So you’re sitting at your desk and wondering, alright, do I do it? Do I quit my job to travel the world?
You will probably throw up the usual defences of travel is expensive, you don’t know where you would go, or what you would do.
These are all fair points. Travelling is not easy. It’s not always a cute sunset picture that’s perfectly framed for Instagram. But that’s the point. I think in every traveller’s genesis story, there is an element of ok, that’s it. I have to try something different.
This article might not be what you expect a travel blogger to say in answer to this question. I think there are some times when not quitting your job to travel the world is the right thing to do.
I think it’s important to recognise that travel serves a purpose. Once that purpose is served, there isn’t necessarily a need to keep going.
But I will always argue that travel is the number one way to push yourself to the edge of your comfort zone and level up as a person – even if it is a temporary space.
So here’s a balanced take on quitting your job to travel the world. OK, so it’s still just my two cents worth, but you’ve come looking for answers! And answers I’ll give you! 😉
Why Do We Travel?
First things first. If you want to quit your job and travel, you should figure out why we travel in the first place. It’s not like travelling will solve ALL your problems.
Initially, there’s a thrill and adrenaline rush that is hard to replicate and all too easy to chase. The smell of new spices sizzling in oil from the street food carts; the blasting of horns through chaotic traffic. You’re trying to learn a new language and navigate new customs. The highs of solo travel in particular are unique!
And then there’s the juicy sunsets and mountains peaks to scale. Yeah, this sensory overload is very addictive.
But once the initial thrill wears off, what do you gain from travel? What makes offbeat travel so rewarding? What makes us veteran travellers go back for more even after years of shitting ourselves on public transport and fighting bureaucracy in four different languages?
Mark Twain had a point, the bastard: “twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.”
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Lessons Learned From Travelling
Travel holds many lessons. Travel teaches you resilience, it opens you up to new perspectives and whole new ways of living. Every day you’re required to train your budgeting skills, question your moral code, and constantly re-evaluate what’s important to you.
There’s also this almost mystical quality that time takes on. Your life seems to gain time because you cram so much into it. When you discard routine and security, freedom rewards you with a sense that this moment might go on forever.
Essentially, travel is turning up the volume on life and seeing what still sounds good. Your relationships are stress tested, as is your mental health, your finances, your fitness, and your very identity. Once you push through this, you look back on who you were before you hit the road and you wonder how anyone could stand to be around them. You have grown.
Somewhere between the feverish dreams from dengue fever and the skinny dipping at sunrise, you realise that you are capable of quite a lot more than you ever thought. This quiet confidence spills over into the decision about where to go next.
Still, travel is a liminal space. It is the space between who you were and who you will be. It’s not a space you can exist in forever – nor should you want to.
It has an undeniable place in personal development. But every dirtbag has to know when to call it quits and either return to, or create, their home base.
It’s only in retrospect that we understand the lessons that travel taught us.
The Ziggalicious Genesis Story
We all have that one person who we know has “done the thing”. I mean, I quit my job to travel but it’s hard to find people that relate to that. I kept my origin story on the down-low and thought it was weird and unique and awful.
Then I talked to Ziggy.
Turns out every dirtbag has a dusty, crusty origin story. We’ve all got something that made us go, fuck it Imma travel the world. And I’m going to be a better person for it.
If you only ever do what you’ve always done, then you’ll only ever get what you’ve always gotten.
That’s why I went travelling instead.
Perhaps it’s something we overlook amongst the romanticization of wanderlust and moments of “Omg, I bought a one-way ticket to go backpacking in Thailand – so quirky!”.
Sometimes we forget that while travelling to discover the world, spellbinding experiences, and, ultimately, yourself, is – and always will be – a fucking good story, that’s usually not the WHOLE story.
You quit your job, your studies, and your emotionally abusive relationships to go travelling – because you have to.
You go seeking somewhere that feels like home. And then the story really begins. You’ll learn that travelling won’t give you what you need; that what you were looking for… it was looking back at you from the mirror the whole time.
In your early days on the road, you’ll learn a lot about balance… travelling to grow vs. just running away… There are lessons about the nature of the world and your place within it… About writing your own manifesto.
But more than anything, you’ll learn about the power of your own choices, and the role you’ve played in all your greatest triumphs and failures.
And THAT, I believe, is why I quit my job to travel to the world.
To learn that home is not an immutable place. And that community is not something given but earned through time, dedication, and hard, selfless work.
You have to grow into someone that can break the chains of their own self-destructive cycles. And to do all that, first… you have to buy that one-way ticket.
The Pros and Cons of ACTUALLY Quitting Your Job to Travel
I’m not going to do the vapid influencer bullshit and tell you to quit your job and live your best life. I mean, what do I know? Maybe you’re living your best life, right here, right now.
No, I’m going to give you the sexiest thing known to man: a pros and cons list. (I’m the sort of person to get mildly turned on by lists, and this is my advice article, so here we are.) 😉
I think that if you’re asking the question, “Should I quit my job to travel?” then you already have your answer.
If you’re seeking that liminal space, if you’re seeking the hard edge of your comfort zone, then it’s probably time to do it.
If you’re content with where you are financially, if you have a strong sense of home and belonging, and if you’re proud of who you are and what you stand for, you probably don’t need to quit your job and travel.
The List of Pros and Cons: Travel the World Addition
- Foster resilience
- Gain perspective
- Appreciate how precious time is
- Gratitude for where you came from and where you’re going
- Learning how to stick to a budget
- No discipline => could lead to bad habits
Now, you might need to think about how to afford to travel. Maybe the time has come for you to delve into the world of beginning to budget travel. You might need to think of hundreds of logistics – like where to stay and what to do. But these are very solvable questions!
Once you’ve made the decision to quit your job and travel, the rest of it becomes logistics. I don’t want to overly glamorise some of the shitty living situations and mucky jobs I’ve taken on. But I wanted to travel and so I did: I picked fruit, gutted fish, and lived next door to an ex-cartel member.
Somewhere between sharing cigarettes with the kids who deal cocaine and cooking my 8th plate of scrambled eggs that morning for the cafe, I realised travel had made me grow. It made me go, I wonder if I can sail across the Pacific Ocean. And then that month, I started planning my crossing.
Travel made me trust that I was capable.
You can be financially insecure while holding down a 9 – 5. Relationships fail while remembering to take the trash out every night. Homesickness exists for a place you’ve never found.
All the reasons you might list as a reason not to go travelling could crop up in your stable life, too. Even if you end up splitting your time between two countries, or working on the road. You have to give up the catch a bus every week kind of travel once it’s served its purpose.
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What’s This About Work AND Travel?
One of the big concerns about quitting your job to travel is giving up the security of a regular paycheck for the sake of a little freedom of movement.
The dirty little secret of long term travellers is they don’t entirely quit their jobs. They simply go remote. Digital nomadism is on the rise and probably will continue to rise as long as the internet remains accessible.
Whether you start your own online business or go remote with the job you want to potentially quit, there is a way to earn income as you travel. Being a digital nomad changes the way you travel – but it’s certainly worth it!
The Elina Interlude
I called up Elina, a member of our ever-expanding and marvellous team, to ask her about digital nomadism and working remotely.
Elina has spent around 10 years on the road, so naturally, I wanted to know why. I was rather nosy about her life choices, and she obliged and gave me brilliant insights on working and travel that I can share with y’all now.
Actually there are literally five monkeys around me right now, I always forget that I’m living on a tropical island!
Anyway, I guess I was never aiming to be a digital nomad per se, but I always knew I wanted to live and work abroad. I had been travelling in some form since I was 13, and have been travelling solo since around 18. So there was never any question that I would be living abroad – and travelling – as part of my job.
Living and working abroad has always been my plan. And here I am, surrounded by monkeys and writing about travel for a living.
My main job (other than writing content for the wild and wonderful Broke Backpacker) is as a translator. Essentially, I’m a freelancer who is location independent. I can live for a few months of the year in Bali and then, if the weather is nice, I can go to Bulgaria and go hiking for a few months.
I’m not sure it’s freedom, exactly, that keeps me working and travelling; I think it’s the flexibility. There’s no commit to a forever home just yet. I get to enjoy the benefits of travelling to new places as well as the benefits of a regular income.
Seasonal Work and Travel
You can always go the old school hustle route too: pick up seasonal work bartending, fruit picking, or as a fishing crew. I’ve personally done all three of these seasonal jobs and LOVED IT.
Seasonal work can be a great way to structure your travels so that you have the best of both worlds. On the one hand, you can stack a little cash and have a routine during the ‘on’ season; then, on the other hand, you can still have the freedom of unstructured vagabonding during the ‘off’ season. There’s always a backpacker job waiting for you when you arrive in the next town.
So maybe it’s not a question of should you quit your job and travel. Maybe it’s more of a question of how do I balance earning money (security) with a lifestyle that allows me to grow and be free?
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Quitting Your Job to Travel Slow
One of the problems I’ve found with the vagabond lifestyle is a lack of sustained connection – to people and place. You breeze into town one day, have a couple of deep conversations, see a couple of epic sights, maybe eat something epic, and then poof! You move on.
Part of this is necessary for the personal development journey. You need to be challenged by hitchhiking or organising transport. You appreciate the onslaught of different opinions and perspectives. The challenge to see if you can hike the next mountain just a little quicker moulds you.
But it’s tiring.
Plus, it’s not always the most sustainable of travelling either – especially if you take plane ride after plane ride.
My answer to this has always been to slow down. To live somewhere for three months, learn a language, or volunteer.
Benefits of Slow Travel
Slow travel is both more environmentally and emotionally sustainable. If the problem with a life on the road is partly that lack of stability and connection, you can remedy this by creating a series of homes wherever you go.
The type of travel I have become attracted to has more purpose than a wild romp through Southeast Asia. The travel is slower in pace and more meaningful in purpose. I’m attracted to sailing across the Pacific Ocean and living in Mexico City for three months to perfect my Spanish (and salsa dancing skills!).
I get tired of the constant beginnings. I seek out more painful goodbyes. After learning Spanish after living in Guatemala for six months, I had a whole village to say goodbye to in the end.
While this doesn’t necessarily sound happy, it is more in line with why I quit my job to travel in the first place. I didn’t quit my job to travel just to live in a happy little bubble all the time.
I quit my job to travel so that I would be challenged. And so that I would fall in love with the world again.
In this way, I think that understanding why you’re quitting that job and hitting the road is crucial. You won’t need that adrenaline rush of ticking countries off a list for very long. You’ll need to travel slowly and foster meaningful connections along the way.
The Ziggalicious Return
I think there’s something extremely powerful about learning to stay still and be content with what you have. It’s a common traveller mistake and something I know I am guilty of: a constant struggle to up the ante. But do that for too long and what started as a sincere journey for growth and learning turns to one of validation and ego-aggrandisement.
But to be content with what you have, you have to learn how special it is first. You have to learn to be ok with yourself – to even love yourself. You have to learn to trust that person and what they are capable of.
Yeah, you’ve got to book that ticket.
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Combatting the Nihilism of Quitting Your Job to Travel
I’m not gonna lie when I started writing this piece my first thought was: fuck yes you should quit your job and travel. The world is on fire one summer and flooding the next winter.
Kiribati has, at best, 70 years before it is underwater. They can try buying an island in Fiji and relocating. They can try and become the Dubai of the Pacific replete with floating islands and five-star resorts.
But it won’t be the same Kiribati in 70 years time.
If you don’t see the world as it is now, it might be gone forever.
And then I thought, this is irresponsible to publish. I don’t want to tell the reader to quit their job because I felt a little nihilistic on the day I wrote this article.
Besides, the world has always operated in a state of flux. Until late in the 20th century, war and famine were our constant companions. These days, suicide is a bigger threat than strangers. No terrorist, no violent cop, no would-be murderer is as likely to pose a problem as we pose to ourselves.
You’re more likely to die from obesity than from starvation. We have an abundance of food with a major distribution problem.
This would suggest we’ve (largely) got war and famine under wraps – if only temporarily. That is no small feat. Collectively, we are capable of some incredible, magical, wonderful feats.
No, we’ve never faced climate change on this scale before. We’ve never faced such an existential threat that is of our own doing. And there’s still a bunch of shit going wrong.
And yet, I have hope. I have hope because humanity is resilient, creative, and adaptable. Part of the solution to the concoction of threats the world is facing will include fostering your own resilience and adaptability. It will also include global solutions and a view that this is one world, not many nations.
The best way to foster that resilience and to gain that perspective, in my opinion, is to go travelling. Maybe not indefinitely, but certainly for a time. You need that exposure to other’s perspectives, to other’s lives.
You also need compassion and the ability to adapt. Travel will teach you this. People are kind more often than they are cruel. The world is beautiful more often than it is ugly. And you are capable more times than you are not.
So, Should You Quit Your Job to Travel the World?
Well, I’ll reiterate: if you’re asking yourself that question, then I think you already know the answer. If you need to shake up a stagnant routine or push yourself to the edge of your comfort zone then it’s time to quit your job and travel.
If you know that where you are right now is stagnant – shake it up. Book the ticket. Embrace the liminal travel space. Grow as a person.
There are endless ways to hustle and make the travel life work. You can even find a happy medium and work while travelling. Then when travel has taught you the lessons you needed, you can bring perspective and resilience into your community – wherever in the world that community ends up being.
Because ultimately, we’re trying to strike a balance between freedom and security. We’re trying to push away from the crushing nihilism into something genuine.
We’re trying to be better people and leave this world a better place.
Besides, if it is to be a short life, let it be a beautiful one.
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