I quit the cubicle life to travel the world. You can too, but is that the life you really want?
My post-college life started off just the way my advisor told me it was supposed to – working an awesome job in the coolest city in the world. Right?
Wrong. The truth is, three years later, I’m sitting in front of a computer baking under fluorescent ceiling lights, dragging my hungover ass into a crowded conference room every few hours to zone out under the voice of my manic boss. Lunch breaks? Ha, fancy. Seamless (for those of you who don’t know what seamless is, it’s a Godsend online food delivery service) it is, five work days in a row, delivered to the front desk so I can burn an extra few calories trotting over to reception to pick it up. Bring it back to my desk, park my ars back into my fancy swivel office chair and have a sweet spoonful of more Microsoft Excel for dessert.
I left my 9 to 5 corporate job life in February of this year. It’s now August. I still can’t believe it’s been six full months, and since then I’ve hiked a glacier in Iceland, frolicked around France twice, climbed down pool ladders into the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia and gained 10 pounds in Italy.
Sounds perfect, right?
Wrong. Quitting your job to travel full time may sound like the best thing in the world, and yes, it completely changed my life in so many wonderful ways (READ: 10 Ways Travel Changed My Life Forever), but the truth is, this lifestyle is filled with tough moments, and it’s definitely not for everyone. Here are a few things to consider.
1. How happy are you?
I went through the most traumatic experience of my life, felt like the world came crashing down on me, felt trapped and didn’t know how to get out. When life gets tough, it’s natural to want an escape, and when you go through hard times, it motivates you to change something – your scenery, the people around you, your environment or your body. Travel opened my eyes to the beauty of the world, made me grateful for the simple things I once took for granted, and helped me find closure.
When you hit rock bottom, there’s only one direction left to go. So if you are, like I once was, miserable waking up every day to go into your cubicle closet, hate the sound of your boss’s voice and simply can’t spend another second doing the same thing over and over again, it’s time to consider saving up as much money as you can and begin planning your trip. Life is too short to be unhappy. Pick a destination and book your ticket to go see the world.
If not, cheers to you for your strength, finding happiness, following your dreams, and being passionate about a job that fulfills you.
2. What are you looking for?
Traveling and vacationing are two completely different things. I think the difference lies in what you’re looking for.
I used to vacation. When I went on vacation, I was looking for a few days on the beach, mojito or coconut cocktail in-hand. Relaxing. Spa days. I booked all-inclusive trips on Expedia or Priceline, complete with hotel, flight and excursions because it was easier than spending hours researching and reading through reviews. I usually chose an island, somewhere with awesome weather, and didn’t feel the need to go explore the city because I was staying at an awesome resort. A vacation is very much a getaway, but I noticed that when I was on vacation, I didn’t really get away. I didn’t choose the hole in the wall local restaurant; I chose the westernized, watered down version because that restaurant had an English menu and custom cocktails. I booked round trip tickets and all my days were scheduled. I always went with someone. If there was an outlet mall within a 10 mile radius I was there.
When I booked my ticket to travel for the very first time, I was looking for peace, closure and adventure. I was looking to be smacked in the face with the magnitude of the world. So I didn’t make as many plans. My days weren’t fully scheduled. I walked around aimlessly without wifi for hours. My wardrobe was limited to a few changes of clothes, I did my laundry in the sink, and only brought comfortable shoes with me. I journeyed alone for the first time, and opened myself up to meeting new people in random pubs and restaurants. I slept on a now-friend but then-stranger’s couch for a night in London using Couchsurfing for the very first time. I started booking one-way tickets. I almost got gassed at an international protest, got cursed out by 60 year old prostitutes after almost getting robbed in the middle of the day in Paris. I sweat out my hair, shirt and shorts dragging a lifesize cutout of my dad and a 40 lb. backpack up the steps of a train station in Florence. I wasn’t on a beach with a coconut cocktail, but jumping across glacier chunks, wrapping my only scarf around my face to lessen the pain of massive hail in Iceland instead.
Sometimes when I’m traveling I wish I was on vacation. Sometimes. So ask yourself – are you looking for a vacation, or are you looking to travel?
3. Is money an issue for you?
The answer to this question is supposed to be yes. If money isn’t an issue for you, then what the hell are you waiting for? Quit your damn job and go travel the world.
I saved up money from my job for four months to prepare to live off of my savings for at the very least one month abroad. That is NOT a lot of money, my friends. No more eating out. No more getting drinks after work. I sold almost all of my stuff to rake in the extra cash. And I’d be lying if I told you that it was easy. I switched in my steady paycheck for a life of uncertainty through freelancing as a photographer. I switched in my apartment lease to wake up on a friend’s couch or a different hotel bed every week.
It may not be the smartest, most responsible decision to leave my life behind to soul search abroad. It definitely was not the most financially responsible. I can’t eat everywhere I want. I walked past dozens of restaurants after seeing the prices on their menus. I can’t feed the luxury shopping habit I once had. I’m living out of a suitcase and if you see me often, you’ll notice I usually have to wear the same clothes over and over again. But one thing I do know is that the decision I made took courage, strength, purpose, and sacrifice. I had always dreamt of being my own boss, and the challenges of my past gave me the strength to make the jump to follow that dream. And if I can do it, so can you.
So ask yourself – is there a way I can make money while traveling? Do I have enough saved up to survive for however long I want to travel for? Can I save a certain amount of money to open my own business?
4. How bad do you want it?
Are you complacent with your day to day life? Do you wake up in the morning excited to start the day, or are you dragging yourself out of bed begrudgingly trudging to work? How bad do you want to leave everything behind to see the world? Quitting your job to travel full time sounds like a dream, but nothing comes without a cost. What are you willing to sacrifice in return?
I stay away from the quirky vintage shops I once loved browsing through because I know I don’t have a home to fill with beautiful decor. I’ve realized how much harder it is to build a relationship with someone if I’m never in one place for that long. Yes, being able to pick up and move at the drop of a hat is freeing, but the anxiety that comes with not knowing whether I’ll be able to afford rent next month still exists and comes around with full force every once in a while. These are all things that I’ve learned come with the package, and every decision you make will be measured on the pros and cons, so ask yourself – at the end of the day, do I really want this?
If the answer is yes and you know in your heart that what you’d gain from following your dream to travel the world outweighs the potential cons, I encourage you to make the necessary preparations to start the process and go after your goal. It’s very likely that it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
Dream big. Do bigger. Act without fear, live with purpose and never give up. No matter where you’re from, what you’ve been through, your age or your color, you are capable of wonderful, magnificent things. Don’t lose hope, find strength in your trials and keep pushing forward. I believe in you.
Thank you so much for reading this post. Feel free to follow me on Instagram for day to day updates on my travels: @projectinspo