A few days ago, I left the job I'd been working at for the past four years...for the second time.
The first time was back in 2014, before I spent eight and a half months backpacking across Asia. Over the course of 11 different countries, I discovered deep truths about myself, and the world around me. I fell in love with some of the best cuisines in existence, and and met people from over 100 nations. I saw some of the most beautiful (and ugliest) destinations on Earth, and visited sites that most people only dream of. Some might call it a "trip of a lifetime." Only I knew I didn't want it to be a one-and-done.
So I saved up some money, renewed my passport, got a couple of visas, and put in my two weeks notice. My sights are set on New Zealand, where I intend to live for a year. Along the way, I have trips planned to a few exciting destinations, the first being Egypt.
People have asked me, "Why are you doing this?" The truth is, I’m not entirely sure. I simply have a passion for exploring and discovering different cultures and regions, and don’t want to be stuck at a desk job for decades at a time. Perhaps a better thing for people to ask themselves is “Why am I NOT doing this?” Which brings us to the second question:
“How are you doing this?” Well, as someone with no dependents or major financial burdens holding me back, very easily. I simply wait for my apartment lease to expire, save up some money, buy a plane ticket, and go. It’s that simple. Your family and friends will likely still be there when you return. Withstanding an economic collapse in your wake, there will probably be employment opportunities upon your return as well. You know what won’t be around when you return? Time. It will pass, whether you are sitting at a cubicle, or wandering around the Amazon rainforest.
That’s not to say one should be stupid about leaving one’s job. For instance, when I first traveled around the world, I spent around damn near every penny I had. I returned to New Jersey, broke, and had to crash on friends’ couches for several weeks before getting back on my feet. Since then, I have learned better financial habits, and have saved up a solid emergency fund, on top of what I’ve set aside for travel. Quitting your job to travel doesn’t need to be a risky, brash decision. Plan ahead (but not too much!)!
If you have no dependents, some extra savings, and want to see the world, traveling is a no-brainer. Regardless of what society might tell us, we are not beholden to our jobs. Chances are, your company has hired you to use you to make money, and you have taken the job for a similar reason. It's all business, not personal. Unfortunately, people often feel like they "owe" something to their employers, neglecting to realize that most businesses will kick you to the curb as soon as you are no longer profitable for them. Life is too short to not pursue your passions and dreams.
So to sum up, here is how to quit your job to travel (assuming you are in a position to be able to do so). Step 1: Take a deep breath. Step 2: Do it. Step 3: Profit. Step 4: Repeat.
Here's wishing all of my loyal readers the best on your future travels. It's a pleasure being back!
Time to learn a little bit about me: I'm a HUGE film buff. There was no way in hell I'd fly to a distant country without having reliable access to movies. I made sure to bring my laptop and headphones, and was ready to watch Netflix to my heart's content.
The one thing I didn't account for, was that Netflix is not available in most countries, including those in Southeast Asia. However, I have watched quite a few movies during my travels - on Netflix - and I will teach you how to do the same. There are two very simple ways to access Netflix (and all other websites that aren't available everywhere) that I'll touch upon. Both are VPN services, which "trick" Netflix into thinking you are in the United States, United Kingdom, or whatever country you want. Obviously, you will also need a paid subscription to the various website(s) you are trying to access.
Method 1 (free method) - If you have a laptop with Google Chrome or Netflix, download the plug-in called Hola. Simply install it, then pick the country of your choice to begin watching. Note, I have found this app to greatly slow the internet down. It also only works for laptops.
Method 2 - If you are OK signing up for a paid service, check out Unblock-US. It does not slow down your laptop like Hola does. Additionally, you can set up multiple devices (laptop, mobile, video game system) with it. It costs $4.99 per month, but you can sign up for a free one-week trial.
These are the two programs I have used; I'm sure there are hundreds of VPN services available online. If you feel like getting the best of the best, do some research before choosing one.
Before leaving the United States, I thankfully did research on how much "stuff" to bring on my trip. With the exception of my guitar (which I admit, is fairly difficult to carry around), the only thing I brought with me was a backpack. It cost me $54 on Amazon.com, and has yet to disappoint me. Unless you are bringing specialty gear (hiking boots, camping gear, etc.) you do not need a large backpack. Mine is a standard 40-liter bag, with more than enough room.
So, what content is in this wonderful bag of mine? Clothing, a laptop, a notebook, and a few toiletries. For my trip, I packed:
3 shirts (2 t-shirts, 1 button-up)
2 pairs of shorts
1 pair of long pants
1 pair of pajama pants
5 pairs of underwear
2 pairs of socks
1 pair of shoes
This is more than enough clothing to travel with. It is very inexpensive to do laundry in Southeast Asia ($2-4 per load). In my opinion, washing your clothes on a frequent basis is FAR less annoying than carrying extraneous weight.
Some days I wish my laptop was lighter. It doesn't seem that heavy until you factor in a charger and surge protector, then add it to your increasingly widening backpack. I love my durable Thinkpad. However, a small netbook or even Ipad will suit the average traveler perfectly.
Toiletries should be kept to a minimum. It is actually cheaper to buy most toiletries in Southeast Asia, so don't bring soap, shampoo, deodorant and tubes of toothpaste (well, maybe a small one for the plane). Besides the fact that you will save money, it will also force you to choose what your essential items are. Do you have room for hair-styling gel? Depends on how much of a strain your back is feeling.
Other "essentials" to leave at home: a towel (most guesthouses/hotels provide one free of charge), blanket (same), and pillow (unless it's one of those comfy ones for your neck). I learned my lesson from visiting Israel back in January. I did my back no favors, and vowed to pack just the bare minimum for Southeast Asia. This is a very hot region of the world, so you won't be needing coats, jackets, sweaters, etc.
Finally, if you'd like to carry a book with you, keep it to ONE book at a time! You can always trade it in to a used bookstore and buy a new one. Right now I have three books in my bag (as soon as I finish this monstrosity of a J.K. Rowling novel, off to the bookstore it goes), and they add a lot of unnecessary weight.
Before starting my trip, I booked a one-month stay in a single room in Bangkok. Phiman Riverview Guesthouse was indeed an awesome place. However, I have since learned that my initial method of accommodation-seeking was not as inexpensive as it could have been. Here, I will try to break down some of the ways I have found cheap accommodation, and highlight some common mistakes.
My first mistake was booking a single room. While extremely private and comfortable, it dramatically inflates your living costs. For my first 30 days, I paid over $9 per day, just to have a single room. It did not seem like a lot, until I realized a mixed dorm at the same guesthouse cost roughly half the price. Unless a single room is extremely important to you, or you are traveling with someone (hence, being able to split the cost of a room), I'd recommend going for the mixed dorms. Not only is it way cheaper, you will also meet more people using this method. It's easy to sit in your room alone all day, but dorms force you to meet other cool travelers. Most guesthouses even offer some sort of locker to stash your valuable belongings!
It took me a while to realize that Booking.com is not the only site for booking hostels. In fact, it is rarely the cheapest site. Up until now, I had been booking stays only through Booking.com. My current guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia cost $5 per night. Turns out if you go to Hostelworld.com, there's a hostel available for only $2 per night! If you are booking in advance, browse multiple websites. Some of these include: Booking.com, Hostebookers.com and Hostelworld.com. You can even head to Hostelz.com, which searches multiple booking companies and gives you the best deal. However, I have found that it is not always up to date with the cheapest rates. Search at least three or four different websites; you will be surprised that what is advertised on one, is not always available on the others.
If you are adventurous and have time to burn, you may want to simply skip booking websites. It is generally cheaper to book directly at a guesthouse, and you can sometimes haggle the price down. One of my cheapest island stays in Thailand came from booking a bungalow in person (albeit we split the cost between three people). Downsides to this method do exist. Booking websites have user reviews, so you can find a highly-rated place without worrying about "surprises." You may also miss out on an affordable gem if it's off the beaten path.
While it may only seem like a few dollars at first, saving on accommodation is VERY important for budget traveling. This stuff adds up fast. If you save $2-3 per night during a six-month trip, you'll have an extra $300-600. That's potentially an entire month of travel in Southeast Asia! It's definitely worth it to take the extra time, especially if you have lots of it.
Two more countries, Australia and Bhutan, have been added to the "Nationalities I've Met" page, bringing the total to 25!
If anyone has told you that traveling is really expensive, ignore them. Traveling can be as cheap or costly as you'd like, particularly in the affordable region of Southeast Asia. All it takes is some motivated saving, which I'll teach you how to do.
For starters, I saved roughly $6000 in 1-2 years for my travels. Why 1-2, you might ask? Well, I did use about $1500 that I'd already saved before I decided to travel. However, most of the money was saved within a year's time. So where did the other $4500 come from? Automated savings.
If you think I quit some high paying job, you're wrong. I was making a very modest salary, actually, just above minimum wage. When every dollar counts, it can be tough saving money. That's where automated savings comes in.
I used Smartypig.com, an online-only savings account, with a fairly competitive interest rate. On Smartypig, you can create as many different savings goals as you'd like. Then you link your checking account to Smartypig, and choose a savings plan. Let's say you get paid every two weeks, and want to save $150 out of every paycheck. You just start a savings goal called "travelling," and tell Smartypig to withdraw $150 every two weeks. This way, you never forget to pay your savings account. You sock away money in a clean, automatic fashion, plus you get an estimated date of meeting your goal!
For example, you decide to save a minimum of $150 from each paycheck, assuming you are paid bi-weekly. That equals 26 paychecks per year:
26 x $150 = $3900
I recommend setting a minimum savings amount per paycheck. Then, on top of that, save any extra money you have left at the end of the month. For example, tell yourself that if your checking account is over $1000 when a given month ends, you will stash every dollar over. So if you have a balance of $1200 on June 1st, you add an additional $200 to your savings account. Every dollar counts. If, for example, you are able to save an average of $50 extra from each paycheck, your savings all of a sudden becomes:
26 x $200 = $5200
Big difference, right? It's all about prioritizing your money for travel. If you receive a birthday or Christmas gift, try to add at least half of it to your savings account. If you can, try to supplement your income with a part-time job. Eat out at restaurants twice a week instead of every day! Honestly, I wasn't eating ramen noodles each meal in order to save. I simply stuck to my plan. The minor changes add up. Saving $25 doesn't seem like a big deal at the time, until you do it 20 times and get to stay another month in a country.
I understand that sometimes you simply cannot save much. In a circumstance where you cannot afford to put away $100 or more per paycheck, just take your time. There is no shame in saving $50 or even $25 every two weeks. It may take longer, but you will eventually accomplish your goal. Also, for whatever reason you may not want to travel for six months straight. If you are on a tight budget, and wanted to go for one month instead of 6:
26 x $75 = $1950
Honestly, $2000 is more than enough for a round trip plane ticket to Thailand, plus a full month's stay. All from saving just $75 per paycheck.
If you can save even more from your job, power to you! Extend your trip to six months, a year, even two years! If you really want to travel, but cannot save much, save anyway - $10 here, $25 there, etc. It's far too easy to underestimate the power of saving. You can do it, and it will have been worth it!
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write movies and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.