How We Quit Our Jobs to Travel Full Time
And how you can too!
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Seeing my dad sitting on the kitchen table, counting the days until his retirement, I said: “only a few months away for you to be free, papi”. It had been a few rough years for him, having to leave Venezuela and then jumping from one shitty job to the next. Living in middle-of-nowhere Texas and working as a Safety Manager responding to incidents in the middle of the night. My dad was old and tired, but he needed that retirement payment from social security. So he stuck it out.
Fear can be a very powerful motivator. You see, I didn’t want to end up like my parents. I was afraid to work for 40 years straight, and even then be concerned about money. More generally, I have always been in conflict with the American expectation of working without a break your entire adult life. The expectation that should go from job to job without reconsidering what you want in the next phase of your life. The expectation of always being “resume building” and “climbing the ladder” – always pressured, always online, always stressed. If you do this, the hours you spend at work will accumulate to be the majority of your life, way more than the hours you spent with your loved ones, way more than the ones you spent dancing, kissing, cooking, hugging, eating, loving… Phew, that is a lot of hours.
I have always said that I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, and I mean that wholeheartedly. Life is too long, too interesting, and too diverse for me to commit to anything in particular for the rest of my life. I think a more natural way to think about work is in waves. You might be very interested in something in your 20s, and then be interested in something else in your 30s, 40s, 50s, etc. One wave after another. Your interests might always be in the same industry but differ slightly, or they might be completely different. Regardless, I think it’s difficult to determine how much you have changed, and what you want to try next, if you choose to be on top of a single wave all your adult life. You need to ride the waves down and swim back out to find the new one – you need a break.
Sitting with my dad on the kitchen table, right then and there, I knew I wanted to: 1. Retire early, and 2. Travel as much as possible while I was still young. Yeah, I know, these goals are sort of in conflict, but I was committed to the vision. I told Alan, at that point my best friend and also the person I was in a very complicated romantic relationship with: “before I am 35 I am quitting my job to travel the world… you can come if you want to!”. To which he replied: “that sounds fun!”
The following 10 years were a whirlwind. Alan and I got married, decided not to have children, held 10 different jobs, got masters degrees, grew in our careers, moved 4 times, traveled to 40 countries, built a home, became American citizens, and also digital nomads. We lived, fully and completely, while also saving and planning for this long term goal, which at that point seemed far far away, and almost an impossibility, but not quite.
How we did it
Fast forward to 2022, the year we had planned for this to happen, and we are doing it! Sometimes it doesn’t seem real, because we have been dreaming it for so long. But truth be told, this isn’t rocket science. The key, like in most of everything in life, is to really want it, to prioritize it, to plan for it, and to GO FOR IT.
I find the initial reaction to me telling someone we just quit our jobs to go travel as either excitement or fear. I either get “wow that is so exciting! I am jealous!” or “wow that is so risky, aren’t you afraid?”. To me, both tell me the same thing: “this is inspiring, but I have no clue how you are doing it”. So, if you want to take a break from work at some point in your life and travel full time while you are still “young”, here is some of our advice:
I am sure you have heard this before, and that is for a reason. It doesn’t matter how much you make, just put money aside every single paycheck. Get it out of your paycheck and into a different account (automatically if you can) as soon as you get it. And then forget that account exists (sort of, keep reading).
Get Help from an Expert
My very first manager told me I should get a financial advisor, and this is one of the best pieces of advice anyone has ever given me (thank you, Mike!). Having a financial advisor focused on retirement planning has made a tremendous difference in our life. This is not about investing and moving money from one risky stock to the next (although of course you can do that too), this is about long term planning. Besides the expert advice an advisor can bring, having a third party perspective has been revolutionary for us. Our advisor has encouraged us to make decisions we wanted to make but didn’t feel confident we could. Those decisions, such as saving for this trip and making other big life changes, have changed the course of our lives.
Commit to a date
When do you want to be able to quit your job and travel? Decide on a specific date – at least a specific year – and commit to it. Everything else you do will revolve around this date, so it’s important. Tell your family and friends about it, *share it*, make it real. Once that date is approaching (a year out or so), don’t start making excuses! IT WILL NEVER BE THE PERFECT TIME. You didn’t save all the money you wanted? Travel for less time, or to less expensive destinations. You recently started a new job? kill it for the next year and then negotiate a leave so you can come back to it. Inflation is through the roof making flights hyper expensive (like now!)? Stay in places longer, travel by land more. Just.stop.making.excuses.
Set a money goal
Depending on where you want to go, for how long you want to travel, and what your interests are, the budget you will need for the trip will vary. It is important to determine the approximate amount you want to aim for so you can be specific about how much you need to save to achieve that by your committed date. We know people who have traveled the world for 1.5 years with $30k and others who have traveled for 6 months with $60k. It all depends on your interests and way of traveling. You can travel and just spend $50 a day, or you could spend $300 depending on where you are and what you are doing. Things you need to consider to determine a budget:
What areas of the world are you interested in seeing? For example, South East Asia is much more inexpensive than Western Europe, (most of) Latin American is less expensive than Australia, etc.
What type of accommodations do you want to stay in? Are you ok with hostels, or would you rather an airbnb or a hotel?
What do you want to do while you travel? Do you like to eat in fancy restaurants, holes in the wall, or a bit both? Do you like going on tours, and if so, are you ok with group tours or do you want private?
All the above will help you determine how much you will likely spend on your trip, and how much you need to aim to save.
Don’t stop living your life
The point of planning and having a solid savings strategy is to not have to make a ton of sacrifices along the way. Don’t stop living your life, but do it smartly. For instance, if you are thinking about buying property and have been able to put some money aside for a down payment, don’t let the idea of the upcoming trip scare you off. Instead, think about how you can do both smartly, for example by buying a place that you can rent while you are on your trip. Research what rents well in your area and buy and furnish with that in mind. We have been doing this for a while, even renting our car through Turo, and we highly recommend it. This can even turn into passive income while you travel, and doesn’t that sound great?
These five things have been the most meaningful for us in this journey. We would love to see more people doing this! Let’s change the status quo, and revolutionize how we think about work and the set of expectations we carry around for no good reason.
Below are the most common questions we have been asked about our trip so far. If you have others, please reach out! I will be adding them below as we get them.
How long have you been planning for this?
We started saving for this about a decade ago. You could, of course, quit your job and go travel the world without having saved much money at all, and then find jobs along the way. Plenty of people do this and there are lots of blogs about this. This is not what we did. We, specifically, wanted to *not* have to worry about money while we traveled.
Where are you going?
We don’t have a specific itinerary, but in general terms we want to see parts of the Balkans (Greece, Croatia, Bosnia), Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan), Western Asia (Iran, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan), and Latin America (Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil)
How are you choosing where to go?
We have traveled a lot (66 countries combined) and have spent a lot of time in certain areas of the world, such as South East Asia and Western Europe, so with this trip we want to explore areas we don’t know much about (or feel like we should know more, such as Latin American)
What will you be doing in every place you go?
It will depend on the destination! But we are passionate about food, nature, and history, so things related to those for sure
What are you packing?
This has been SO HARD (specially for Carla, who is notoriously bad at it…). But we decided to take carry-ons! We will be creating content on this topic in particular, more on this soon!
How will you manage your budget?
Honestly, not very scientifically. We saved money for the trip, and we will divide that budget into 12 and monitor it as we go. We are hoping we can also make some passive income from renting our home and car while traveling, but we will see. I am sure we will have a better answer to this once we are on the road and spending money
What will you do after the 1 year of travel?
WE DON’T KNOW. That is the whole point. We want to take the year to decompress from lots of years of working non-stop, and reconsider what we want to do next. Maybe even figure out how to make a business out of our biggest passion: TRAVELING!