Quitting your job to travel sounds like the dream huh? Getting to walk out of your poorly lit office and jump on a plane to a beautiful tropical beach sounds like something out of a movie, doesn’t it? Yeah well, it is. In my experience real life does not go down like that. But full-time travel or even part-time travel are real possibilities in this day and age so don’t let me crush your dreams just yet.
In May of 2016, I did just that, quit my 9-5 job and set off on a seven month trip around the world with my boyfriend (now husband) Rob. But there was nothing spontaneous or dramatic about it, in fact, we planned and prepped for a year before I left my office for the last time.
Here is a little back story of what we were doing before becoming part-time travelers and digital nomads.
Rob was (and still is) a web designer and developer, and even when we lived in San Francisco he worked remotely for various clients around the Bay Area. So he did not have a huge transition to go through when we left the country.
I was working for a small product company doing everything from graphic design to social media to shipping. When you work on a small team you end up wearing a lot of hats. But It was an awesome company and a good job that I enjoyed. I also did a little freelance graphic design and illustration work on the side with the idea in the back of my mind to someday go full-time freelance.
In October 2015 I wrote a note on my phone that said “small changes now = big changes later” and after that came every little life change I could think of to make our trip a reality. I included everything from my finances and how I would save up more money, to ideas of how to make money on the road, to what we’d do with our apartment and furniture, to where we’d go on our trip and when we’d leave, to when I’d leave my job.
It was a detailed if not messy plan, but I made sure to think of every step I would need to make that transition.
How I quit my job to travel
First things first you need to have your finances in order. From the moment we decided to travel we began cutting down on any extra expenses. Less eating out and fancy coffees, Rob gave up the lease on his office, I biked to work rather than driving or ubering. We cancelled or put on hold all subscriptions and memberships, one to save the money and two because we wouldn’t need them when we were away.
I also made the goal to be debt free by the time we left, so every last cent I could I put towards paying off my credit card and car loan. And with a bit of work I did manage to pay off both my car and credit card in that year before we left.
After all the necessities were paid I put everything else into savings. I knew starting off a new career from the road would take some time and I wanted to make sure I had as much cushion as possible. By the time we left, I had saved up enough to cover my expenses for about five months of travel.
Figuring out my new career path was the next big step, I came up with all kinds of ideas of ways to make money while we were on the road. My list included, selling digital products like printable wedding invites, and stock photography on Etsy, travel writing, remote graphic design and social media, writing a travel blog, and I figured if all else failed I could teach English (a popular option for digital nomads at the time).
My plan had been to start on one or more of these ideas before we left so I would have some kind of small income to start out with and be able to grow once we were on the road. However, life tends to get in the way and it didn’t really happen. I did start this blog a few months prior to our grand adventure, but it was not making money and the only people reading it were Rob’s mom and my aunt.
Set a Date
The most important part was booking our flight because that would give us a set departure date. That date really set everything in motion and determined when we needed to be out of our apartment and my last day at my job.
House and Stuff
Our apartment in San Francisco was so cute! But after much debate we decided to give it up and terminate the lease. We had considered subletting or renting it out on Air BNB for extra cash, but we were hearing about people getting evicted for doing just that, so it didn’t seem like a good idea. This meant that we’d have to do something with all our stuff. We sold and donated a bunch, but most went into a storage unit.
Once we had our departure date I was able to give notice at my job. My original plan had been to leave my job a month or so before setting off on our trip to be able to focus my attention on my side projects and develop them into full-time gigs, but the allure of actually making money up till the last possible moment was too great.
Making any kind of big life change can be scary especially one that involves a career change and a location change. But if you have a plan and know what you are getting yourself into it takes some of the uncertainty out of it.
When I first started writing this post I wrote down “making the leap itself wasn’t that hard for me…”. But that’s not true, after really thinking about it and remembering the whole process I was nervous anxious the whole time. I was worried about money and if any of my ideas would actually work or take off. At the same time though, I was wildly optimistic that things would work out. And I think that is the attitude and feeling you should have, anxiety is a natural response to change, it’s letting you know that there is uncertainty and to be careful. But you also have to have a crazy amount of optimism that you’ll be successful because you can’t go into something thinking you’ll fail.
There are definitely a few things I wish I’d done differently, like actually focusing on getting my side projects going before we left. And if that is something you can do when starting out on your digital nomad journey props to you! But otherwise I feel like I did everything I could have done to prepare myself for the digital nomad life.
So if you are thinking of leaving the cubicle for something different I hope my story sheds a little light on what it takes. And if it is something you really want then all the work is worth it.
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