Don’t quit your job to travel the world
– Guest post by Nina Ziezman from Shewhoadventures.com
It’s become a cliche of the 21st century, hasn’t it? Quitting your job to travel the world. From your local bookshop to Facebook to the Hollywood film industry, everyone is pushing this idea that in order to live your dream life, you have to quit your current job and travel the world.
I know. You are probably thinking this is a bit rich from a woman who quit her full-time job in London to write freelance and travel the world. But let me point out, this is not the right path for everyone. No matter what that inspirational quote on Instagram says.
I’ve recently been reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creativity, Big Magic. If you are a creative person, I encourage you to run (not walk) to your nearest bookshop and buy it. It’s a really inspirational book, jam-packed full of advice on how to pursue your creativity and live a happier, more well-rounded life.
So, what is the one piece of advice she DOES NOT give to someone who wants to live a more creative life? She doesn’t tell anyone to quit their jobs to pursue their dreams. Not once.
Yes, she promotes being creative every single day – whether it be singing, painting, writing or taking photos – but she definitely doesn’t suggest sacking in the day job to pursue it.
Why? Because living a creative life doesn’t necessarily mean it will support you financially. Becoming a travel writer might be your idea of a dream life, but there’s a possibility it won’t pay your rent or put food on your table. You can still live a fantastic adventurous life while still holding down a 9 to 5 job.
Here are a few more reasons why I don’t think you should quit your job to travel the world…
Lots of people really like their jobs
I just completed my year-long yoga teaching training this June. Everyone afterwards was talking about their plans for the future. Quite a few people said they wanted to quit their jobs and become full-time yoga teachers – but there were plenty who didn’t.
Read more: Why you should travel to feel small
I distinctly remember my friend Hayley saying, “I really like my job! Why would I want to give it all up, just because I love yoga too?”
You don’t have to hate your job, just because everyone else seems to hate theirs right now. Lots of people really like their jobs and don’t want to quit. You can still have a whole bunch of adventures while holding down a full-time job.
I was lucky enough to travel as part of my job in London, so there are ways you can get the best of both worlds.
Everyone has a shit sandwich in their life
In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert explains the concept of the ‘shit sandwich’. A ‘shit sandwich’ is a metaphor for life. The bread represents the good bits but sandwiched in the middle, there’s always a crappy part.
It doesn’t matter where you live or how glamorous your job appears to be, there is always a downside a.k.a. the shit in your shit sandwich.
People often say to me, ‘You’re living the dream life, aren’t you?’ I laugh and nod, but inside I’m just thinking, yes I’m lucky but I also worked my butt off for this job.
I studied hard, submitted endless work experience applications to magazines for five years. I spent hours commuting in and out of London. I wrote articles that didn’t fill my soul with joy, because that was the job I had to do.
Some nights, I would sit in my bed, tears streaming down my face because I didn’t want to get on the Tube and endure another rush hour on a packed train one more time.
I hoped and prayed that hard work would pay off. Wishing, hoping and praying doesn’t always do the job, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that hard work really, truly does.
Even now, working as a freelance writer and living in Australia, there’s still a shit sandwich. I love my life and I feel incredibly lucky to be sitting where I am today.
But there are still days when you feel like shit, your bank balance is low, your friends and family are 10,000 miles away, it’s raining and you dropped your piece of toast face down on the dirty kitchen floor.
Just because you are in Australia or Bali or Argentina won’t change the fact that you will still have bad days, just like anyone else.
Try to negotiate more flexible working hours
One thing I’ve learnt from working in an office environment is if you don’t ask, you won’t get. It’s always worth asking, even if you think your boss will say no.
I was lucky to work full-time for a company that embraced working remotely. They had dozens of editorial employees who worked from Edinburgh, Cornwall, the French Alps, Wales and beyond.
After a year working for the same company in their London office, I asked my boss if could also work remotely – and to my surprise, he said yes.
I moved to France and spent the winter working my same job from Morzine in the Alps. Everyday I would sign onto Skype, have some office banter via. instant message (honestly, you will miss the office banter) and would crack on with my work from my new home office (my kitchen table).
It was a brilliant. I could squeeze in an hour of exercise before work. I would finish work at 5pm and already be at home, ready to spend my evening with friends or binge watching Making A Murderer. On the weekends, it was a ten-minute walk and I could be on the gondola up the mountain, ready to go snowboarding.
I met dozens of people in Morzine – from engineers to graphic designers to sales managers – who worked remotely, which just goes to show you can have a career and travel the world.
However, I completely understand that this just isn’t possibly in some jobs, so it might not work for you.
A friend of mine worked seriously hard for a magazine for a few years and gained the respect of her bosses. They didn’t often grant sabbaticals – particularly to someone in their mid-20s – but they wanted to keep her on as an employee so much, they gave her two-month unpaid leave to volunteer on a course in California, USA.
Like I said, there might be an option you’ve haven’t thought of yet (or asked for!)
You do still need to make a living
It’s an obvious one, but you still need to pay your way. You don’t have to live in a big city like London, where 50 per cent of your salary (or more) is sucked up by rent and bills each month. But you do need to pay your own way in life.
Sometimes giving up your full-time job to travel is just not financially viable. This is the case for most people. My advice is to save, save, save (see below). If you have enough money stashed away, why not try looking for jobs that allow you to work remotely or give substantial amounts of holiday leave each year?
If this isn’t an option, see if you can work the same job but in another country. Whether you are a teacher or you work in a large corporate business, often there are opportunities within the same company or career field to work all over the world – from places like New York, Hong Kong or Sydney. This is a great jumping off point for exploring a different area of the world, all while holding down your career.
Save, save, save
If you want to travel, you need to save up money. I can’t emphasise this enough. Prioritise what you want from life. If you want to travel, then stop spending money on new clothes, takeaway cappuccinos, dinners out and fancy hair products.
Go through all of your outgoing expenses and see if you can cut things out – like that online yoga subscription that you don’t really use.
Save every penny you can. Then when you have two weeks off, you’ll have the money to go trekking in Patagonia rather than spending your time off at home.
Sometimes it’s not your job that’s the problem
Often when you’re working long hours and you’re tired, you think everything in your life is shit. Your job will often take the brunt of this abuse. I joke that my warning label should be: GETS WEEPY WHEN TIRED.
Yes, sometimes your job is exactly what’s making you unhappy. But it’s often worth considering whether something else is getting you down. Is it where you live? Or the company you work for? Maybe it’s your housemates or your partner or your lack of time to exercise that’s making you cranky?
Sometimes the change you need might not be sacking in your job, but something else in your life that requires closer inspection. It might not be easy to admit to yourself, but if you really search for what’s making you unhappy, you can start to take steps to changing it.
Travelling is really hard work
Travel is often romanticised as being carefree and easy. This is totally not the case. Anyone who has dragged two heavy backpacks across Delhi in the middle of rush hour or through Russia in the middle of the night after 20 hours on the road knows travelling is not always a breeze.
Travelling can be tiring, expensive, frustrating and lonely (especially if you are by yourself in a foreign county where you don’t speak the language).
You constantly have to think about where you will be sleeping next, whether you can afford the next plane ticket home, how you are going to get from Point A to Point B without paying over £300+ in excess baggage.
Travelling can also be immensely rewarding too but don’t forget my shit sandwich analogy above. It applies here too.
You will miss out on occasions back home
Friends and family are always there for you. This won’t change if you are three miles or 10,000 miles away. Skype is an amazing invention for keeping in touch with everyone back home. But there will be times when you miss out on important events.
Weddings are a classic example. We’ve already missed weddings of friends we truly wished we could be there for. There will be many more to come. Same goes for birthdays, christenings, Christmas, even funerals.
It doesn’t even have to be big life-changing events that will pass you by. It’s nice to be there for your friends when they are going through a rough patch or even just spending time with them, eating takeaway curry with a glass of wine. This is something you will inevitably miss while on the road.
You will eventually crave stability just like everyone else
I have always wanted to travel and live out of a backpack. But every now and then, I crave stability. I ponder how nice it would be to have a house with furniture that I’ve picked out myself. My own place where I can keep my surfboard and my books and that nice bowl my sister bought for me last year. I could have my own dog. Even a postbox so I can stop lumbering my parents with all my mail.
To sum up…
It’s not all doom and gloom, folks. Travelling the world and making it work – any way you can – is an incredibly rewarding way to live. If travelling wasn’t so great, no one would ever do it, right?
But do bear my advice in mind. Don’t throw everything away on a whim. Plan, plan, plan. Save as much money as you can. Don’t run away from your problems. And don’t feel pressured to do something just because every other twenty-something free-spirit is doing it right now.
Take a really good, hard look at your life and work out whether it really is your job that needs throwing away – or whether you just need to re-jiggle a few other things in your life to make more time for adventures and travel.
This article was originally posted on Nina Ziezman blog Shewhoadventures.com – check it out & thank you Nina for writing such a thought-provoking post.
Cover photo from Eat, Pray, Love/ Sony Pictures.