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Why “Quit Your Job to Travel” Is Absolutely Terrible Advice

It’s a timeless trope, a rite of passage, a seal of approval. Instagram influencers and travel bloggers alike tout it like a badge of honor as they post photos of ball gowns in exotic locations. It’s as simple as… “I quit my deadbeat 9-to-5 job to travel the world. And if I did it, you can too!!!” And if you don’t, you’re a “tourist, not a traveler.”

Cue the eye roll.

For the rest of the general population, this is just crap advice. For many normal people, a “deadbeat 9-to-5 job” is the best way to make an income and afford the luxury of seeing the world. The “quit your job to travel” mentality suggests that you can’t have a job and travel. We’ve already proven that wrong.

So, then, you might think bloggers and influencers have perfect lives if they can just uproot and travel forever, drinking piña coladas on the beach with open laptops. What you don’t see behind those perfect Instagram shots is hours of grunt work, awful WiFi connections, and difficult financial decisions. The simple truth is that if you need money (everyone does), you need to work in some way.

I love travel more than anything else, but I still work full-time to pay the bills. With mounting student loans, at-home obligations, and a desire to travel slightly more comfortably (my super-cheap budget hostel days are long gone, sadly), I could never afford the trips I go on without having my regular salary. If the opportunity presents itself one day to quit my office job and work remotely, I’d probably take it, but I’ll never uproot without a long-term financial and career plan. I’m not alone in this – when I posted about this very topic on the Girls LOVE Travel Facebook group, over 1,700 people agreed.

This just isn’t practical advice unless you have a remote job lined up, or spent lots of time saving, or you are extremely privileged. So, when you see the next romanticized article on your News Feed about quitting your job to travel being easy and glamorous, down it with a glass of wine and the biggest grain of salt you can find.

It’s An Illusion

If you find a way to travel endlessly without working at all, please let me know so I can promptly do the same. Until then, there is literally no way to get by forever unless you a) have saved a lot of money and are taking a career break or b) are making money by working somehow.

Take your average travel blogger who describes in detail how they quit their job to travel. Most stories either start with a large bulk of savings (almost definitely earned through a full-time job) or with a person who is making money off of their website or some other remote work. Newsflash, y’all: running a website is HARD. WORK. There’s always more you can be doing to improve your site, and you need set time to sit down and write, edit photos/videos, schedule social media, and more. I could probably spend more time running this website each week than I do at my desk in my company’s office and STILL not get everything done. I’d almost consider it…*gasp*…a job.

Quitting a corporate job to run a blog or work remotely is not really “quitting your job,” it’s simply making a career choice. People who claim that they “travel full-time” most likely just shifted to a different career that still brings them steady income. This is not the same as quitting your job to gallivant around the globe all day every day without doing any work, despite what their Instagram posts might look like.

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Travel Costs Money

Whether you’re living off of savings or working while traveling, travel isn’t free. Yes, there are areas of the world where traveling is cheaper than living at home, but it still costs money to go places and purchase basic human necessities. Everyone’s got to eat, right?

If you’re traveling full-time off of savings, you may not need to work while on the road, but you’re also probably going to run out of money eventually. Then what? I’m as guilty as everyone of traveling on long-term trips without spending time working, but they all had finite end dates. So in this case, “quitting your job to travel” actually means “taking a career break to travel and then finding another job.” There’s nothing wrong with this, but again, it shows that quitting work to travel forever doesn’t *actually* exist. Take this travel blogging couple who now scrubs toilets as a prime example.

On the other hand, if you are working and traveling, you have the luxury of being able to do your job anywhere you want. Of course, this lifestyle definitely is conducive to quitting a corporate job in favor of roaming the world. However, you still need to work largely full-time hours or else you’ll run out of options for funding.

To travel, you need money. If you quit having a job, you won’t continue to get money. It’s really that simple.

You Should Probably Have a Safety Net

When I was traveling long-term in Southeast Asia, my appendix decided to die. One long ambulance ride, one surgery, and five nights in the hospital later, I was released with a $2,200 bill (more than half of my budget for four month in Southeast Asia). Luckily I bought travel insurance, which covered everything, but if I hadn’t, I would have had to pay that money (more than half of my budget for the whole trip) out of pocket. This safety net saved my life.

If you don’t plan ahead before quitting your job to travel, you may not be able to afford it when situations like this arise. Food sickness, robbery, and motorcycle accidents are just a few of the potential issues that may arise while traveling. Travel is unpredictable, so having a steady income or a substantial repository of savings is critical. Many people make it sound so easy to just walk into their boss’ offices, quit their jobs on a whim, and take off on a huge adventure. However, this mentality just isn’t practical for the majority of people.

What About Your Future Career?

If you’re not planning on being a travel blogger/web developer/remote worker/Instagram influencer/rich heir, you’ll probably need to continue your career in some way. If you quit your job cold turkey to travel without having anything else lined up, you might have some difficulty finding a new position when you get back.

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No, I don’t think it’s a huge detractor to have a short gap in your resume. However, this is time you could be spending building skills that are relevant to your dream job. If your goal is to be in company leadership or to do anything that pertains to the corporate world in the future, then you should probably think long and hard before you burn a bridge by quitting your job out of nowhere. This is why you should think about your plan for the next step, whatever it may be.

It Will Get Old Eventually

Many fellow travel bloggers have left the grind of endless travel in favor of putting down roots somewhere. It seems that eventually the nonstop grind of traveling forever gets difficult to manage. It may look glamorous and enviable to the eye of the common corporate worker to quit your office job in favor of a more exciting adventure, but soon enough you may once again crave the routine and predictability of having a home. To have a home you need a job. So, in reality, no one simply “quits their job to travel forever,”  they make choices and live within their means to have a lifestyle that they enjoy.

It’s Not About Running Away

The sentiment behind “quit your job to travel” is actually one of leaving behind your current life in favor of something more exciting and adventurous. If that’s what you’re looking for, by all means chase it. However, the assumption that people can just get up and leave their lives with no plan and no savings is quite often false. People who leave their office jobs behind typically do have a plan for how they’ll support themselves, and are simply pursuing this plan instead of running away from their current situation. If you’re considering taking the leap and traveling long-term, remember to do it because you have a financial plan, the experience of travel is something you enjoy, and the lifestyle is one you’re willing to adopt – NOT solely because you hate your workplace and feel desperate to leave.

If you operate under the philosophy of running toward new opportunities, a life and career on the road will be much more feasible and sustainable in the the long run. You might get lucky and find a job that enables you to travel full time while working remotely, making a steady paycheck and building your skill set at the same time. Or, you could take a career break and return home refreshed and ready to hit the ground running in a new position.

Or, you could be like most normal people, work a job you like back at home, pay your bills, and take your free time and disposable income to see the world when you want. You can enable travel to be a huge part of your life whether you have a full-time corporate job or not – but that’s for you to decide.

Kay is a full-time media professional located in Washington DC who takes every spare day of time to travel the world. In the last year alone, she's visited over 10 different countries and taken a dozen short trips in between. You can typically find her wandering the streets of a city, taking ridiculous self portraits, or hiking a mountain somewhere. Connect with Kay: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

6 Comments

  1. Very spot on! That is why Sheila and I don’t adopt the “quit your job and travel” philosophy although we are avid adventurers and travelers. We have full-time jobs that we love, and we set aside some money to fund our trips. We schedule leaves, negotiate with our bosses if we need longer leaves, and make sure we spend our weekends off the office. We find doing these things more sensible than quitting a promising career to travel (you work to generate money. Always!).

  2. Very sound arguments! I agree that it is simply not feasible for most people to just quit their jobs and travel indefinitely. I, too, roll my eyes when I see another Instagram post about how someone quit their boring office job to run off and see the world. It just perpetuates an unrealistic, and even irresponsible, idea.

    • Agree with you 100%, Somto. Quitting a job to travel is just not that feasible or realistic for the majority of people! Even those who can’t drop everything to travel deserve to see the world, and it’s totally possible to have both.

  3. Let me throw in some perspective as someone who has actually done both full-time travel and full-time traditional work.

    Personally, I hope I’ve never pretended like quitting my job to travel was super easy and something that literally anyone could do with a snap of their fingers. But when sticking with a traditional 9-to-5 job is the norm — in fact, it’s so normal, it doesn’t even *occur* to many people that there is any alternative — the message that you *can* do something different if you want is a really powerful one.

    Obviously 9-to-5s aren’t inherently bad. Some people truly love theirs, and that’s wonderful, but you have to admit that many people don’t like their day jobs and keep up with it because they assume they have to. There *are* alternative ways to make money, other styles of work, and a variety of ways to save money while traveling – many of which you’ve touched on in your post.

    There is absolutely a lot of hard work that goes into traveling full-time. The way I see it, though, I quit my *job* to travel… that isn’t at all the same as expecting to never do any work again. “Job” and “work” and “career” all mean different things (and sometimes mean different things to different people). Quitting a job isn’t the same as quitting work forever or even abandoning a career. I traded my (extremely stressful, underpaying, irrelevant to my long-term goals) job for a very different kind of work that was much more fulfilling for me.

    Yup, I spent a really long time saving for my RTW trip. (I was juggling multiple jobs to scrape together $20k a year when I started.) And I supported it with freelance work while I traveled. Travel *itself* takes a lot of hard work. And my RTW trip did end up being a career break, as I’ve taken good full-time opportunities since returning home. None of that makes my quitting that old job to travel any less valuable.

    Nor did quitting that job ruin my career. My new full-time job is way better than the ones I held before traveling. It is significantly more relevant to my long-term goals. It pays twice what I used to make. And it actually uses skills I developed *while* traveling. That year wasn’t time wasted! Long-term travel improves organization and budgeting skills. In interviews, talking about my travels showed I’m diligent and determined. The experience made me more flexible and adaptable. And more specifically to my personal career, taking that time to work remotely for myself while traveling, meant significantly developing my writing, web development, social media marketing, etc. – all things I do on a daily basis in my current job. Many of these were skills I would not have developed as strongly while staying in a job I found draining and where I had to spend a lot of time on tasks that weren’t as relevant to my interests and long-term goals.

    To be completely frank, when people hear about my experience and claim they’d like to do that but could never afford it or don’t want to ruin their careers, that’s what cues my internal eye roll. At the end of the day, that stuff isn’t completely insurmountable. If somebody doesn’t want to travel long-term, that’s totally cool! They can just say they don’t really want to. There’s no need for other excuses or reasons. It *is* a lot of work and it isn’t for everybody.

    But I don’t regret my path in the slightest. Quitting *my* job to travel made me healthier, happier and more centered so that when I was ready to return home, I could put myself in a better situation. The whole process replaced the work I hated with work I find engaging and fulfilling. Had I never seen one of those glamorized “how to quit your job to travel” type posts, it never would have even occurred to me that there was an alternative.

    All that said, Kay, I do really enjoy seeing your blog posts now that I’m back behind a (bigger, less stressful) desk, so I can continue enjoying travel! There are so many ways to go about it and none is universally better than the others.

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