Why I Haven’t Quit My Job to Travel Full Time (Yet)

Either it’s the most recent zeitgeist, or I’m just running into the theme constantly because I follow a lot of travelers and travel photographers: quitting your job to travel full time seems like THE thing to do nowadays. Friends and strangers often ask me when I will quit my job to travel full time. I travel so much currently that it must seem inevitable. So here’s why I haven’t quit my job to travel full time. Yet.

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1.I’m fighting the Grass Is Always Greener syndrome.

I’m a wanderer. I wandered through several schools, multiple university majors, several cities and now 35+ countries. On a good day, or a day when I’m feeling self-conscious and defensive, I will say this is because I want to be a Renaissance Woman. And truly, I’ve benefited considerably from all this change.

But many times I find myself chasing the next opportunity out of boredom. Or because I have stopped paying attention to my current situation. I’ve stopped nourishing my current opportunity. Or maybe I’m trying to escape an uncomfortable moment. And on those days literally anything and everything else appeals to me. But all my wandering has taught me it’s a bit dangerous to make life decisions inside of those moments.

So it’s been a habit for a few years now to practice taking stock when I feel like this. (Usually after I’ve vented to friends for hours and consumed several bottles of wine.) The next day, or week, or month I look at my job, my current company, and my opportunities and so far realize that while it’s certainly not perfect, neither is it bad. So I don’t leave.

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2. I don’t feel like running the bank account to zero again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done it. I traveled the US extensively in my 20s and only spent. And after five months I landed in my mother’s guest room with less than $30 in my bank account, some great photographs and experiences, and no more idea of what to do next than before.

There’s nothing wrong with throwing caution to the wind, building up a little nest egg, and chasing your travel dream. I highly recommend it. But I also consider things like how long I want to work before I retire permanently (and which therefore require things like a Savings account or 401k.) And there are bigger investments, bigger things I want to save up for. It’s hard to do that when only spending and not earning. Or only earning enough to fund the current moment.

Yes, many people have found ways to take their work on the road as a consultant or to make money from travel blogging. I admire them and I am all for the flexible work schedule. But I don’t think that these entrepreneurial success stories are the norm yet. And from my brief experience as an entrepreneur I think these folks probably work like dogs behind the scenes. Probably harder than I do on a daily basis. Their job is often to make things look breezy, easy, and amazing, but I doubt that’s reality on a daily basis.

Maybe a full time job is a small price to pay for a little more security.

3. I want to be able to contribute to my family.

I’ve been watching my parents take care of their parents while also considering their own retirements for years now. This obviously varies for all families, but I want to do what my parents have accomplished. I want to be in a position where I can financially care for my parents or help them when they get much older without it being a highly stressful financial burden. They have their own savings, but I prefer to have a backup plan and cushion.

4. Many of my skills are best suited to big companies and very complex projects. 

Simply because most old, large, companies haven’t evolved to a flexible lifestyle and unlimited vacation, it’s likewise harder to take a hold of a more flexible lifestyle.

Could I pivot and build up a new skillset that would be better suited to a more modern company or consulting? I am fairly confident that I could. Do I want to build an entirely new skillset, new network, new set of contacts and mentors and goals? That’s a more important question.

The danger of getting to mid-management or to mid-career is that the sunk-cost mentality begins to apply. There’s a lot of resume, reputation, network, and so on which I’m not willing to throw away. But all that resume, reputation, network, and so on can also be a trap. If I hadn’t already put in years and hours of sweat-equity learning these skills, building this resume, and this reputation, would I want the same job or the same next opportunity? Right now, the answer is yes.

Actually… if anything I want to be on an endless vacation. But I’m not independently wealthy, so I have to consider other options.

5. I’m lucky enough to live and work as an expat.

Would all of the above be enough to prevent me from quitting if I didn’t already live abroad? That’s a much, much harder question. Possibly not. Then again, if my current company didn’t have expatriate jobs I could apply for, I might have left for another company that did. So I would still be working as an expat and traveling, just at a different company.

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6. Finally, I enjoy working.

I like big, complex problems; I love working with and developing high performance teams. And I feel a sincere satisfaction from my company’s success and from seeing my projects turn into actual services in the market. All of this could change or feel different in another role or a different company. But for now I truly enjoy what I do and I really appreciate the mental engagement from work.


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