Quitting your job is exhilarating. Not just because financial ruin is scary, although that almost certainly plays a role, but because not knowing the next time you have to go back to work is like having endless snow days. That excitement you had as a kid with your pjs on inside-out for good luck while waiting on a favorable verdict on your school closure, it’s still out there. It’s called quitting your job.
I have dreamed about quitting my job and traveling the world since I started my career. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy my job but rather that work simply gets in the way of a long, unplanned adventure. When you travel for weeks, it’s a “vacation.” To really go “traveling” the time should be measured in months if not years. The tricky part is finding the window where you have money, youth, and the freedom to cut and run. And then actually doing it.
The folks I’ve met at hostels in far flung corners of the globe are often traveling for an undetermined period of time. They don’t have a set course or end date. There isn’t a plan to deviate from, just endless possibilities and opportunities that they don’t even know exist yet. The hostel common area conversation inevitably turns to how long someone is traveling and where they’re going next. Until now, I’ve had to sullenly admit I’m backpacking for only a few weeks, at best. In short, vacationing with a backpack. Even when I was backpacking through Syria in 2009, it was with defeat in my voice that I admitted to a group of dusty travelers at a mountain monastery, that I was only “traveling” for another ten days. I was vacationing. It was off the beaten path but it was just too short. I wanted to go traveling, for real.
So while staring longingly out the window at a sunny day from my office I decided it was time to pull the trigger. It happened so quickly I was caught off-guard. It was almost as if someone else had just made the decision for me. Although I had been saving money, I hadn’t planned to quit and travel the world. There wasn’t a certain number I had to reach to fulfill my carefully crafted budget. There was no itinerary. There wasn’t even a first country to start the trip… But there was no mistaking it. It was time. I was going to wing it.
Cooler heads prevailed and I decided to sleep on it. The next morning, nothing had changed. I asked the boss if I could have a minute to discuss something. The conviction I felt as I sat down across from him gave me a rush of adrenaline because I knew there was no going back. You can’t quit to the boss’s face and then say, “PSYCH!” Nope. I was actually going to go through with it. I expressed gratitude for all of the career related opportunities that had been afforded to me during the last 7 years but made clear that I was leaving to travel the world. This wasn’t a negotiating tactic to ask for a higher salary or more vacation days. This was no bluff and we both knew it. He accepted my verbal resignation with a smile and a handshake. “That’s going to be one hell of an adventure. I wish I would have done that as a younger man”, he said. And that was that.
The next two weeks was simply taking care of administrative housekeeping at work to make sure that I left as gracefully as possible. After all, I wasn’t going to have enough money to travel forever so when the money eventually runs out it’d be nice to have a place to come back to where I still have some connections.
Tying up loose ends involved renting out my house and selling my car. I was able to get two renters for a year lease which covered my mortgage but took a hit on the car sale. I bought it with every intention of sticking around for a few years so selling it three months after buying it meant losing a few grand. It sucked but that is the cost of spontaneously quitting your job and leaving the country inside of three weeks. Now I just needed to pick a spot on the globe and buy a one way ticket. I decided to make the first stop, Bali Indonesia and bought my flight leaving a week later. That's the extent of planning I did. I'll figure the rest out as I go.