4 Steps To Quit Your Job & Long Term Travel
Is your boss an asshole? (Don’t say yes if you’re self-employed). Maybe you have the feeling that you’ve got better things to do with your time than making someone else rich? That’s how I felt before I quit my job to follow my dream of long term travel and seeing the world.
Long term travel was something I had always wanted to do, but life somehow always got in the way. Then one day, I woke up and made the decision to quit my job and travel the world long term. Below is how I did it and how you can too. The choice I made was simple. It can be echoed by anyone of any age, kids are no excuse, and neither is a lack of money. Ultimately the only thing holding you back from your dream of seeing the world is you. Take the idea of long term travel seriously, it may be the best decision you’ll ever make.
The lazy tourists’ bucket list
Long term travel seems to be one of those things everyone says they want to do but never actually get around to doing. In fact, I’d put it in almost the same category as ‘become a millionaire’ and ‘make a movie’. There’s nothing wrong with wanting these things. It’s just that people never cross the line in the sand between just wanting them and actually doing them.
Even the phrase is generic, if ‘See the World’ is all you want to do, then look at a globe and be quiet. I know people who equate seeing the world to vacationing somewhere with palm trees once a year. Not really what I had in mind. I’d compare this idea of travel to reading the back of a biology book then challenging Richard Dawkins to a debate.
The most common reaction
When I tell people my plan to go overseas for more than a year of long term travel they freak out. They usually just shake their heads and say, “I wish I could just quit my job and travel too”. That’s the inspiration for this page. I essentially wanted to put together a good solid resource on the subject of quitting a career to travel the world for a serious length of time. What’s the most common objection to traveling long term? It seems to be that most people believe they can’t take the time off work. That they’ll somehow get ‘left behind’ while they’re away.
Here’s a fun fact: between 55% and 61% of people are unsatisfied with their jobs. This major excuse seems to boil down to people not doing what they want because they’re too busy doing something they hate. Okay, well that makes absolutely no sense. Supporting yourself financially overseas has never been easier. So you’re not working for just the money? Then why the hell are you working as opposed to doing the things you have always wanted to do? Ok let’s read between the lines. It’s not that people are in love with their crap jobs, end of the day, it’s a fear thing. We’re all afraid of the unknown to some degree, and long term travel is all about unknowns. That’s kind of the point. Understandable so let’s dive into that and what we can do about it.
Before I quit my job I was working in a promising career at a nice office and a good company. But, I never made time to do the one thing I was truly passionate about. I want to experience long term travel and see the world. There are so many things we can use as an excuse not to take our ideas or dreams of travel seriously. A job or a mortgage for example. Here’s the thing, when you eventually make your way home after an amazing journey, there’s nothing stopping you from picking up where you left off. Below are some of the common objections that I hear on a regular basis (or have experienced myself). As well as the best ways to get around them and put them behind you.
Isn’t travel dangerous?
Depends on what you’re planning on doing. Maybe avoid land-diving in Vanuatu. I’d also avoid wandering around the Favela’s of Rio by yourself. However, for the most part no, it’s not dangerous at all really. The media have done a fantastic job of scaring most people when it comes to foreign countries. They often greatly exaggerate the dangers of travel. Think about this fact: the USA has a higher homicide rate than Palestine. Yet every second story on the news is about the dangers of the Middle East.
I follow several travellers who have had amazing journeys through the Middle East and Africa. They felt safe and couldn’t stop reiterating how lovely the people were. While you can’t deny that there are areas of the world you should probably avoid. Central Honduras anyone? The vast majority of countries around the world are just as safe as your home or safer, depending on where you actually live. Just ensure that you practice some basic common sense, as you would back at home anyway. It’s actually the unfamiliar that makes travel seem dangerous in your mind. Remember that you’re more than likely to be just as safe as you are at home.
What about my kids?
Back in the day, long term travel used to be as much a part of a person’s education as structured learning was. It was actually a requirement for many university grads to travel. The goal was to experience their professions in other places or do a study of foreign examples of their disciplines. What I’m trying to get at is that there is (literally) a whole world of education out there, waiting for you and your kids.
Don’t think that missing some time in a structured classroom in exchange for life skills and problem-solving on the road is a bad trade, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. There are many good examples of families weighing anchor and journeying around the world together very successfully (i.e. the Carlton or the Bradley families). There are some really fantastic sites like Families on the Road or My Family Travels who argue that the long term travel experience is actually a far better education than an average school year. Kids grow up well rounded and with more worldly experiences than their peers.
Even when you get back from your travels, (assuming you do decide to come back at all), a small break in structured learning should not affect a child’s education. Especially as there are easy options to keep your children up to date while abroad. I missed the 3rd grade altogether. I went straight from the 2nd to 4th due to a move from Hong Kong to Australia. It had no impact on my long term education (I now hold BA and MA degrees).
It’s just not the right time
Fact: It’s never going to be the right time. Things will always crop up and life always gets in the way. Procrastination is something I can relate to. I put off my departure for months because I just wanted to finish one more thing before I left. Month after month. There will almost never be a shining window of opportunity in your life you can take advantage of where nothing else is going on.
You might need to quit a good job or leave a partner behind (if they can’t, or won’t come). Maybe you want your kids to be a little older? Whatever the reason, ask yourself if it is another excuse or a legitimate concern. Then set a date in the future you can work towards and stick to it like glue. The time may never seem quite right but you need to do it anyway. Make the time, find a way around things in your life. Realise that most things can simply be picked back up upon your return (especially jobs). Tim Ferriss has a good blog post on letting bad things happen that somewhat applies to long term travel.
I don’t have enough money for long term travel!
Since this page is mostly about quitting your job to pursue long term travel. I’m going to assume you do have a job to quit in the first place. If you have a job, you probably have some money too. While not many of us can traverse the globe at a whim, skipping from resort to resort at the drop of a hat. – Most people have enough money to travel far further and for a far longer period of time than they think. It’s quite easy to travel for very little money as Tim Patterson explains in his article here.
Derek Baron (aka Wandering Earl) has been on the road for about 15 years now. He lays his finances out pretty clearly in this post. Earl shows exactly how little money he started with on his journey (only $1,500). He got to where he is now through working a combination of odd jobs and consciously planning to travel cheaply. Now he’s graduated to being a full digital nomad and travel is his job. The point I’m making is that it is entirely possible to travel the world long term with far less money than you might think. Certainly less money than the media will lead you to believe. Long term travel does require conscious planning and discipline, but so does basically everything worth doing in life.
Work out your living expenses at home first. Then compare these to your expenses while travelling and the costs associated with living abroad. I’ve found I can actually live far cheaper in most places overseas than at home. I’ll go through a random month of my expenses, which I track monthly (because I’m weird). Please note, I do live in Perth, Western Australia which is also one of the worlds most expensive cities. I’d call paying $6 for a small coffee a pretty good deal.
Monthly Expenses (January 2012)
- Rent $720 (a bargain)
- Fuel $210
- Groceries $187
- Entertainment & Eating out $655
- Beer $95
- Bills/misc monthly costs $220
- Speeding/parking fines $175
- Clothes $110
- Harmonica (decided to start learning) $10
- Physio appointment $95
Compare these costs with living abroad for a month and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much cheaper it can be, even when living in some of the more traditionally expensive cities like New York or London. Here’s a fantastic post about how to live abroad for less than $1,000 a month. Compared to my living expenses in January, that sounds pretty damn good.
The biggest expense for a traveller is usually accommodation. There are now some really good options for reducing (or removing) this major drain on the budget. Websites like Airbnb, Couchsurfing, Global Freeloaders and hostel aggregators like Hostelworld or Gomio give travellers the information they need to find free or heavily reduced accommodation prices online and save some very serious cash.
What about Income?
When it comes to earning an income during long term travel there have never been more options than today. The internet has become the medium that enables anyone to connect with a market. Opening the doors of online entrepreneurship to all and the giving everyday people the key to becoming location independent. There are some great sites that cater for just this type of content, covering basic how to’s through to travel hacking and outsourcing. Sites like Location Independent or Numomad are really worth looking into if you think this may be an option. Other income generating options include the more traditional methods of teaching English or WWOOFing (organic farm work).
There are also entire communities and networks setup for starting or continuing careers overseas. Sites like Transitions Abroad or Overseas Jobs show you how you can take your job along with you as you go. Another great method for reducing your costs overseas during long term travel is finding work in some sort of contra capacity. This way, you may work a day two a week in exchange for cheaper accommodation from a hostel, food or some other similar deal. The best way to find these opportunities I’ve found is through asking other travellers for advice in each location. Also look at hostel notice boards or just enquire at the hostels themselves. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised what comes back.
Shameless self promotion time: Anyone who wants to work with me in any capacity can contact me here.
But I don’t speak XXX language!
A largely redundant objection to long term travel. Most countries around the world today teach English to their kids in school as a second language. Even if they can’t speak enough to write you a thesis about Shakespeare, many people from all over the world still understand more than enough English for you to get by.
Countries that don’t speak English as their first language will very often (especially in the larger cities), have English signage. Failing that there’s probably enough well presented symbolic signage to give you a good enough indication of meaning for you to get around just fine. In my experience there are also countless helpful locals around. Generally, if you look lost enough, someone will always offer to help. There’s an app for that now too. Translation based apps appeare in all the major app markets. So far I’m a little sceptical of their total accuracy and have yet to test them fully in my travels. However, there’s no doubt they will eventually get good enough to be an essential tool in far flung foreign areas.
But how will I pay my mortgage?
If you’re not in a position to pay 100% of your mortgage while you’re travelling why not look into getting the place tenanted. There are now, even more options like listing your house on AirBnB or HomeAway, fantastic sites that place homeowners with travellers looking to rent locally rather than stay in a hotel or hostel. I know several people who not only cover their mortgage like this but actually make a small profit each month while they travel abroad long term.
So you’ve made up your mind to leave your job and travel the world? Fantastic! Now you just need to quit your job, which can be a daunting process. Fortunately, there are loads of great resources out there to help you along like iresign or the plethora of other career advice sites and blogs around the web, Google is your friend here. Remeber, be strong young journeyman!
Tips on how to quit a job with style
Go out with a bang, jump instead of being pushed, however you phrase it giving your boss the finger will be just plain awesome right? Well as long as you don’t mind burning a few bridges, here are some fantastic ideas to quit your job in memorable style before you disappear on your long term travel adventure. Use these ideas as your inspiration and go nuts.. then tell me all about it in the comments!
- Hire a marching band and announce your resignation with a glorious musical version of the middle finger.
- Develop a computer game. An independent game developer in Australia adapted a version of Mario to tell his superiors in no roundabout way that he just quit after each level. Try it out here.
- Code up a script to pop-up on your desktop letting you boss know that you will not be back on Monday.
- Use Social media like Jonathan Schwartz, the CEO of Carezone who wrote a Haiku style poetic tweet to the world announcing that he was leaving (and all in just 140 characters).
The Perfect Resignation Letter
When I was still studying I worked a number of terrible jobs and once wrote a resignation letter that still makes me smile when I read it. It was sent to my employer (a large national retailer in Australia) who had a terrible track record with its employees. After a heated discussion with my manager, I quit over the phone, then wrote the letter below. This was my actual resignation letter, which I sent to every store nationally as well as state and national managers in Sydney, I still read it with pride, I hope this inspires you enough to do the same.
The letter I’m so glad I wrote
I’m writing to you to let you know that I have officially resigned from XXX effective immediately. I have been working at XXX in the XXX store for around 18 months now and from my initial start date, my fellow inmates and I soon realised that the company appears to be run by a board comprised of only Adolf Hitler, Ted Bundy and Genghis Khan. My work days start with the feeling of impending doom and usually end with graphic thoughts of what it would be like to strangle XXX, my store manager. Each day I suffer such a constant assault to my intelligence that in comparison Hiroshima got off lightly.
I quit the job today on a packed train while on the way to work after a heated discussion with XXX, where I told her quite loudly to go fuck herself prompting the guy next to me to give me a hi-five, I then also received a round of applause from nearby fellow commuters. I can safely say that the best thing about working for XXX so far has been quitting, and sincerely hope that my abrupt resignation causes you to lose money due to the XXX store not being opened all day and also get’s your attention like an unexpected and non-lubricated finger in the ass. In short, go to hell, I hope your business fails, you have been truly horrible to work for, and I strongly encourage every other XXX employee to follow my lead and quit their jobs without notice.
When it comes to planning for long term travel, generally I like to have a rough idea of my activities at a destination. Then I leave plenty of space for movement as plans change. I also like to set specific dates to work towards like entry or exit dates for countries or continents that you can book flights around. Some of the best experiences I’ve had while travelling have been the things I never planned on doing. Often these opportunities just present themselves. Planning with enough built in flexibility allows for these magic moments to happen.
I have used most of the more popular guidebook publishers including Lonely Planet as well as Rough Guides, Footprints and Let’s go. To be honest they are each so similar and all crammed full of pretty good info. I just go with the cheapest or most convenient at the time (as long as it is a recent edition). There is also lot’s of great online support with plenty of independent travel sites to help you plan things as you go. I would be wary of over planning a trip though. There’s a post on planning here, which outlines some of how I recommend planning for long term travel. I really don’t think you need to plan too much in advance. Even if you’re a bit anal about your organisation. It’s a massive headache and your plans will always end up changing.
It’s the largest expense you’ll have. However, finding the best, cheapest or simply the most awesome accommodation has never been easier with sites like AirBnb or Couchsurfing. I have stayed with friends, crashed on couches, rented apartments and used plenty of hostels, hotels and even top line resorts in my time. How to handle this part of long term travel for you comes down to personal preference and of course, your budget.
I like to get down and dirty with the locals. So my thing is more the Airbnb and Couchsurfing style of accommodation, which also really helps my budget stretch that much further. I also like to get out of my comfort zone when I travel. Staying with local people in some manner makes for (in my opinion) a better experience. That includes staying with friends or relatives, crashing on a local person’s sofa or finding a place in advance with AirBnB or Couchsurfing style services.
What about Hostels?
Hostels are a good alternative for accommodation during long term travel if you don’t like the idea of staying with someone or renting from the general public. While you won’t be rubbing shoulders directly with the locals you will meet far more travellers using hostel type accommodation. I have had many great experiences in hostels but also a few bad ones.
As a rule, they are definitely getting better as time goes on especially given the amount of review style sites out there today travellers can use to make more informed decisions. Sites like Yelp, Google Places and the hostel portals like Gomio and Hostel World which include reviews can really help you pin down the better places available in each location. If you are not looking for a party every night there are plenty of hostels who cater to older crowds, just make sure you do your research as there’s nothing worse than beer bongs, body paint and drum&bass when you’re trying to catch up on your Sudoku.
I generally don’t stay in too many hotels or resort style accommodation during my long term travel journeys, unless I’m somewhere that has a currency that makes it viable. However, if this is your thing or you’re not staying somewhere for too long, (or you’re just plain loaded and don’t give a fuck), go nuts. In my opinion swapping your widescreen TV at home for one overseas is not exactly my idea of experience based travel. Saying that though, it is really nice to splurge every so often. Travel to your own style and if hotels fit in with that style. Book away, there are plenty of great hotel finder style sites like Agoda, Hotels.com, Expedia or Kayak to get you the best deal. Make sure you compare the compare sites though – it’s like hotel inception!
Do a quick Google search and you’ll find more flight price aggregator websites online now than you’ve had hot dinners. This is a good thing on one hand and annoying on the other. I like to use Skyscanner as it will search the other major site portals like Kayak or Expedia as well as the airlines themselves and generally gets me pretty consistently cheap flights. Otherwise, there are similar sites like Expedia, Kayak, Hipmonk and Travelocity that do the same thing, try a few out, some will also include hotel finders but compare and use what works for you.
Do I use a travel agent to book flights? Sometimes, I generally use agents to help me plan but this really depends on the trip itself, here’s a great bit of info about the pros and cons of buying a round the world (RTW) ticket. Some trips are more conducive to being booked yourself using a series of one-way flights. Other trips, where you have a set amount of time or destinations in mind may be better suited for a RTW style ticket. Generally, I’ll get flight advice from an agent then book the flight online. Alternatively try even pairing agent against the agent if they have price matching policies to get an ultra low priced flight. More tips on how to get more bang for your buck when planning any long term travel are here.
General tips before you’re set for long term travel
Pretty basic but just ensure you have one and that it is valid at least 6 months past your last destination. I wrote a post about applying for a passport recently which explained just how annoying it can be, so make sure you do it early, long before your flight or get ready for a nail biting beginning to your grand adventure.
Make sure that you know the visa specifics for each destination you’re heading to on your travels. It can be really frustrating applying for some of the less touristy destinations. On the other hand, there are some really handy visa agreements between countries, like Europe’s Schengen Convention which can really simplify things. Just ensure you look into it before buying any tickets. I use VisaHQ to check all visa requirements.
Depending on where you go you may need to be immunised against certain diseases. I would strongly recommend seeing a travel doctor before heading off. Ensure you see one early enough as some injections need time to be effective or additional booster style shots to ensure you remain immune over longer periods of time.
A gigantic pain in the ass but unfortunately a necessary one, especially when visiting the USA, with it’s abysmal healthcare system. Be medically prepared for your trip. Make sure you have unlimited (or effectively unlimited) medical as in the USA you are literally one accident away from bankruptcy. I use WorldNomads who have been pretty extensively recognised as the best international travel insurer by organisations like Lonely Planet and National Geographic.
There have been hundreds of good posts on money management for travellers, check out a few of the best ones in the link section or just get your Google on. I use a credit card with zero fees across the board internationally (yep it’s awesome) called 28 degrees but this is probably only available to Australians, I load it up with money before I leave and withdraw cash out as I go, I use online banking to transfer cash from my bank account to keep it paid and topped up. Look into similar credit card products in your relevant country for similar cash versatility.
Another good option is online bank ING Direct, I use an ING direct account to keep an emergency fund of $1000 with a separate bank card (kept separately from my main cards/cash) for emergencies only. If you are travelling with a partner, ensure you have a card each and both have access to the account. I generally use a travellers Money Belt to keep my money safe and on my person, during my long term travel adventures. Generally, I also ensure that I have multiple copies of important documents, again kept separately as well as digital versions in the cloud. I also have 2 spare credit cards that I can use if I need to. Mastercard is more accepted internationally than Visa with Amex being a very distant third (by a long way).
Packing for long term travel
Here’s how Tim Ferriss does it, he claims to travel with less than 10 pounds, the point here is that you should pack as light as you are able for long term travel. The old cliche of taking half the stuff you think you’ll need is actually a pretty good way to go about packing. You will always accumulate stuff as you go, even if you try not to. Account for it by taking less to start with. Here’s a general list I use:
5 pairs of undies and socks
2 pairs of shorts (including bathers, which for me double as shorts too)
2 pairs of long pants – jeans and cargos
A few shirts including a long sleeve shirt
Good walking shoes
Flip-flops + hat
If you’re going somewhere cold obviously include jackets, beanie and thermals also. Don’t forget that unless you’re planning on going to the Antarctic you will be able to buy stuff as you go. Don’t stress about leaving something behind. Here are a few other small things I like to make sure I pack.
If you are all the way down here and still reading, I’m impressed. Pretty sure you don’t need any more convincing so hurry up and quit your job, plan your trip, start packing and hit the airport for your own long term travel adventure. If you’re still not sure, go back up to the objections and reread that section then head to the links section to see just how easy things like planning have become. Always remember that your cubicle will still be there when you get back (if you still want it).
Life will go on just fine without you. I can’t even list the number of people I’ve met, who after leaving their jobs to see the world have had absolutely no regrets about the decision. Now compare that to how you would feel if you didn’t go.. I hope the view of your office wall is nice!! Go and see the world. When you eventually come home I guarantee you’ll be glad you went. You’ll also have a bucket list a good bit lighter.
Missed anything? – Let me know in the comments.