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Should You Quit Your Job to Travel Around the World?

The question "should you quit your job" is one every backpacking woman contemplating long-term travel considers.

It's a scary decision. Will I find a new job when I return? Am I too young to be taking a career break? Am I to old to get back into the workforce? Can I afford to do this? Am I crazy? What will everyone think?

These are normal questions and should cross your mind as you think this through.

After all, why should you quit your job? You may like it a lot, it's your financial lifeline and your pension is tied up in it, you might not find another one as good...

long-term travelEscape from the cubicle
dcwriterdawn via Flickr CC

But if the pull of travel is stronger, all these reasons will fly out the window.

I know they did for me. I had a well-paid and secure job with a good future when I decided it wasn't for me. My friends tried to dissuade me, telling me I'd never find something as solid, that I'd veer off my career track (what little track I had), and that it simply wasn't safe for a woman on her own.

I did quit, thinking that a few months on the road would wean me of the travel bug. Well, it didn't. My trip ended up lasting three years.

When I returned home, I found a new job, better than the one I had left. I realize not everyone is as fortunate, but it can happen - to me, to you, to anyone. Had I not followed by heart, I never would have known.

So should you quit your job to travel?

It's your decision - and don't let anyone else make it for you.

Here are some of the feelings people have expressed when thinking this through:

  • I know the job is wrong for me, but it's great for everyone else. I feel like I'm in quicksand - the more I fight it, the deeper I sink.
  • I started losing track of what was important. I bought the land, built the house, and then looked around me and asked: is this all there is?
  • People starting acting strangely around me at work. By belittling or raising questions about my decision, they're expressing some sort of envy.
  • I get the feeling I'm 'different' - others seem so satisfied to work and grow up. All I want to do is see the world.
  • I don't feel I can be who I am locked up in a cubicle eight hours a day. I'm stifled, suppressed, and unfulfilled.
  • No, I'm not running away from anything. I'm running towards.
  • Will I ever settle down?
  • It's scary to think of traveling on my own.

And hundreds more. Thinking is a major part of the process of leaving, of letting go. You have to feel comfortable with your decision. You may not find all the answers before you go, but you'll be better off for having asked the questions.

What you can do to feel better about quitting your job to travel

"Should you quit your job to travel" often covers an underlying fear and insecurity. If you still want to go but are afraid your life is about to take a less constructive turn because of your trip, there are a few things you could consider doing to 'keep your hand in', so to speak.

  • Why not consider volunteer work overseas? You'll be able to put this on your CV and it often counts as work experience.
  • If that's simply not enough, why not search for overseas jobs? Your career path won't be interrupted, and you'll get to live - and travel - abroad.
  • If that's too formal, you could try something less formal, like becoming a travel writer or teaching English abroad.
  • If you want to earn money without being tied down, you can do what I did - you could build your own site and earn as you travel.
  • You could also study a language abroad - it'll make you more marketable when you return.
  • Deal with the money thing - save enough to tide you over when you return. And make sure you have enough to go! Check out this travel advice on money to plan your budget, at least for the first part of your trip.
  • Some employers see travel as a positive developmental experience - if you're fortunate enough to work for one of those, try asking for six months or a year's leave of absence without pay.
  • If your boss disagrees, try to stay on good terms. There just might be a job opening when you return - who knows, it might even be yours!

In the end, the reasons why women travel are as numerous as they are personal. Should you quit your job to travel? Only you can make that decision. Just know that thousands of women have made that decision before you, and most of them have come back grateful they stepped out for a while.

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