How to Quit Your Job and Travel the World
Sometime in 2015, I started to fantasize about quitting my job to travel. I think it was the result of many life factors and classic quarter life crisis complaints: a stressful job; a relationship that had hit the make-or-break three-year mark; a severe lack of vacation days; and New York kicking me to the curb again, and again. I shared this desire with my boyfriend, Matt, and in classic Abi-fashion, brought it up whenever New York became too much.
Matt got on board with the idea pretty quickly, and by mid-2016 we had set a rough goal to leave New York City by 2017. On July 4, 2017, I bought a one-way flight ticket to Lima, Peru. On October 22, 2017, I left my job. And on November 7th, 2017, I left New York, for good.
Nine months in, I can confirm that the decision to quit my job and travel was one of the best life decisions I have made. It was so, SO easy to make this change. I’m going to dissect the major things you need to consider when planning to do the same.
Table of Contents:
1. Budget and Money: How Much Do You Need to Save
2. Deciding How Long You Want to Travel
3. What to Do With All Your Stuff
4. Who Do You Want to Travel With?
5. Choosing A Start Location
6. Consider Your Travel Route
7. How to (Not) Plan Your Travel
8. Working While Travelling
9. Getting A Job Once You're Done Travelling
budget and money: how much do you need to save?
The most common questions I get from people revolve around money. We estimated that travelling would cost approximately $15,000 (USD) per year per person. This was based on other travel bloggers accounts. We made sure we had at least this amount of money in our bank accounts with buffer. That may sound like a lot, but when you compare it to your yearly credit card bills and rent, it may not be so different.
Reality: Nine months into traveling and I am WAY under budget. On average, I spend $25 per day; so in a year I'm looking to spend around $9,125 (USD). That number is ridiculously cheap. It includes everything: food, accommodation, flights, and everything else in between. If you’re buying lunch every day and going out on the weekends, this is probably less than that total sum.
deciding how long you want to travel
We chose to leave our trip open ended, and travel "indefinitely". For us, this meant our trip would probably be anywhere from 1-3 years, based on when we felt we would be ready to go back to work (update nine months in: still not "ready"). We've met a handful of other travellers like this, but most people do have time-limits. I would say the majority of people we have met on long trips choose to travel for four to eight months, and in this amount of time you can definitely get a good feel for long-term travel.
what to do with all your stuff
Minimalism, so hot right now. But really, what do you do with all your belongings: clothes, bed, that Vitamix you just bought (#worthit)?!?! For us, the answer was to sell or donate almost everything. We sold some clothes to Buffalo Exchange, donated to a homeless shelter, and threw out the clothes no one would take. We sold most of our furniture on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, except for a few items which we're keeping stored at Matt's parent's house. As for all the other random stuff, we put it out on the curb (lesson: people will take your random shit) or threw it away.
The process of throwing SO MUCH stuff away was actually pretty shocking, and it's reinforced that we really don't need that many possessions.
who do you want to travel with?
Go it solo, with a friend, or with your partner? I'm travelling with my boyfriend, Matt, and it's been fantastic. We keep things fresh by doing stints apart every few months, where we travel separately for a few weeks and then meet up again. I can't recommend these solo breaks enough, as it adds a whole new dimension to the experiences you get. It's also a great way to immerse yourself more intensely in a culture and improve your local language. We found that our Spanish skills improve much faster when we travelled apart.
choosing a start location
This is completely based on personal preference! We based this on where we could get cheap flights; and the answer was Peru. Turns out, this ends up being a similar train of thought for a lot of people, as Lima is one of the cheapest places to fly into South America.
You'll also want to consider how much it costs to travel in a region. Backpacking in western Europe (France, UK, Spain etc.) is going to be much more expensive than travelling in countries in South America or Asia. From my experience, Central Asia is the cheapest place to travel (Georgia, the Stans, Turkey); our daily budget per person was $20-23. Certain countries in South America can also be very cheap to travel in (Peru, Bolivia); our daily budget was $25-27 per day per person.
consider your travel route
If you have wish list countries or destinations which you want to hit on your trip, it's important to consider where these fall in relation to each other. That is, if you're desperate to visit Berlin, but you start in South America, that doesn't make a ton of sense geographically.
how to (not) plan your travel
My biggest piece of advice is to not plan anything. Route. Accommodation. Activities. Book a one-way flight, and figure it out when you get there! This is how almost every long-term traveller lives.
So how do you know "where to go"? Word of mouth from other travellers and locals is the main way we figure things out, coupled with a Lonely Planet guide and Google searches to back things up.
I hear you: what if things get booked out?!?! This isn't a thing. In nine months of travelling on the fly, we've never not found accommodation, or not been able to do something we wanted because it was "booked out". It just doesn't happen. In reality, many things can't be booked in advance -- and if they can, I guarantee you'll be paying an inflated (tourist) price. A great example of this is hiking the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. We didn't book a tour, opting to do everything by ourselves without a guide, and the total cost was less than $100 USD per person for a 3 day trek (most of this was the actual admission ticket to Machu Picchu). On the contrary, we met multiple people on guided tours that they booked online from their home country... they paid upwards of $400. For reference, we asked around Cusco to see how much tours from local providers were, and we were quoted anywhere from $250 and up.
The best way to do ground transport and activities is to just do it when you get there. For accommodation, the most we will ever book in advance (if ever) is 1-2 days out. What we usually do is have a shortlist of potential places to stay, and just walk-in to see if they have a room.
working while travelling
The goal of our travel is to truly take a break from the working world, and hence we decided not to work while travelling. I love being disconnected from work commitments, and I really recommend this option if it's financially feasible. That said, we've met a few digital nomads who do work remotely, and this can be a great way to keep an income stream while still experiencing a new culture. You have to weigh up what your goals are: are you trying to take a break from work all together, or are you happy working while you travel?
getting a job once you're done travelling
This is one of the most common questions I get from people. Usually it comes from a fearful place, and people ask as if it's something I worry about.
Reality: this has never been a worry of mine. Before I left my job to travel, I worked for more than four years as a corporate dietitian in the U.S., gaining lots of valuable experience. If I decide that I want to go back into that industry, I feel confident in the amount of experience I gained previously, and think a potential employer would see value in the time I took to travel. And if they don't, then it's probably not a company I would want to work for.
In summary: you can most likely quit your job and travel, too. All you’ll need is about $10K for a full year, less if you want to go for less time. Saving may be as simple as bringing lunch to work instead of buying; or having one less fancy cocktail each weekend at the bar.
Have a question? Comment below, or message me on Instagram @nutritiontraveller!
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Post updated on August 6, 2018.