I am a travel blogger. I have visited more than 50 countries and stopped counting somewhere on the way. I love staying at luxury hotels & getting pampered and I prefer travelling off the beaten path. I recently returned from a month in beautiful Kyrgyzstan, and now I back home working 9-5 here in Munich. The one thing I never considered was quitting my job to travel.

Let me elaborate. Many of my much-esteemed colleagues lead that seemingly carefree life on the road. Just a backpack and endless opportunities. The usually start out in South East Asia until their growing blogs are able to sustain a statelier home base. And at one point they all seem to write a rather lengthy post about why others should follow in their footsteps. Yes, quit your job. Just do it. Head into the adventure! The reader casually clicks on a couple of affiliate links and off you go on a journey to fulfillment.

Because after all, whoever liked sitting in a cubicle all day? I certainly don’t! Much as I cherish the rest of their work, I strongly resent these ever-same articles. Here is why.

So what is wrong, Norman?

Me sitting on the luxury train by peru rail, called Andean Explorer, on the last wagon, ie the observation deck

First of all, the very idea that quitting your job was the only way to travel the world, even when you are young, is preposterous! Traveling the world as a job sounds like an awesome goal. But there is a lot of romanticization involved as well, or call it sentimental escapism. And I’ll tell you a secret: You won’t be able to escape your daily grind with being lazy. Neither at home nor on the road. In fact, the road is a lot more unforgiving. It is not quitting your job, but changing your job.

There is also an important psychological dimension to such a decision. Not everyone is made for the constant life on the road. When you are doing it alone, you’ll long for your friends. With your partner, you’ll wish for some distance. Most people do get homesick, and seeing one tourist attraction after another loses its luster after a time as well. Sure there is Skype these days, but that won’t be able to replace getting drunk with your friend at the local bar and talking the whole evening about nothing. Not everyone is up to these challenges in the long run.

More than that, quitting your job is not a decision, it is a unique privilege! Not everyone can sell his car, save a little extra for half a year ($1,000 a month, c’mon how hard can it be?) and redeem these frequent flyer points dad wasn’t using anyway. The next time you are buying yourself these trendy Gucci stilettos, why not save even more points with your brand new miles & points optimized credit card. >>Ka-ching!<<

The harsh truth is: 90 percent of the world population, if not more, cannot make that decision. There is no car and your parents barely make it to the next paycheck themselves. Most importantly: There isn’t even a decent job to quit, to begin with.

“Telling people to Quit their job to travel the world is nothing but unbearable western arrogance.”

Now admittedly a lot of people reading those articles COULD travel the world if they so desired. But is it really ethically? I mean, seriously, they know, they won’t be able to afford long-term travel in Europe or the USA. So they pick South East Asia or South America where 15 US-Dollar a day will earn you a life full of luxury and unlimited food. They totally ignore that Thailand is actually an ugly political mess. Tourism is the only growth sector in the kingdom – but who is benefitting?

Some of the countries they will be visiting have thousands of people starving each month, daily violations of the most basic human rights and a staggering criminality rate. So what wrong can a little couch surfing do? Irresponsible tourism goes way beyond throwing away plastic bottles in a national park (even though that has become a major problem).

motorboats on the wy to james bond island

Here in Germany, we got a trade tax and, among others, also a visitor’s tax.

“But Norman, what does trade tax have to do with budget travel?”

Well, companies (like hotels) should pay a special tax for the infrastructure they use and wear down, for the garbage they produce, for the water they use. Sadly, most cheap tourist destinations don’t have any sound system in place to take care of the secondary and tertiary damage. Only recently Thailand had to close down a couple of islands in the Phang Nga Bay due to irresponsible tourism. Harsh as it may sound, most budget tourists take more from a country than they give back, and inexperienced global nomads are often among them. Budgeting can be an incredibly selfish decision.

Sitting on a platform near the summit of wayna picchu

I also wonder if it is a smart idea to change the course of your life based on the advice from someone barely in his late twenties. He or she is in no position (yet) to judge whether the decision really was a good idea. It remains a fact, however, that quitting a job to travel will have a PROFOUND impact on any vita. True enough, it doesn’t have to be bad. In fact, I believe that travel actually teaches you valuable lessons. Travelers are, in general, more tolerant and open to new ideas. Getting in touch with different cultures will make you rethink your own. Ultimately this can be the starting point for new business ideas, and an improvement of your overall life. Happiness even.

But you also have to realize that you will block off quite a number of career opportunities. You won’t be able to consistently sell that two-year gap in your CV as a benefit. Some employers, actually whole sectors, will favor candidates thinking less freely, less impulsive. In our super competitive job market, you will also be too old for certain vacancies when you return. Others might think you forgot half of whatever you learned at university when you come back. Ridiculous, I know. Coming back from a life on the road to study? Your fellows will be 2 years younger – fresh from the school with totally different problems. Here’s a wonderful study that takes a more scientific take on things.

The other side of the travel blogging world

me puffin colony lunga island scotland So what is the other side? Whenever I read one of these ubiquitous articles about “quitting your job to travel”, I get the impression I should be feeling inferior. Like there was no chance I could be happy with my job. Rubbish! I am working full time for a wonderful young company which really believes in giving back to its employees. In fact, I even call my colleagues friends and often join them at the pub after work. Whenever there is time, I travel. It got 30 days of holiday a year plus weekends. A lot of companies (at least here in Germany) will even be able to offer you a 4-day week.

I am not saying it is easy. I am working hard. But it IS another good alternative. One of many. I am not forced to make a living teaching English abroad or tap my meagre saving to bring my three dirty t-shirts in my backpack to the washing salon once a month. The constant life on the road is tough and nowhere as dreamy as those glossy pictures on Instagram might suggest.

me playing with a young sea lion while traveling around the galapagos islands

When I want to go abroad, I just pick a target and book the tickets. No budget, no ultra-long layovers or super awkward flight times, no hostels and no burdensome backpacks. I don’t need to waste precious time on searching for accommodations, or trying to hitch a ride. Besides, nobody ever said your travel life has to stops once you hit 25. There is no need to leave it all behind at 20. I am way into my thirties and plan to enjoy the wonders of the world for the rest of my days. So far I am succeeding.

Actually, I do enjoy the time at home just as much. We all got our roots and only very few are made for constant travel. their. whole. life. There is no need to pack it all into two or three years.

Now this is the point where I have to admit that my parents supported me through my studies. I also live in a region of the world where unemployment is only a problem for the few uneducated. The Euro isn’t exactly the weakest currency in the world either. So I am lucky. Very lucky indeed. I could have been born as one of the 15,7 million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa – desperate for food, education, psychological counselling and a family.

I don’t claim to have a ready solution for this long-standing problem either. 150 years of western involvement in the area sadly hasn’t exactly created a stable foundation, to begin with (I recommend reading “Dead Aid” by Dambisa Moyo for more on this subject ).But see, that is exactly the reason why I keep my advice mostly to myself. So, find your own way. Travel for a living if you really feel up to it or become a doctor. Read. Try things out. Fail. Start again. Work hard, and then yet harder towards whatever your goal is. Be yourself. And never believe long-term travel is easier than your job. It isn’t. It’s just as hard, maybe even harder.

Last but not least: Running a travel blog to gain a steady income might just be the worst business idea ever. The niche is super competitive, with ultra-low wages and little organization. It can be feasible, sure. But it is only a dream job for a very selective few. The least reason you should start one would be clicking on an affiliate link inside the shiny post of a travel blogger.

So what are your thoughts on the subject? Quit your job or work on a career? Tell me!

Why I didn't quit my job to travel the world. You don't need to start a travel blog or go couch surfing to travel the world. Here is why getting a job is better.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Great post! I’m having the impression that the digital nomad dream is getting overhyped and as the only way to have a happy life. I hope more people learn that what is the right way for one person doesn’t need to be the right way for others.

  2. Great post! I agree with you on nearly every point. I love traveling, but I also enjoy my job. Sure, if I had infinite resources, I’d probably focus a lot more on traveling than my career, but I’m not seeing a large inheritance or other windfall in my future. I also learned early on in my adult life that I don’t necessarily want to do my hobby as a job as it kind of takes the joy out of it.

    • exactly! Even though my travel blog is just a hobby it totally changed the way I travel. For example I am constantly in the need to shoot inspirational pictures of myself for instagram, which I utterly hate. lol.

  3. Thank you for this! Just what I needed to read to reassure my life choices haha. I’m your typical twenty-something American girl doing the corporate grind, yet who loves to travel. As much as I think I would love to travel full time, I’m too much of a realist (and a finance major) to give up everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve up to this point! Thankfully I get 5 weeks of vacation time plus holidays each year, so I CAN make my travel dream a reality without having to give it all up.

  4. You know I agree with you on this one! This is the common thread I’m seeing a lot of bloggers talk about – not quitting to travel!

    To be honest, most people don’t realize that I didn’t ‘quit my job to travel’ like I’m doing right now. 4 or 5 of every 7 days I spend holed up somewhere working. It’s hard work, and you’re right, it’s lonely and uncomfortable and expensive in many ways.

    Thanks for adding your voice to the ‘don’t’ choir :)

    • been reading a lot of these articles lately. even on NatGeo. And I’m seeing all these young girls reading these articles thinking to myself: gurl, you really shouldn’t make such a big, big decision on a whim. because #instafame is probably not waiting for you down that road. It’s different for an established travel blogger obviously. Run a blog for two years or more, and you probably already know what’s expecting you in the industry.

  5. Haha I totally agree with you. Though we are one of the few people traveling full time, I don’t think I would recommend it to everyone. It’s not as glamorous as it looks, and it actually is more about running a business than traveling. We wrote a post recently on how to travel (responsibly) for a living, and we always tell people to try it they want to, but it might not be the dream job they’re looking for. 99% of the time that travel bloggers are telling other people to quit their jobs and live their dream is simply to make money from them so they can continue traveling.

  6. Thank you for that!! I’m a young 23 year old mexican, I love my job (non profit organization), this Christmas will be my third time in Europe, and I only hear from my relatives “Just don’t come back, you CAN quit and travel for as long as you want”, I have to admit I’ve been considering it, and after reading your post I’m sure I want to continue with my life as it is.. Hard work, make some difference in the world and enjoy traveling in my vacations. I guess that is a brave decision as well, commit to a routine and still be happy with the life you’re living, so congratulations on that!

    • Wouldn’t call it brave, but rather decent. I mean…everyone should live his or her own life. Some are made for the constant life on the road, most probably aren’t. I like my current situation. Sure I would love to travel all the time. But for me that doesn’t work. So I’d have to work on the road – and that is..just again work :)

  7. What a lot of these Millennials are failing to realize is that not everyone is designed to be a “professional travel blogger.” The real successful bloggers out there are entrepreneurial to begin with. When you hear about their past, then you usually hear about how they learned how to identify unique opportunities that helped them make extra money – odd jobs, networking, etc. So you know that aside from blogging, they are also working hard on the side to diversify their income potential through multiple streams whatever they may be.

    But I also disagree with your points about how you can potentially block off certain career opportunities or will be “too old for some jobs” when you get back. Professional travel blogging is all about marketing and promoting your brand name, so you are really developing both your sales skills and communication skills for however long you stick with this profession. Those are both key skill sets that will help in those initial job interviews whenever you make the decision to return back home to settle.

    Furthermore, the more you travel, the more people you will meet. You are still developing your networking skills even if it isn’t in the traditional Corporate environment. Who’s to say that one of these people you meet on your journey isn’t capable of helping you tap into that hidden job market whenever you return home?

    Career advancement has nothing to do with what you know, but more about who you know. So, I wouldn’t necessarily be too concerned about being “too old” for a job whenever I got home. Is it possible? Yes, but there’s also a reason why you didn’t go for that particular job when you had the chance earlier. Maybe it really isn’t for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

    Great post! One of the most thought provoking blogs I have read in awhile.

    • Hey Ray,
      thanks for your extensive comment! I totally agree that traveling teaches you valuable lessons. But suppose you were a car mechanic working for…say BMW.The skills you learn on the road won’t be needed on the production line. All that remains is independent thinking and 1 or 2 years experience gap. Next.
      So yes I agree, long term travel opens up new opportunities. But it also closes down a couple of other ones, and it’s important that you realize this. If you are an academic, i’d say a gap year is great in most cases – but most jobs aren’t actually of that kind.

    • That example of being a BMW mechanic makes a bit more sense. Perhaps German culture is a bit more different than Canadian culture here in that aspect given that you have figured out a way to maintain a really strong manufacturing sector unlike here in Canada. For starters, we don’t have a lot of manufacturing positions here as most positions get outsourced in other areas of the world where labour is significantly cheaper. Whatever ones we do have are typically unionized, which gives you a bit more protection in terms of taking a significant leave of absence.

      Here in Canada, if you don’t have a specialized trade, like plumbing or electrical engineering, or have an academic degree in Engineering/Science, Business, teaching, Medicine or Law, then most private sector jobs here are of the Customer service nature and don’t require a lot of specialized skill sets. Our economy is heavily reliant on the United States and many jobs get outsourced. That is probably why you might see more long term Canadian travellers on the road with a more carefree attitude about career vs. travel because we know there is very little career stability here in most positions. Definitely ask any Canadian you meet on future travels to see what they say about that.

      • Manufacturing is huge here…and as for the service professions – we run a very tight system of apprenticeship, meaning you can’t just open up a hair salon – you’ll need a degree for that :)

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