I’ve read countless posts from fellow bloggers and even journalists, why quitting your job to travel the world is such an excellent idea. I have seen so many young girls and boys looking up to these people thinking “Yes, that sounds like a very good idea”. After all, who doesn’t want to stop working and just see the world? I, certainly, wouldn’t mind!
At times it almost feels like a new religion, so often do I read advice like that. A religion you are only eligible to join right after college. But to tell you the truth, I am sooo unbelievably sick of these posts. Yes, quit your job!! Collect some miles with your credit card, sell the car your parents gave you for your 18th birthday, and choose your favorite destination. Just you and your backpack. Click on these affiliate links, and off you go. It’s that easy!
Bullshit! When things sound too good to be true, they usually aren’t. So, I decided to compile a definite checklist, why quitting your job is maybe not such a good idea.
Note: I am aware that this article is quite provocative and I am also aware that not all digital nomads are actively advising to follow in their footsteps in such a blatant way. So read on at your own “risk”.
1) Traveling is a privilege
One of the major reason I ‘hate’ (such a strong word!) almost anyone advising people ‘to quit their jobs to travel the world’ has to do with global income equality. There are literally billions of people without a job to support any form of travel whatsoever, often not even enough to support their very lives.
Advising people to quit their job, is often shouting out loud that all rich white girls can save enough in a matter of months to travel the world for a prolonged time without much trouble. Well, think about it – there are so many people out there who really can’t do that. Travel is all about meeting other cultures and places with respect, and then and there with those 5-8 words, you already lost it all. You might not think of yourself as rich, but if you earn more than 5 US per day you already earn more than 75% of the world (here is a tool for you to check how rich you are compared to the rest of the world)
One of those 15,75 million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa will never even be in the position to quit a job, because, well, chances are quite high he or she will probably never have one. I willingly admit, though, that “why rich white kids should quit their job to travel the world” doesn’t sound all that sexy. But hey, maybe that will start the thinking process.
2) Not everyone is made for long-term travel
Setting ethics aside, long-term travel also has a psychological dimension. Beaches, constant warm weather, and fabulous cities might sound wonderful at first, but few people are really made for true long-term travel. Most people I know already got a problem with staying abroad for longer than 2 weeks. And after three they will be truly homesick.
The initial allure of “quitting your job to travel” gets reduced to the quitting your job part (which certainly sounds good) then. The real life on the road will become very tedious for most people quite soon.
3) Work on the road is still work
When looking at the dazzling Instagram feeds of a couple of my esteemed fellow bloggers it’s quite easy to forget just how much work hides behind that picture of me casually lounging in an infinity pool. Admittedly I am guilty myself. Chances are high that those pictures took more than one hour to take and edit – each. But obviously, it doesn’t stop there. If you (want to) generate your income through blogging, there are articles to write, social media channels to curate, hosting fees to pay, and so on.
Blogging or teaching abroad is, at the very end of the day, still work. Oftentimes more and badly paid work. From my experience, only a few people are made to endure these hardships for a long time. This is especially true for so-called sponsored trips, where the sponsor essentially expects you to work during your stay! This isn’t just my impression. Here’s a lovely report of a blogger colleague working in the travel industry to give you another first-hand account.
4) A travel blog is a bad idea to generate income
Running a travel blog seems a favorite way to support your living aboard. But to tell you the truth, there is perhaps a handful of travel bloggers out there who truly make a noticeable income from their blogs. It all just sounds so fantastic: Getting hotels to invite you to stay, free flights and complimentary meals.
It’s nothing like that – not even for the pros. And even then it took a looot of work to reach that point. Also, remember that these influencers mostly started blogging years and years before you decided to jump on the bandwagon. How much room is left for you? They say plenty and it’s true. But it will be hard work and your pay will be horrible.
5) Long term budget travel can be unethical
For most people, long-term travel means budget travel. But with your shitty little blog and a few freelance jobs, there is no way to support a gap year in France, Norway or any other expensive place in the first world. The never-ending flock of global nomads usually don’t travel the world, but rather backpack South East Asia or South America.
Know then that this kind of budget travel creates a lot of problems. Cheap almost always comes at a price. Sometimes it is the local population that gets exploited (or worse: not involved), sometimes its pollution and at other times you unwillingly support an unfair political system. Digital nomads are not the only ones, but still a part of the problem.
You may think of Thailand as a paradise, when in fact, the political situation has been very tenuous for over two decades, to say the least. Tourist hordes are destroying the national parks and the infamous shrimp farms have caused dramatic environmental problems.
You may think that your individual actions do not cause these kind of things, but the reality is a bit more sobering. The strong Dollar (or Euro) is built on unequal trade agreements, on buying cheap resources, and on workforce exploitation. And it is this very strong currency that allows you to travel for so much longer abroad than in your home country.
The “funniest” part: Most of these digital nomads are vegan, which is basically saying, I don’t care if billions of people suffer, but gotta save those cute, cute bunnies!
6) Gap years can be problematic to explain
A lot of people out there are trying to sell gap years as an excellent diversification of their CV. First of all, you are not alone out there these days, and no employer really cares anymore, except you were truly working (in a job that matters; teaching English doesn’t matter, except you are applying for a teaching job) abroad. Before you ask, yes, I work in a management position and am frequently interviewing. Actually, except you want to work in an industry where having experience abroad (like tourism, communication, logistics, etc) is an essential part of your job profile, I’d say that a gap year is decreasing your chances of getting a job (and some studies point towards it).
Now, I will not deny that traveling broadens your horizon tremendously and will ultimately strengthen your character (which might lead to a lot of opportunities), but the 90ies, when gap years were so exotic they incited immediate interest, are long past.
7) Working and traveling is not a bad thing
I am working 9-5. I like my work (product management), and I like my colleagues. I even went on a trip to Scotland with them last year. I can take 31 days of paid leave per year, and the pay is far from bad as well. For me, this is an ideal starting point to plan the trips I want, and not the trips money permits (within limits obviously ;-P). I am not saying it is easy, and truth be told most people are worse off than me. I am just saying, it’s doable. Also, I doubt I’d be in the position I am now if I took a gap year instead of working while I was studying.
Still, I won’t deny: If I could, I’d stop working tomorrow and travel the world forever. Sounds cool, but please not at the price of ultra-budget traveling. My days of camping, bad hostels and cheap flights that take forever are long gone, and I thank the lord each day for having found a good job.
8) You have all your life to travel
I’ve heard it so many times: Travel while you are young! Take a gap year right after your studies, while you still can. Later you will have kids and a partner to care for.
Seriously folks, every time I hear this kind of admonishment, I feel like either vomiting or killing someone. Kids don’t keep you from traveling (I should know since my parents took me along from day 1). Neither does your job or a house. The only thing that might keep you from traveling, later on, is yourself, your irrational fears to leave your comfort zone and maybe a bit of wisdom (not all is bad at home).
And to be quite truthful, it’s almost offensive. I am 35 now and I don’t plan to quit seeing the world anytime soon. Traveling is a mindset, not an age question (considering you don’t decide to lead an unreasonable unhealthy lifestyle, and even then, it’s still possible).
And please, don’t mention regrets. The chances are equally high that you will hate yourself for not starting to work earlier because now you can’t afford the house you want, the car you want or whichever other material dreams you might want to chase.
9) Never trust and article with too many affiliate links
Blogging is a tough business and not exactly the starting point to become a millionaire. All bloggers ultimately need to pay their bills. Take a look to the right, and you will see a couple of display ads, and certainly I don’t hide the fact that there are affiliate links on this blog. Writing posts to help you plan your trip or just to entertain you for a few minutes, seconds even, takes a lot of time (and money). And trying to cover these costs and maybe even make a little dime on the side, is only fair – especially when you, as a reader are not affected in a negative way.
The problem starts when articles are written with the sole purpose of making money. If you join influencer networks and you are starting to promote items you’d never actually bought yourself. A lot of articles advising you to quit your job and travel will ultimately have affiliate links to travel insurances or a link to start your own travel blog. They are trying you to convince to follow them on their road to success, when in fact they are (subconsciously) trying to convince you to use their affiliate links. Not so cool.
10) In case of doubt, trust your intuition
You know what I probably hate the most about people advising other people to quit their job to travel the world? Most of them are barely beyond their teens. I am not sure if it is an all that wise idea to make such a profound decision based on the advice of somebody who doesn’t even have an inkling which effects his current decision will have in the long run! As time moves by, logic implies these people won’t even be able to compare how things would have been if they continued working.
Some people are really made for the life on the road, others aren’t. Is it only the thought of not having to work that sound alluring to you? Or have you always felt restless at home, have you always wanted to explore (even if it is just in your hometown). Don’t follow pretty Instagram pictures, follow your heart and your own intuition!
And last, but not least, I’d like to advise you to skip all advice and pave your very own way. Use your common sense! I told you 10 important reasons why quitting your job to travel the world might not be the best idea. But maybe there are 20 equally or even more important reasons why you should still do it! In these times filled with #fakenews, it has never been more important to do your own research. Doubt everything and learn to criticize everything (in a constructive sort of manner!!).
If you come to the decision that quitting your job to travel the world really is what you need to do, and you find a way to do this in an ethically acceptable way, why, what are you still doing here. Go! Have the time of your life. But nobody, hopefully, nobody ever said you can’t lead a happy, fulfilled life at home. Believe me, there are 7.5 billion people out there who are trying to do just that, and some of them are even succeeding 😉
So, what do you think? I know this is a controversial topic, but I’d love to hear your opinions!
This article is an updated version of an older article I wrote here.