What is it like to quit your job and travel the world?
Personally, I have not done this yet. But I have traveled for a long period of time and have come across many travelers who have done the said. Below are some basic guidelines and facts I have done or penned down from my colleague’s experiences. Hope they are helpful to you guys.
Checklist prior to leaving:
So here is the checklist prior to leaving :
– Gather as much cash as possible.
– Find guidance to get me started (books, tips, etc)
– Setup a travel budget.
– Get a new passport and potentially useful visas.
– Plan the first week abroad.
– Get a plane ticket
– Get a traveling bag and other equipment
– Find a place to store your possessions.
– Find a free parking spot somewhere your car would not get stolen.
– Get rid of the room mate.
– Find a new tenant to take over your lease.
– Move with someone until you leave.
– Get travel / medical insurance.
– Quit your job.
– Go to the airport and say goodbye!
Solo or not?
As you already know, finding someone willing to accompany you on your journey is no easy task.
So the question is : should you go alone?
I have traveled solo and I absolutely loved it. Then, I traveled with my best friend in one country, and I found it to be a very different experience.
Being on your own is great for many reasons :
- You never have to argue about what to do.
- Unless you are satisfied with not talking to anyone (you would miss the best part of traveling) you WILL have to talk to strangers. I have noticed many who travel with friends and end up only interacting with them. These people ultimately missed out on a lot.
- Those days you will not want to talk to anyone? You wont have to!
- In countries where you stick out a lot (say, a 5’3 asian girl in a village of America), some people might be inclined to come to you to have a very interesting chat.
However, having said that, there are a few reasons to bring someone with you :
- Traveling solo can sometimes be a very lonely experience. You will eventually end up in a shitty, empty hostel with unfriendly staff, in a town that could not care less about you (besides your money) and the loneliness will strike. Good news however, this situation is the exception, not the rule.
- Cheaper. With a buddy, you can buy groceries, cook and waste less. Also, some double rooms have lower individual rate than single rooms.
- It gets annoying sometimes to feel like the absolute minority in places where locals do not expect you at all.
- Much cheaper to rent a car if you have the guts for it. A car will take you to many great places buses and trains will not, or not as quickly.
- I guess you could say it’s safer, but Europe is extremely safe for both single male or female. As long as you are careful to avoid the usual tourist traps (pickpockets, etc.), you’ll be perfectly fine. Every traveling book has a very detailed section on safety and will tell you what you need to know.
Just remember this :
The one thing I learned about traveling alone is that you are mostly never alone. You’ll find travel buddies at every destination and this will allow you to make awesome friends all over the world.
So do not panic if you cannot find someone to accompany you.
Stress and anxiety
You might not see this one coming, but stress is going to be a major issue if this is your first long trip abroad.
Remember the first time you invited someone on a date? That, times a hundred, is what I felt like on the bad days. I kept going from “It’s a great idea!” to “It’s the worst idea EVER!”.
There is not much you can do about that. Just keep in mind that it will be the most memorably time of your life.
Good news though, it goes away a few days after you arrive.
Quit your job damn it!
You will find something else, probably even better, when you get back.
The experience traveling teaches you will be worth more than anything else.
Your perspective on life will be different and what you expect from your work as well.
Store your personal belongings and sublet your apartment, that will make things easier. Renting a cheap apartment? Sublet it for more and make some money while you are gone.
Everyone has a different situation that will require a different solution.
The most important lesson here is this :
It is possible, maybe hard, but always possible and absolutely worth it.
Ok, that is obviously the big question here. How much money do you really need?
Europe is expensive, that is something you will come to hate. Asia (except Japan) is much cheaper, but might require a bit more guts for a first trip.
I had a log book in which I wrote down all my expenses to help with my budget. I suggest you do that as well. There are now some cools apps that do that for you.
Some days will be more expensive (train ticket days…) and others will be super cheap (walking around a city while couch surfing).
Make sure you have emergency funds as well or at least, access to someone else’s.
Travelers cheques used to be cool, but I think they are old fashioned now.
You’ll find a lot of tricks to save money while traveling if you search for them, but here is a small list for Europe :
- Hostels are really cool (www.hostelworld.com), but couch surfing is fantastic (www.couchsurfing.com).
- Hostels sometimes have kitchens so buy groceries and cook!
- Hitchhiking is not crazy at all. Some countries have website for drive sharing that you can book in advance, look for them.
- Trains are fast, but expensive. Make sure you learn about all the possible discounts available in the country you are visiting. Also, you can check out rail-pass but do some research before buying one, because there are a lot of hidden fees and surprises.
A great way to travel is with night trains. It saves you the cost of an hostel and sleeper cars are usually affordable. Plus, you will appreciate the time saved by traveling while sleeping! The same concept is applicable to buses, but it’s usually harder to get a good night sleep in those.
- Buses are slower (sometimes a hell of a lot slower!), but much cheaper. Going to the UK? Look up Megabus to travel around.
- Do not forget RyanAir and EasyJet, flights are surprisingly cheap inside Europe.
Travelling as living
Don’t just visit places, or rush to as many places as possible in a short period. Plan to actually live your life on the road.
“The world is too tiny to be wasted on wheels.”
Try out activities and travel at a slow pace, exploring everything around you!
On the road or in the trail, when not admiring the sights or landscape, listen to audiobooks or iTunes. Read books at night time. Reading gives great insights to nearly everything, almost as much as traveling itself. Books about local history and culture enriches the traveling experience while more importantly, they reveal the deeper meanings inside of things around you and clear the bias and prejudices we previously held.
It is good to keep a travelog or a blog while traveling. Pen down your experiences and your stories. They last a lifetime for your future generations as well. If not comfortable with writing, simply doodle or draw something you see and admire.
Understanding the world and the people
Spending a lengthy period in a culture gives us an advantage to understand it. Although I can only speak some daily phrases now to bargain in a local market in Vietnam, still, it gets me closer to the Vietnamese people. The books about Vietnam I’ve read on the road equip me with some extended knowledge (compared to the short paragraphs in Lonely Planet guidebooks) to enable me to appreciate the art, architecture and music and to understand the culture and the people, especially their feelings.
Traveling like this improves one’s sensibility and empathy. You are not just dealing with people in the tourism industry or fellow travelers. You meet real local people, people who speak no English or your own language, who have never travelled outside of their own village. When some level of communication could be built up upon your encounter, you realize while the cultural difference could be vast, we are all humans, we share a great deal of common emotions, sympathies, and excitements. People deserve to be understood and empathized with, way better than they currently are. And this realization motivates us to explore more, improve our language skills, and share our understandings with fellow countrymen or our communities.
I am looking forward to visit the rest of the world like this, it brings me joy and fulfillment.
How did it end?
To me, that first trip ended up being a rebirth. I did things I would have never imagined and came back a different person entirely. I finally felt like I knew who I was and where I belonged.
I let go most of my friends and replaced them with new ones with values closer to mine. And even though it took a little while after I came back, I finally started feeling good about myself.
So what are you waiting for?
Constantly living out of your comfort zone is what you need to learn about your capacities and limitations. It also enlarge that same comfort zone exponentially, enabling you to deal with a lot more difficult situations at any given time.
You will also come back with a more open mind about different cultures. It does not mean you will like them all, or like their habits, but you will at least understand them better.
I only wish everyone could do the same.
So go on, save up some cash and get ready to travel the world.