Travel narratives

Is quitting your job to travel ever a good idea?

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Quit your job, sell you stuff, travel the world“. Possibly the most misguided, millennial mantra of our generation. Quitting your job to travel is often sold as the solution for everything.

Unhappy with your 9-5? Travel. That bastard left you broken-hearted? Travel. Seeking spiritual enlightenment? Travel.

In our instant gratification society, jacking in your day job to find yourself in Thailand is as deliciously indulgent as it sounds.

However, in the right circumstances, putting your career on pause to seek out horizons new can be wildly beneficial. In some cases, it can even lead to a new career and opportunities.

Quitting your job to travel

Quitting your job to travel is often sold as the solution for everything. Unhappy with your 9-5? Travel. That bastard left you broken-hearted? Travel. Seeking spiritual enlightenment? Travel.

We just need to take a moment to question our motives, plan how to explain employment gaps and be realistic about our finances.

Quitting your 9-5 to travel is also not as easy as those questionable ‘digital nomad ebooks’ would have you believe.

There are numerous things to take into consideration. Your career implications, the possible impact on your mental health, where your stuff will go, outstanding debts and how will you save enough to travel?

Don’t rush into the decision because some 23-year-old Instagrammer called ‘Wanderfierce’, that lives with their parents, implored you to “Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Remember, the only people who say “yeah man, money isn’t everything”, are people with money.

When to quit your 9-5

Is there ever really a good time to quit your 9-5? In THIS economy? Y’all have lost your goddamn minds. That’s before we even get into the implications of a global pandemic.

In anticipation of the Twitterati screeching “We’re in the MIDDLE of a pandemic”, I’d like to stress that it’s still a relevant discussion.

Perhaps hangfire before we alert the internet elders and indulge me for a moment.

Is quitting your job to travel ever a good idea?

Unless Amazon drones have stolen all our jobs, we have to assume, for now, that in the future people will still have jobs and will still be considering leaving them for a beach in Bali.

Along with death, incompetent leadership and crippling anxiety, pandemics also offer some pause for reflection and a spot of wine-fuelled naval gazing at 4 am.

I’d argue that as the economy adapts to COVID and people’s working situations change over the next few years, it will have an impact on how people feel about their work and personal lives.

Is quitting your job to travel ever a good idea?

Why do people travel?

I’ve met people from all walks of life in my years of travel. There have been countless boozy and honest discussions with fellow travellers about why they are travelling?

In my extensive, anecdotal experience, some are curious about other destinations and cultures. Others are escaping from heartbreak, toxic families, burnout and jobs they hate.

What we need to consider is how increased working from home will impact people’s desire to escape from their jobs/lives?

If remote working becomes the norm, this could have massive implications.

When people see a huge improvement in their work-life balance, they might not be as keen to leave their job, and their life, to travel.

An understanding Society Covid-19 Study in the UK showed a nine out of 10 those who had worked from home during lockdown would like to continue.

Surely a happier workforce is a more stable workforce after all? Travelling around a 9-5 probably seems more agreeable when you don’t loathe your working environment.

Travelling around a 9-5

I was curious to see how my social media circle felt about quitting the 9-5 to explore, so I ran a Twitter poll. Just for funsies.

What’s interesting is that despite the fact my network is largely made up of wanderlust fans, fellow travel writers and travel industry folk, the results showed a ‘travel around a job’ preference.

A lot of people commented with their thoughts on ditching a job to travel.

Their feelings largely seemed to depend on where they were in life, what responsibilities they had and if the were in solid careers they didn’t want to abandon.

Here were some of the concerns that commenters had:

Some of my network responded with their positive experiences and urged others to travel.

Not everyone can travel

Looking back on my Twitter poll it’s clear that many people had concerns about trading a steady job for life on the road.

Common worries included:

  • “What happens when the money runs out?”
  • “Where will I live?”
  • “It’s hard to get a new job in the US with a resume gap.”
  • “We have responsibilities and it’s even harder when you have a family.”

Choosing travel over employment is a real privilege and not one that is afforded to everyone.

Travelling is so much easier when you don’t have massive financial commitments, a solid career, family responsibilities, health issues and debts.

It’s important to keep this in mind when social media is flooded with images of young, ‘digital nomads’, urging you to jack in your job, buy their e-book and “follow your dreams”.

Remember, there’s a good chance they are from generational wealth, with no real responsibilities. That’s how they can ‘choose travel’, the bank of mum and dad has got their back.

Travelling is so much easier when you don’t have massive financial commitments, a solid career, family responsibilities, health issues and debts.

Travel is a privilege

Let’s get real for a moment, swapping employment for adventure is a dreadfully bougie thing to do.

No matter how many beaded bracelets you wear, you cannot escape the fact that travel, is a luxury, consumable item. Largely enjoyed by people with wealth and privilege.

Many people have huge responsibilities and are living paycheck to paycheck. They simply don’t have the luxury of binning their job off to go and find themselves in Bali with the other travel wankers.

It’s important to recognise if you’ve had an advantageous starting point in life.

This can include class, education, ethnicity, healthcare and importantly, where your passport was issued.

So next time you feel the urge to post an ‘anyone can travel’ sunset photo, maybe take a moment to consider not being a YOLO douche.

Factors to consider before quitting your 9-5

I appreciate that on a hard day, it can be tempting to invite your idiot boss to shove his job up the jacksie and moonwalk out the office in a blaze of glory.

Before you burn all your bridges though, take a moment to properly plan your escape and most importantly, your return to the working world.

Unless your plan is to play the panpipes for money and live in a beach hut in Goa forever, there’s a strong chance you will be coming back home from your travels.

So it’s super important to have some kind of plan for your inevitable homecoming.

Returning home from travel

Before you book that one-way ticket to Laos, here are some things to think about.

  • What do your finances look like? Have you saved enough money to travel?
  • How will you explain an employment gap on your resume?
  • Can you take a sabbatical from your job, so that something to come back to?
  • Do you have debt that needs to be cleared first?
  • If you own a home, how will you continue to pay for the mortgage when you travel?
  • What will you do about medical insurance/student loans?
  • Do you really want to travel, or are you running away from your problems?

The last point is a particularly important one. One of the most profound travel life lessons i’ve learnt is that travel won’t solve all your problems.

If you are in a career you hate, taking 3 months off to travel won’t solve that issue. If you have to go back to a job you despise, then you haven’t addressed the root of the problem.

What you could do is plan to change careers before you strap on that backpack. That way, you can come back to a job/career/life you actually enjoy.

We talk more about travel life lessons on my travel podcast Travel Goals, subscribe now and download all the latest episodes.

Will I regret quitting my job to travel?

Google this question and you’ll be met with thousands of results. There’s sadly no real way of knowing until you actually hand in your resignation.

When you are younger, or in a less competitive field, employers are more forgiving of career breaks and gap years.

The older you get, the more settled you tend to be. It’s harder to leave a solid career, a home you own and family commitments to travel.

However, It’s not an impossible dream. There are countless ‘we sold everything and travelled in a campervan‘ articles all over the internet.

It’s worth noting that the ‘I became a world citizen’ stories you read are largely the successful ones. Stories of travel regret are tricky to find, probably because failure doesn’t sell as well.

Before you quit your job

If you’re still undecided, perhaps you could start off by asking your employer for an extended vacation, unpaid time off or a sabbatical?

You don’t have to dramatically bin off your career if you don’t want to. There’s plenty of other options like remote working, travelling around a 9-5, or taking a career break.

It sounds obvious, but maybe check you actually like travelling before buying a backpack. I’ve met several unhappy souls of the road who hated 28-bed dorm hostels and living on $3 a day.

Turns out, sleeping in a $1 a night shithole and eating packet noodles isn’t for everyone.

Don’t feel you have to barely survive travelling, because some smug Instagram wanker imformed you ‘travel is good for the soul’.

Before you quit your job to travel

Are you ready to travel?

Still thinking about quitting your job to travel? The next step is to do your research. Read books, listen to podcasts, talk to people who have done it.

It goes without saying that you need to be really careful as to what advice you listen to. Consider the position and motivations of the person giving the advice?

Are they young and without responsibilities and obligations? Do they have a ‘travel the world’ course or ebook that they are trying to sell you? Perhaps they are from massive family wealth and don’t need job security?

Not everyone has your best interests at heart, especially if there is a quick buck to be made.

Research widely, save money, sort your life out and then begin your travel adventure. A straw hat, credit cards and an over-optimistic belief in ‘manifesting’ will only get you so far.

Not all those who wander are lost, some of them are having an existential crisis as well. Make sure you’re not one of them.

What do you think of my article on ditching the 9-5 to travel? Have you ever thought about it? Let me know in the comments below!

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