Skip to Content

How to know when to quit your job to travel

I wan’t planning on writing this today, but life has a silly way of working things out for us. With the doomsday news appearing in my Facebook feed I figure it’s as important a time as any. 

This afternoon I stumbled on an article on about knowing “when to quit.” In @DanielGulati’s piece about how to know when to quit your job, I found what he was saying to be incredibly insightful and important. So I want to highlight a few things that were eloquently reported, and to share how it relates to my own experience.

fly away

In the NYTimes article, Gulati presents that over 90% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs. I honestly can’t fathom such a number, but perhaps there are different levels of misery.

In 2010 I quit my job to travel.

At first, I didn’t really want to. You’ve probably already read my story on how a trip to Iceland inspired me to see more of the world, but there’s a bit more to the story. After taking a short break to Iceland in 2009, I realized I needed (and wanted) to see so much more of our amazing planet. But, my life as an American (from Texas, no less), pretty much had me targeted for a career trajectory that included all the normal trappings of the American dream. It’s not to say that I didn’t want all of that (the job, the career, the family, the home…) but I didn’t really know there were more options. I was young and naïve.

After that trip to Iceland, I knew I wanted to travel more, but I also had a great job and wasn’t ready to quit the normal life I had planned for myself. So here’s the big scoop: I actually tried for an internal job transfer. Several times. I tried for nearly 9 months to remain on my predestined career path; I just wanted to do it elsewhere.

Like scientists over rats in a maze, companies condition us to stay by implementing variable reinforcement schedules. That’s a behavioral psychologist’s way of describing how corporations drop bonuses, promotions and other rewards into our career paths at unscheduled intervals, enticing us to remain long enough to grab the next pellet. — Daniel Gulati

I tried and tried, but due to circumstances outside of my control, as close as I got (and trust me, I got very close), it just didn’t work out for me. After wanting it for so long and trying so hard, to ultimately fail was a straw too many. I was promised more opportunities “next year.” But who knew what “next year” would be like. That’s when I knew it was time to quit.

My reason to quit was less because of job dissatisfaction, and more because I simply wanted more out of life.

Thankfully for my case, I was still pretty young at the time. So the idea of quitting my job to travel—while terrifying and exhilarating and nerve-wracking and exciting—wasn’t so horrible. I knew that if I failed at my attempts to travel, I had a relatively small amount of money to fall back on, as well as friends, family, and, for my nervous mind, a solid work experience. That was my first step for knowing it would be okay to quit my job to travel. I knew if I failed, I had some fail-safes.

Also, I knew about other people—strangers from the Internet—who were planning for the same. People my age all over the world who wanted to see and do things across the world. All these faceless Twitter profiles were an inspiration and motivation.

Before that fateful April day when I handed in a resignation letter, I didn’t hate my job. I liked my job. I didn’t hate my home. I loved Boston. I just felt a strong urge that there was something more for me—something maybe far away and hard to reach—but something I’d have to go out to find myself. I was tired of “normal.” I wanted more.

At the time I had no idea that quitting that job would lead to such a different life. I didn’t know that I’d end up backpacking for so much time. I didn’t expect to live abroad. I didn’t expect to take on a new career. Little did I know that quitting one part of my life would open up so many more options. And now I’m thankful for the knowledge that if something doesn’t work out, there’s always something more. You just have to convince yourself to get there.

If you’re considering quitting your job, read this article from Daniel Gulati about knowing when it’s time to quit. While quitting my job to travel around the world for 15 months was the best thing I ever did in my life, I acknowledge that quitting to travel isn’t the best solution for everyone. For me, travel wasn’t a way to escape, but to expand, my life. 

  1. Anita Mac says:

    Funny – that is virtually what I went through in 2012. OK, same but different! We have always referred to the way a company keeps you as the golden shackles! Why really hard to leave them behind…I found it worth it! I travelled Europe for 3 months, pushed my body physically while walking the Camino de Santiago, but went to bed satisfied and happy. It was the right choice for me! The statistic of 90% of people are unhappy does not surprise me. We have been conditioned this way to work and trudge along with obligation and take care of ourselves last! Quitting the job and travelling around the world may not be the answer for everyone, but taking a break, doing something for yourself….more people need to embrace that! That’s my 2 cents!

    • Adam says:

      Definitely agree with you Anita that people need to realize the importance (and power) of taking a break and doing something for yourself. More and more studies are being done which prove how important relaxation is for productivity, but sometimes it can be hard to face the music.

  2. Elliot B. says:

    I’m starting to reach the point you were at when you first quit your job. I not miserable with my job by any means. I actually do look forward to going into work most days. But much like you, after reading all these posts and stories written by people traveling the world, I want to see these things myself. Great post. I can relate in so many ways. Thank you.

    • Adam says:

      Glad you enjoyed the post Elliot. For me, traveling has definitely been an eye-opening experience and has allowed me so many amazing opportunities. We’ve got such an amazing world and there’s so much to see and do. I’m not sure how I’ll ever fit it all in a single lifetime!

  3. Patrick Smith says:

    Hey Adam- another really great post! I really like how you embed other informative information you use to view the world. I forwarded this post to a bunch of my friends who often talk bout their jobs. I retired in July, but I totally related to what you were saying about work, although I too liked my job, knew when it was time to leave thru retirement. Thanks again!

  4. Hi Adam. Fairly new follower here but loving your blog!

    I love this post. We quit our jobs 12 months ago for a nomadic life and haven’t looked back! We love our new life and the changes that have come because of it.

    We hope to one day become great bloggers (like you! Sorry if that sounded like ass kissing!) but for now we are just enjoying the new path the universe has laid out for us and taking every moment in!

    My new motto: Life is AWESOME :)

  5. Faisal says:

    I have so many friends that hate their jobs, yet do nothing about it. Good on you for following your dreams.

    Great article, I’m going to show it to those friends, hopefully that’ll motivate them to at least look for a job that they don’t hate and maybe one or two of them will actually quit their jobs and travel the world.

    • Adam says:

      You’re definitely right that there are plenty of people out there who are so unhappy but dont’ take the necessary steps to fix the problems (I’ve been guilty of that before, and I’m sure I will be again). It can be risky, but the reward is often greater.

  6. Simon says:

    Fantastic post and the timing is ironic for me, in that I am coming up to 1 year from quitting my job to move to Berlin!

    I am back visiting home at the moment, but the plan is to head back in March. While I am not travelling around as much as you have, the change was a necessary one and the NY Time article you referenced would have been helpful a year ago! ;)

    As I navigated my way in Berlin, I found your blog both helpful and inspiring. Keep up the good work.


    • Adam says:

      Well hey Simon – glad to hear you’re making the move to Berlin. Incredible city :)

      Sounds like a smart plan to escape Berlin for the winter! I hope you continue to find my site helpful once you move back to Europe. Thanks for the comment!!

  7. Miret says:

    Last summer I decided it was time for a (huge) career change to become location-independent and travel more.

    Of course, this means giving up a few things, but I am very happy… and happiness is an important thing, too, isn’t it? ;-)

    • Adam says:

      Happiness is SO important, Miret! I think we often forget about our own happiness for the sake of convenience.

  8. In my entire life (I’m 23 now) I’ve only had a boss totaling a little over a year. I love travel and have been earning my own living as an artist and a digital entrepreneur. I recently graduated college and decided to forgo the traditional job and travel for as long as I can as a digital entrepreneur.

    I quit my job to travel before I got one.

    • Adam says:

      Good look Wil! Everyone’s story is a bit different, so thanks for sharing yours.

      • No problem! I think it’s great that with today’s technology people can more easily follow their dreams and passions.

        My grandfather used to ask me what I wanted to do.
        I would reply “Travel and see the world.”
        He would reply “But that isn’t a job.”
        …today It very well may be, if I’m willing to work for it.

  9. Andrew says:

    I’m nearing the end of another of my treadmills. I have quit my job to travel before, several times in fact. But I always seem to end up back in one. This time I am shackled not just by the company, but also by the government. Visas are a pain.

    The more you want, the more shackled you are. Being very free is somehow easier than trying to retain the home or something else. I watch Office Space every so often and think of the line “You don’t need a million dollars to do nothing.” He means it as a joke perhaps, but I see it as more profound. You really don’t need much money if you don’t want much from the system.

    Anyway.. good post.

    • Adam says:

      Thanks Andy! I didn’t realize you’d quit several different jobs to get where you are today. I love that Office Space quotation. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie, so maybe I’m due for another viewing.

  10. Leah says:

    Great post, Adam, and so timely for me. Here’s to a couple of Texans taking on the world!

    • Adam says:

      Congrats Leah! So glad to hear you’ve made the leap. Seems like a great fit for your personality and blog – can’t wait to see what you get up to!

  11. Paula says:

    Thanks for the reminders, kudos for the choice! I quit 9 months ago (also to travel) and haven’t looked back. It’s funny to me how folks constantly ask what I’ll do when the trip is over. They’re not really interested, I think they’re uncomfortable that I took the leap! Besides, will the trip ever “be over…”?

    • Adam says:

      Congrats Paula! And you’re right about that question everyone asks… I don’t think they’re interested in your actual answer but secretly want to know if they think you’ve ruined your life or something.

  12. Kay says:

    Hello , Adam ! I think your bog is very interesting ! I just felt like sharing taht i did the same , i quit my job and started to travel . Since 2009 im living in each place no longer that 6 months .

    • Adam says:

      Thank you Kay! Living in a place for just 6 months must be difficult when trying to get visas for certain destinations – but I love the idea. You must have some amazing stories!

  13. I feel alive when I travel. But I don’t feel alive when I’m living the routined, corporate, nine to five job. That is my sign that it’s time. I want to be more connected to the physical world around me and less connected to the digital world. I find that this only happens when I leave the iPhone and iPad at home and head to a destination without any electricity. But two weeks out of the year just isn’t cutting it anymore. I want to live every day with purpose and meaning. You and others have shown that that is possible. Thanks for this encouraging post.

    • Adam says:

      Thank you Angela for sharing your experience. I completely understand wanting to disconnect from the digital world. I plan to take a proper holiday and 100% disconnect later this year. It’s been a while since I did that (last time was in India).

  14. So many of the travelers I follow online have raved about the place and the wonderful cost of living that I feel I need to experience it for myself. Especially after being a bit disappointed by San Franscisco which I expected to be amazing.

  15. Mike says:

    I’m new to your blog and wanted to say thank you very much for writing this! I read the NY Times article and I definitely fall into category 3. I’ve applied to teach English in Spain next year and am very much looking forward to the challenges ad rewards ahead of me. I’m not sure where I’ll be on the next year or so but I’m excited for the adventures it will bring. I look forward to reading more of your blog. Thank you!

    • Adam says:

      Hey Mike – thanks and welcome!

      Sounds like you’ve got some exciting adventures. Also: I love the name of your blog, Mapless Mike!

      • Mike says:

        Thank you very much Adam! I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and have started watching The Outs thanks to you!

  16. Amber says:

    Ahhh, rats in a maze. At my former law firm, in one office, you received bonus almost 6 months after the end of the billable year. As soon as you get your bonus and think about quitting you realize you have 6 months in to the next billing cycle. A vicious vicious cycle of misery.

    • Adam says:

      That seems to be how corporations work these days. I definitely see it as a vicious cycle, Amber…and one that’s hard to break.

  17. Andy says:

    I am actually thinking about quitting my job an travelling. I am 32 years of age and have been saving for a bit and have about £8k in savings. I wanted to head out into the world for about 6 months. How easy is it o fin work and such outgrew if needed? I currently work in a bank and its depressing. I have travelled around south east Asia a couple of times on my 2 week break from work but feel I need to do this now or I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.

    • Adam says:

      I can understand your hesitation Andy. I hope you figure out what you want and need to do to make yourself the most happy in a safe and responsible way! Good luck!

  18. Great read. No matter what you need too take a leap of faith when deciding to quit your job to travel. Taking the leap is the start of a wonderful experience.

  19. James @ Africa Tours says:

    Hi Adam,
    I have to face same experience when i got bored to daily schedule job work then i decided to take break for some month but I have to quit my job for this.

Comments are closed.