And you probably shouldn’t.
Every few days someone is breathless with excitement to tell me that they’ve quit their job to travel the world.
So what now, they ask me. How do they become a pro blogger?
Hearing this gets the same reaction as when someone shows me the really questionable tattoo they just got. It’s too late to change anything. There’s no going back, only forward.
If you’re thinking of quitting your job to travel, don’t! At least, don’t do it without a solid plan in place.
You are probably not going to make millions while you sleep
It makes me cringe to hear people asking how they can get rich online after they’ve quit their job, broken their lease, and sold everything they own.
There is a limit to how many people can make six figures running travel blogs and selling courses to other travel bloggers on how to get rich (pro tip: have they actually done this or do they just aspire to?).
It can takes months or years to get enough freelance clients to pay your bills, get enough site traffic to make an income from a website, write and market books, establish a profitable drop-shipping company, or any of the ways you can earn “passive” income. Most of these things don’t feel very passive while you’re establishing yourself.
There are plenty of coaches promising to show you how to follow their footsteps, but there are far more people who’ve walked away from their lives only to fail spectacularly. You can’t just pick up a job wherever you hand, since you’ll need a work permit to get a job in another country. Some countries will turn you away at the border without proof of funds or ties to your home country.
You know what’s worse than being in a cubicle? Running out of money at a foreign country. Having to beg your parents to buy you a ticket home. Crashing on a couch and desperately searching for a job.
You can work in an office and life a good life
This goes against everything the internet will tell you, but there are people who are perfectly happy going into an office. There are even people who enjoy having a boss. You don’t have to be your own boss to be fulfilled.
Starting your own business, working for a charity, and working remotely are not guarantees for a better life.
Finding your passion is overrated. Working on different clients has made this abundantly clear. For a long time most of my clients were in water engineering.
- Was I born with an innate passion for water treatment systems? Nope.
- Did working for companies that design and build waste water treatment plants feel like I was doing something I loved? Nope.
- Was I saving the world? Clean water is important, but I didn’t feel like I was saving the world.
- Would I have done the work for free? No way.
- Did I enjoy it? Absolutely. I worked with great people. I learned a lot and became pretty fascinated with water management systems and the methods used to drill tunnels. I also developed an extensive repertoire of poop jokes that continues to serve me now that most of my clients are in healthcare.
Given how obsessive I can get with projects (and how seriously I take things!) I don’t think it would be healthy for me to work on something that was really my passion. It’s hard enough to close the laptop and stop thinking about work as it is.
You don’t need to travel to learn about the world
Before you book a flight, ask yourself why you want to travel.
- What can you get out of traveling that you can’t get at home?
- What goals will it bring you closer to?
- What are you expecting travel to be like?
- What will you miss back home?
Perhaps you can get what you’re looking for from making small changes to your life or spending a few weeks abroad.
Plenty of people take a few weeks, a month, or even a year off from work. You might be able to get a sabbatical from your job. Or you can venture off with the security of knowing you have savings to cover your expenses and a plan for landing on your feet when you get back home.
Sure, some people can sustain luxury travel for years and pay for people to handle the details. For most of us, traveling involves all the stress of normal life. Only with the added hassle of dealing with being thousands of miles away from that important document you forgot to scan, language barriers, cultural differences, and the endless planning that being a nomad entails.
Your life is not on hold while you’re on the road. You’re going to miss important times (and every day time) with your loved ones back home. You’re still going to have to deal with retirement planning and filing your taxes.
Quitting your job is not a requirement to travel
Looking online might give you the impression that you have to work for yourself in order to work remotely, but that’s really not the case. You don’t even have to work for the type of hip startups that have distributed teams.
Lots of people work from home offices while getting a paycheck from traditional corporations. These people also get the fancy benefits corporations provide. I’m a little jealous of things like 401k matches, supplemental health insurance, and fancy new laptops.
How I ended up working remotely
The first time I went backpacking, I tried to quit my job. It was the job I had in college and now that I was done with school and planning on moving to a new city when I returned. But my boss told me he wasn’t going to replace me, so I should continue working with him and providing freelance services to out clients.
Most people don’t have a steady stream of freelance work drop into their lap like that. Even with this incredible fortune, it was a struggle to make it as a freelancer. Freelancing involves an incredible amount of administrative work and putting yourself out there to bring in new clients. Not everyone has the skills — or desire — to do all that.
Now I have a salaried position at a nonprofit. I started off going into an office every day, but spent more and more time working remotely. Plenty of people have taken their traditional office jobs and turned them into remote jobs. Even if you can’t get the okay to go fully remote, many companies will let you work remotely for a few weeks a year or part of the week. Working from home occasionally can ease them into the idea of working remotely full-time.
After coming of age in a world where it seemed like everyone I knew was getting laid off (and seeing their 401ks vanish in the recession) I’m not comfortable relying on a single stream of income. I still work as a consultant. I sell books. I dabble in real estate investing. Sure, I earn some money from my websites, but mostly they serve as a way to bring in clients for my consulting work and boost book sales. Maybe I’ll come up with a way to monetize the site directly, but few bloggers manage that.
I’m one of those people who is working toward the point where I don’t need to rely on a job for my living expenses. Would I quit my job when I reach that point? I doubt it. I already spend my working hours coming up with ways to make people’s lives better. Laying on a beach all day sounds boring.
Will you keep traveling forever?
If you want to keep traveling forever, you’ll need to figure out ways to take care of all the things that life requires with no fixed address. Needing to earn an income is an obvious issue, but there are plenty of little things that come up. Most things are tricky at first, but then you get used to life as a nomad and it gets easier. Some things, however, get more complicated as you age. Namely, healthcare.
Many people who never return to their original home settle into expat life somewhere that’s affordable and has good healthcare. There are lots of places that cater to foreign retirees. They’re happy to grant residency to people with proof of income, often regardless of age.
Regardless of your future plans, you’ll want to make sure you can not only earn enough money to cover your expenses, but also save money. Your social security or other government pension (assuming you qualify for it) will go farther in a country with a lower cost of living, but most wanna-be digital nomads have a long time before that’ll kick in.
Quitting your job might be part of your plan. But before you do it, make sure you have a plan.
I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s over romanticised about quitting the job and travelling full-time, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. I’m a freelance and back in the office at the moment. It’s not my dream job, but it’s good for the moment. I like your honesty in this, and more people need to read it! Plus some coaches aren’t very good!
I donno if I would work as a digital nomad forever and have tried and it is very hard to earn enough as that. I would love to have a job that I can live abroad and work at home as well. I am sure it would be more of that kind of jobs in the future. Thank you for sharing.
A nice and honest article, Cori. I have heard ‘I quit my job to travel the world’ a lot frequently in the recent times. Like you mention, there is no going back once you take the plunge. And to do this one needs to have a serious bank balance or a sure shot way to make money while travelling. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to trade one’s house/job etc. for travelling.