Quitting your job to travel the world is a dream for many, but the reality isn’t quite as simple as that and there are some careful practicalities to consider if you want to follow that dream. Here are 8 steps you need to take if you want to quit your job to travel.
Quitting everything to travel is a romantic ideal, and it certainly isn’t right for everyone, but if you have taken the decision to say screw you to your boss and travel the world for an undisclosed amount of time then it can be an amazing adventure.
The thing is it really isn’t as simple as just slapping your boss around the back of the head with your resignation letter and happily skipping out of the door.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking the decision to have a gap year or travel the world, in fact for many it is the exact right thing to do, but contrary to popular belief it isn’t as simple as it sounds and it does take careful thought and planning.
Here is how you can plan it right, have everything in place before you go, and make sure that the decision is a good one and doesn’t come back to bite you in the arse later.
REALLY decide if it is right for you.
Look, I’m going to speak plainly here, long term travel really isn’t for everyone, and you know what? That’s okay.
You have obviously read this site and seen how awesome world travel is. You have drooled over impossibly curated photos of tropical paradises on social media and daydreamed of being there yourself. You will have heard the mantra of ‘quit your job and travel the world’ from thousands of obviously lesser sites and the mainstream media who often use it as a trope. You’ve fallen in love with the idea, it’s your dream.
Or is it?
Everyone is different and not everyone will enjoy travelling long term, no matter how much they think they will. Don’t get me wrong, quitting your life to travel is an amazing thing and is also the right thing for many people, but is it right for you? Is it sustainable for you?
Don’t listen to any site that tells you that this is the only way to live your life, that you are missing out if you don’t do it. Don’t be misled into thinking that you need to quit your job to travel endlessly because it isn’t true. There are alternatives where you can still get to travel but live your life at home too.
If you decide that is really what you want, then awesome. You will have a great time doing it. If you decide that maybe just taking a short few months to travel, or taking a snap year once in a while before returning to ‘normal’ life is more for you, then that is great too. You will live just a fulfilling life as those who travel long term.
Travel is awesome and I urge everyone to do it, but do it your way.
Stop thinking of ‘one day’.
Okay, so you have your dream of world travel and are daydreaming about slapping your bosses around the head with your resignation letter a few times before forcefully ramming it down their ungrateful throats and then setting fire to your desk before storming out to make your departure as dramatic as possible.
You have what you need to get started on the great gap year journey. The big problem is immediately after this thought you come up with a million excuses to put it off and think maybe tomorrow, or maybe next year.
There is no tomorrow and there is no next year! You keep doing that and it will never happen for you.
The practicalities of organising your trip may mean that you have to wait a little while to get started, but if you start the ball rolling now, then that ‘one day’ will actually come.
You may have loved that DVD collection back in the day and you may have a frankly disturbing attachment to your XBox, but all that crap isn’t going to do you any good when you are rediscovering yourself on the Banana Pancake Trail is it?
It’s time to downsize, sell or store.
Of course getting rid of all your treasured belongings isn’t ideal, so obviously pack up what you want to keep, stick it in storage (often referred to as mum and dads attic), and then sell, donate or get rid of everything else. Hey, some of those funds can pay for some awesome experiences on the road!
Get your bank balance sorted.
Let’s be honest, you can’t just quit and go and buy a plane ticket if you have no cash and a huge overdraft up to it’s limit. Take however long it takes to save up the money, sacrifice all the little things you don’t really need on a day to day basis (I’m looking at you overpriced coffee and cake from a certain coffee chain) and get that pot of cash behind you that will allow you to follow your dreams. It isn’t the most romantic part of the quit your job dream, but it is the practical side of it and it is possible.
Decide if you want a career break, a sabbatical or a completely clean break.
It may sound like splitting hairs but there are genuinely subtle differences between all these options that can have a huge impact on your life and your career, and which one you choose will depend on the job you are in, the qualifications you have and a whole host of other circumstances.
The easiest options only come when you have certain qualifications or a career that puts you in charge. Highly skilled and highly in demand jobs such as nursing, medicine, engineering, whatever, mean that you can demand a career break, a sabbatical or any length of unpaid leave any time you choose safe in the knowledge that you can waltz back into a job when you come back because well, they need you.
On the other end of the scale low skilled labour jobs do have the same freedom just in a different way. Jobs are always available and there will always be jobs waiting for you when you return, it may just not be the same one.
Other jobs require a little more careful planning. Teaching for example will allow for time off and sabbaticals but may require a specific time for you to leave and return depending on term times. Office jobs, management jobs or anything else may require you to negotiate with your employer which option is best for you both, assuming you want to keep the same job and not move on after you get back.
Either way, depending on your circumstances different options will be better or worse for you at any given time, so think carefully about what you want and then go for it.
What do you do with your home?
This will obviously depend entirely on your own individual circumstances. If you live at home with mum and dad then generally the biggest problem you will have is hoping your dad doesn’t turn your room into a home cinema when you’re gone, but if you rent or even own your own home, then you will have to figure out what you want to do.
Do you want to give up renting and leave? Then you will need to give at least some notice and figure out what to do with your stuff (see above). If you are paying a mortgage then do you want to sell up or rent it out? In which case you’ll either have to deal with the hassles of being a landlord yourself (especially one on another continent) or letting an agency deal with everything for you. Either way it takes time to sort out and you will have to jump through a lot of logistical hoops.
It can be done and is far from impossible, you just have to be prepared for the work it will take.
Consider if you can – or even want to – work on the road.
Your money won’t last forever and many backpackers pad out their savings by working for short stints on the road, whether that is menial labour in hostels or on farms, or whether that is utilising a skill or qualification you have, it can be a great way to extend your travels and even help pad out your CV for when you go home.
Either way you will have to figure out all the logistics of these plans, whether you have the right visas in place or know the right contacts. The time to plan for a lot of this is before you go.
Have a back up plan for when you eventually return.
This is probably the one thing that no one ever thinks about when they dream of quitting their jobs to travel. What happens when the trip is over or the money runs out? What do you do when you need to return home and want to settle down? What about that career you really want to have as well? What then?
It is romantic to have an air of que sera, sera and leave your fate in the hands of whatever gods you believe in, but it’s not very practical is it?
I have developed an attitude of doing what I want when I want and quitting to travel any time I wish. I am able to do that now, but that is only because I have worked hard to ensure plenty of fail safes to cover myself.
I can quit any time I want as a nurse because I know at my level there will always be work for me. I have different sources of both active and passive income for when I am not in work. I know if I ever do run out of money then finding work to replenish that stock will not be difficult or time consuming.
I am living the dream of complete freedom to travel the world any damn time I choose, because I have ensured that all the downsides are negated and the practicalities are covered.
Of course every circumstance is different and so everyone’s specific plans will be different, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t as essential.
I know this goes against the romantic idea of that dream, but believe me if you want to live that dream it is necessary.
I hope this massive bucket of cold water hasn’t doused your dreams too much, because believe me if you want to quit your job to travel the world it is not only possible it is genuinely life changing. For some. All I want to do is inject some practical advice into that dream to make sure that for those travellers who it is right for have the tools and knowledge to make it happen, and for everyone else to make them think that maybe other ways of travelling the world and living their life is for them.
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