So, you want to quit your job and travel? Hell yeah – let’s do it! The good news is that this is 100% possible.
With that said, there is not a ten step program or a magic app that makes this happen. It takes serious discipline and willpower. Life does not give handouts, if this is something that you want to happen, then it is time to take control and make it happen!
In this post I will share my story of how Seth and I decided to quit our corporate 9-5 jobs in Washington, DC and take six months off work. The events leading up to getting on that flight are just as much part of the story as your time away. My goal with this post is to help guide you through the process of deciding to travel long term and how to make it happen. Every traveler has a unique story of how they quit their day job and got on that flight. This is my personal story.
My personal history with the travel itch
You know that itch on your back that you just can’t reach and is never really satisfied? That’s the travel itch. Travel is an itch that is truly never scratched. I’ve had the itch since I was very young but never had the opportunity to travel until I made it happen myself.
I didn’t grow up with a lot of money. My family vacations consisted of driving four hours north to the Jersey shore or visiting my grandparents at their retirement community in Florida. Those vacations were glamorous enough at the time, but I always wanted more. This is not a knock on my upbringing, I had a really amazing childhood. But I was surrounded by families much wealthier than ours. My neighbors and family friends were always jetsetting to Europe and cruising around islands any chance they could. It pained me to watch friends under-appreciate how lucky they were. I would have done anything to switch places with them.
Life moved on and I decided to play a Division I sport in college. Why? I have no clue, I shouldn’t have but there is no point in dwelling on that decision now. This is where the itch got really bad for me. I watched what felt like everyone I knew traveling abroad on social media and used to cry in my room on Instagram longing for a different life. I tried hard to find a way to do a summer session abroad but it just financially wasn’t possible.
Then comes life immediately after college. Here we go again! It felt like everyone was spending the summer in Europe on mom and dad’s credit card. There’s nothing wrong with taking that if life hands it to you, but in my opinion until you travel on your own dime and on your own terms, you are not truly traveling.
I started working in downtown DC the week after I graduated. I loved building my marketing career for a while. Well more so, I loved making money. I loved having control of my life. I realized for the first time that I could make any decision I wanted without justifying it to anyone. There was nothing holding me back from building a life however I wanted to do it. I think the majority of people fall into this category but don’t realize it.
Did you know that you are allowed to make changes in your life without anyone’s approval?
As I was discovering this, I met Seth in the winter of 2017. A month later, I bought flights to go to Italy with him. And guess what? I didn’t ask permission from anyone. On our first trip together, everything just made sense. We talked about a mutual dream of traveling the world and decided that one day we would make it happen. At that point we did not know when, but I just knew that we would make it happen.
Make a choice and set a deadline
The more time you spend debating if this is the right choice for you, the further away that dream will become reality.
We stayed in DC for another two years after our original trip to Italy. Our life was really great in DC. We had an awesome apartment together that was constantly filled with even better friends. I loved the hustle and bustle of the 9-5 energy in DC. Any day of the week, I could meet a friend for happy hour, attend a work event or try a new workout class. We joined multiple kickball teams, bocce leagues and attended trivia regularly. It was really a great life. For those who are content with that lifestyle, it’s comfortable and fun. I was content for a period of time, and then the itch got stronger.
We went on a ten day trip to Europe in September of 2018. We traveled to Oktoberfest in Munich, Split, Prague and Budapest. To this day that trip is one of my favorite travel memories. I was so awestruck by Europe and new cities, I couldn’t get enough of it. When we got back, the post-travel depression hit hard. I worked from home for almost an entire week (which was not totally acceptable at that time) because I was so sad to be settling back into that lifestyle.
Seth came home from work probably a week after we got back and I sat him down and I told him we had to go. We had to do it this year or it was never going to happen. We had no major life obligations, no graduations or weddings keeping us here. It was now or never. At the time it wasn’t actually that dramatic, but in reality if we had waited any longer, a global pandemic would have really ruined our plans.
A few days later and a couple glasses of wine in, we found $300 flights to China on April 1st, 2019 and we booked them.
That was the decision and that was the deadline.
Now keep in mind that not everyone will agree with your decision. There will be people who think you are making a mistake or worse, think you are selfish. I personally really struggled with this feedback. When dealing with this, it is important to remember that you are in control of your own life. If this choice is right for you, you do not need to justify it to anyone.
Set a budget goal and make it your top priority
Let’s be real here, you need money to travel the world! How did we do it? Trust fund – duh (joking)! It’s funny, when we first left on our trip both Seth and I got messages from people we knew growing up asking if the other had some sort of nest egg which was not the case. My point here is that anyone can quit their quit job and travel. It doesn’t matter if you’re a dogwalker or a CEO, you can do this too.
How to set a budget
We were both making pretty good salaries at the time so had already started to save, but it was time to get serious about it. Seth works in finance and that definitely comes in handy in situations like this. He figured out how much we needed to save to realistically travel around the world for six months. For us, that budget was $12,000 each for the trip and then another $8,000 as a buffer for when we got back and looked for new jobs. So there it was, we each needed to save $20,000 in 7 months.
Let me be very clear here, you absolutely do not need $20,000 saved up to quit your job and travel.
There is no perfect budget and every story is different. I am just being transparent about our story and how we did it! Six months is a long time and we were on a backpackers budget. We also knew we would not be making any income during that time. Depending on the type of travel you want, you will need to save more or can get by on much less. If you want to eat out every meal and stay in a 5 star hotel, you either need to double that budget or only plan on traveling for a month. If you plan to work side jobs, you can probably save less since you will be earning money while you are traveling. You get the point – your money will only take you as far as you spend it.
We met people, especially in Southeast Asia who were living with just a couple hundred dollars in their bank account. Backpacking is a hustlers’ world! There are so many ways to get by with very little. For example, some hostels will let you stay for free in exchange for work. It is all about the level of financial discomfort you can manage! If you know Seth, he does not handle any sort of financial discomfort so we needed that extra cushion. But we made great friends and backpacked with a couple that had a $8,000 credit limit and were just traveling off that until it was up. Honestly, good for them! Know yourself and what you can handle.
If you stick to cheaper regions like South America or Southeast Asia, a healthy $4,000 – $6,000 will last you a couple months! Once you add in Europe, it gets pricier, especially the housing options.
Stick to your goal
Once you set your budget, it is time to get serious about hitting that goal. When you have a lofty savings goal like this it really makes you question that afternoon starbucks, the sweetgreen salad and the Sunday chinese order. We cut out almost all of our extra spending. I love to shop, so I only purchased clothes that were coming in my backpack. We cut out happy hours, Friday nights out and started hosting Saturday brunch at our apartment instead of going out. It’s amazing how much you can save by skipping the bars just one weekend night! It might seem like a big sacrifice at the time, but when you’re playing with Elephants in Thailand or staring at the Eiffel tower, it makes it all worth it.
Those months leading up to the departure are hard. It is very difficult to stay focused at work when you just want to fast forward, but it is all part of the journey! Even though you haven’t boarded the flight yet, this is the part where you changed your life and made it happen.
Plan your route
Now for the fun part, travel planning! Those happy hours we cut out were replaced by hours of research.
Similar to the budget, how much you plan is up to your level of comfort.
We had the entire six months planned to the day when we got on our flight April 1st. Seth and I spent 5 days a week into late hours of the night mapping out every city, flight and housing. Now not everyone wants to do it this way, but it is much more cost effective to book things ahead of time. I’m all about a go with the flow mentality but that will get you in trouble in some circumstances. It was relaxing to know that when we got on a flight, we knew exactly where we were staying the next night.
If that’s not your style, by all means, it’s your adventure! Again, we met travelers who literally bought a flight to Thailand and had no clue where they were staying when they landed. This completely works for some people. I would recommend at least having two weeks of housing booked and then you go from there if you do not want to follow a strict schedule.
Important note: Always purchase travel insurance! World Nomads will cover you on illness, injury or lost luggage.
Write out your bucket list
It is overwhelming to look at a world map and decide where to go. Start by writing out your bucket list and see how logistically it makes sense to do it! We knew we weren’t going to be able to hit everywhere on our bucket list, but we did our best. Six months might seem like a long time but even with us spending 2-3 days in a city, we only got to 24 countries! We covered Asia, Australia and parts of Europe. We did not tackle any of Africa or South America, which are still on our to-do list.
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Consider the climates
This is a huge factor when planning long term travel. When you travel for a long time, you want to pack as efficiently as possible. You do not want to carry around winter boots while you are in 100 degree weather in Vietnam. Ultimately that is why we spent the summer in Europe. We traveled through Asia and got to Europe at the start of summer. This meant that we only needed to pack warm weather clothes.
Make a come-back plan
We knew we wanted to move to Nashville after our six months of travel. Because of this, we toured apartments in Nashville before we left on our trip and had a list of our top options. A few months before coming home, we reached out to those leasing agents and signed a lease while we were traveling without the need to tour again! Again, this is different for everyone but for us, we did not want to come back and couch surf while adjusting back to “normal life”.
Finally, time to quit your job and travel!
The job notice
Finally! The time is here to quit your job to pursue your dream of traveling the world. You saved up, planned your route, and purchased your travel essentials. Each job is different but since we weren’t leaving for another company, we each decided to give a three weeks notice rather than the usual two. Now is not the time to burn any bridges. If the company then decides they don’t need you for all three weeks, then so be it but that is usually not the case. It’s always nerve-racking to quit a job but the reality is that most people will be happy for you.
Say your goodbyes
Now, let’s not be dramatic, these are not actually goodbyes. But it is a good idea to give your loved ones extra hugs and make more time for them the weeks leading up to your flight. Especially when you are across the world with a 14 hours time difference, it is hard to keep in touch. Manage those expectations ahead of time and give some extra love!
I decided to write this personal post in hopes that it helps just one person take control of their life and make your dream of traveling the world happen. It’s uncomfortable for me to say this but I am proud of myself. This was the coolest and best thing I have ever done, and I did it all myself. Never hesitate to reach out and ask more questions about my journey.