend to visit).
3) Financial preparation
Ideally, you shouldn't quit your job before having 6 months worth of emergency funds--this is ON TOP of the funds you set aside for travelling, and other savings and investments. And if like me, you don't have this luxury, you might want to think about how you're going to make money to support yourself on the road.
In my case, I was young and ignorant when I quit my job to travel, I only had 4 months' worth of my paycheck in the bank and used up 1 month's paycheck doing a super frugal first "practice run" trip across Java island then taking a ferry to Bali. It pulled off. I came home a month later earning more money from writing freelance articles than what I spent on the trip. Then I figured, if I could pull this off in my home island, I could probably do this in further places with a bigger budget.
So yeah... since then I've been planning 4-8 weeks across-the-island trips and how I'd make my money back. For me this meant planning my visits in advance, researching an estimate budget, planning to write X number of articles based on which visits, pitching them to my editors before I go, calculating how many articles I get assigned and how much money I'd make from them, then revising my budget to try to keep my expenses lower than what I'd earn from the article.
Other people have made money on the road by travel blogging, teaching English, selling crafts, working in the hospitality industry (cleaning hostels, teaching ski, waiting tables) and taking up remote jobs they could do from a distance (IT programming, graphic design, translations, copywriting, ghostwriting).
And while I still had my office job, I spent my paydays at the bank setting aside significant portions of my paycheck into regular savings, interest-generating time deposits, and mutual funds. Regular savings is for the rainy day when I need immediate cash. Time deposit is for cash that will be available to me next year if I need it, and accumulated for yet another year if I don't need it yet. Mutual funds are not to be touched for a loooonggg time.
Also take the time to educate yourself on the various insurances you might need (health, personal accident, property, and travel).
4) Physical preparation
Health and safety are everything when you are on the road. Make sure that at least 6 months prior to your departure you're doing 30 minutes of cardio 3-4 times a week, and if possible, other workouts that increase your endurance such as kickboxing. Adopt healthy eating habits and sleeping patterns. Manage your stress. These will help you stay healthier on the road, keep your energy levels in check, and may help prevent injuries.
If the area you're traveling to is known for endemic diseases, get vaccinated. Also stock up on bug spray, disinfectants, first aid kits, warm clothing (even when you're traveling to tropical areas), raincoats, flashlights, health supplements--anything to keep you clean, warm, dry and bug free on the road.
5) Take the plunge
Yes, preparation is important, but more importantly is actually making the decision to go. Make your commitments on stone and plans on sand--things might actually play out completely differently on the road than on paper. And that's OK. That's where you allow room for surprises. That's when you make new friends you otherwise would have never met. That's when memorable stories happen. That's when valuable lessons are learned. And that's when you turn to the best friend that never leaves you and always knows what to do--that still, small voice inside your heart. Take a leap of faith and hit the road.
I'm a total Eat Pray Love, Hero with a Thousand Faces knock off, completely unoriginal. I left the corporate and start-up world for a stint to do a bit of cliche soul-searching for 6 months. It has taken me across 4 continents and 6 countries. I traveled alone, as a 30 year-old, single women.
It's the best investment I've ever made in anything, and it was in myself and my own happiness. Whether you are a woman, or man; single or taken; old or young, I promise you the return on investment on a trip like this is worth it.
Over the past couple years I helped get Little Black Bag, a fashion ecomm site with a social gaming angle off of the ground. Before that I've worked in creative doing everything from interior graphics, product development, book design, illustration and international advertising for clients like BCBG, Skechers, Disney, and even the Oprah Network. I worked an average of 50-80 hours a week.
I started getting weary of the grind to work more, consume more and felt an unhealthy balance of workaholism and the American Dream. I realized my motivations were changing and I wasn't interested in the money, status or having any more stuff. Once my priorities changed, I had a hard time finding the same hustle I once had.
A few wonderful people in my life including my business partner, my mom and a dear friend all suggested a spirit quest or sabbatical of sorts. It was something I had been deeply considering for years but was too scared to do because I didn't want to or know how to leave my comfy life.
Through some big changes, I finally found the resolve to leave a relationship that wasn't right, sell most of my earthly possessions, except for some clothes, and move out of the condo near the beach. What I gained was an enormous amount of freedom.
I began a completely unplanned America cross-country road trip and international journey.
Off I went without a real plan. It was more of culmination of 4 years of thinking about doing it, wanting to do it, and then finally deciding to just do it. It turns out all you need to do is buy a ticket and then you kick your [butt] into gear to do the rest.
It's terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. Leaping into the unknown is scary as hell, but with the biggest risks comes some of the greatest rewards. New business ideas, new skills, new inspiration, new friends, new beliefs in yourself come to you easily and openly. Grand stories happen on the road, that's why there are so many movies, songs, books and poetry about it.
Widened perspective, new found appreciation for the small things and being able to be proud of the fact that you did something most people just talk about are all game changers. The best and the brightest have done it. You become the Hero and one of the thousand faces is yours.
We quit our jobs last June, sold everything, packed our stuff into two big backpacks. We walked about 1000 kilometers in China and 700 kilometers in Vietnam so far, and will travel mostly on foot in the next few years.
It was easy to quit our jobs, since we didn't see much of a future in them. But we also don't yet know what kind of careers we should pursue in the future, so we decided to follow the flow, try to find it on the road. We saved a bit of money, but we decided to use as little as possible, since we want to sustain our trip indefinitely. Our budget is now about $8 per person per day.
Since we were going to live on the road, we decided to keep only those things we need. It meant we had to sell most of our stuff, such as the car, furniture, electronic devices, books, clothes, sheets and blankets, kitchen wares, and everything else.
To sell everything is a hassle. You need to prepare in advance about at least 3 months. We made posters and flyers and distributed them around our area. It's quite effective. We were surprised by the number of people coming or calling every day. At the end, everything was gone by the day we left.
We kept about 1/3 of our books, some clothes, 2 laptops and two boxes of other stuff which either has sentimental value or could be helpful for our travel(for example our hiking gears). They are now in my mother-in-law's storage room.
Spending a lengthy period in a culture gives us an advantage to understand it. Although I can only speak some daily phrases now to bargain in a local market in Vietnam, still, it gets me closer to the Vietnamese people. The books about Vietnam I've read on the road equip me with some extended knowledge (compared to the short paragraphs in Lonely Planet guidebooks) to enable me to appreciate the art, architecture and music and to understand the culture and the people, especially their feelings.
Traveling like this improves one's sensibility and empathy. You are not just dealing with people in the tourism industry or fellow travellers. You meet real local people, people who speak no English or your own language, who have never travelled outside of their own village. When some level of communication could be built up upon your encounter, you realize while the cultural difference could be vast, we are all humans, we share a great deal of common emotions, sympathies, and excitements. People deserve to be understood and empathized with, way better than they currently are. And this realization motivates us to explore more, improve our language skills, and share our understandings with fellow countrymen or our communities.
I am looking forward to visit the rest of the world like this, it brings me joy and fulfillment.
To start, it's pretty amazing, and I would recommend it to anyone who's ready for a life change, or a career change. You aren't getting any younger, so take the risk while you're youthful, and more importantly before you become a "travel snob" with expectations of ultra luxury while travelling.
Nearly seven years ago, before starting our company OUT Adventures, my ex-partner and I left our respective careers, sold our house, shipped our dog to a friend in Montreal, and hit the road for six months. For us, travelling was part of our grand plan to start our little tour company, and therefore the trip was deemed as research. We set a budget of $40,000 for six months of travel, which when you do the math, is just over $100 per day, per person and needed to cover our international flights as well.
The key for us was planning. We weren't really into staying in hostels, so we organized a mix of basic/mid-range hotels, and some tours, so we could at times just sit back and enjoy ourselves rather than worrying about every little detail. But we also built in a lot of free time to relax, and explore.
It turned out to be life changing for both of us. It's truly amazing how experiencing new cultures, and meeting people from around the world can change your outlook on life. Also, by being forced to travel light (one backpack each), we learned how to live without a lot of the "needs" one develops over time.
Financially, it was certainly a big risk for us. We worked very hard to have a home, and just gave it all up, or rather cashed it in for the experience of a lifetime. We may have been closer to being mortgage free if we hadn't, but we'd also still be in jobs we didn't love, making money for other people. The trip was well worth the time away, and the money spent.
And about leaving it all behind, I think this is a personal decision. Unless you truly disconnect, you're never really leaving everything behind. And even if you do disconnect, remember that wherever you go, there you are.
A-may-zing! I taught English in Japan, just after college, and a 2 week holiday in Laos introduced me to backpacker "culture." From there, I saved with a plan to travel Asia, Europe, and Africa for 12 months. My wife and I repeated the trip 10 years later, just after we were married.
You don't need a special skill set, but you're certainly better off with patience, humility, respect and empathy for others, a desire to learn about the world, and the flexibility to change your plans or understand that you may be disappointed by some experiences. You don't need to be especially adept with languages, but it's a wonderful advantage if you can count to 100, say "please," "thank you," "how much," "beautiful," "delicious," and "sorry". If you are comfortable reaching out and taking risks with new people, friendly overtures can lead to wonderful adventures and invitations.
I was able to travel to 17 countries, over 12 months, on about $25,000. This was in 2010. That included about $4K in airfare, scuba certification, safari treks, and hiring a private driver for 2 weeks in Bhutan (a Bhutanese friend managed to get us visas, but tourists are required to travel with a guide). It could have certainly been done cheaper--by visiting fewer places, picking up part-time work as an English instructor or guest house staff, passing on the scuba diving. My wife and I did save some money by cooking our own meals in more expensive countries, relying on hosts, and doing our own laundry.
You don't need do extensive planning for a trip like this. Most visas can be arranged from abroad, and you can purchase almost anything you've forgotten/left behind. Even reliable malaria medications can be purchased over the counter in countries where the illness is a concern. I do recommend connecting with your local Couchsurfing community, getting a copy of Lonely Planet's "Healthy Travel: Asia" or "Healthy Travel: Africa," looking at Google image photos, and whittling down a list of priority destinations. Having done this twice, I'd argue there's real value in visiting fewer countries, getting a richer understanding of the places you do visit, and spending less time in transit.
The biggest challenge was returning to the US--mostly broke, living with in-laws, unemployed and without health insurance. It took another 6 months to find my footing, but I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything.
In August 2012, I left Melbourne on a one-way ticket to London. Since then I've been travelling Europe with an open plan, but the only thing I dropped was my location.
For a few years prior to travelling, I was co-running a small web development studio. In early 2012, my business partner and I decided to part ways, which is when I decided that I was going to travel Europe indefinitely - despite the fact that I'd never left Australia before, and had no travel experience. I had a few months until my big flight, so I thought I'd do a bit of freelance work to earn some cash to keep me going. As I was freelancing it became obvious that the only thing I actually needed to do work was a wifi connection. So when I started travelling, I just continued freelancing, and ever since then I've been making enough money to live & travel by working a couple of days per week.
The more I think about it, the more I realise that there's plenty of jobs that can be location independent, like as web development/design, photography, writing/proofing/journaling etc. If you can do it online, and you can email/skype about it, you can do it travelling.
I don't think I need to go into the specifics of becoming a freelancer; a lot of that information is out there already and is out of the scope of this question. I do get a lot of people saying "I wish I could do what you do, but I'm not a web developer". All I can say is that it's just a skill, and like anything else it can be learnt. There's a ton of info available on the internet for free, so if you're determined, you can do it.
But that's just my life. It's not perfect; sometimes it's incredibly hard to find a decent place to work, and sometimes it's hard to find motivation when all you want to do is hang out with some amazing new friends you've made. But it's something that works and allows indefinite travel - I'm proof.
I quit my job in June - a great job, working with fun people on exciting projects - and spent 3 months backpacking around Europe. Most of my vacations up to this point had been scheduled around leave from work so they maxed out at 1 week - now I had time to get to know places and people. I was able to stay places for 3 weeks to a month and have the opportunity to assimilate into life - make friends and become familiar with the locals.
Save up a little bit of money, and do some rudimentary planning on what countries where you can live well at a low cost. Also, recall the amount of time it took you to find your current job (or previous couple) and use that as an estimate for how long it will take you to find a new one.
Now you have a estimate for how much money you will be spending, and how much you have and how long it will take you to find a new job when you get back. Now you have a timeframe for how long you can travel - at this point your are not being financially irresponsible or even financially unstable. I will tell you though, traveling will change your perspective on the job you want and you may find yourself doing something entirely different and new.
Quitting your job can be terrifying - but once you are on the other side you wonder why you waited so long.
Racism is an insidious, and unfortunately prevalent, force in all of our daily lives. Maybe we're on the receiving end of it, being treated differently and losing opportunities because of others' preconceived notions.
Or maybe we're on the other side of things. Even those who aren't actively racist or discriminatory still have to process the world through the filters of the things they've been told about people who are different.