Don’t Quit Your Job to Travel the World

We’ve all read it a million times: “I quit my job to travel the world – you should too!”

While this sort of mindset is certainly a trending topic these days, I don’t think it’s something that should be taken lightly. Lots of people have “Eat, Pray, Love Syndrome” when they set their sights on traveling long-term, forgetting that life doesn’t just magically get better once they step off their home soil.

I know the feeling well.

I literally ran away to Korea totally unable (er, unwilling?) to face some of the realities of hardships back home. In all honesty, deciding to teach English abroad was easily one of the best decisions I could have possibly made. However, it hasn’t always been easy to adjust to the self-realization that culminated within this massive shift.

While I encourage everyone and anyone to follow their dreams, I’m still a realist at the end of the day. If you’re looking to read an inspirational yet unbalanced opinion, I’m sorry but I can’t be that person for you. With that said, I want to reiterate a few reasons why I think it’s important to take this “quit your job to travel the world” movement with a grain of salt.

don't quit your job to travel the world

 

  • Traveling is not a Band-aid for your problems

There are a plethora of reasons to travel. I’ve even wrote a post about how traveling changed my life! It obviously cracks open one’s mind and heart and lets light and new culture into spaces that weren’t there before. Nothing compares to connecting with a stranger you meet while traveling or living in a new city; there’s certainly something to be said about being able to learn a thing or two about yourself along the way. However, something that people often forget is that you don’t just completely lose yourself on the road. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. You’re faced with some harsh truths and sometimes it’s not always a pleasant experience to look so deep within. At the end of the day, you can’t run away from your problems. If you’re someone who is afraid to encounter oneself in [what can sometimes feel like a] constant existential crisis, then I think you might want to consider just booking a longer vacation first.

 

  • The grass isn’t always greener

There was a time in my life when I fantasized about being able to regularly travel rather than mindlessly type away at my writing job in Chicago. I scrolled through my Instagram feed and enviously clicked through photos of people relaxing on beaches in Thailand or endlessly exploring new countries.  Now that I’m living this sort of lifestyle, I get the reverse fear-of-missing-out when I see my friends or family together and enjoying one another’s company. I’ve missed a lot of events since I decided to live abroad and while I wouldn’t trade any of these memories or experiences in, I definitely miss the ability to make new ones with my loved ones in America.

Moving abroad was pretty easy for me, though. I attended sleep away summer camp for several weeks each year between the ages of 7-15 (what up Camp Kon-O-Kwee) and my college alma mater in Chicago is 10 hours away from my hometown. With that said, If you’re someone who finds it difficult to spend long periods of time away from home, your belongings or any semblance of familiarity… you may want to reconsider selling all your personal items to travel the world.

don't quit your job to travel the world

Some days I would do anything to have this back.

  • Traveling isn’t always as glamorous as it looks

Traveling can be really difficult, man! It forces people out of their comfort zones immediately and while exhilarating it can be absolutely exhausting as well. I tend to have some pretty bad travel luck. Like comically bad. My experiences include, but are not limited to:

  • Crashing my motorbike in Vietnam about a minute away from a fork in the road with no idea where to go.
  • Being abandoned in the Macau airport overnight because my flight just never showed up.
  • Getting completely lost on my descent on Mt. Hallasan in Korea with nobody else around (one of the scariest situations of my life to date)
  • My plane’s engine failing mid-air on my way to Tampa, Florida for Christmas in 2011.

These moments have certainly tested my patience and sanity but are also sort of hilariously tragic in hindsight.

don't quit your job to travel the world

Do we look like people who just spent 8+ hours stuck in traffic on a cold, cramped and wet bus? Didn’t think so.

The fact of the matter is these images or woes rarely make it to Instagram or Facebook. While I believe that’s partially due to the fact that sometimes people avoid honesty on their social media accounts, I think it’s mostly due to the fact that not everyone wants to read that far into the story. If you’re someone who isn’t sure whether you have enough patience to quietly go back to sleep after a loud British gap year drunkard turns on the light in your hostel at 4 a.m. to SNAPCHAT PICTURES OF HIS YOU KNOW WHAT*, then I suggest you think twice about leaving the comforts of home behind.

*This is obviously not a common occurrence but…it does happen!

Don’t quit your job to travel the world

Unless you want to, that is. The wonderful moments obviously outweigh the bad when it comes to traveling, but it’s important to keep an open mind about the fact that traveling is not some majestical cloud that people on Instagram are floating upon. It’s just life on the go.

If you’re unsure about whether you’d like to quit your job to travel the world, I think it’s best to explore your options. The global economy is pretty terrible and if you’re a young American, the chances are pretty high that you have debilitating student loans to pay off. If that’s the case, then teaching English in South Korea is an excellent alternative. You will be able to save money while immersing yourself in a new culture and still have means to travel the world.

Before I came to Korea I did lots of research on which company offered the best TEFL package so I could properly teach English as a second language. I think The International TEFL Academy is the best there is for a multitude of reasons. The state-of-the-art curriculum has been externally monitored and approved for accreditation by TQUK, an officially recognized Awarding Organization that is recognized and regulated by Ofqual, the British Government body responsible for monitoring and maintaining educational standards in the United Kingdom.

don't quit your job to travel the world

If you’re wondering why the accreditation is related to UK-based learning, the US government has little to no regulations of the English or TEFL markets, which is why the International TEFL Academy, or ITA, is an excellent source. The certification not only has the widest global acceptance, but the staff provide a guaranteed lifetime of assistance. The alumni program is second to none and the student affairs team is dedicated to providing quick and efficient assistance when needed.

ITA offers two types of courses: online and an in-person practicum. Both are extremely helpful and designed to work around peoples’ various lifestyles and situations.

If you have any questions, about my experience, please do not hesitate to reach out to me via my Contact Me page. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere! Just remember: lead with your heart, but take your brain with you.

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to sign up with the International TEFL Academy through the links provided above, not only do you get a discounted course, but I’ll get a bit of cash as well – everyone wins! Although the links provide me a bit of commission, please know that I genuinely recommend this TEFL program and am willing to answer any questions you may have. 

This piece has also been featured on The Huffington Post

 

don't quit your job to travel the world

Feel free to pin me!

 

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

34 Comments

  1. February 16, 2016 / 3:26 pm

    Another awesome post Laura! I can’t agree more with your points you cover here. We have been guilty of saying we quit or jobs back at home to travel, but part of our travel was indeed teaching English in Korea to save money for more travel and save for our retirement. We shared a post about the unglamorous side of travel, and it’s funny because people really think we are on vacation all day everyday. As you know that’s not always the case, there are so many times we are lost or uncomfortably traveling ridiculous hours to a destination or sharing the cheapest beach bungalow with a spider the size of my fist… We think teaching is an awesome way to pay off student loans, save money, and get the experience of traveling by living in a new culture! Thanks for sharing and we hope to see this post on elite daily 😉

  2. Jen
    February 16, 2016 / 4:40 pm

    I’m glad I was part of the first two bad experiences!! Haha yay Macau and and almost being lost or killed in Vietnam!!

    • February 16, 2016 / 10:26 pm

      I’m glad too boo. THANK YOU for being like “um, where’s Laura” otherwise who knows what could have happened! What a ridiculously hilarious and scary day. Don’t get me started on Macau…

  3. February 16, 2016 / 8:10 pm

    Great post! I really enjoyed your honesty here. Social media tends to paint a rosy glow around this type of lifestyle. I’m embarking on my teaching in South Korea journey tomorrow. I have made quite a lot of sacrifices to do this. I know it won’t be a complete fantasy. I know there will be difficult times, but I’m ready to take it on. I need to try it. While there be great times, there will clearly hard ones as well. After all, this is life. Keep up the great work!

  4. February 17, 2016 / 4:21 pm

    As someone who did quit her job to travel the world, I can say that your post is spot on. Traveling full time is an amazing experience but it’s important to be realistic and acknowledge the downsides.

  5. February 17, 2016 / 4:39 pm

    Very good advice!

  6. Lana
    February 17, 2016 / 6:27 pm

    Very true people just see the good side of traveling

  7. February 17, 2016 / 6:51 pm

    Great post! All really sensible advice! I did quit my full time job, but I work part time and travel part time. A happy medium for me 🙂

  8. February 17, 2016 / 6:52 pm

    Oh, I missed so many weddings already because of always being abroad and I haven´t even moved away fulltime yet! It´s sad, but…I wouldn´t change it back. Still feel a little heartbroken because of not being there for my friends.

  9. February 17, 2016 / 7:27 pm

    I absolutely love this article. I really enjoy my full-time job and honestly, it seems crazy to throw it away to travel when I have the vacation time and money that I need to save up for traveling to my bucket list destinations. I know a few people who have thrown it away multiple times, but the impact on them finding good reliable work has been hard. My view; find a job that you’re good at that allows you to work/live abroad. No need to quit it all if you can have it all. 😉

  10. February 17, 2016 / 9:35 pm

    Spot on. I spent four years over in Korea not too long after I graduated university. There were a lot of things about myself I didn’t realize that I would have to face. No one talks about the crappy things like sleeping across the aisle of a train from Bejing to Shanghai….. or the knock-down, drag-out fights with your travel companion because you haven’t had enough alone time. I suppose I’m glad I didn’t see the ugly parts beforehand, because they might not have had the same positive, changing effect that that did.

  11. February 18, 2016 / 12:09 am

    Loved this post, and I absolutely agree!! I’m currently living and working in Seoul, although I will be heading out in August. And even though living abroad has been an amazing experience and I’m still not sure that I’m going back just yet, I miss those regular moments that I see my friends and family having. I miss the birthdays, cook-outs, parties, and “boring” evenings home with family and friends. And you’re totally right. Social media tends to paint an inaccurate picture of your life. LOL my family and friends look at my IG and think all I do is travel, but I have to explain to them that’s actually not ALL I do haha. Great post!!

    http://www.mimisw0rld.wordpress.com

  12. February 18, 2016 / 3:12 am

    I completely agree with your theory on not quitting your job. After backpacking for the past 7 months jobless and homeless, the realist in me sunk that there’s no way to sustain this kind of traveling unless I have a steady source of income and I realized that for me, traveling is a reward of my hard-earned work. It really isn’t that glamorous every day and sometimes it taxing not only the body, but also the mind. Its important to rest and if you’re trying to live everything to the fullest, you’ll over-exhuast yourself and be more vulnerable to frustrations and negativity.

  13. February 18, 2016 / 3:26 am

    Hello from a fellow Chicagoan! Your writing is fluid, to the point, and very compelling. Keep up the inspiration and give us the honest truth.. because after all, just because we post our fun travel images on IG, it’s not all fun. Your “not so pretty moments” remind me of the time I took one precious week of vacation to do Philippines.. well hurricane Yolanda had other plans so I had to leave Boracay on day 2, leave the country, and find another destination in the mean time.
    Best on the rest of your adventures,
    Polina

  14. February 18, 2016 / 4:09 am

    When I am traveling sometimes I crave routine, family, friends, a basic girl squad as it were these days/. These things get totally underplayed in the working world

  15. February 18, 2016 / 7:48 am

    Love that you are very honest in this post, because you’re right, so many people think traveling is glamorous when it reality it can be really exhausting and difficult. At the end of the day though, I would argue that EVERYONE who has the ability to quit and take off, absolutely should! It’s the experience of a lifetime, that will only get harder and harder to embark on as we grow older and have more responsibilities. Good read though!

  16. February 18, 2016 / 9:17 pm

    “Lead with your heart but take your brain with you” – some of the best travel advice I’ve read! What a fantastic post – it is way too often that people think being away from home is some glamourous magical adventure. And a lot of the time it is, but no one sees you when you’re eating nothing but instant noodles or having a mini meltdown because your bus just didn’t arrive and left you stranded. Cheers for talking about the part of travel that never makes it to instagram.

  17. February 19, 2016 / 12:11 am

    Let’s be honest – the ‘Quit your job to travel’ movement comes from a generation of white middle-class kids who haven’t stopped to check their privilege. Some people really can’t just quit their job; Some people will never be able to. I’m not saying that the people who do quit their jobs & travel didn’t work hard to save the money and plan for it. I just mean that they never stopped to realise that not everyone can put money to one side every month so that eventually they can bounce around the world. Not everyone is free of all responsibilities back home.

    • February 19, 2016 / 1:13 am

      Totally agree with you! I like your way of thinking – very aligned with my own. I think it’s important to stress that it’s certainly not something everyone can do. I wish I added “it’s not always that cheap.” I often read people writing stuff like, “It’s not that expensive to travel.” But it sort of is if you add it all up over time and don’t have any plans for additional income. With that said, I’m glad you also recognize the ridiculousness of this movement. Thanks for reading =)

      • TJ
        July 3, 2016 / 12:53 am

        I struggle with comments like this. ..because everyone doesn’t have the opportunity, .does that mean we shouldn’t travel and broaden our horizons?

        Yes, anyone who can go on a plane to somewhere new for any amount of time is going to be a fortunate human being, and we should never forget that, but there’s still the vast majority of people with privilege in life who choose to live more a self-focused life..

        • July 3, 2016 / 8:25 am

          I definitely see your point. Unfortunately not everyone has the opportunity, but this was written for those who can try to make it (or not make it) happen. Thanks for you comment!

  18. February 19, 2016 / 2:15 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this post as I don’t think many people (especially those back home) realize that moving abroad and living the traveler life is not always easy!

    I particularly appreciated it when you brought up the ‘reverse fear of missing out’! I have a 5 year old nephew and a 3 year old niece back home and I go through the R-FOMO constantly….. This is definitely one of the hardest things I face whilst living abroad.

    Great great post, thanks again for sharing ^^

  19. February 20, 2016 / 3:02 pm

    Hi Laura! Found you on Huffington Post and really enjoyed reading this piece. Especially loved “Just remember: lead with your heart, but take your brain with you.”

    We quit our jobs to travel full time in a motorhome and as you put it, “It’s just life on the go.” We’ve had to deal with putting down our rescue dog while on the road and most recently a tornado warning in the area where our home was parked (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Bu5MAXxoVM). These are the realities of life on the road, but we wouldn’t trade the lifestyle for anything.

  20. February 21, 2016 / 9:33 am

    No one ever thinks about the other side of travel – being away from home and all that you are missing out on. I’ve missed lot of things being away for the last 2 years, but in the end I know that traveling and living as an expat is what I needed to do! I really like this article – super honest and well written. Congrats on the Huff Post feature as well..

    Also–your plane engine failed in the air?! I probably would have a heart attack! What happened?

  21. mbh
    February 21, 2016 / 3:43 pm

    I guess this post/blog us aimed at the 20 something age group. It’s funny though, because I saw the title and assumed it was geared toward the 55+ group to which I belong, since we’re always talking about retiring early, re-locating to a cheap central American island country and traveling.
    But, I suppose it depends a great deal on what KIND of travel interests you. I have never been a backpack, roughing it kind of girl–even in my 20s. I’m more of a hyatt, 1st class, Fordor and Zagats traveler. But, I like Amanda’s advice–work hard, save, and travel part time while you work part time.
    For those who cannot imagine living on a shoestring in hostels (shudder-sorry), just focus on working and saving. Buy a smaller house and load up that 401k. You will be 59 before you know it, and will still want to travel. I still work full time, but spent time last year in Hong Kong, singapore, and Bali. In the next 12 months, I’ll visit Amsterdam, paris, franfurt, vienna, Thailand, and Australia . None is work-related, But, having worked and saved for 30 years is HOW I can do this. My plan is to segue into part time work in a few years and travel even more.
    There’s room in this amazing world for all sorts of travelers, and more power to each of us. Here’s to seeing the world on our own terms!

  22. February 22, 2016 / 2:21 am

    I am not the adventurous or traveler type. I am the tourist type, I have to be honest with that. I appreciate the perks that go with traveling and the special accommodation and attention. So I always wondered how people could go on traveling and put up with some inconveniences but I can see it enriches their experience and I have great respect for that. Your post is very realistic and surely this will reach those who romanticize traveling without looking at the realistic part of it.

  23. February 22, 2016 / 9:59 am

    Great stuff, Laura! I definitely felt a pang of empathy with the ‘reverse fear of missing out’. I always worry my nieces will forget about me, or that I’ll miss my cousin’s wedding. It’s part of the price, and something to keep in mind..

    Thanks for another insightful, thoughtful post! I’ve definitely come to the realization that travel isn’t for everyone. I’m just glad it’s right for me 😉

  24. February 23, 2016 / 8:06 am

    I agree with that. But deciding to go traveling for a longer period of time doesn’t necessarily mean you have problems or issues you are running away from. For me, I get extreme wanderlust from time to time and I can only go travel to get rid of this weird feeling. If i don’t do it, I get unhappy.

  25. February 23, 2016 / 1:15 pm

    I agree with your points. It surprises me when people say “quit your job and travel” because the risks are too high. I remember a co-worker who came to China and thought any white guy could surely pass as a teacher, but he sadly failed miserably and ended up working at a company he didn’t like either and for a much lower pay because he didn’t want to have to go home and face defeat.

  26. Nadine
    February 24, 2016 / 2:19 am

    I was just discussing this exact point with a friend the other day. I tend to bounce back and forth between realist and idealist. I am glad I took the leap and moved to Korea. It created a lot of great opportunities but like yourself I sometimes wonder what I’m missing back home.

    This was a good piece and I definitely agree with you. I’m glad you made it through those several mishaps.

  27. Jill
    February 25, 2016 / 7:39 pm

    The latest “I quit my job to travel” blog I came across showed how a hot looking woman goes around the globe. Well, sure if you look like that and put pics like that your blog will get hits and make income. I have friends who are “traveling” to save their marriage post infidelity. They make it look like they’re livin’ the life, but a few of us know. We are in an older age bracket than you. If you like your job and you make a livable wage, then don’t quit. There is always time off. If travel were easy, it would be called a vacation. I have traveled a lot. I do it with a goal in mind. (Make a living, learn a language, service) Otherwise, it feels fruitless and gets boring fast. I don’t believe in waiting until you are old though. Save up. There are deals everywhere. I pass so many of them up.

    • February 26, 2016 / 1:29 am

      I moved to Korea to save money over the course of two years and will be backpacking SE Asia for 4-5 months with my boyfriend before we relocate to New Zealand. Moving abroad and traveling has essentially changed my life but I don’t think this lifestyle is for everyone, which is what I stressed in this post. People just think, “Oh, I’ll quit my job to travel!” and don’t realize that it’s not just a vacation for however many months. There are daily stresses, etc. as well!

  28. February 26, 2016 / 8:56 pm

    great post and I agree with you so much! I work full time and manage to travel over 100 days per year and there’s nothing I hate more than this whole movement “quit your job and travel the world”. Escaping is never a solution and what if some people simply don’t want to quit their jobs. There’s never the only one, good way!

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