Should You Quit Your Job to Travel in a Still Uncertain Economy?
“The economy is coming back!”
“This is a double dip economy. We still have a ways to go, and it could get worse again before it gets better.”
You’ve been watching the news and reading the papers. The experts and media still don’t know what the hell is going on with this economy. The average Joe certainly knows that things still aren’t right though. Let’s face it, in many fields it still flat out sucks out there. Despite the still poor job market, have you ever contemplated quitting your job and jetting off on a trip around the world?
I know the “buts….” are coming next, and I’m sure you have some valid concerns. Being employed in any capacity right now is a good thing, so quitting a job when so many are still unemployed might seem stupid and crazy, especially if it’s to do something like travel the world. But depending on your situation, you may want to re-think your stance, ask yourself the following questions, and really consider what’s going to make you the happiest. Besides, isn’t that what life is supposed to be about?
What is your current work situation?
Everyone’s is different. Some hate their jobs with a passion. Some enjoy it well enough to keep plugging along for the next 30 years, getting their 2 weeks of vacation and waiting for eventual retirement (which is no certainty anymore). Some really like their jobs. But only a select few actually love what they’re doing. If you’re one of those who really, truly loves what it is you are doing on a daily basis, then kudos to you. This article probably won’t speak much to you. But the vast majority of us fall into one of the following categories in this still poor economy:
“I hate my job”
Unfortunately, this is a reality for a lot of people. There are literally millions of people worldwide who wake up each morning dreading their workday. If this is you, then stop! Doesn’t waking up each morning in an exotic locale and literally doing whatever you want sound so much better than going to a job you hate? Life is short, and spending over half of your waking hours doing something you hate isn’t what life should be. Stop making excuses and make a change now!
“I’m overqualified and underpaid, but this was all I could find.”
Did you have to settle for something low paying that you are way overqualified for just to be employed? Are you just out of college and doing something completely unrelated to your degree or are you staying in a job you dislike for fear of not being able to find another one? Way too many people are in these exact situations because of the poor economy. Society tells you to be happy that you even have a job and be thankful that you aren’t one of the many millions of unemployed. And while that is partially true, where do you draw the line? How long do you plan on working in a job you have no passion for? It’s easy to get comfortable and settle. But settling is never going to make you truly happy.
“I like my job. It’s good. But I don’t have a passion for it.”
Lots of people fall into this category. Before our RTW trip, I was one of these people. I was a high school English teacher. I really enjoyed what I did. I liked the kids, I liked my school, and I generally enjoyed my workday. I was happy. So what made me quit my job, in 2008 right as the economy was going to hell, to travel for a year? The simple answer is that I wasn’t passionate about what I did. I liked it, sure, but when we started talking about planning a RTW trip, my emotions and adrenaline spiked. This was the feeling I was missing in my career. This is the feeling that everyone should feel in life – excited, so eager, so ready to do something different. Sometimes, it’s best to trust your instincts. I ignored the negativity and the naysayers telling us we were crazy for quitting our good, well paying jobs in the midst of a financial and economic crisis. It was the best decision we ever made.
What is your field of work?
Not everyone is affected as much by this poor economy. There are several careers where finding a job isn’t nearly as difficult. Health care, programming, and the service industry, while still affected, were not hit nearly as hard as other career paths (anything having to do with real estate, for example). If you’re in one of those fields, conventional wisdom says it’s probably stupid to leave it and travel the world. But why? If jobs aren’t in high demand, then chances are good that it may not be difficult to find a new one when you return. Take advantage of being one of the select few to have a strong job market to return to.
You also need to ask yourself how much you enjoy your career. Can you really see yourself doing what you’re doing now for the rest of your life? Does even thinking about that make you want to vomit? If you fall anywhere other than “I love my job and career,” then maybe it’s time to think of something different. Traveling the world will give you the opportunity to re-evaluate your life and career choices. You may find something along the way that you never knew existed. You may re-discover a long lost passion and find a way to make a career out of that. You never know what the future will bring, and traveling will open your eyes, your mind, and your heart and give you the much needed time to think of what it is you really want out of your life.
What is your living situation?
One of the most common reasons I hear for not being able to travel the world is because of your current living situation. Owning a home and having a mortgage certainly makes it more challenging, but there are tons of people each year who give that up to travel the world. If you’re upside down on your mortgage as many are, then it becomes even more challenging. I never said it would be easy, but making your dreams come true is rarely an easy feat. Adam Baker of Man vs. Debt is a guru when it comes to getting yourself out of sticky financial situations. There are no quick fixes, and it will be difficult, but it is also possible. Others have done it, and there are plenty of resources out there to help.
If you rent, then this decision should be even easier. You aren’t tied down to a mortgage, so there’s no better time than now. Get rid of most of your useless crap, leave when your lease is up, and take off. If getting rid of all your stuff and packing it into storage gives you hives, then consider other options. While it’s not conventional, it’s still possible to keep your rented place, all your stuff, and sublet your apartment. Talk to your landlord and have a plan in place (tell him or her you will research and interview possible tenants or contact friends/family looking for a place to stay temporarily). Corbett Barr does this every year, living in San Francisco for 6 months then subletting their apartment for the other six months while traveling and living somewhere else. If you’re a homeowner, then consider renting your place out instead of selling.
What is your financial situation?
The other main reason people give for not being able to travel is because they can’t afford it. I’ll say it time and time again, but in most cases, that is simply not true. And unless you get out on the road and see for yourself, you’ll probably never believe me. There are countless travelers out there right now living for a fraction of the money you spend while at home.
Traveling to developing countries is just cheaper. If you’re young and right out of college, even better. Let’s face it, you can endure hostel dorms, loud places, and a little more dirt and grime more easily than us older folks. But even if you’re older, it’s still possible to travel the world on the cheap. Living on $40US/day (or even less) is not uncommon in many parts of the world, and you can even get private rooms with your own bathroom in hostels for cheap.
How to use long term travel to your advantage upon returning home
I admit there are many mental hurdles to get over when it comes to long term travel, particularly when the economy is in the shape it’s in. I went through all the doubts and asked all the questions myself. Once you realize that quitting your job to travel, even when the situation around you seems dire, is not only possible buy even a good idea, then you can realize how it can help your situation upon your return.
Do you want your resume to stand out?
A gap in a resume is usually not a good thing, but traveling for an extended period of time doesn’t have to mean a missing year on your resume. Employers look at resumes that stand out, and what better way to stand out from others than to have experiences and traits that no one else has? Use travel and that missing work time as a positive instead of a negative. If you volunteered, add it to your resume. If you learned a new language, mention it. If you gained skills helpful to the job you’re applying for, talk about it. Chances are any employer will be intrigued by your unique experience, and intrigue gets your foot in the door. The rest is up to you.
Do you want the opportunity to do something different?
My plan all along was to go back to teaching, but after we returned, I discovered that most schools in my area cut budgets, and there were a lot of teachers out of work, making competition fierce. Luckily I had a back-up plan in place, one I never would have had if I had gotten laid off instead of quitting to travel.
The blog we started before our trip was meant to chronicle our journeys and keep up with family and friends. And while it did those things, it also rekindled a long lost love of writing for me. I always dreamed of becoming a journalist growing up (though I wanted to be a sportswriter), and hold a degree in journalism. The trip afforded me the opportunity to write again and now I am pursuing a career in travel writing,
I am just one of many who have done the same. So many travelers come out of a long term trip with a renewed sense of energy and focus, and changing careers to do something they truly love doesn’t seem nearly as daunting. As clichéd and corny as it sounds, the trip taught me personally that I can do whatever I want as long as I put my heart and soul into it. That’s what I’m doing now, and you can do the same.
Do you want a new view on the world and life in general?
We’ve been back for over a year and a half now. and not a day goes by that I don’t think of the trip in some capacity. It changed me, my view on life and the world, and my relationship with my wife in so many ways that it’s impossible to count. I view life differently now because of my experiences. I have a confidence like never before, and I am happy and at ease with my life. I know that going against the grain and what society deems is the right thing to do is not crazy, stupid, or reckless. This is my life, and I refuse to let anyone tell me that I’m living it the wrong way.
Don’t let anyone convince you that they know how you should live your life. Giving into societal pressures is easy to do. We have all done it, and we will all continue to do it from time to time. But by and large, I now live life on my terms, and the experiences I had quitting my job in a terrible economy, planning our trip, traveling the world, and then re-entering society have given me the tools to live the life I want to live. Does that sound crazy to you?
Have you thought about leaving your career to travel? Are you hesitant to do so because of the economy? What motivation do you need to make your dreams a reality? Comment below to share your situation.
Need more convincing? Read:
- 5 Reasons to Take a Career Break
- 6 Reasons Living on the Road is a Good Option in a Down Economy
- 11 Reasons to Stop Dreaming and Start Planning Your Round the World Trip
Adam Seper and his wife, Megan, decided that 50+ hour workweeks with 2 weeks of vacation a year simply wasn’t going to cut it. So they decided to take a leap of faith and put The American Dream on hold. In October 2008, they took off on an epic, year-long adventure, traversing the globe and traveling to 89 cities and 11 countries across 4 continents, never to be the same again.
Now Adam is going to tell you how you can plan your own epic adventure. Every week, on “Round the World Wednesday” he’ll share tips for planning, budgeting and selecting a route, plus advice on where to go and what to see and do all around the world.