So, I’ve come home. I’ve returned to Portland, Oregon. The place I lived before I started my 3 year and 3 month journey around the world. During my journey, I visited most of the countries in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Mexico (most based out of San Miguel de Allende), Guatemala, Costa Rica, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia, Greece, England, Scotland, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Iceland.
After three years, I realized that I was ready to find home again. While San Miguel de Allende, Mexico felt like a second home, I realized, it didn’t feel like my first home. I did try to move back to Hawaii, but with the expensive cost of living, I realized I didn’t want to work every minute of my life to afford it. It took me a while, but I finally realized that the place that most felt like home for me was where I had lived before starting this journey, so I returned.
What’s interesting to me is, now that I’m back, many people say to me, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” I look at them a little dumbfounded because I don’t understand. If they’ve always wanted to do that, then why haven’t they? With a
little planning (ok, a lot), they could do it, too. And, so can you. But, there are some things you should know before quitting your job to travel the world. Here are the things I wish someone had told me.
10 Things You Should Know Before Quitting Your Job To Travel The World
1. Know Your Reasons For Wanting To Travel (Don’t Use Travel As A Distraction)
I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacations with better care than they plan their lives. Perhaps that is because escape is easier than change.” -Jim Rohn
I think this is the #1 think to do before quitting your job to travel the world. If you are unhappy in your life, quitting your job to travel isn’t going to fix that. I invite you to take a look at your life and look at the reasons you are unhappy. Maybe, you just hate your job and see travel as a way out.
While travel can be a great break for you between jobs, I invite you to think about what kind of work you would enjoy. There are lots of great English teaching jobs in Taiwan, for instance. Maybe, you spend some of your time on the road in a place where it’s cheaper to live to create your own business. That’s what I did. While traveling, I started 3 websites, and I wrote a book. Doing these things gave me some skills that I will be using in my next job. Plus, it gave me some purpose.
I see so many people who want to travel because they want to check things off their bucket list. And, while it’s a great goal to see places you’ve always wanted to see, I urge you to also do this in your daily life. I think many of us see travel as an escape because we aren’t really doing that much with our daily lives.
But, instead of watching yet other Netflix flick or surfing Facebook, why not spending some time exploring the things around you where you live? Join a Meetup group, or learn a new language. If you’re bored at home, you will get bored when traveling. Only now, it will be a lot more stressful.
If your work left you feeling like you weren’t living your purpose, lying on a beach somewhere isn’t going to leave you feeling like you have a purpose, either. So, don’t think travel will fix all your problems. It won’t. Don’t travel because you are running away from something. Travel won’t help you find meaning in life, or solve your problem of work, or show you your purpose.
Travel because you are running towards something. If you want your life to have meaning and purpose, a trip to Bali isn’t going to do that. But, taking the time to look at your life and figuring out what you want it to look like, and then taking action to create that will give you what you want. Using your time wisely while you travel will help you get the most from it. My article, “How To Live A Life You Don’t Need A Vacation From“, gives tips on how to create a better life every day.
The other thing I recommend before quitting your job to travel the world long-term is to travel short-term first. For instance, before selling everything I owned and quitting my job to travel, I first took a two-month leave of absence to travel. I’m glad I did.
While my first plan had been to travel around and house sit, I realized that after two months I got pretty tired of constant travel. So, I made the decision to have home bases in both Mexico and Thailand while I traveled around those areas. I loved traveling for a month or two, but having a home to rest at in between travels.
2. Always Have Enough Money For A Plane Ticket Home
I know some people who are traveling full-time seem to only have enough money for the next destination, but I’m glad I didn’t travel that way. There were times like in Sri Lanka where I didn’t feel safe, in Bali when I got bit by a dog, and in Costa Rica when I went to a place to volunteer and where the situation wound up being awful where I was glad I had money to leave. Make sure to put some funds aside for a last-minute hotel, too. I’ve had a couple of situations where the accommodations wound up being terrible, and I was grateful for Booking.com to find a nice hotel room at a decent price at the last-minute.
Also, take a lot more money than you think you will need. While it is possible to travel for free, you still need money for food and other expenses. The article I wrote, “How To Save Money To Travel Anywhere”, has some good suggestions for saving money to travel.
3. You Can’t Escape Yourself
“I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ah, the great escape. Those glossy travel brochures try to convince you that travel is the perfect escape from everything. But, you can’t escape yourself. And, you are going to find yourself with yourself and by yourself a lot. And, you know what? That’s awesome! Don’t let travel turn into a distraction where the next big thing to run and see takes you away from learning more about you.
Seriously, the best moments of my travel weren’t spent on a gorgeous beach. (Well, one of them was. On Koh Rong Samloem, which had no WiFi, and it was off-season, so there weren’t many people around, so I spent most of my days meditating and figuring out what I wanted my life to look like.)
The best moments of my travels were spent with the healers in Bali, Mexico, Nepal, Guatemala, and Chiang Mai working on myself to become the person I wanted to be. It was taking Tibetan singing bowl lessons in Nepal where I learned how much sound can bring healing and wholeness. It was the community I found in Bali and in Mexico and those friends I made. It was dancing together. And, it was leading a group of friends home to my rooftop in Mexico at 6 am after we had been up all night watching a fireworks celebration. It was watching the sun come up over freshly squeezed orange juice, champagne, and breakfast.
The best moments were watching more consciously how I wanted to show up in the world, and how I wanted to interact with people. And, choosing that. I think that’s what travel is good for. We often get so involved in the routine of daily life, that is doesn’t leave us time for introspection as to what we want our lives to look like. Travel let me do that, and it has allowed me to create the life I want to live. And for that, I am so very grateful.
4. Travel Isn’t Comfortable
Nope. Not even close. Getting from one place to another is hard work. It can be exhausting and stressful. One day, you will find yourself on an overcrowded boat in Thailand while someone throws up over your shoulder. The next day, you find yourself at an airport on a remote island in Indonesia, and no one at the airport seems to know how you can buy a ticket to leave. (Thank goodness for the worker at the airport whose aunt was a travel agent who came to the airport to sell me my handwritten ticket!)
The great thing is, quitting your job to travel will teach you some great skills. You will learn how to come up with a Plan A-Z for every possible situation. You will learn to be more flexible and patient, or you will be miserable. You will be grateful for the smallest things: a meal that doesn’t involve eating dog, central heating, air conditioning, fast WiFi, a driver that doesn’t try to kidnap you from the airport, and so many other small things that you used to take for granted. I have definitely grown as a person by getting out of my comfort zone, and so will you.
5. You Will Be Lonely
Sometimes (A Lot)
Sure, it seems glamorous to meet a perfect stranger and spend all night chatting, but the reality is you may never see them again. That gets lonely after a while. I am definitely glad that I created some home bases to spend my time in, as I was able to create a community of people. But, the reality is, last year, I still spent Christmas alone. Expats come and go, so there is no guarantee that the friends you make will still be around a few months later.
The great thing is I truly learned how to enjoy my own company. I learned how to spend time with myself. I learned what my strengths and weaknesses were. I also learned not to take for granted the people who cross my path. I became a better listener when I was around people, and learned to be more in the moment and more present with them. Having others to connect with is no longer something I take for granted, and I now cherish every interaction that I have with others.
6. Lots Of Magic Will Occur
Some of the best memories from my travel experiences, all involve magical things that happened. Like, the time that I was the only visitor at the only hotel on Kai Island in Indonesia. Just as I was starting to feel lonely, as I was eating a huge spread of food at a table set for one, the lights went out. I sat outside in complete darkness, a dark so dark I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.
Bats whirred around my head, and I just sat there appreciating the beauty that was. I listened to the lapping waves of the ocean. I truly tasted the food set in front of me, and then the owner came and lit a cigarette lighter that he held above my head, so I didn’t have to eat in the dark. We didn’t even speak the same language, but in that moment, I knew how truly cared for I was, and that I was never really alone.
Or the time, I stomped through mud puddles in pouring rain, looking for my hotel after I had gotten off the bus. I was on the verge of tears, tired and drenched, and no clue about where I was. Some Italians stopped and asked in perfect English if I was lost, and even though we were VERY FAR from my hotel, they had me get in their car and they took me there. Learning to rely on the kindness of strangers has been the biggest magic of all, and I now try daily to be that kind stranger for others, too.
7. Instagram Is A Lie (Pinterest, Too!)
Baikal lake is incredible! At this point it is about 1,5 km deep! I made this photo with my favourite vertorama technique. It is a two row panorama of horizontal shots, the lower 2 shots I pointed camera almost straight down and focused on cracks. For the upper row I focused on mountain (Olkhon island) already.
A photo posted by Daniel Kordan (@danielkordan) on
While there is some amazing travel photography on Instagram and Pinterest, if seeing these places is your main reason for traveling, you will be disappointed. People edit and enhance these photos, and they aren’t going to be what you actually see when you get there. And, they definitely don’t show all the other people who came to see the same sights you did.
While I feel grateful to see some of the things I have, I’ve learned I’m much happier on a remote mountain trail than I am standing on a platform to see the same thing that hundreds of other people came to see. When planning your trip, definitely go for the experiences over the touristy things.
Waking up early for sunrise in Nagarkot, where I was above the clouds and got to see Mt. Everest. One of the best experiences ever. (Even with other people around.) Getting to experience Dia de Muertos in Mexico and learning more about the Mexican culture. Yes! Going to the Cinque de Terre because of all the pretty pictures I saw? What an overcrowded, terrible nightmare of a place!
8. It’s Not About The Sights
“It is a big world, full of things that steal your breath and fill your belly with fire…But where you go when you leave isn’t as important as where you go when you come home.” ― Lindsay Eagar,
The great news about quitting your job to travel the world is the best part of your travels won’t be the things you saw. Travel is very much like the rest of life. Your life isn’t made great by the things you buy. It’s made great by the magic that happens. When you travel, remember, you are not there to check off a list.
Allow time to be spontaneous. If you meet someone, and they invite you to join them at the exhibit of extinct unicorns, jump on their rainbow and ride. If you spot a restaurant that you have a good feeling about, but weren’t planning on going to, try it. Travel is a time to throw those useless plans of yours out the window, and to let life come to you. And, perhaps, that is the biggest gift travel has given me. I’ve learned to stop trying to control life. It will just laugh at you anyway. I now choose to let it show up, exactly like it wants, and I just come along for the ride.
9. You Will Come Back Different Than You Were Before
“There is a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed.” – Kate Douglas Wiggin,
If you don’t, then you’re doing it wrong.
10. Coming Back Won’t Be Easy (You Will Have An Identity Crisis)
“It was his home now. But it could not be his home till he had gone from it and returned to it. Now he was the Prodigal Son.” ― G.K. Chesterton
It’s true. When you’re not traveling, you get used to being spontaneous, and you have less of a routine. When you come back to an every day life it’s hard. Plus, you’re different. You’re possibly still thinking in a different language, and you have to remember not to speak Spanish to anyone who seems like they are from a different country. No, they don’t speak Thai, either. Where are you again? And, oh my god, there are so many choices for milk. 9,000 brands and all of them made from 8,000 kinds of nuts or animals. And, people are eating flour out of crickets now? Are we starving? Why does it take you an hour to walk through the grocery store?
And, who are you again? You were that girl who didn’t flinch when sharks circled you in Raja Ampat, and you let a scorpion live in your wine cabinet in Mexico, and you managed to get yourself half way around the world in one piece, but you’re back and now you suddenly can’t remember to take out the trash or fill your car up with gas. And, the friends you had are talking about the TV shows they watch, and you haven’t seen an American TV show in years. And, why are people so fascinated by watching people pretend and replicate real life? We live in a real life every day.
Yes, coming back to “real life” wasn’t easy at first. But, I realized something. Travel is what made me who I am today, and I don’t have to stop being that person. I can choose to live my life differently than I did before.
I can make every day an adventure. I can look for the magic things that happen in every moment of my life. It doesn’t have to be in some exotic place (where the mosquitoes thrive). I can realize that most things in life aren’t so important that I can’t be spontaneous for a minute. I can be the one to invite a stranger to the unicorn museum, and I can be the one to realize that somewhere over the rainbow was always me all along.
“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”
― L. Frank Baum,