10 Really Good Reasons Why NOT to Quit Your Job to Travel the World

Don’t Quit Your Job to Travel the World Until You Read This

So you want to quit your job to travel the world? Or more like you wish you could quit your job to travel the world, like all those travel bloggers you follow with envy. The idea of traveling non-stop for a year or more and experiencing what life has to offer beyond work and life is appealing to so many of us – especially when we are stressed out at work and overwhelmed by life.

Decision - Quit Your Job to Travel?

Travel Bloggers Who Said I Quit

Are you likely to make the same life, family, and career decision?

The very fact that you found this blog post means you already know deep down it is not in your best interests to “jump ship” and worry about the consequences later.

Why Quitting before Retirement is a Bad Idea

The urge to leave your regular life behind and head to the airport for spontaneous adventure is both normal and healthy. Who wants to be stuck in a career path that doesn’t end until you hit age 65 (if you’re lucky!)? Life must have more to offer than year after year of work with a depressingly small amount of time off for family, travel, and enrichment.

If leaving your job responsibilities behind to travel full-time was such a good idea, more people would be doing it, right?

Yes, I wish wholeheartedly that our economic system would allow people to break free from this fixed pattern of school->work->retirement. Who wants to wait until they are much older to travel with no reservations? Perhaps one day society will allow people to work part-time and still earn a living or take a few years off without harming their career prospects and financial security. In the meantime, you have to learn how to travel as often as possible while working full-time.

So for the responsible person in all of us, I present 10 really good reasons against handing in your resignation right now to be on permanent vacation.

1. You’ll jeopardize your earning potential

Don't Quit Your Job to Travel - Why: Career

Your current salary has only one way to go – up! As you succeed at your job and gain new skills and experience, you’ll be rewarded with pay increases. Hopefully those will include inflation or cost of living increases, performance based pay increases, profit-sharing bonuses, and promotions that raise your base salary. In certain lines of work, salary increases are in line with your job level and the number of years of service at your company.

If you decide to quit your job to travel for a year or more you’ll lose not only actual earnings, but also compensation momentum at work. When you do return to the job market, will you be able to find a new job at the same level of salary as you would have been earning if you hadn’t taken an extended break?

You’ll have to explain to the recruiter or hiring manager why you left your job to travel the world when applying for a new position. You’ll also have to negotiate for a compensation and time-off benefits package that doesn’t put you back a level or two had you not temporarily given up on your career. Is it worth it?

2. You have a family to support

Don't Quit Your Job to Travel - Why: FamilyWhen you have a spouse and kids to think about, quitting your job to travel the world is probably impossible for many important reasons. Raising a family costs big money. Not to mention that your children can’t “quit” school the same way you can quit your own job. Homeschooling is always a possibility, but beyond that there are financial reasons to put family before travel.

We’re talking about home mortgages, car costs, school fees, extra-curricular activities, life and disability insurance, and the basics of clothing and feeding your entire family. You also need to save up for short-term emergencies including medical, natural disaster, or if you get laid off unexpectedly. Unless you have already saved up millions, family finance has to come before extreme travel.

By staying employed you can save up for your family’s needs now and at least until the kids have completed college. Traveling should be an important part of raising a family. However, giving up everything to travel full-time with them is not going to be realistic for the overwhelming majority of us.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be taking vacations with your family and traveling on the weekends, official school and work holidays, and during summer break to places both near and far. Travel is an essential part of every child’s education, so don’t skimp when it comes to vacations. There are so many lessons to be learned by exploring our own country and going abroad. Plus travel becomes a family bonding experience whose rewards people without children can only imagine.

Now what if you are single, have no family, and never plan to have a family? Well if you fall into that lifestyle this reason doesn’t apply to you. You are your own family so have don’t have to think about home, schooling, and supporting a family. For families, embracing the rewards of children likely means that you won’t feel secure quitting your job; at least until the kids are all grown up.

3. You won’t be able to retire on-time (or early)

Don't Quit Your Job to Travel - Why: RetirementSaving for retirement is a necessity for us all. We can’t rely on social security to pay for more than basic living expenses, so don’t expect it to fund your travel passion after retiring from work. Putting away as much money as you can afford into a retirement account is essential. The important fact you must take seriously is the power of compounding.

Your retirement investment account will be incredibly larger if you invest more in your 20’s and 30’s and not wait until your 40’s and 50’s. You’ve probably seen a similar eye-opening chart from a benefits presentation done by your HR department. It isn’t magic. Your account balance at retirement can be hundreds of thousands of dollars greater if you start early and keep investing.

401K Start Early, Retire Early Example

This example compares 2 employees who first start contributing to a 401K plan. The first is 28 and earning $40,000 per year while the second is age 35 and making a salary of $50,000. Each contributes 10% of their salary (plus a partial employee match) and gets a raise of 3% per year. Assuming a 7% rate of return, at age 65 the 28-year-old could have $372K more in their 401K account simply by starting earlier. Wow, that’s  a huge sum!

Try out the calculator yourself and see the massive difference it can make in your ability to afford to travel after retiring.

Invest 401K at Early Age Comparison Chart

Source: BankRate.com 401(k) Savings Calculator
[Disclaimer: This example or calculator is not intended to provide investment advice and is for illustrative purposes only. ]

Also remember that there are tax incentives for contributing to a retirement fund while working. By contributing the maximum amount to your retirement fund in a year as regulated by the IRS, you’ll earn more in each paycheck. Finally a majority of companies that offer a 401K plan will match your contributions up to a specific limit. Unless you are taking full advantage of your 401(K) plan match, you are jeopardizing your ability to save enough for a retirement full of boundless travel.

4. You’ll lose vacation day benefits momentum

Don't Quit Your Job to Travel - Why: HR BenefitsQuick! Take a look at the section of your HR benefits handbook that specifies paid time off. How many years do you need to work before you will automatically earn additional annual vacation days? Most companies start you off at a set number of vacation days per year like 10 days (2 weeks) or 15 days (3 weeks). In order to earn an extra vacation day or week of paid vacation, you usually have to be working at the same company for a number of years.

When you quit your job you may have to start over on the path to more weeks of vacation time off from work. Is it worth it? Reaching 3, 4, or even 5 weeks of vacation days at your place of employment is a wonderful milestone. If you have a fulfilling and rewarding job, quitting it to travel the world could mean that when you return you’ll be able to take fewer vacations than before.

In the long run is it worth it? Do the vacation math using your own situation and benefits to help you decide.

5. The world isn’t going anywhere

Don't Quit Your Job to Travel - Why: TimeTravel is not a competitive sport, so what’s the rush? It has never been easier to fly to almost any country in the world and there is no reason to believe this will change anytime soon. Yes, some destinations are at high risk from the effects of mass tourism, unrest, or environmental destruction. That is why you need to create a travel bucket list to prioritize your picks accordingly.

Venice for example experiences regular flooding and the problem may get worse (or will their massive seawall project improve things?). Islands in the South Pacific that are near sea level may not be as lucky in the coming years. So, if you are an island person, make plans to go island hopping before it is too late. As for mass tourism, there are strategies to avoid the increasing crowds at the Trevi Fountain in Rome or Time Square in New York City as prime examples. Simply time your visit to an off-peak period of the year to enjoy these iconic world destinations without elbowing your way in and out.

As for the rest of the world, you probably have decades of travel ahead of you. You don’t need to visit more countries than the next person to “win” at travel. Make a list of all the places you want to visit and take notes as you envision each ideal itinerary. You may choose to travel slowly to get to know a country inside and out or maximize every vacation day by combining multiple destinations in quick succession.

Whatever your travel style, there is plenty of time to plan, book, and travel the world one vacation-at-a-time for the rest of your life.

6. You honestly cannot afford to

Don't Quit Your Job to Travel - Why: MoneyCan you truly afford to quit your job to travel the world? Probably not despite what many travel bloggers tell you about the low cost of living in an exotic third-world country. Yes you can save up, quit your job, and earn a few bucks doing odd jobs while hopping from country to country. However that’s not all I’m talking about in this point. You may be able to afford to pay for your travels, but that is not the only cost to giving up your full-time job to become a globetrotter.

Think of all the financial responsibilities you have at home every month. Which can you give up and what are the risks? If you own a home you probably need to keep making mortgage payments, not to mention real estate taxes, insurance, and maintenance. Renting out your home may cover some of these costs if you’re lucky. Also think about the cost of keeping a health insurance plan (coverage lapses are not a good thing), life insurance, and the lost tax-free contributions to your retirement plan (see #3 above). What will you do with your car, memberships, and how about receiving mail and paying your bills while far away from home?

Remember that you won’t earn a salary as long as you don’t have a job. Upon your return home how long will it take to find a new job and make up that loss? So while you can probably afford to travel the world if you save up, the true cost to your long-term wealth is much much higher.

7. Travel is more enjoyable when you plan ahead

Don't Quit Your Job to Travel - Why: EnjoymentThe idea of being on permanent vacation moving from country to country is thrilling. If it wasn’t you wouldn’t be having these fantasies. The reality is that you may not enjoy the hardships of non-stop travel. We aren’t talking about a packaged tour where a bus or cruise ship takes you from place to place and all you have to do is show up. Traveling around the world without a plan is a mentally and physically challenging endeavor that shouldn’t be taken on lightly.

I’m a planner in life and a planner when it comes to taking vacations with my amazing wife. While I research, optimize, book, and build the perfect trip itinerary, she photographs and documents our vacations over at SidewalkSafari.com. It is a perfect complement of talents. We know that we wouldn’t be as happy if we were traveling the world with no plan and without a home or job to return to.

Vacations are much more enjoyable when you know more about where you are going before you arrive. Not to mention that we all want to be smart with our vacation budget while traveling safely. Learning at least a few words of a foreign language and insights into local customs is also an essential element of planning ahead. Planning a trip includes booking the perfect hotel, getting tickets for a special event, knowing what not to miss, and at the same time getting the most value for your money. All this preparation makes each and every trip we take that much more enjoyable, rewarding, and amazing.

When we have achieved all that we planned and hoped for on vacation, we can return to the comfort of our own home and reflect upon the experience. After spending so much time and money on travel, we want to ensure that every trip is memorable by blogging and sharing the stories with family and friends. While I think I’d want to be on the no-collar team like on the TV show Survivor, in reality I prefer the white-collar or blue-collar approach to work, life, and travel.

8. You can’t legally live anywhere you choose

Don't Quit Your Job to Travel - Why: LegalWith a U.S. passport you can visit a whopping 174 countries and territories around the world without a visa or by getting an automatic visa upon arrival. That’s incredible and it makes travel easier than ever. It’s not just U.S. citizens but also holders of passports from most European countries including the UK, Germany, Sweden, and Finland that rank at the top of the Visa Restrictions Index. However just because you can visit a place on vacation doesn’t mean you can live or work there legally.

There is an immigration issue to contend with if you plan on traveling around the world without doing your legal homework. The total number of days that you can remain in each country varies greatly. Visa-free travel is only for leisure and holiday purposes and it is against the law to overstay your visa or to engage in paid work without a visa. So your notion of renting a beach bungalow or city apartment and spending several months becoming a temporary local may not be permissible.  Neither is getting a job at an expat bar or selling your web skills to local businesses.

You’ll have to review the immigration laws in advance and seek out the necessary visa or approval, not to mention dealing with the requisite bureaucracy that’s ever present. With normal vacation travel, you’ll rarely have to worry about visas and the risk of being denied permission to remain in any one country for a reasonable period.

9. Personal and family health care

Don't Quit Your Job to Travel - Why: HealthFor health reasons it may not be prudent to be traveling non-stop. You may have your own medical condition that requires doctors’ visits and regular follow-on care. Perhaps you have an ailing family member who you want to help and keep an eye on. It is much easier to come back early from a 2-week trip for health reasons than when you leave it all behind to travel the world.

If you do decide to quit your job despite health concerns, make sure to purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy. The coverage can be for you and your family and pay for doctor visits and hospitalization when in a foreign country. Depending upon the length of your trip, a travel insurance policy could reimburse you to cut a trip short when a family member becomes ill or passes away. It can be very costly to seek treatment abroad or fly home to seek treatment for yourself or a family member, so global health insurance is essential if you ever quit your job to travel the world.

10. You already have more time off to travel than you think

Don't Quit Your Job to Travel - Why: Time-OffVacationCounts readers will already know about #10. We all have more time off from work than we realize when we learn how to optimize our work-life-vacation balance. You’ll just have to adjust your mindset and travel the world country by country and vacation by vacation. Make a travel bucket list, save up to take more vacations each year, research destinations you wish to visit, and go!

Our blog is full of advice posts that help you to maximize your limited time off from work and life so you can travel more. You really can learn how to travel the world now and forever without quitting your day job. I think you’ll find this approach to travel to be a better fit for your work, life, and travel happiness goals.

Let us know why you decided NOT to quit your job, but still make the time to travel the world one vacation at a time (include your comment below).  Also join the movement to take more vacation time off work and life by subscribing to our free blog email newsletter.

  • Edens says:

    Thanks for your great post! I did quit my full-time job, but I work part-time and travel part-time.

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