Living Your Wanderlust: 4 Realities of Quitting Your Job to Travel


woman sitting on a stone wall looking out at a city


Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine
When she was in her mid-twenties, Linnea, a friend of mine, decided to take a break from her job in publishing to travel to Mexico and the Caribbean. Her trip lasted six months (some people call these work sabbaticals).
She was lucky: When she returned, her boss allowed her to resume the same role at the company. Still, she advises others who are considering leaving a full-time job to travel to anticipate change.
"Don't expect to be able to slip back into your old life," she said. "Depending on how long you are gone, people at home might have developed new social circles, for example, and you yourself might feel different."
Quitting your job to travel is a dream for many people, but for most, it's just that: a pipe dream. However, some people have made their idea a reality and are living a jet-setting life.
Do you have wanderlust? Are you ready to take the leap and quit your job to plan your next great adventure?
Here are four important considerations to keep in mind when making the decision to leave your job and travel.

1. Traveling isn't cheap.

You already know this, of course. Not only will your journey and destinations cost money—depending on where you are going, probably a lot of money—but you also won't be earning a salary from your full-time job to sustain your trip.
"Having savings and a financial plan and timetable are crucial," Linnea said.
Ravi Raman, who traveled with his wife in 2014, estimated that the couple spent $60k on the trip, which lasted just one year.
Before you buy a one-way ticket to your favorite destination on the other side of the world, think about why you're making the journey and what you hope to gain from it. Are you doing it so you can have a fun break from work—and nothing else? If so, it's probably not the best idea. You should have a reason that makes it worth it.
Also, think carefully about quitting your job to travel just because you hate your job. There are many alternatives to taking an expensive break from work you don't like—such as looking for a new job, taking a break to make a plan for your next career move, or putting together some part-time or freelance work to sustain you while you think about your career.
Of course, picking up remote work or odd jobs to do while you're traveling can be a great way to support yourself and sustain your lifestyle. However, make sure you're realistic about how much money you'll be earning. It probably won't be nearly as much as you current job's salary—and you'll spend more, too. No matter where you are, you'll be eating out more frequently, taking advantage of local activities, and, of course, flying there, which is a major expense (as is travel insurance in some cases).
So, before you leave, make sure you have enough savings in your bank account to sustain you and your activities for however long you plan to be abroad. Even better, make sure you have more than enough money in your bank account, because you may (and probably will) spend more money than you think you will.
Cassie De Pecol, who become the person to visit every country in the world in the shortest span of time earlier this year, according to Travel + Leisure, had to scrimp and save every penny before she embarked on her travels. That meant cutting back on outings with friends and giving up on a lot of other luxuries, too.

2. Your connections with other people may change.

It's normal to think about what you're doing and assume the world has stopped for other people. But, of course, your friends, family members, and former coworkers are still living their lives, too. And while you may think everyone is jealous of your new lifestyle—which, to be fair, probably some people are—, "FOMO works both ways," as travel writer Ashlea Halpern says.
You'll scroll your social media feeds and see your friends having parties and other adventures without you, and, despite yourself, you might feel a little envious. Of course, you're posting your fabulous pictures on social media, too—but while you're gone, friends and family aren't going to wait for you to have their weddings and babies.
Part of your new reality is that you will miss out. Just as you're living your dream, other people are living their own lives. It's a good idea to keep in touch with the people most important to you. Before you leave, look into a phone plan that works best with your needs, so you can text and call people on occasion. Skype is a great way to stay in contact, too.
Don't expect everyone to read your blog religiously, but know that they may check in on you occasionally, so keep them up to date with your experiences and goings-on. Even if you're not actually talking face-to-face, people will people able to see your pictures on your blog or social media and know what you're up to.

3. You may actually have to quit your job.

Duh, you might be thinking. Isn't that the whole topic of this article?
Sure, most long-term travel will necessitate quitting your job. But on some level, weren't you thinking that maybe you can hold onto it, and your boss will be waiting for you to come back and resume your position after you return?
For some people, that might be possible. Depending on how long you're gone and the nature of the work you do, your manager might be open to the possibility of you returning after your travels.
"Do have a frank conversation at work about why and how long you'll be gone," Linnea said. "Maybe it doesn't have to be the end of that relationship."
You might also work out some kind of part-time work option with your manager. If you can perform remote work while traveling, that could be a possibility, too. Just make sure you're being forthright about your plans and capabilities. If you don't intend to return for a year, don't pretend you'll only be gone for a few months. Be honest about how much time you'll be able to devote to work while traveling, too.
However, if this is really what you want to do, you have to be open to the idea that this is the end of your work with that particular organization, at least for the time being.

4. You will probably rethink your decision—probably more than once.

When I studied abroad in Italy during my junior year of college, I expected to feel homesick for people. I didn't expect to have dreams about being back in my home country and just speaking English—but I did, even though I certainly spoke English to the friends I made in my program, who were also American.
Quitting your job to travel, of course, takes it to a whole new level and much farther outside your comfort zone (I didn't quit my job, because at that time in my life, I didn't have a job to quit). Plus, taking your life on the road after college is a much bigger gamble, because you're more settled at this stage—depending on your personality, lifestyle, and career.
Making any big change involves a lot of anticipation, as well as initial fear of the unknown. And even once you've made up your mind, you're going to freak out—probably more than once.
You may regret your decision at times, especially when you're going through difficult experiences that you wouldn't have faced at home in your secure job. according to travel bloggers Lia and Jeremy, you'll experience that terror the second your plane lands and immediately wonder if you made the wrong choice. You'll also miss the familiarity of your "normal" life—even mundane things like eating peanut butter out of the jar. (Just me?)
You may even miss your old job from time to time, even you knew you were ready to move on. Why? It's just part of human nature to miss the familiar. Familiar is comfortable. We don't have to make as many choices. It's easier.
Does that mean what we've been doing forever is what we should keep doing?
Often, no. Taking risks helps you grow and learn what you really want out of life. Maybe long-term travel isn't for you, but you'll never know until you take the plunge. Maybe you'll return to your old job or a new one after six months. Maybe it will be two. But getting outside of your comfort zone—even for just a little while—helps you expand your horizons and may show you what you really want out of your career—and life.