How We Quit Our Jobs to Travel the World
This long-overdue guide explains how we made our dreams of long-term travel come true. The process is different for everyone, so I’m not saying this is what YOU should do, but this is what we did, and it worked. We are halfway through our 18-month round-the-world itinerary, and have spent less money and seen more amazing sights than we ever imagined when we started planning.
1. Really want to travel
This may seem obvious, but to endure the sacrifices necessary to travel long-term, you have to really want it. Many people dream of traveling, but when they see what we’ve sacrificed to take our dream trip, they admit they couldn’t see themselves in our footsteps. Traveling means long periods of time away from loved ones, an extended career break and likely a job hunt to return to, and less money toward investments for our future or real estate. To us, these sacrifices are worth the priceless experiences, but not everyone feels the same.
2. Set the goal of the trip
Very few people just wake up one day and decided to quit their job and travel. Most round-the-world trips start with one or two major destinations, experiences, or goals that a traveler wants to accomplish but can’t with their current lifestyle. Maybe it is to climb Kilimanjaro, or to spend a month on Thai beaches, or learn Spanish in South America. The planning for these bucket-list destinations evolve from a one-month trip to a three-month trip, and before you realize it, you’ve planned 12+ months of travel.
In our case, we visited the Philippines in 2010, and the moment we got back to the States we started talking about wanting to see more of SE Asia. You could say that was our first goal, and that SE Asia trip quickly grew from a three-month trip to a 12-month trip, and finally the current 18-month itinerary we have now.
3. Estimate the cost (and create the route plan)
Based on the one or two goals of the trip, start researching. For our goal of “one year of continuous travel“, we started by searching average daily travel costs per country. Travel blogs were a huge help in this step, and gave us some ideas on what countries were popular or interesting to us. Not surprisingly, our cheap countries list had many Southeast Asian countries, so we started adding in cost between those countries in a logical route.
Because we started researching based on stretching our money out rather than hitting certain spots, the route really formed based on price alone. This step is the most fun, because as we learned about how affordable some of these countries really are, we got excited about the possibilities and the trip started feeling real and achievable.
Start a spreadsheet or whatever works best, record all daily cost per country estimates and multiply by number of days you might stay in each (we started with 3 weeks per country as a random guess). Add in any major flights you might take, and any big-ticket experiences such as snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef or an African safari.
The goal of this step is to get to a dollar amount goal. This will change constantly, so a high level outline with numbers is fine for now.
4. Save, save, save (and develop the plan)
Now that you have a number, open a separate bank account that you only deposit money into, never withdraw from. Set a goal for an amount you want to add each month (be ambitious). If you can automatically deposit some portion of the goal directly from your paycheck, even better.
Dan and I had an account we had set up to save for our wedding with a goal of adding $200 each per month. We kept that goal for trip saving. After paying the bills, we put as much additional money into the account that we could after each paycheck (while keeping emergency cash, of course). Some months we saved less than our goal, and that’s ok.
Other blogs are helpful in this step too. Check out our post on saving money for travel and other travel and money management blogs, and find a system that works for you.
Saving for something specific is addicting. Once you start to see that number grow closer to your goal, you will find more ways to save and more things you can live without.
5. Set a date (and tell someone about it)
As soon as you have an idea of how much you can save per month, do some rough calculation and set a date. This can change later of course, but having that date in mind is another step toward leaving and making that trip real. We set our date almost two years before we left and actually left pretty close to that date.
It helps to tell someone the date, again, to make the trip feel real and keep your savings motivation up. We didn’t want our workplaces to find out (or our parents to start worrying) so we just told a few friends who love traveling until the first flights were booked.
…and the rest will happen!
There are obviously more steps to actually going on the trip, but chances are, if you checked off number 1 above, you will have the planning, packing, and booking steps well covered. If not, the travel planning section of our site has some really great posts, and if you haven’t already, become addicted to Pinterest.
Some bonus tips:
- Be organized. Shared Google docs and spreadsheets helped us create the route outline and evolve it during the research phase.
- Check visa requirements. Some countries have visas on arrival for certain nationalities, but many have application process that can be complex and require additional planning or even application while you are still at home.
The biggest thing to remember is that there will always be hundreds of reasons NOT to travel, meaning there is no perfect time to do something like this. Never a perfect time to leave your job, or a perfect time to leave your family, or your dog, or your softball league. If you sit around waiting for that day to come, then just plan on never going. Every long-term traveler we meet has said this same thing. Here is the statement that kept reminding us we were making the right decision:
We’ve never met someone who did an extended career-break to travel who regretted the decision when they returned home. However, we’ve met hundreds of people who have regretted not doing it.
Your life, your career, your world, it will still be there when you get back. And in most cases it will be better. Just ask Kieu, from GQTrippin.com, who quit her job, traveled for 12 months, then came back only to land a better job with better pay! One of our favorite success stories. Now it’s your turn!