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Quit your job to travel around the world

Change your mind, quit your job and move forward!

On a recent bus trip, there were few seats available and so I didn’t manage to sit next to Ashray. I had the pleasure of sharing the ride with a chatty Ecuadorian old man who was curious to know what attracted me to come from so far to his remote home-town.

I told him I was traveling across Latin America with my boyfriend and after I mentioned we have been doing this for months, he asked: “What is the point? Just vacation?!” I tried to explain that traveling is something more than vacationing. We spend some time in each place and try to learn new things from different people and, over all, we just want to know what the world is like outside our own countries. It’s much more than a pastime.

“I have been to Spain once. But I didn’t like it!” This man was at least 70 years old and, in all his life, had only once been outside his own small country, to visit his emigrant son in Spain for a month. “I didn’t like it, because it was not my home, you know? You have a better life here. There it is a bit sickening.”

"You are traveling and you've got nothing to sell?!?"

"You are traveling and you've got nothing to sell?!?"

If it was difficult to explain to this old man that I spent months in a row traveling even more difficult was for him to understand that I actually quit a job to do this. He certainly thought I was some kind of hippie. “That’s your boyfriend… for now, right? You get a new one as you go on to a different country?!” No, Abuelo. I do not. We have come from a far away land to visit countries like yours, to meet people like you and to go on with our horizons more broad than before. “But you didn’t even bring anything to sell? What’s the point of all this traveling if at the end you run out of money and go back with empty pockets?”

Well, the point is an attempt to understand the world we live in. To become better people while we do this. To have fun with it! There are so many points! The price to pay to do this? Quit a job and leave a world of so-called “stability”. A price I would be willing to pay again, without hesitating for 1 second.

Let’s face it: most people don’t like their 9-5 job. Most jobs are not even 9-5 anymore! You do it because life has a cost, and there is little you can do about that. Because you have bills to pay, a family to raise and all these things that I know I will have one day, and gladly. Every phase in life has its pros and cons. Traveling for a long period of time is one of those things that, for most common mortals, can be done mainly when you are young or older. Middle life tends to involve way too many responsibilities to allow this kind of freedom – although there are some travelers that go around the world with their whole families! But those are an exception.

When you finish college, you are on a race to get your first job and, as you normally don’t have savings, don’t consider traveling right after your studies. Once you start working, you think that leaving your job for a while is crazy because people will overtake you on the corporate ladder, and you are going to be behind by the time you are back. Then you have kids and priorities and expenses change. And so you think that maybe you will do things like traveling later, when you’ve saved more money or have more time. By the time you are retired, you probably consider it’s important to keep that money you saved as your retirement back-up. What if you get sick? What if you have extra expenses? You want to have that comfort and security that a good amount of money in the bank gives, right?

He knows what he's talking about...

He knows what he's talking about…

 

My Dad passed away when he was 60. This is really young for now-a-days but I seek comfort in thinking that he had a pretty good life. Not a traveling life, but a life fulfilled with other activities that he enjoyed. So ultimately, no matter for how long you live, what is going to define if you had a good life or not is if you did the things that made you really happy. For me, traveling is on the list. But what did I have to do to get here? Work, save some money, and quit my job.

I have always wanted to work “in the movies”. Before moving to Dubai I had never managed to score good audiovisual work in Portugal. Finally, in the Emirates, I started working as a production manager and was doing quite well. Turns out that, although I did like my job, it was not as exciting as I thought it would be all those years in college. After working for a couple of years for a production house I was content, but not happy.

My boss was a good guy, he did have a good heart, but he was dedicated to this company over measure. I would be happy to employ him but being his employee felt different: we used to work a lot of hours at peak times and, while hard work doesn’t scare me one bit, he once said something that really hit me: “Zara, you are great at what you do, but if you want to become better, you’re gonna have to learn to bend over…” Obviously he didn’t mean it literally – we’re talking about a perfect muslim man, here. I was working in TV commercials production and he meant that to be better at it, I would have to learn to smile and say yes to our clients, to brands that in many cases, manufactured shit products that don’t bring anything positive into this world. I would have to basically suck it up, and somehow learn how to enjoy it.

Soon after this “professional lesson”, my band won a contest and got to play a concert in Vienna. This was a HUGE deal for me, only to hear from my boss that I would have to go, play the concert and be back right away because we had a shoot on those dates. I would not be able to enjoy the remaining days in Vienna that this trip included. And so I thought to myself: what’s the point of having a stable job, with a decent income, when you won’t be able to enjoy those things that truly make you happy? So I told him: “Then, I’m gonna have to quit!”. About 1 minute after he said I couldn’t go for the whole stay (4 days). He was a bit shocked by my ease at making such decision and said we could work things out. They ended up getting a replacement for my work while I lived my rock star dreams for 4 days.

A gig with my band. Thank God it was a weekend and they allowed me to go, right?! ;)

A gig with my band. Thank God it was a weekend and they allowed me to go, right?! ;)

 

Soon after I still felt something wasn’t right and did my first move towards “setting myself free”: I became a freelancer. The struggle of the beginning of freelance life can be a turn-off, but any freelancer out there would know that working on freelance projects or for yourself, is 1 million times more rewarding than working for somebody else. Although this wasn’t financially successful at the start, I did have more time to spend with my boyfriend, to chill and even to take short term trips in Asia and Africa.

After less than a couple of years freelancing I managed to save some cash that would make me feel comfortable quitting work and finally start traveling full-time. Ashray works online and can potentially work anywhere in the world. I was freelancing so I could come and go whenever I wanted. Was there the need to quit everything permanently? Yes there was. If we would have taken off for a few months at a time, maybe we would have ended up seeing the same places (spending way more money, of course) but we wouldn’t have experienced things the way we are right now. If you go out on a mission to enlarge your horizons, you must leave all worries behind. You must set yourself free from daily worries, like work. And we went to never come back, not to Dubai.

A regular day at work. We painted a horse pink 'cause apparently that helps selling fashion & life-style!

A regular day at work. We painted a horse pink 'cause apparently that helps selling fashion & life-style!

 

Where are we going to live next? We don’t know! Does it worry me? Not really. Sometimes I picture how I want my next house to look like. All the kitchen accessories I want to have after cooking in hostels with two worn out pans. I think wherever we live next, we shall be happy, because the more we travel the more flexible we become, the more understanding of people and more appreciative of little everyday things from a comfy couch, to a good internet connection, to having your own fridge full of stuff you like. As cliche as it might sound, you do learn how to value things you used to take for granted and this makes you grow.

If you think quitting your job to travel for a while is too risky, it’s not, I tell you from my own experience (although it’s true that I am not “back” yet). If you think that, in times of economic crisis, it is a luxury or stupidity to turn your back on a stable income, think twice. I am not saying we don’t need money to live – eventually, I too am going to have to settle somewhere and get a job if I want to put food on the table. Do you see how everything is so relative? By quitting your job and setting off to see the world for a while do you think you are going to be left behind when you come back? You will only be ahead. Ahead in terms of thinking, ahead in terms of understanding what goes on around you, definitely ahead realizing that the world is small and no matter where you go, the basic things that make human life human are the same: we all want to be happy.

If a regular employer doesn’t understand that as a plus-value when he sees the gap years in your resume, then it’s probably not worth working for that company anyway. Great ideas that make the World go around come from minds that think different, that do different. Maybe by the time you are back (if you are even ever back to the place you departed from!) you won’t even want your old job back. Maybe you will have fresh ideas and more enthusiasm than before to start something in a different field. After traveling, you are likely to see the world and yourself in a new way, and that will reflect in everything you do, including your professional life. So don’t be scared to quit your job if you can afford to. Change tends to be good.

 

 

As this song by Gabriel O Pensador says:

“Change, ’cause when we change the world changes with us

We change the world changing the mind

And when the mind changes we go forward

And when we rule nobody rules us

Changing the way we think there’s nothing wrong we can’t change, there is no disease without a cure

Changing our stands we get to be more secure

Changing the present, we shape the future!”

 

It might sound better in the original Portuguese, but I guess you get the point.

 

Be happy! :D

Be happy! :D

 

Think about what really makes you happy and don’t let society dictate what is right and wrong for you as an individual. Whether it’s traveling or something else you have always dreamt of doing, jump of the cliff and you’ll see when you’re surrounded by nothing but air, you’ll eventually manage – and learn how to fly.


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56 Comments

  • aditi Says
  • brilliant post, Zara!

  • Justin Says

    Love the post Zara! So very inspiring! I am jealous… hoping to take your insightful advice someday :)

  • Adi Says

    Truly inspiring. You guys rock.

    Be safe.

  • Zara Says

    So… who’s quitting their jobs today?! Just kidding… ;)
    Thanks a lot for the comments guys! :)

    • Paul Says

      Nice post Zara. It made me feel good to hear someone else share the same thoughts. I have lived way too risk averse to preserve a future. Which is silly — a future that may not come (ie. your father), or if it does, I may not be able-bodied enough to enjoy it. Doing it now while I can – may not return? :) Thanks again.

  • very,very inspiring!! ive found a new reason to get up in the morning!!:)
    thanks for taking the trouble to put all this up!
    btw,how much money did you guys start out with?a ballpark figure?!

  • Tinka Says

    Hi Zara,

    Great post, you spoke truly out of my heart. So well written and you really brought the essence of travelling to the point. Thanks!

    I’m a passionate traveller myself and saving at the moment for the next long trip. My boyfriend and I are ready in approx 1.5 years and will quit our jobs (for the 4th time) to explore exciting countries.

    I actually stumbled over your website, because we thinking about to go Cuba on our next vacation (not travel trip ;). Are 3 weeks enough time to travel around Cuba? How much approx. did you spent per day?

    Have a great time and take care
    Tinka

    • Zara Says

      Hi Tinka,

      Thanks for your nice comments! :)
      I was happy to read that you and your boyfriend have quit your jobs 3 times already! This just proves that it’s always possible to “come back” and work on something, and keep saving to do the stuff we like, right? :)

      We only spent about 2 weeks in Cuba, but focused mainly in Havana and a few days of relax in Varadero. Within our stay in Havana we also hit Playas del Este, a beautiful beach strip about 1 hr bus away from the city.

      Cuba is not that small but I think you can manage to do quite a lot in 3 weeks. Havana is a must (obviosuly). I heard a lot of people priaising Vinales for the natural beauty and others focusing right on the opposite side of the country for nice colonial towns and things of the sort.

      About the costs, we kept it budget to /medium:
      - 20CUC / day for acommodation on double room (at casas particulares), can go up to 30CUC depending on duration of stay and location (Havana Vieja is the most expensive within the capital)
      - meals between 1CUC and 10CUC – depending if it was a place where you pay in local pesos or more touristic restaurant
      - very little on everything else, I must say. Taxis are between 3CUC and 5CUC around Havana and 25CUC from the airport into town.

      I wrote an article about prices in Cuba/Havana that might be useful for you:
      http://bkpk.me/what-money-can-buy-in-havana-cuba/

      Do let me know if you have any other question!

      Have a great time in Cuba! :)

  • Yash Says

    Hi Zara,

    Truly inspirational!

    I am planning a backpacking trip with my wife in a not so distant future and this article vindicates me no end. It is always the first step that is very difficult and bringing ourselves to take that is a herculean task.

    Thanks a lot for this article (and also for taking us around the world)!!

    • Zara Says

      Hi Yash! Thanks for commenting.
      Glad to read that you have great plans ahead with your wife. I believe traveling is one of the most romantic things a couple can do!
      Hope you have the time of your life… enjoy it!! :)
      Cheers!

  • Rob Says

    Well done!! My wife, 3year son and I are in the process of doing the same thing. I have quit/retired my wife is done at the end of next month, and our house is up for sale then we are gone to South America.

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  • Deepa Says

    As usual another great post. Love the inspiration. Packing my bags for a 6-month in Cuba, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador.
    Btw, if your trip brings you to Washington D.C before end of June, would love to host/meet you guys.

    • Zara Says

      Thanks a lot, Deepa! :)
      We won’t be coming to Washington DC this time around though..
      Have an amazing time in your 6 months Latin trip… if you need any tips for the countries you mentioned (that we’ve been to last year) just let us know!

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  • I totally envy your bravery and ability to travel abroad. Smart of you to do this before starting a family imo. Happy travels and you have a wonderful site and equally wonderful story!

    • Zara Says

      Thanks a lot Shana!
      We hope to inspire others who are in doubt if they should hit the road or not to just do it… sooner rather than later, when you have other responsibilities and ties in life, like kids.
      Glad you’re reading our stuff! Stick around! :)

  • great post! I’ve been struggling with my “9-5″ job for years and looking for change. I have always loved travel and would love to full time travel but the fear of being left behind in the corporate world has always scared me – but I think you are right it will refocus your mind and if the employer does not understand gap years then it will probably just end up another job to burn out on again!

    • Zara Says

      Hi Brittany!

      I think the fear of going back to work after a gap is really common amongst people considering to take off for a while or doing a gap year. That’s why some people travel before they start working… in my case I just didn’t have the money to do so before working and saving for several years. In any case, traveling should be something you do while you’re young just to “get it out of your way”. In fact, it can represent a much needed refreshing break from routine at some point in life. I honestly think that now that I am in my 30s I’m able to absorve the experiences I’m living with another maturity I perhaps didn’t have right out of college.

      Don’t be scared of being left behind in the corporate world.
      As I said, I think there’s more advantages than disadvantages when it comes to doing a gap year and good employers should be able to recognize them!

      Good luck with everything! :)

  • Agness Says

    Great post. I can absolutely relate to it. This Ecuadorian guy reminds me of my family a lot. They (apart from my supportive mom) still don’t understand my urge to travel the world. I keep hearing “You are not getting any younger. Start thinking about settling down. You’re on a holiday 365 days a year. Stop dreaming.” blablabla. I’m so glad there are more people like me out there who share the same passion as me. I hope to see you in Portugal this summer if I decide to go there. Safe travels!

    • Zara Says

      Hi Agness!
      “You’re on a holiday 365 days a year.” – if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard something similar, I wouldn’t have to worry this much about my travel budget! ;)
      I say that, as long as we do what we do with our money, then it’s OK. What job out there offers you such stability anyway? The traditional idea of “stable job” and regular “settling down life” is overrated in my opinion.
      Everyone should do whatever makes them happy. As long as they’re not affecting negatively anybody else, then it’s all good, right? :)

  • Joy Says

    I left TV production in America to move to China and teach English. I was there for almost 2 years before returning to America. I took a TV job but found it wasn’t making me excited. Should have guessed since it didn’t before I left. :-) But I made some money and I’m in China for a few months and then off to travel. So, you can always go back – if you want to go back. Nice post!

    • Zara Says

      “you can always go back, if you want to go back” – exactly!
      Some people think that if they ever leave their jobs, then that’s going to be the end of it all, forever! I don’t think that’s the case. Taking a year of, for example, can’t hurt your career that bad.. and even if it does, maybe it’s still worth putting it all in the balance and think about what’s more worth it. Personally, I rather enjoy my freedom and don’t live as a slave to my job. The job is a mean to an end, not the end per se.

  • Ariel Says

    I love it when people encourage you to quit your job to pursue something you’re passionate about! I’ve quit/turned down 3 full-time jobs in the past year, and currently am living abroad and freelancing a bit as I go. I definitely get a fair share of ‘you’re crazy’ reactions like your abuelo-encounter, but I don’t regret it a bit! The world needs more people who are passionate about what they do, and travel is an excellent means of inspiration for life and perspective in that respect!

    • Zara Says

      “travel is an excellent means of inspiration for life and perspective” – so true!!
      Wish you luck with your freelancing – it might to be easy in the beginning, and certainly not stable, but incredibly rewarding once your efforts start paying off! :)

  • I’m enjoying following your adventures. This is a great post and timely since I just quit my job on Tuesday (giving a year’s notice!) to go back to “multipreneuring” – basically freelancing at a lot of different things. I’ve done this before and then let financial fear get the better of me, only to go back to a J-O-B, feel stifled, quit and move again. You’re smart to have figured this out at your age. I’m 46 and just allowing myself to be this free. Keep up the good not-work!

  • Hey guys, great post as usual :) It’s amazing how difficult for some people to understand this type of lifestyle. But that what we like and do, know different people and different thinking, right?

    • Zara Says

      Thanks guys!
      Maybe some of those people that don’t get us now will look back one day and wish they would have done something similar. Or maybe not!.. but I think some would! ;)

  • Kathi Says

    this post was so inspiring…thank you! congratulations to your awesome blog!

  • Pradip Prasad Says

    Really a readers delight and thank u Zara for the lovely post, really never been abroad but after reading these gives me a new horizon as you have written in the context….So, hope fully not now but some day and surely before its too late…

    • Zara Says

      Thank you for reading Pradip!
      I hope you get to go abroad some time soon… the whole world is waiting for ya! ;)

  • You are correct about travel giving you a new perspective in life. It always amazes me to find intelligent people with the means to travel but do not have any interest in it. Travel opens our minds and makes us better persons. Employers should see this as an advantage in today’s open trade economy.

    • Zara Says

      I agree – as I say, if an employer is not going to see “gap years” traveling as an advantage, then maybe we’re just not looking at the right company to work with!!…

  • Hi Zara, this words come to my world in the right moment I’ve been thinking from a while in all you have written in this post… and I always end concluding that I can’t leave everything behind and go ahead with my passions and projects…. and I think that these are just excuses to justify my fear of not doing the right thing… but I feel comfort after reading your words and I will look forward to try to follow my heart and have the strength you and your boyfriend had… Thank you!!

    • Zara Says

      Hi Adriana,
      Nice to hear from you! Well, you know what they say “nothing ventured, nothing gained”..
      Sometimes you’ve gotta take a leap of faith and believe in yourself. If anything else think: if so many people can, why shouldn’t I?! We all have different lives and restrictions and all, but I’m sure we can all find a way of dedicating some serious time to doing the stuff we love. Wish you the best of luck and, hey, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! :)

  • Lee Siver Says

    Just quit my job today. Im scared but this gave me the push I needed. Me and a back pack:)

  • I know another couple who is doing exactly that – Lucy Taylor and Joe Mortimer – they have left their jobs and are traveling the world. I would have done this if I was a bit younger and had no kids!

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  • Anish Nair Says

    Now that’s doing something different in life!
    Hope you guys enjoy every moment of this adventure. It takes guts to do things differently, so my wishes to both of you.

    Regards from India

    • Zara Says

      Hi Anish,
      Thanks a lot for your words of encouragement!
      We just got to India yesterday so… regards from India for you too! ;)

  • Maria Says

    What a brilliant post Zara! Those are just the words I needed. I’m planning to do something similar on my own, next year. But it’s always scary to leave behind that safe net you have struggled to build for years, but no longer makes you happy… Then as you say, change is always a good thing! Thank you very much and good luck with your adventures!

    • Zara Says

      Hi Maria!
      I am happy to give you a little extra push, in case you need it! ;)
      Nothing in life is permanent, so it’s better if we don’t accommodate ourselves and learn how to enjoy change with an open mind and flexibility.
      I wish you the very best for your adventures next year.. keep us posted on how it goes! :)

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