It's a question asked by millions around the world, every single day.
How to quit your job and start traveling?
It's equally the most romantic and terrifying idea in the world; Leave everything behind and travel the world. Ditch the 9-5 lifestyle, politely tell your boss to look for a new employee and jump on a plane to destination anywhere.
It's probably the most bucketlisted item of all time, yet for many people it will only ever be a dream. There are many convincing arguments for why you shouldn't quit your job and fly away — it's stressful, expensive, terrifying, lonely and overwhelming. While I admit to agreeing with all of those at various times, I'll happily shout from the rooftops that it's totally worth it.
I've visited 40 countries and 231 cities and I don't regret a single one. I've learnt something new about myself on every single journey, be it good or bad. I've cried from hunger, loneliness and from my head bouncing down concrete steps after being mugged in Chile. Is that normal? Probably not, but I shared it with you because it's possible.
So how do you do it? How do you transform that dream into reality? How do you quit your job and start traveling?
There are two schools of thought. I'll explain them both, and then tell you why I think one is ridiculous and should be ignored at all costs.
It's probably easier to explain with a metaphor.
How do you learn to swim?
1. Dip your toe in the water to make sure it's not too cold, then wade in up to your waist while squealing and splashing, occasionally returning to shore when a big wave comes. Eventually build up the courage to take your feet from the sand and swim out into the deep.
2. Take a boat out to sea and then jump off it.
You could take progressively longer and longer vacations, getting a feel for how it is to be away from your family and friends and immersed in the local culture. It's possible, but not entirely practical for many people. And it's a terrible way to see if you're ready for a life on the road.
No seat belts, no safety harness, no support net underneath. Take the leap! Jump! Dive in headfirst!
While short, planned vacations can be stressful and challenging, they're no comparison to being a thousand miles from home, unable to speak the local language, staring at a plate of unidentifiable 'stuff', tired and aching from a 26-hour bus ride with not a friendly face in sight.
They're also nowhere near as exciting! The more spontaneous and adventurous trips are when you really grow, and they're the stories you'll tell your grandkids when you're old and grey.
So how exactly do you do jump?
How to quit your job and start traveling
1. Buy your flight ticket
While this may sound like putting the cart ahead of the horse, you are making a commitment to yourself.
The time will never be 'just right.' There will always be another birthday, another amazing concert, another event on the horizon. You could always stay and save 'just a few more dollars.' You could always do a little more research. At some point you're going to have to take a deep breath and say go. The best way to do this is to buy your ticket.
Give yourself plenty of time to save up and do the other hundred things you'll need to be prepared, but take that first step. It's an incredibly liberating experience.
By buying the ticket you'll start your countdown clock, and there's nothing more motivating than a deadline rushing towards you.
2. Start to budget
This is the part I dislike the most, but it's a necessary evil. Firstly you'll want to get an idea of how much your target destination costs to live.
For all the other things budget-related I'd check out both Nomadlist and Numbeo. These two amazing sites will give you a solid understanding of how much it'll cost to live your dream. With that in mind, start budgeting.
Cut out all unnecessary expenses — Netflix, weekly pizza night, new Xbox games. I'm not saying live like a hermit, but every penny you spend now will take away from something on the road.
Try and switch your mindset from what you're missing out on now to what you'll be gaining later. It can be hard to stick to, but it's easier now you have your flight ticket, right?
I've read daily budgets from as low as $20 USD per day up to $100, and it will be different for every individual based on your lifestyle, so pencil in a rough $50 and you should be safe. Accommodation and transport are the two big expenses, plus some countries require you to have a certain amount in your account before you enter to ensure you can take care of yourself.
Be ruthless with your belongings. You're going to be quitting your job, traveling the world and living out of a rucksack for the foreseeable future. You'll quickly learn how little you actually need to survive.
Sell anything and everything you can on Ebay, Amazon or Craigslist. Anything you can't sell or donate to charity will need to be left with friends, family or in storage.
Keep in mind that if you do return to these items in six months or a year, you've survived perfectly well without them. Most will feel strange and even alien to you, as they belong to a former life. Objects can always be replaced, missed opportunities cannot.
3. Start to plan
While I would normally leave this step until a week or two before my flight, my trials and tribulations with getting an Indian visa taught me to start that ball rolling well in advance.
Not all countries require passport specifications or vaccinations, but if the ones on your list do then sort that out as soon as possible. You may have to send your passport away or take a month-long course of injections... do it. Without these, your adventure could come to a halt before it's even begun.
It could also be a good idea to start brushing up on your language skills nice and early. True, a large percentage of the world either speaks English or has signs in it, but don't do that. Relying on speaking slow and loud is, for me, the difference between being a tourist and a traveler. I'm not saying you should be fluent in every language, but at least take the time and energy to learn the basic phrases.
There a handful of great smartphone apps out there for studying languages: Drops, Memrise, Duolingo, Beelingua, LingQ, Babbel, Mondly, etc. They're no substitute for practicing with a local or studying an intensive course, but you can learn enough to be polite, show appreciation and break the ice. Most of the time that's all you need to do and then you're off on another adventure.
4. Think to the future
While this step isn't essential, it is worth considering.
You're about to have experience overload.
You'll try new foods, dance to exotic music, meet new people and pass through an untold number of towns and cities. Your memory can only handle so much, so it's a good idea to think about documenting your experience.
When figuring out how to quit your job and start traveling the world, starting a blog isn't an essential step, but it's definitely one path to becoming location-independent and a digital nomad.
Even if that's not your end goal, keeping a blog and reflecting on it later in life is a great way to measure your personal growth. It's also a great way to showcase your writing for freelance gigs; who knows, you may end up wanting to become a freelance writer!
I look back on letters, emails and blog posts I wrote ten years ago and barely recognize the boy who wrote them. I see the steps I took and the lessons learned to get me to this point. I cringe sometimes, but it's fun to reflect.
Whilst thinking to the future, it's also a good time to start looking for ways to make some cash while you're away. Your savings won't last forever and random events are guaranteed to happen.
Equipment breaks, emergencies happen, opportunities present themselves. If the travel bug really bites and you want to travel forever then you'll need an income stream. Research them before you fly out and put the foundations in place nice and early.
5. Don't panic
Be safe and be relatively sensible, but enjoy yourself. Explore the world, and explore who you are and your place in it.
Now that you know how to quit your job and start traveling — it's easy enough! — here are a few other things to keep in mind.
1. Time moves differently when you're traveling
When you're home, working your 9-5 job, your life has structure and order. Monthly highlights may include a birthday, the final season of Game of Thrones or a new romance.
I feel confident in saying that one week in Mexico, Australia or South Africa will crush your quiet calendar. You'll experience more in a week in those places than six months in your former life.
It's entirely possible that you'll start to burn out and feel exhausted after a while. This is perfectly normal. It's also perfectly normal for your friends and family to become exhausted with your constant updates and stories from the road.
Don't be surprised if they don't share the same enthusiasm as you. You're developing, growing and expanding your mind. This can be hard for people back home to comprehend. When you return you'll probably find that some of your former friends may no longer be, but that's all part of the developing process.
2. Don't burn your bridges
Anything can happen, and you may need to return home earlier than you planned. Maybe you'll blow all your money and return with nothing (that sounds familiar), and asking your old boss for your job back is sometimes a sensible move.
While it's possible you may want to return to your former life and habits, it's more likely that you'll return with a much-altered perspective on life. This could lead to a different career path, new studies or a desire to fly straight back out again, but don't burn your bridges.
As satisfying as it may feel for a few minutes to tell your boss what you really think of them, life is too short. Leave the negative energy behind and focus on all the positivity that's about to come your way.
3. Think about old age
This may seem like an odd one but, for me as a UK citizen, all the years away are years I haven't been paying my National Insurance contributions. This means that when it's time for me to receive my pension, it may be a little empty.
If you're only planning on six months or a few years away then this won't be an issue. If you're planning on going for a considerable amount of time, it's maybe something you want to look into. Each country has different rules and regulations, so do some research to see if or how it will impact you.
Hopefully now you have a good understanding of how to quit your job and start traveling.