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21 Reasons You Should Quit Your Day Job And Travel The World


“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

I discovered Maya Angelou when I was 15 because one of my favorite artists, Fiona Apple, loved her. Thanks Fiona and thanks Maya for providing such a powerful quote.

Most people are born with an interest in travel that never subsides. The fact that blogs like Chris Guillebeau’s, Gary Arndt’s, or this one (on a much much smaller scale) are as popular as they are is proof of this fact.

The problem is that most of us, and I fell into this trap too, put it off. Either for 1-2 weeks at a time on a yearly vacation or “until some day when X happens.” Whatever eXcuse (get it?) you have for continuing on living a life you’re not thrilled with, it’s unfounded. There is always a way. (I just set myself up for a slew of “but, but, but my situation is different” comments/e-mails.)

As you already know from Lesson #13, you’re not as different as you think. Whatever situation you’re in, someone has already been there and still made things happen.

In another post I will present to you the “how.” Here now, I present to you the “why”: 21 reasons you should quit your day job and travel the world …

  1. You’ll become more open minded and learn to treat people with more respect. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Unless, maybe, you stay in sanitized resorts. But since not many people can afford to stay in sanitized resorts long term, this isn’t even an issue.
  2. Your job is dragging you down. (In very rare cases it’s not, and that rules.)
  3. You’re unhappy.
  4. Slaving away is getting in the way of your dreams.
  5. Traveling long term is cheaper than living wherever you’re living.
  6. It will stretch you to do things you didn’t think you could do.
  7. You might not have any big “revelations” or “aha moments” but you’ll have a blast anyway.
  8. If you have kids it will set them up for a life of independence instead of setting them up to be cogs in a machine. We need more children who are exposed to how most other people live instead of sanitized first world society. I met a British family, 5 kids aged 6-16 and their Parents, on the train up to Chiang Mai. The kids were having a ball experiencing all these new things and I could already pick out leadership qualities among each of them. In addition, they were incredibly respectful, which I’m finding less and less among children.
  9. You can eat your favorite foods in the countries where they originated.
  10. You’ll experience new foods that will quickly become your new favorites.
  11. The best fruit in the world, Jakfruit, is plentiful and cheap in Thailand. (OK, so that was a specific case for why you should travel to Thailand as opposed to anywhere. Whatever, Jakfruit is the best fruit in the world. I discovered it while in the Daintree Rainforest in Northern Queensland, Australia.)
  12. Even when it’s dangerous, it’s not as dangerous as some people would have you believe. I’ve felt more fear walking the streets of Detroit with $10 in my pocket than walking around Mumbai or Bangkok at night with thousands of dollars in gear and cash on my person.
  13. You will stumble onto awesome events like Holi and Songkran. Who doesn’t love a week-long water fight? :)
  14. This site makes a lot of good cases for saving your tax dollars by living elsewhere.
  15. You will meet, and make friends with, people who you would never have met staying where you are. Most of us only associate with people in our immediate geographical areas. I call it Friendship By Geography, and it’s incredibly sad.
  16. Facing your fears is good for you. And you will face all of them, sometimes in a single day, when traveling. How many fears do you face on a daily basis at your day job? How much do you grow as a person at your day job?
  17. You will no longer have to participate in office politics or water cooler gossip. If that’s the kind of thing you enjoy then why are you reading this site in the first place? :)
  18. You will have more time for your family, friends, and maybe more importantly, for yourself.
  19. You will become a master of fake sign language. Also known as Traveler’s Sign Language. It’s frustrating for a spell, but when your communication is finally understood it’s an awesome feeling.
  20. Even if you never become fluent, learning and using a few words in new languages is fun. My favorite thing in the world is now the Thai bow/greeting. I know the way I say it is probably horrible, but the old lady who runs the best veg restaurant in Chiang Mai (Save Thunya on Nantaram Rd just outside Chiang Mai Gate) always treats me like a king when I come in. I know she appreciates my limited Thai because she speaks approximately 3 words of English so we’re in the same boat. I wonder if I can use the Thai greeting everywhere I go? :) If you think it’s difficult learning new languages, Benny at FluentIn3Months.com has the best course available on the topic: click here to get the Language Hacking Guide.
  21. You owe it to yourself to be Ridiculously Extraordinary. Most day jobs would not be categorized as such.

What have I missed? I know there are many more good reasons to quit your day job and travel the world so leave them in the comments below …

Also, no excuses in the comments. Only positive thoughts please. ;)

Photo Credit

{ 154 comments }

Phil

Karol, how irresponsible of you to advocate that the masses just quite their daily monotonous routines, throw caution to the wind,and actually finally do what they have wanted to do all their lives, and in doing so, trade a monotonous, routine filled, stressed out life of false purpose and humdrum existence for one that is life calling?! I mean, after all, they don’t call it a dream for nothing, it’s just a carrot stick for one to chase all their life, not something to actually make happen. You take this away from people, and what will they have left to complain about? Where, oh where will the masses find purpose after they’ve fulfilled their dreams? I envision a Prosac world of endless regret having finally done what they’ve always wanted to do, instead of your fantasy utopian world of cherished memories. Come on, why would you advocate and indeed, encourage, that people cast off their social conditioning and finally listen to their inner passions? All for what? A life filled with new experiences, exciting challenges, new friendships with like-minded people, and a dearth of fond memories that will gaurantee you’ve no regrets when you finally kick the bucket? People love regrets afterall right? Right? Sadly, I’ve listened to people like you too often and have always satiated my urge for travel. Now, I’m left with no regrets in life, incredible friendships, memories galore. I wish I had worked more, wasting my life away in windowless cubicles, just like society wanted me to, just like my friends and family, who’ve all told me likewise. Working a job I hate, to buy things I don’t need to impress people I don’t like. If I actually did this, I would’ve still had the regrets that I’m now left without, thanks to people and advice like yours.

Karol

I hope if anybody reads your comment they read the whole thing instead of just the first sentence. :) Thanks Phil. Good to know we’re on the same page!

Phil

lol, I hope so also, since what I’m trying to say is exactly opposite of my first sentence, lol. I totally believe in your message and actually did quit my job to travel, and have done so before. The only thing I would add is that, for anyone contemplating the same is to be prepare and to prepare for it by saving if you don’t have a passive income. I myself am on a on and off work cycle, saving when I work and traveling with my savings when I’m not. Just came back from Mexico, Cuba…and on to Eastern Europe this Summer. Wish you luck in your travels as well, nothing like it. =)

Nico

Hi, it’s the first time for me to read an article like this.
I myself aren’t completely against normal day jobs, but I will rather advocate “self employment” due to travelling costs increasing un affordably here in South Africa to and from your day job which never pays enough to compensate for the rapid increases. I’d much rather advocate an online business which you can do from anywhere in the world by using a laptop.
This way you can still travel where ever life takes you and make a buck or two on the road.
I’ve worked for too many companies only to find out that you are just a number anyway and that you are replaceable anytime !
Therefore I am contemplating quitting and going solo.
It is the best rewarding choice you can ever make if you are a “GO GETTER” and not a normal pen pushing punishment awaiting scardycat like so many nowadays.

Please forgive me for my openness !

Phil

Hi Nico,

Agreed, online would be the best way to go, I only advocate savings as one option since that is what I’ve done. The best would be if you have some sort of passive income, that would be ideal. Having worked in the corporate world for 10 years in the super uptight finance business, I really don’t know how some people can stare at a computer screen all day, doing the same exact routine from morning till dawn, and have no problem with this humdrum, meaningless existence until retirement. Meanwhile, I’m thinking, do I really want to look back on my life at the end and all I can remember is work?

Jenn C

Hi,
Great post. I also follow Chris Gillebeau’s blog.
My dream has always been to become a self employed photographer / writer.
One day I will travel the world doing this and you may read my blog / articles.
But, once entrenched in the “normal life”, it does take some planning to free yourself. So, here’s to everyone planning their own version of Independence Day!
Best wishes,
Jenn C

Jen

How can you travel the world if you have no money or very little of it?

Jonathan

Hey Jen,

In many cases, it’s actually less expensive to travel. In the US, we paid $140/month for our cell phones. While traveling, we use pre-pay phones, which saves us over $120/month. Renting a nice apartment in Thailand or Nicaragua or Ecuador for a month can be done for about $550. A nice apartment.

Thinking about restructuring what you’re currently doing financially can help with the financial question for sure.

Karol

Very true. It’s difficult to convey this point because the facts don’t seem real. You kinda just have to see it for yourself. :)

Jonathan

I just re-read back through the 21 tips and Chiang Mai caught my attention because… well… we just got back from our first ever visit to the Sunday night market in Chiang Mai.

That was awesome.

And Jen, to give you an idea of how it can be cheaper to travel, here’s our afternoon/evening in prices (in US Dollars).

Awesome Mango and sticky rice * 2 – $2
Good sized plate of Pad Thai – $1
Pot Stickers (pastries filled with stuff and fried) – $1
Two bottles of water – $2
Ice Cream – .60
Strawberry smoothie – $1

10 minute Taxi ride back to our apartment – $3.20

Two CD’s of Traditional Thai Music – $3
One CD of contemporary Thai Music – $5
Unique plate made of mango wood – $8
Three pairs of really unique glass earrings – $3
Hand painted post card (to send home) – $1

Total for a really fun and nice evening out + souvenirs to send back to the states = $30.80

If we’d bought no souvenirs, our fun evening out would have been done for $7.60. (For two.)

Karol’s right… you sort of have to take the leap and find out how to make it work… but you can and it does.

Karol, looking forward to trying your favorite veg restaurant while we’re here. Thanks for the recommendation. Will let you know how it goes.

David

Thank you for this one. I already believe and subscribe to all of the above things you’ve said, but it’s refreshing to get it again. I look forward to the day (and its soon!) that I will be quitting my job. No more resumes! Though this may be hard considering I plan to be a professor…

OSK

Nice reading your post Karol. Here in Singapore, people are generally “kiasu” (meaning afraid of losing in Hokkien dialect.) An idea of quitting a day job for travelling or resting is known as ‘insane’ here. People will encash their leaves and willing to reduce their rest day in exchange for a few more day’s pay before boarding their new soulless job from their current soulless job. It pains me to see people are too afraid of living with short term financial insecurities and refrain themselves from taking breaks because of the usual “I need more money or the most common “Wow you can rest, you are soo rich and I envy you.” I am sure to many, it’s a choice rather then a possiblity. With all these said, I am done with my job which I enjoy (minus office politics) doing and soon embarking on a journey to see the world…ok, a portion of the world.

Karol

Hey OSK, the whole “I need more, more, more money and less, less, less life” thing is definitely a worldwide phenomenon. Have fun seeing the world!

Kelly

It’s nearly 5am (UK time) and I’ve been awake for over two hours… been scanning the net for the last hour looking for ways to escape the monotonus existence that I find myself in.. after reading the 21 reasons plus alot of other sites it only reinforces my thoughts and feelings about travelling… i’ve literally been saying tomorrow for the last 12 years. how did that happen?? I’m 32 and yes I’ve “visited” other countries but it’s usually cost a fortune and the things I have done on my own have been relatively tame… I’ve finally got to the stage in my life where I literally can’t sleep any more.. there has to be more to life than just sitting in an office all day long… I’m giving myself a year to tidy up financial commitments and start planning my trip… a woman alone travelling could be dangerous though.. any suggestions on any good buddy networks would be much appreciated! Thanks Karol and everyone else for opening my eyes that bit wider… it’s time to make a change!

Karol

Hey Kelly, a women traveling along is really no more dangerous than a man traveling alone. I hear this excuse regularly, but I know dozens of solo female travelers who never have problems. Be aware and get out there. :)

Lani

Thanks so much for this very inspirational piece. I live in a country in Asia; it’s beautiful here but it’s still considered a third-world country, and I had to satisfy my thirst for travelling by reading books. I’ve read so much now that my eyes are extremely myopic, and I figured that since I’m 25 years old now it’s about time I stop being a bookworm and start being a traveler, for reading has only fueled my passion to travel, not diffuse it. Now I would like to really see Russia and not just read about it from Tolstoy and Dostoevsky; visit England and try to envision how Dickens saw it. I can well relate to being distracted by material things; now that I’ve read this, I see now that I should start going for what I really want to do rather than waste my time and money on stuff that will just distract me. Again, thanks so much, and I hope you’re doing well! :-)

Karol

You’re welcome Lani, I’m glad you enjoyed this. Congrats on figuring this out while you’re still young. :) I didn’t really start traveling until I was 27. Enjoy your excursions!

Ashley

I’ve been scanning the internet on and off since I was 15, looking at ways to travel. I never wanted to graduate and work a normal job. My dream was (and still is) to be a travel photographer/writer. But, sadly, I’m working 32 hours a week at a Walmart Supercenter. The pay isn’t lovely and I just get this feeling that I’m going nowhere in life. I’m definitely not satisfied at how things are going. I can hardly afford to live on my own. But, I’ll let you know that, I’m a pure dreamer. I can sit for days just dreaming and researching of places to go. However, I can never seem to come up with a sensible plan OR the courage to leave the security of my job and take off after my dreams. I don’t have a college degree. Bright side out of all of this is: I’m just now turning 20 (in about 3 weeks). Young, still! And, although I read MANY travel blogs and tips, I wouldn’t know where to start. How did you start? What really made you say “I HAVE to go live life for me RIGHT NOW!”?

Karol

Hey Ashley, the short answer is I got really depressed and I either needed to do something about it or end it. I hope you never get to that point.

College degree: I have one and I’ve never used it, so no worries there. Being a knowledge seeker and action taker are far more important than a piece of paper. And so, with that said, being a dreamer is a great, but taking action on the dream is better. Not to demean your job, but if things don’t work out when you’re going after your dreams you can always get another job at Walmart. Also, 32 hours/week is nothing. That’s only 19% of the week. You have 79% to kick ass (and sleep).

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