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Should You Quit Your Job to Travel the World?
Most people say it's a risk - but worth considering for long-term travel

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The question of "should you quit your job" is a major one if you're thinking of long-term travel. These days it's everywhere: Become a digital nomad! Make money with your travel blog! Take cruises for free! Is that all hype or is quitting an option worth considering?

Should you quit your job

Escape from the cubicle Photo dcwriterdawn via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

It's both, actually.

A lot of it is hype, promising you a world of riches if you only quit working 9 to 5 and start an online business. Or blog. Or consultancy. Fact is, all this COULD happen. You can make money, buy freedom, see the world.

But if you know your grammar, the word could is conditional. It's not definitive. It might happen. And then it might not.

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? Will my family suffer?

These are normal questions and will inevitably cross your mind as you think things 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. And you might never find one as good...

It depends on what you want: travel or money?

You may be able to get both.

For some of us, the pull of travel is stronger than the need for stability or money. If that describes you, all other reasons will fly out the window.

I was one of those. 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 long-distance travel bug. Well, it didn't. My trip ended up lasting more than three years.

When I returned home, I found a new job, better than the one I had left. Had I not followed by heart, I never would have known.

So, should you quit your job to travel?

A lifestyle of long-term travel isn't for everyone.

Some people have family ties they cannot stretch - a partner who won't or can't travel, elderly or ailing relatives, children they don't want to take out of school, or they have insurmountable financial constraints.

If you live in a rich country, you may be able to save money to travel (these money-saving tips might help). If that is an impossibility, there are still ways to travel relatively cheaply - but you will need some funds. 

Before you make the big decision, ask yourself these questions

Do any of these thoughts keep showing up in your mind?

  • I know my job is great for everyone else, but it's wrong for me, but it's. I feel like I'm in quicksand - the more I fight it, the deeper I sink. All I do all day is look at travel posters on my wall.
  • I bought the plot, built the house, and then looked around me and asked: is this all there is? I feel something huge is missing from my life.
  • People have acted strangely around me at work when I talk about quitting to travel. By belittling or raising questions about my decision, they might be expressing some sort of envy - or fear.
  • I get the feeling I'm 'different' - others seem so satisfied to work and 'grow up' (although I'm past middle age). All I want to do is see the world.
  • I don't feel I can be who I am locked up eight hours a day. I'm stifled, suppressed, and unfulfilled.
  • No, I'm not running away from anything. I'm running towards.

You may not find all the answers before you go, but you'll be better off for having asked the questions. You have to feel comfortable with your decision..

When I began raising all these issues myself and eventually decided I needed to 'get away', it took me a year to get things in order, make a flurry of color-coded lists, talk to people who had done this before, and so many more things I had to plow through before actually getting on the road.

I didn't leave empty-handed, either - I had some savings, and I had work as a freelance writer, so I wasn't just casting myself into the universe to see what would stick.

How to feel better about quitting your job

It's perfectly normal to feel all sorts of fear and anxiety when deciding whether to quit your job to travel.

If you want to fly off into the sunset, that's fine. But if you're a little more cautious, there are plenty of things you can do make sure you don't cut yourself off completely from the world as you know it.

  • Why not consider volunteer work overseas? You'll be able to put this on your CV and it often counts as work experience - and might help with the job search.
  • You might also search for overseas jobs, with the advantage of maintaining your career path yet living overseas, perhaps becoming an expat rather than a traveler. Teaching English abroad is one way to earn a decent salary while living overseas. But - it's still a job, and can be a hard one.
  • If that's too formal, you could try something less structured, like becoming a travel writer. But don't think you can instantly make a living this way. 
  • You could study a language abroad - it won't earn you money but it will 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 the advice on this page to help 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!

While a lifestyle of long-term travel may seem highly glamorous - it's often not, and you should be absolutely clear of the pitfalls before you go.

The down sides of quitting your job to travel

I can only speak for myself but much as I loved my full-time travel, there were low moments, and plenty of inconveniences and disadvantages.

  • I did get lonely. It didn't happen often, but I missed my friends and my family.
  • The fun of living out of a backpack wore out and I sometimes wished I had a home base somewhere more permanent (as it was, my poor brother was deluged with packages stamped by post offices in Mozambique or Brazil).
  • Money got tight. For some reason, people who hire you often forget you need to eat. They, after all, have a regular paycheck every month. You don't. At times I was down to my last sandwich when the money finally came in - too close for comfort.
  • When I got sick (and this happened as much as at home) I had to deal with it on my own. No one to feel any sympathy, no one to tell me it was going to be all right. When I was on the road (in the 1990s) there was no Skype or cellphones; nowadays you'd at least be able to keep in touch with your support system. But still.
  • The career dangers I mentioned earlier. You might be lucky and find a great job on your return - but you might not. You need to take this into consideration.

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 many of them have come back grateful they were given the opportunity to step out into the world for a while. But not all.

Have you ever quit your job to travel? What was that like for you? Please reply in the comments below.

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