Last month I was talking to another blogger about our travels, our round-the-world trips and our travel blogging story, and during that conversation I realized that my five-year anniversary of quitting my job would come up on 1 February. I told my friend ‘Five years ago, I would have never thought I’d be still traveling the world, and much less so that I’d be writing about it and making money from it!‘ Later that night I thought about how true that statement actually was – I didn’t even know if I’d last a full year of traveling, and when I quit my job on 1 February 2010, I had no idea that I’d be documenting my travels here. I didn’t even know what a travel blog was! And yet, half a decade later, I am still traveling. So how did I got here?
The decision to quit
It had been a particularly long and dreary winter, the first year that London had seen a considerable amount of snow in years – and barely anyone I knew in London owned proper winter clothes (including me), because the winters are usually relatively mild compared to Continental Europe. My relationship was going through a rough patch, and I felt restless. I was turning thirty later that year and felt like something was missing in my life, but I couldn’t point a finger on what it was. I wasn’t happy in my job, but still, the decision to quit came completely on a whim.
I had no plans to travel the world. I had no considerable amount of money in the bank. No real savings. I had finally moved into an apartment that I loved; after looking for a decent place to live for over two years (anybody who has ever lived in London knows how hard it is to find a nice apartment).
And yet I resigned from my job and announced I’d take some time off to travel. A completely spontaneous decision. I’d always loved to travel, and London had been the perfect base to hop around Europe and explore the UK but I had never been on a long-term trip or even backpacked. My trips had always been safe, well-organized, close to home and never longer than two weeks (that was the maximum time I could get off work at a time).
I remember my colleagues asking me about my travel plans after I had resigned, and most of them had done some backpacking or gone on a round-the-world trip, which is a common thing in Britain, especially if you’re in your late twenties and have some money in the bank. As for my own travel plans, I didn’t even know what to tell them because I had no plans whatsoever, not even a plane ticket, only some rough ideas. I wanted to see more of the U.S., I wanted to go to Latin America, to Australia and New Zealand.
After cleaning out my desk I typed up the cancellation letter for my landlord which I put in his mailbox later that day, meaning I’d be homeless four weeks later.
Even though I had no idea where I was going and knew I’d be homeless shortly, I was completely calm for the first time in weeks. I knew I had made the right decision, despite most of my friends and colleagues thinking I was crazy (or: that I had lost my mind). I just followed a gut feeling, and I didn’t doubt my decision.
I’ve never looked back once.
I have to admit that even though I didn’t have a lot of money saved, I had the offer to freelance for my former boss who had set up his own business a few months prior, and who I loved to work with (him leaving the company I worked for was definitely the catalyst for me quitting my job) and who had even offered me a permanent position in his new firm. I guess it is much easier to make the decision to quit and go travel if you have a safety net like this to fall back on. Most people who I’ve met over the years who went on a round-the-world trip had saved for years and meticulously planned every step of the way. I hadn’t done any of this.
When I made the decision to go on a round-the-world trip, I didn’t even know if I would like long-term travel, if I’d be okay with only a backpack full of clothes (I was used to taking 20 kilos of luggage on a 2-week vacation), if I could just travel into the unknown without much planning as opposed to the well planned trips that I usually went on, where I would have every day mapped out from start to finish. Maybe I’d call it quits after three months.
Journey into the unknown
As far as planning went, my girlfriend* and I purchased a one-way ticket from London to Las Vegas, craving sun and hot weather and fantasizing about a classic south-west road trip. We tied up a few loose ends in London, stored the few belongings we decided to keep at my mom’s house in Germany, spent some time back home with our families because we didn’t know when we’d see them again, and hit the road at the end of April.
We set up the blog about a week before we left, wanting to document our trip and have an outlet for the things we were passionate about – photography (me) and writing (J).
I remember that I had my mind blown when I set up a Twitter account and a Facebook Page and came across dozens of other people with similar stories and journeys. Until then, I thought we were doing something extraordinary, but that feeling faded quickly when we joined the well-worn backpacking path through Latin America after a three-month road trip through the U.S. – there were so many backpackers everywhere, and I wasn’t doing anything special at all!
When we were traveling through Mexico, about four months into the trip, I already knew that there was no way that this could only last a year. I had taken to traveling like a duck to water and I just wanted to keep going.
We had adapted to slow travel early on, both of us freelancing and in need of work time in addition to travel & explore time. Which is why we became hooked on housesitting right from the beginning. It provided us with the comforts of having a home for a while, being able to unpack our bags, cook for ourselves and have a routine again. Every time we were burned out from traveling to fast, we’d recharge our batteries during a long-term housesit.
Addicted to travel
The longer I traveled, the more places I wanted to see. The travel bug had hit me big time. Of course it was not always easy to maintain a healthy travel and work balance, but I loved working on my own terms, whenever I wanted and if possible from a hammock.
The longer we traveled, the more became sharing our stories and photos here on Globetrottergirls a part of it. What had started as a side project had suddenly started to make us money, and we began to invest more time in it. The more time we invested, the more it paid off (quite literally), and so we both quit our freelance jobs eventually, deciding to focus entirely on Globetrottergirls. I am still amazed that this little website turned into a full-time job, but to be honest, I have never been as passionate about anything as I have been about Globetrottergirls – even after nearly five years, I am still excited to turn on my laptop every morning and to see what’s waiting for me in my inbox, or to simply write. I’ve never held any job for as long as I’ve been running this site, and I feel blessed that I am able to do what I am most passionate about. However, when I left the office on that 1 February 2010, I didn’t have the slightest idea (or even a gut feeling) that I wouldn’t be returning to the corporate world.
I felt like I was living the dream until my relationship ended after 7.5 years, nearly four of which we spent roaming the globe and building our business together. The break-up was a rude awakening last year, and a harsh reminder that living the life of your dreams can’t protect you from failing sometimes, but I guess that’s part of life. You make mistakes, you learn from them. You fall, you fail, you pick yourself up again. I know that I won’t make the same mistakes again, and I learned that I was able to pick myself up from a situation that I thought was going to kill me. I had an amazing time traveling with her, and we sure experienced some unforgettable travel highlights together, but the end of our relationship just showed me that travel can’t save everything, in my case a relationship with cracks. If you think traveling will solve your problems – it won’t. That said, I wouldn’t want to miss any of our travels together and will never stop loving her for the amazing person she is.It’s been about a year now since the break-up, and not only have I recovered from it and moved on, but I also came to the conclusion that it was the right thing for us. And that I still wanted to travel, with or without her. And so I kept traveling. Transitioning from couple travel into solo travel has been easier than expected, I truly enjoy it. I can’t see myself doing anything else – for now. After nearly five years, I’ve still got major wanderlust (even though I get tired sometimes, which you know if you read yesterday’s post) and there are still so many places to explore. Hell, I haven’t even made it to Australia and New Zealand yet, even though they were part of my original round-the-world trip wish list back in 2010.
Running Globetrottergirls on my own for a few months now has been more challenging than I thought (I am basically doing the same job that was split between two people before) but the feedback I’ve gotten has also been more rewarding than ever before. Like I’ve said before – I’ve never held any other job as long as I’ve been running this site. I intend on growing it further, and am curious to see where it leads me.
Five years ago, when I quit my job, I had no idea where I’d be today, half a decade later, but I certainly didn’t expect to still be traveling the world. I’ve never regretted switching my career for a life of travel, even though I probably earn fifty percent less than what I used to make, and don’t get any paid vacation and sick days anymore. I wouldn’t want to trade my life for anything in the world. I have no clue where I’ll be in five years, but I can’t wait to find out.
10 Lessons I’ve learned from quitting my job to travel the world:
1. Traveling the world will change you
I couldn’t have made a better decision than traveling the world, because it changed me and my perspective on things so much. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the person who I had become over the years, and my years of travel have helped me transform and become the person I want to be. Especially traveling to challenging countries like India was eye-opening for me.
2. You need much less than you think
And with that I mean ‘stuff’. I used to be a bit of a hoarder, and spent much of my paycheck on things I wanted but didn’t really need. After living out of my backpack for nearly five years, I am amazed to see how little I actually need. My mother, who has been storing the few belongings that I kept, for five years now, suggested I should just throw everything out because ‘what you don’t need in five years, you’ll probably never need again.’
3. Traveling the world enriches your life
I can’t even imagine my life without all the crazy, beautiful, mind-blowing, life-altering moments I’ve experienced on my travels. The people I’ve met, the lives I’ve seen, the cultures I’ve gotten to know. My horizons have been broadened on so many levels: from foreign cuisines to cultural heritage, understanding of history and political situations, knowledge that no book can give you. For this reason alone I think it’s worth taking a year off to travel – it doesn’t have to be an indefinite journey like mine.
4. Traveling the world doesn’t solve your problems.
If you quit your job and travel the world because you’re running away from problems you have back home, traveling doesn’t necessarily solve them. It might put them on hold for a while, but they might not have disappeared when you get back.
5. Everything will fall into place.
This goes for both traveling and career – before I started traveling, I was always worried about anything and everything. Traveling has made me a much calmer, laid back person. I stopped worrying so much, and I now I just know that everything will fall into place – be it travel plans, work or generally the rest of my life.
6. It is possible to live an unconventional life.
Before I quit my job, I never thought there was another way to live your life other than the way prescribed by society: a 9-to-5 job, climbing the career ladder, getting a mortgage, a couple of weeks vacation time per year, wait until retirement to start living. My years of traveling have shown me more ways to live a nonconforming life than I could’ve ever imagined.
7. Money isn’t everything
As I said: I am now earning less money than I used to earn when I spent the majority of my week in an open plant office. And while I earned more money back then, I wasn’t happy with the way I spent my life. I’ve learned that I need much less money than I always thought I needed, and I’ve learned that money can’t buy you happiness.
8. Taking risks pays off.
My biggest risk was shutting the door to my old career. I didn’t shut that door all too long ago, but I needed to just jump into Globetrottergirls with both feet to make it work.
9. Traveling the world can turn into a career, or change your current career
In my case, it has been this website, but I know many others who came home after a one-year trip and realized that their career wasn’t for them anymore, that they wanted to do something different with their lives. It’s not a failure to give up a well-paid job for something your passionate about.
10. Quitting your job to travel the world is nothing you’ll ever regret.
Just do it.