Reflections, Travel Inspiration
Comments 67

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Quit My Job to Travel.

quit job travel

This week, two years ago, I tendered my resignation at my first and only corporate job. I was 23, restless, and ready to chase bigger dreams – of which travel was one. I didn’t know then that becoming one of India’s top travel bloggers was on the cards for me! But there were other things I didn’t know, things that would have saved me so many sleepless nights. As I reflect on my transition in the last two years, from a cubicle dweller to a digital nomad, I hope to give you some practical perspective on what it’s like to quit your job and travel the world (Read: The Story of How I Quit my Job to Travel).

It was hardly planned. I had just gotten back to office after a two-month sabbatical, during which I flash-packed across Europe and volunteer travelled in the Indian Himalayas. My life had changed in so many ways; my taste buds finally knew the taste of real Italian pasta, German beer and French breads, I had my first glimpse of how harsh life was and how kind people were in remote Himalayan villages, and I had experienced, probably for the first time in my life, that feeling that I’d rather not be anywhere else but here. On the other hand, nothing at work had changed much – we were still having the same discussions, mulling over the same presentations, and hopping from one meeting to another. I never hated my work, but having seen the other side, I knew I had to take a leap of faith.

If you’re on the edge about taking the plunge, here are 6 things I wish I had known before I quit:

1. You can never save enough.

save money to travel, saving money for travel, quit job travel

Photo: Emirati.

My savings, before I quit, roughly translated into a six month fallback fund. That’s how long I could afford to slack off and experiment with my options. Truth be told, it’s only when that fund started running low that I got my act together and worked harder than ever to make my choices work for me. I took on freelance work, writing assignments, even experimented with full time work-from-home roles to make my bucks (Read: How I Afford My Travels and How You Can Too).

I’m going to make a contradictory statement here and say that no matter how much you save, it won’t be enough, so save all you can. The key being, give yourself a time frame. If you know you want to quit sooner than later, work with a deadline and during that time, cut your expenses as much as possible (Read: Saving Money For Travel: 9 Practical Tips). Say no to that extra drink, because it’s the little bucks that will amount to big choices, like whether you can afford a taxi to that exotic location with no other connection or try that expensive place reputed to have the best food. Or even how long you have before you must find a new source of income.

2. Experiment first, quit later.

quit job travel, quit job to travel the world, quitting a job to travel

Photo: Seyed Mostafa Zamani

It was never my plan to work at the Singapore Tourism Board. I graduated in the middle of a recession when many companies had ceased their hiring, and didn’t crack the interviews at the FMCG / advertising companies I had dreamt of working at. It felt like a failure then, but the dots have connected in retrospect. In the process of crafting Singapore tourism’s social media strategy from scratch, I learnt everything I know about social media and blogging. It certainly helped to have the space to make mistakes, experiment with new ideas, and test my creativity; I would still receive my paycheck at the end of the month!

I hear often from people who’ve worked in IT or such all their lives, and now want to enter the travel industry as freelancers. My advice to them is to move within their organization for a start, and take on roles related to what they’d like to freelance in. Aspiring travel writers could seek editorial roles (even if it’s technical writing), while aspiring guides or trip leaders could look at people-oriented roles. Use your corporate job as a platform to determine what you’re good at and how you can get better. If you have reasons to stick around longer in the cubicle, make that time count. Luckily for me, that happened by default, by virtue of my work; in fact it’s my exposure to such work that paved the way!

3. Where you’ve worked is your biggest asset.

photographer mug, camera flask, quit job to travel

Photo: 55Laney69

I didn’t know it while I was working, but the single biggest thing that worked in my favor was my association with the Singapore Tourism Board – and it still continues to influence my credibility when people first see my profile, or offer me freelance social media assignments. My one regret though, is that I didn’t quite network as much as I could or should have.

So similar to point #2, if you plan to work in the corporate world a little longer, you may be better off spending that time in an organization that takes you a step forward. Does it set your portfolio apart by making you more relevant or credible? Does it give you the chance to network with people from an industry you want to have your feet in once you quit? Remember that you are somebody when you represent an organization, but the moment that is gone, the moment you are your own brand, you are nobody and your past connections could be everything.

4. It’s never too soon to quit.

quit job to travel the world, quitting job to travel, how to quit job to travel

Photo: Hamed Saber

I remember the surprise I was met with, when I confessed that I felt burnt out. I was two years old in the corporate world, and surely had much to learn and experience, they thought – people who had spent 10, 15, even 20 years in the same role. Now that I think about it, I realize that’s exactly what made it easier for me; it was easier to undo the security of a steady income, easier to overcome the fear of the unknown, and certainly easier to leave knowing that I had (and still have) enough and more time to mess my life up, if that’s what happens.

If you know in your heart that the road is where you belong or have a calling that’s not your current work, and if you have the heart to risk all you’ve done and known so far for it, I’ll only tell you this – it’s never too soon to quit, just like it’s never too late. Twenty years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do. Mark Twain’s words, not mine (Read: 25 Things I’d Tell The 25-Year-Old Me).

5. Have a plan, but don’t expect it to work.

quit job to travel, how to quit job and travel, quitting job to travel the world

Photo: Salim Al-Harthy

Isn’t that what plans are for? In the little time I spent planning before I quit my job, I was almost certain that I would work with a social enterprise / not-for-profit organization, and travel to the most remote villages of India as part of my work. I even accepted what I thought was an apt role just before I left, but that didn’t quite pan out. I continued to travel and became acquainted with the work of Indian organizations in the responsible travel domain. When I got associated with one, I was sure that that was indeed my calling. But that didn’t work out either. That time was briefly scary, but it ultimately led to my own responsible travel startup – India Untravelled, and my focus on travel blogging and writing.

Planning is great to keep you focussed, but it’s equally important to stay open to new ideas and different paths. If you are ready to take that leap of faith and quit your job to travel, have faith in the road to lead you to a sustainable lifestyle too.

6. You have no idea how awesome your life is going to be!

quit job to travel, how to quit job and travel, indian travellers

Awesomeness in the Canadian Rockies.

So what if I work harder on most days now than I did when I worked in a cubicle? My work is my life, and I love it, at least on most days. I’ve done my writing assignments in the mountains of northern Thailand, by the beach in Sri Lanka, in the Canadian Rockies, in countless cafes in Singapore, Bahrain, Spain, India, you name it (Read: Practical Ways I’ve Learnt to Stay Safe While Travelling Alone). Every day, I wake up to the possibility of being in another town, country, continent in the coming weeks (Read: Confessions of An Indian Travel Blogger). I’ve met people whose kindness and conviction still inspires me, and been amid such stunning natural beauty that I continue to remain hopelessly in love with this world.

So while you might have several compelling reasons to compromise your dreams for a steady income, know these words of Dhirubhai Ambani: If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs. 

What’s stopping you?

What else would you like to read about, as I reflect on my last two years of travelling?

Join The Shooting Star on FacebookTwitter and Flickr for more travel inspiration and stories from around the globe. 

Featured image by Lali Masriera.

67 Comments

  1. It’s easy to imagine a perfect life, ‘I want to quit my job and travel the world’. It’s a dreamy reflection, but one that lets us easily forget about the practical hurdles that need to be overcome.
    Love this post, Shivya!! Excellent for us aspiring ‘travel-for-a-living’-ers like myself!!

    Like

    • Thanks Surya, glad you enjoyed reading it. It’s surely not a bed of roses, but the thorns are worth it depending on how bad you want to do it 🙂

      Like

  2. Have been going back and forth on when to take the plunge into the full time freelance world and been working on my savings for a while now. It certainly is that much easier to experiment and find new avenues when young and without many responsibilities dragging us down. I’ve been slogging with office work during weekdays and freelance work over the weekends, but like you said, it’s totally worth the effort with a dream in sight.

    I was waiting to read this since you announced you were writing a reflective post! Wonderful and insightful read as always. 🙂

    Like

    • Neelima, sometimes I find the continuous freelancing so draining, that I really admire how you handle it alongside a full time job! I think you’ll know when the time is right for you. Glad to have offered some insights 🙂

      Like

  3. Christopher Alexander says

    If I was your father I’d say you lost your mind. But I’m not, and I’m not invested in the outcome. Good luck and enjoy the world. Have fun.

    Like

    • Well then, I’m glad you’re not, Christopher. I probably wouldn’t have had my wanderlusting genes if you were (as someone put it on Twitter). The world is mine to enjoy.

      Like

  4. Love this.
    I *just* quit my desk job of 18 years, sold most of what I own, let my gorgeous apartment go, started a travel website for women, and hit the road.
    It’s been a week since I left. The change is surreal and wonderful! I’m working hard to make sure it all goes well, even if it doesn’t go as planned.
    Thank you so much for the insight! It is all spot on!!

    Good luck,
    Angel

    Like

    • Welcome to the world of wanderlust, Angel! I can imagine it must be that much harder taking the plunge after 18 years, but I’m sure it’ll all be worth it. Do share a link to your new website 🙂

      Like

  5. Spot on, Shivya. As you and I know, this gig can actually be so tough at times but also one of the most rewarding I’ve had in my career to date. I recently went full-time as a freelancer and I’ve had to cut back on my expenses, reduce my earning expectations, and engage the full, unconditional support of my better half. And I finally feel free to explore my writing and pursue my love of travel and expat life with no regrets or barriers. This is a great post and a timely reminder of why we do it. Hope to see you again very soon 🙂

    Like

    • Whoa, you’ve gone full time as a freelancer? That’s awesome to hear, Russell. We should swap notes. I wouldn’t swap that freedom for a stable income, and I’m sure neither will you. And to do it while you have a family is all the more daring 🙂 Hope to see you soon again too!

      Like

  6. Gurdeep Singh Ahluwalia says

    Hey Shivya its been a time that i first started following you through Twitter Handle, sincerely i respect your decision of taking Life as YOU want it and nor taking Life as it COMES. As at the end its you who you are going to reply to for your Life.

    Like

    • Thanks Gurdeep. I think at the end of the day, even if it all falls apart (which I sure hope it doesn’t), I’ll be proud to say I went all the way to chase and live my dream 🙂 Thanks for the following me along on Twitter and for stopping by here 🙂

      Like

  7. Anand says

    Hi Shivya, I have been following your blog for quite good time now.

    Thanks for sharing your interesting and inspiring journey so far. Appreciate your willingness to share series of thoughts that occurred during this transitional and most interesting phase of life. It really helps in aligning thoughts on choosing right direction for career or taking that leap of faith. And I am sure it will be also be helping many others.

    Keep Sharing.

    Like

    • Glad you’ve found this post helpful, Anand. Thanks for being a regular follower of my adventures, and for sharing your thoughts here 🙂

      Like

  8. Jay says

    Dear Shivya,

    Your truly inspiring. Not many have the chance of doing what they love. All the best always!

    Like

    • Thanks Jay. I think infact very few have the chance of doing what they love. The rest of us have to persevere to make it happen 🙂

      Like

  9. Hi Shivya..Keep travelling…keep posting…As you mentioned in your blog i do have reasons to stick around the cubicle :)…Hence time is not yet ripe to break-free. But your experiences inspire guys like me a lot…:)

    Like

    • You’ll know when the time is right for you, Sunil 🙂 Glad to have lent a little inspiration to your dreams!

      Like

  10. Ankit Agrawal says

    It is a superb post and will give confidence to many people aspiring….

    Like

  11. 🙂 Am just serving my notice period as resigned a month back- am not exactly sure what I will be doing but find ur posts very inspiring. Keep travelling, keep writing and keep sharing 🙂

    Like

    • Wow, glad to hear that Mansee! Welcome to the world of adventure (because once you’ve quit, everything will seem like one) 🙂 I’m sure you’ll find your feet and your roads soon enough. Hope to meet up in person some day!

      Like

  12. So ultimately your dream of being in FMCG didn’t work out but it opened new and better avenues in your mind which were earlier unknown. I have also felt this many times that a failure, no matter how disappointing it is in the beginning, turns out to be for a long term good. I do a lot of planning and over a period of time tend to get attached to the plan and the fear of it going haywire creeps in. Your suggestion of being open to new venues while sticking to the plan is indeed great !
    Enjoy your future travels and your stay in Delhi while you are here. (The weather is good for a change) !! 🙂

    Like

  13. Inspiring post …..I believe that whatever happens it happens for good ….if u have been selected in one of FMCG companies ,i think your life could be completely different 🙂

    I love reading your post and your travel blog is one of the few which had inspired me for blogging my travel experience 🙂 Keep u the good work and inspiring others, adios 🙂

    Like

  14. Inspired!
    Time to change the gear and pursue what I dream of every night. YES, its travelling, to be come a globetrotter.

    Soon, I should start my journey, get out on roads.

    Thank You! Thank You! for the wonderful article Shivya! 🙂

    Like

  15. whereisshyamni says

    “You can never save enough.” Yess! I wish I had figured that one out sooner. Instead I used that as an excuse not to move for the longest time. Great post! 🙂

    Like

  16. I’ve come across variations of the ‘reflections after quitting my job’ post at quite a few of the travel blogs I read, but the perspective of a solo Indian female traveller was what I was waiting to read. I’m at the stage you were a few years ago- a couple of years into my job and wondering, on Monday, how fast Friday could come. I’ve been thinking of making travel a bigger part of my life than just the occasional trip, and now seems a time like no other. Maybe, just maybe, in a couple of years, I can see myself taking the leap.

    Like

  17. Inspiring article, well done for having the guts to go for it. I’m just starting out on the blogging path and hope to one day follow in your footsteps.

    Like

  18. Pingback: 10 Life Lessons From 2 Years of Travelling. | The Shooting Star

  19. I just started with my first job. And after reading your blog, I am having second thoughts already!
    But i must say, it is a great blog for beginners like us and want to travel around.

    Like

  20. Hello from Singapore! Reading this feels so much like reading about what to expect of myself. I really empathize with how being only 2 years old in the corporate world (like i am now!) means you’re still on the first rung of the ladder and can swing to the correct one in time 🙂
    Love this piece!

    Like

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  22. Big smile on my face as I read this. I too quit my first job in the corporate world at 21 and took off into the wild on a 1-way ticket to Vietnam. Our paths are similar, from going to corporate to travel to NGO, finding out that it’s not quite how you imagined it to be, restlessly looking for new travel opportunities. I just got back from North Korea (you can read about it in my new blog) and everything has changed irreversibly, for the third time in my corporate life.

    Now at 25, I’ve been asked to take a job with a travel company based in China – social media (What I do professionaly now), blogging, travel and adventure. Everyone tells me to think about it very carefully, and I am, but from the moment I received the offer I knew what my answer would be.

    Your blog reminds me of what I try to remind myself, and I’m really glad to have read it. You’ve got one of my fav travel quotes in there, here’s my other favourite:

    “”Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

    xx
    Rett

    Like

  23. Great post. All so true. It reminds me of my time when I first went off travelling and the excitement but apprehension that you are doing the right thing. As you say, experiment first!

    Like

  24. Its a great post Shivya… I follow you because I love that passion in you… that you gave up your job … its needs a lot of gut and condidence… everyone around talks about stability and consequences… I have been contemplating to leave corporate and take up my writing love but its actually coming tough… inspired by your post…

    Like

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  26. The difference you have, is experience. I’m 22 right now, and I didn’t finish College. I went for two years, and was only a few credits shy of an associates, but I decided it wasn’t for me and I quit. Now I work at a low-end office job, that takes 6 days of every weeks, no vacation, no sick days, extremely understaffed, etc. I’ve been there about a year, and it kills me to show up every day, knowing I’m doing nothing but wasting time and life.
    I do have some marketable skills though, just nothing with a expensive degree attached to it; I occasionally take illustration commissions/CGI commissions, and have dabbled in the fiction writing field during college/after college, but it’s hard to get creditable gigs when you don’t have the paperwork to back it up.
    My question is this: I want to quit my job desperately. I barely make enough to make ends meet, and my savings are nothing to shake a stick at; what should I do? I want to travel with my art, but I’m not sure which niches or marketable roles exist out there that could jump start this experience.

    I agree with your quotes. I have two of my own I want to share: “I want my work to revolve around my life, not my life to revolve around my work.” and “I’d rather be poor and happy eating ramen every night of my life, then rich and sad eating steak and potatoes every night”

    Great article 🙂

    Like

  27. Pingback: 5.5 reasons why you should not quit your job to travel in your 20s (Asian edition) | YQ travelling

  28. In June this year, my six months of non-stop travel begins. I will come home after six months unless, and this is the hope, I can figure out a way to make money and keep going. Wish me luck!

    Like

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  30. I recently found your blog. Excellent stuff. I love travelling, but sadly like the vast majority, have not been able to do so as much as I want. The blog is inspiring and have made me to rethink about my priorities. Thanks and congrats ! 🙂

    Like

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  33. Thank you so much for this article!!! In June I will quit my job and we are moving to New Zealand. We don’t really now what to expect but we are ready to find out 🙂 I’m sure that we won’t regret!

    Like

  34. Hey shivya,

    I stumbled across your page while googling solo travels in singapore. After years of trying to convince my parents to let me travel and failing at it. This year at age 25 I take a rebellious leap. Be it with or without their knowledge I’ll be flying to a new city. I dont want to look back and regret of all the things I missed or could have garnered . Ill be on my first ever solo trip . I have chosen singapore as the destination I think it’s safe and a beautiful place to visit. Will be informing my sister of my journey. She is my silent partner in crime. Hopefully all goes well and get back to share wondeful experiences too. Would love it if you got any tips for this tripor link of a prev blog I missed.

    Like

  35. Slightly irrelevant in this context but when you started off as a freelancer, how did you find & approach prospective clients? Also did you do content writing freelance jobs as well? Where did/do you find reliable content writing gigs?

    Thanks in advance 🙂

    Like

  36. I only wonder how you pay for the air tickets . I have travelled to se Asia and us but would love to travel across Europe and South America bit th costs put me off . Any suggestions. Ideas thanks

    Like

  37. Peter Antony Rex says

    Hi Shivya, I also being an ardent lover of a “life of Travel”, was very much excited and inspired by this blog of urs. Though read this late, its so encouraging for lots of folks who loves to go on a start for thier passion. I also had a glimpse of all the comments above which was a good session of discussions abt travelling and the ways to pursue it, hurdles invloved in it. I being an IT professional as naive as u had been, has always had thoughts, dreams of travel. With this motivating note of yours, Im sure to start my itinerary for some cool travels within my extent. 🙂 And wishing u great going..!

    Like

  38. sukrutha says

    Hi Shivya,

    Reading your blog im very much inspired to follow my heart and passion for discovering the world around us. While i was searching for something that will give me more confidence and encouragement to follow my dreams, Im very much glad that i found your blog. Thanks a ton for sharing your story..

    good luck 🙂

    Like

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  42. You write beautifully, look forward to hearing more! If you visit Hong Kong look me up and I’d be happy to show you around or give you tips.

    @Charted_Waters

    Like

  43. Gagan N Rao says

    Hi Shivya,

    Its an immense pleasure to read your experience over your blog. I always eagerly wait for your next blog posts. I quit my BPO job without proper planning to enter the world of buisness which i can’t regret but have to think and do things in this very competitive world. I dream a lot and especially travelling across the globe alone as you do and even blog at times, but the fear in me restricts all those( I want to become one). It is practically difficult to leave a steady income and go out to do something off the stereotypes. It is great and i feel proud about you , hope I could meet you one day and travel with you across the globe. I appreciate your work , never stop and keep going and thanks for sharing your wonderful experience with us.

    Like

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