It’s been 1 year since we quit our jobs, hopped on a plane, and left for our year-long honeymoon. For years, all I wanted to do was leave my job in corporate America and go off an an amazing journey, traveling all around the world and having incredible adventures. I daydreamed all day long and planned all night (by that I mostly mean I spent a lot of time on Pinterest pinning travel inspiration). Finally, I set a date to realize my dream: by 2016, I told myself, I’m going to quit my job and go travel.
And so for 4 years I waited and schemed and plotted and saved and met a cute guy and invited him along on my trip and then married him.
And then it was time. The date had arrived. We quit our jobs. We went traveling.
We spent a year navigating through foreign places together, attempting adventurous activities and totally falling on our faces time after time (lookin’ at you, waterfall rappelling catastrophe, Machu Picchu fail, and disastrous French road trip). Through trial and error (OK … error and error), we learned that we weren’t the kind of travelers we WANTED to be at all.
But what really threw us was that returning from our trip was just as challenging. Navigating through the confusing world of “how to be a regular person again,” fighting our way through the cut-throat San Francisco housing and job markets, trying to figure out what our lives looked like after this crazy life-changing trip… In some ways, it was way harder than, say, crossing the border between Ecuador and Peru in a chicken truck (yep). And our lives post-trip? They look VERY different from our lives pre-trip.
Now that it’s really and truly over, we want to share some of our learnings. We’ve got a few pieces of information – some useful, some completely useless – to pass along to anyone considering quitting their jobs and taking a grown-up gap year.
So without further ado, here’s all the stuff that nobody tells you about quitting your job to go travel!
Psst: We have a bunch of posts related to this one! Here, check ’em out:
- 30 Things Nobody Tells You About Long Term Travel as a Couple
- 25 Things We Never Asked for from Traveling the World for a Year
- Our Year-Long Honeymoon: What Happened & How Much It Cost
- Why 2017 Was The Year that Everything Changed for us
Things Nobody Tells You About Quitting Your Job to Go Travel
1. You won’t tell anyone that you plan to quit your job and go travel on the off-chance that saying it out loud will somehow jinx it. You’ll hold onto it like a prized secret. It will be all you think about, but you won’t tell anyone until it’s TOO LATE to back out: until tickets are purchased, hotels are booked, and it’s really real.
You’ll smile pleasantly and nod at your co-workers when they tell you about their weekends, secretly doing mental cartwheels because you have this super exciting, all-consuming secret that you want to shout from the rooftops but can’t … yet. (Psst: here’s the post I wrote the day I quit my job!)
2. Your trip will be all you think about right up until the second you leave. You will be a singularly-minded machine of focus, planning, and obsession. Nothing else will even cross your radar. You might be having an important conversation or giving a presentation, but in your mind all that’s happening is a rotating mental Instagram stream of photos of yourself in various glamorous locations, lounging on caftans (whatever those are) and wearing floaty pants and eating exotic fruits like ~mango~ or whatever and laughing with all of your cool new travel friends with perfect wind-blown travel hair, because that’s definitely what your next year is going to be like all of the time. Right?!! Spoilers: ah … You know what, I don’t want to ruin this one for you. It’s gonna be JUST like that.
3. Don’t try to plan a wedding while you’re planning to quit your job and travel. I speak from personal experience. What kind of idiot attempts to do both at the same time? Us. That’s who. This is a universally terrible idea and we highly advise against it.
If you choose to plan both at the same time, one will definitely take priority. For us, it was the trip. Our wedding vendors would be like “how long would you like the table runners be, 8 or 12 inches?” And I’d be like “HOW CAN YOU EVEN ASK ME THAT WHEN I AM LEAVING FOR COLOMBIA IN 5 MONTHS?!?!? WHO EVEN CARES, SUSAN?! JUST PICK SOMETHING.” Just don’t do it.
On a related sidenote, we haven’t even looked through our beautiful, expensive wedding photos yet. We are the actual worst people.
4. The day you quit your job will be the most exciting & scary day of your life. Followed shortly by the day you actually leave for the airport to start your travels.
Months later, as a weathered, experienced traveler, you’ll back at that nervous, scared selfie you took at the airport and smile at how naive and carefree you were way back then.
How little you knew then. How young you were.
5. The minute your plane actually lands, excitement will gave way to immediate terror and regret. The chaos of landing in a new place, trying to navigate from the airport, suddenly being immersed in a foreign language: the unfamiliarity of it all will overwhelm you. You’ll never feel more homesick on your travels than you will the first couple of days of your trip when you the magnitude of what you’ve done finally hits you. Did you just low-key ruin your own life?!
You can’t turn back. You can’t un-pack all of your belongings. You can’t un-break your lease. Maybe you can get your job back? Hmmm … Stick it out, though. It gets better, I promise!
Psst: we dealt with this feeling by binging on Netflix and crying. Read more about our first day on the road.
6. You’ll start to crave & miss familiarity. Turns out that when everything is new and unfamiliar, even your most mundane routines can creep up on you with this rose-colored Instagram filter where everything you used to do seems a lot more exciting than it actually was.
We started to miss everything. Like sitting on a couch. Or riding the train to work every morning. But our old couch had no legs, and my train commute was 2 hours long each way. Who misses THAT?! Us, apparently.
7. You’ll develop weird cravings for things from home. The minute you realize you can’t have something, it will be ALL YOU WANT. Like, we developed this odd fixation on Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Sure, CT Crunch is the greatest cereal that exists – hands down, no question – but we would only eat it like, maybe once a year?
For some reason, as soon as we realized that we couldn’t get it in stores abroad – apparently sugary breakfast cereals are way more of a thing in the USA than anywhere else – we craved it like 2 pregnant ladies on a diet. We dreamed about it. Every country we visited, we’d check for Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the grocery aisles.
And you want to know the stupidest part? Now that we’re back, we don’t even f**king want it anymore.
8. You’ll wish you could stick to a diet & exercise plan. Seriously, if this post hasn’t yet convinced you that we’re the lamest people in the universe, this will do it. Who goes off on an ~adventure and then mopes about how they wish they could go on a diet and hit the gym?
Well, us, apparently.
Before we left for this trip, we felt strong and healthy. We cooked all of our own meals to fit whatever millennial diet obsession we were doing that year – gluten free! Paleo! Keto! Whole 30! – and we worked out 3x a week, at least.
Then we spent a year eating rice and potatoes in South America and baguettes and beer in Europe and not going to the gym and now we feel … icky. We lost all of our hard-earned muscle, gained a bunch of weight, and started missing things like salads (you don’t want to eat raw veggies when you’re traveling abroad – just trust me).
Of course, if we REALLY wanted to stick to a diet and exercise plan, I’m sure we could have. But we’re naturally lazy people, and a morning yoga routine would require waking up and getting coffee before noon. So instead of actually doing it, we just complained about our dwindling muscle and increasing waistlines while happily eating croissants for dinner. Judge away.
9. You’ll miss the job you quit. I know, right? How lame is this sh*t?! It took us totally by surprise. We had prepared ourselves to quit our jobs. We hadn’t prepared ourselves to MISS the jobs we quit.
Shortly after leaving, we found ourselves wistfully reminiscing about everything from our old desks to our old bosses to our old commutes (Wtf? My commute was 2 hours long. Each way. I hated my commute). We missed checking things off of to-do lists and feeling productive and good about our accomplishments each day. Gross! What’s wrong with us?! To be fair, your mileage may vary if you legit hate your job. We did not.
Something I realized about myself during our trip is that I actually enjoy working. I like having a project that I’m focused on, and being productive each day makes me feel good. Idle time drives me a little nuts. So even though I was taking a grown-up gap year, I adopted travel blogging as my job on the road. I worked 40+ hours per week on my blog, and treated it like a full-time job. Which is ultimately what it became after our trip ended … but more on that later.
10. The concept of “time” will take on new meaning for you. Or maybe less meaning. We stopped keeping track of things like days of the week, except for when they affected us (like whenever we realized it was Sunday and everything in the entire continent of South America was shut down, leaving us totally f**ked for finding something to eat).
At some point, you’ll stop bothering to change your watch the the correct time zone. You’ll stop doing the math to figure out what time it is “at home.” And forget about waking up or going to sleep at reasonable times: why bother? We woke up whenever we felt like it, and sometimes – like in the dead of winter in Copenhagen – we just slept until there was light outside … at 10am.
11. Time will move faster for you than for everyone else. You’ll think back to where you were a day, a week, or a month ago and it will feel like years. It’s like being in a Doctor Who episode. Time moves at the speed of molasses for you because everything is new and exciting. Spending a week somewhere will feel like a month.
But back at home, time moves at regular speed, which – for most normal adults who do much of the same thing every day – is very, very fast. You’ll spend a whole year away and come back a new, different person with all these amazing experiences… only to realize that for everyone else, you were barely gone at all and nothing’s changed a bit. Eerie!
12. Traveling constantly is exhausting. I’ve never been a relaxed traveler. I don’t do “laying on the beach” well. When Jeremy and I travel, we go out and explore, hike, take tours, have adventures – we don’t sit around and relax.
But when you’re traveling nonstop, you simply cannot keep up. After a few weeks of constant, daily exploring, you’ll be EXHAUSTED. We got so burnt out on daily activities that we gave up on nightlife altogether and sunk into the same nightly Netflix habit that we had at home. And we still felt exhausted.
13. You’ll un-ironically say things like “I need a vacation from my vacation!” You’ll be so exhausted from constant traveling that you’ll just want a day off from traveling. You’ll just want to sit inside and do nothing. Maybe mindlessly scroll around on the internet for a good 8 hours. Binge watch a TV show or something. You know … boring sh**.
You’ll crave boring sh** and routine like you never thought was possible back when everything was boring and all you craved was adventure.
14. Don’t bother complaining to your friends about how exhausted you are and how much you miss boring sh**. We’re hyper aware of how obnoxiously privileged we sound even typing this right now, so don’t go to your friends for a vent session about how you’re just so burnt out on ruins and temples and restaurant meals. Your friends will have 0 sympathy for you. “Oh, there are too many exciting things for you to do all the time? You poor thing.”
And you know what? They’re not wrong. Being exhausted sucks. But traveling full time is still a f***king dream. Complain to other travelers about it, but always remember that you chose this, and even if it’s not perfect, it’s still absolutely amazing.
15. Don’t take it personally if your friends back home don’t really care about all of your incredible amazing ~travel~ experiences. Nobody cares about all the wonderful, exciting experiences you’re having every day as much as you do, and maybe – if you’ve lucked out in the parent department – your mom and dad.
It’s kind of hard for people back home to even wrap their heads around how MUCH stuff you’re doing every single day, so even when you try to explain it to them, don’t be surprised if their eyes kind of glaze over. They’re just not as interested as you are. It’s not personal. They still love you.
16. You’re going to lose some friends. This one sucks. It does. And honestly, I can’t even really explain it, because I don’t quite understand it. But for whatever reason, friends will start dropping out of your life. Even really close friends.
Something about leading a totally different life than the one you were leading before just seems to result in some otherwise great friendships unexpectedly ending. It happened to us. It’s happened to many of the other travelers I’ve spoken to. It sucks.
But hey: anyone that isn’t supportive of your adventures and excited for you isn’t a great friend anyway. Treasure the times you had, mourn the loss of what once was, and move on.
17. You’re going to make some awesome new friends that totally get your obsessive love of travel. Over the past year, I found some amazing online communities of fellow travel-obsessed ladies and other bloggers, not to mention all of the other travelers we met during our trip and connected with on Facebook. We flew all around the world and met up with amazing travelers and bloggers along the way!
Meeting other folks who are just as obsessed with travel as you are is so refreshing, because they’ll just “get” some of the things that your friends back home won’t. And you can complain to them about how exhausted you are without them judging you, which is always nice.
18. You’ll stop wanting to talk about your travels to everyone who actually DOES care. After the 38th time you’ve told someone about how much you loved The Galapagos and why Colombia is your favorite country ever and how you had to get rescued off a waterfall that time, you’ll feel like a broken record.
Meeting new travel buddies who ask “how long are you traveling? Where have you been?” will get really old after a while. And you’ll tell your well-meaning friends and family who genuinely want to hear about your exciting adventures to just go read your blog. It’s so much easier.
19. You’ll feel like you’re bragging every time you talk about your travels. Whether it’s a story you’ve told a million times or a brand new story, you’ll eye-roll yourself hard every time you start a sentence with “when I was in ….”
Are you that friend? The one who always talks about ~travel~ and just sounds like a privileged a**hole to everyone else?
Just in case, you’ll stop talking about your travels at all and start to feel like a walking cliche.
20. You’ll start to miss spending time with other people. We traveled as a couple, and we literally spent an entire year within 2 feet of each other 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Constantly.
If you’re a solo traveler, you’ll start to crave other people – and the rotating crew of hostel buddies you’ll meet just won’t feel the same. You’ll miss friends and family who you feel totally comfortable with. You’ll miss inside jokes and feeling totally understood. And you’ll miss being able to hang out with people for more than a week at a time before they (or you) move on to the next exciting adventure.
21. You’ll find yourself disenchanted with hostel dorms. When we first started traveling we wanted to be as low-budget as possible: we booked hostel dorms for the first 3 months of our trip in South America. And we didn’t mind them that much. They were fun and social! We were meeting other travelers!
Sure, there was the occasional a**hole, like that guy who turned the lights out in our 10-person dorm room at 7pm and then woke up at 4am for the world’s loudest morning yoga practice. Or the drunk dude who straight up climbed into my bed in Amsterdam.
But after a while? You’ll be totally over hostel dorms. You’ll start booking only private rooms. Your privacy (and sanity) is worth the extra expense.
Then, you’ll discover House Sitting. Oh my god, house sitting is AMAZING. And soon, you’ll settle for nothing less than an entire house with a whole kitchen, a flock of llamas, and a dog and a cat – for free.
22. You’ll miss stability. Moving constantly from place to place will get old fast. You’ll get sick of unpacking your stuff just to pack it up a week or so later and make somewhere new your home.
You’ll start doing things like finding ~your~ grocery store or ~your~ coffee shop in each new location you travel to, and establishing daily little micro-routines to keep you grounded. Like watching Netflix every night.
23. You’ll start low-key nesting everywhere you go. Anything you can do to make someplace feel like a home, however tiny or temporary, will become The Biggest Deal.
Like, whenever there was a shelf in a room where we were staying, we flipped our shit. We would gently arrange our backpack’s contents on that shelf in the most orderly fashion possible, and snap at each other if someone threw a sock on the floor instead of putting it “where it belongs” on our single shelf. And trust me: we are NOT neat freaks. Far from.
24. You’ll miss having control over transportation. Oh my god, it is so much easier to get from point A to point B when you’re not travelling. Whether you own a car, ride your bike, or are just able to read the metro map in the language you actually speak, transportation is so much easier back at home.
When you’re traveling long term, every new place you go is like a brand new confusing puzzle to figure out just to get how to get anywhere. You have to be wary of scammers and getting overcharged; you have to know which bus to take where and where the heck to find it and at what times (all in another language, of course); you have to figure out weirdly specific local transit systems (like Willys) and if you’re anything like me, you’ll spend most of your time in transit totally nauseous and overheated. It’s a whole ordeal.
How we yearned for the days when we could rent a car or hop on our bikes and just go somewhere!
25. “Museum fatigue” is so real. You’ll hear travelers in Asia talk about “temple fatigue,” or “cathedral fatigue” in Europe, and so on. It is a real thing. Once you’ve seen a few, you’ll start to roll your eyes like a total d**k and be like “oh, ANOTHER one? We’ve seen SO MANY.” I know, it’s so obnoxious!
We went to a bunch of museums in Colombia, our very first stop on our year-long honeymoon, and they were great. But after hitting a museum a week for a month, we were like “um, can we just Google the local history?” Terrible, I know!
We totally love museums, and art, and culture. They’re a regular part of our not-long-term-travelling plans. But you guys … going to a museum every week? That’s total museum overload, even for nerds like us. I didn’t coin this term, either: museum fatigue is an academic phenomenon that’s been studied since the 1910’s. Like I said, y’all: real.
26. The excitement of each new place you go will eventually start to fade. You know that feeling when you have a vacation coming up and you’re SO excited about it? You’ve researched and planned everything, you’ve circled the dates on your calendar, you’ve got a picture you found on Instagram as your phone background, and you’re just yearning for the moment when you’ll pack your bags and finally leave. It’s like being a kid on Christmas Eve!
Well, say goodbye to that feeling of excitement and anticipation. After a few months of constant travel, you’ll stop getting that tingle of butterflies when you hop on yet another 12 hour overnight bus to go somewhere new. That shiny, sparkle-in-your eye excitement as you groggily step off the bus into the dawn light in a brand new place will give way to an exhausted traveler who’s tired, cranky, smelly, slightly nauseous, and dreading the task of haggling with aggressive taxi drivers or walking through plumes of car exhaust and getting lost just trying to find somewhere to sleep in yet another new place.
After a while, we learned that we needed to travel slower and stay in each place longer just to give ourselves the mental energy to look forward to going somewhere new.
27. Returning from long term travel sucks. There’s no way to slide back into real life gracefully. It will be jarring and unpleasant. You might be homeless for a while, crashing on couches or applying for house-sitting gigs in your own hometown.
You’ll be desperately seeking a job because you’re likely flat broke by now. Your resume will have a big, awkward gap in it, because none of the zillion fascinating things you learned about during your travels seems remotely helpful in your actual career.
To your surprise, you’ll find that settling back into a normal life is much harder than packing a bag and jetting off to places unknown.
28. All that “stuff” you carefully packed up and put into storage before you left now kinda just seems like junk. Look, we had like 23 yard sales before we left. We Craigslisted our sh*t like crazy. We got rid of SO MUCH stuff.
And then we carefully packed up our most prized belongings, like our IKEA plate set and that cheap desk we bought on Amazon for under $100, and put them into storage.
And now that we’re back, we just wish we’d thrown the lot of it out. We can just as easily go to a thrift store and get more IKEA plates and a new desk that maybe isn’t a piece of crap that’s been slowly bending under the weight of all of the clothing we piled on top of it, which – by the way – looks as foreign to us now as the places we’ve been traveling for the past year. I used to wear blazers every day? Really?! Who was I?!
29. You’ll realize that you’ve grown and changed during your trip. We aged so hard in the past year. Things that we never expected to change, changed completely.
Before we left we were all “who needs STUFF or SPACE? Let’s save our money instead so we can go ~experience things!”
Now, a year of hostel dorm rooms and carrying our belongings in a backpack later, we’re like “if you’re closer than 20 feet away from me in our next apartment I will actually kill you” and “Let’s definitely buy a cherry pitter/apple corer/hard boiled egg slicer. That sounds useful!” We’ve so missed the luxury of the United States that we once turned up our noses at.
We’re also so ready to settle down. We’re planning to save for a house. We’re even talking about getting a pet or *gasp* having children in the next few years. Who are we?! Who are these grown ups who aren’t terrified of long-term commitment!?! Our old selves would judge our new selves HARD.
30. Now that you’re not constantly traveling anymore, you’ll start planning your next trip ASAP. It doesn’t matter how much you traveled during your grown up gap year. You’ve got Restless Wanderlust Syndrome. It just won’t feel right not planning some kind of travel, so to keep yourself sane, you’ll jump right back into it. Where to next? Hmm…
- Even though we were yearning to nest like crazy and dreaming of a nice house full of shiny stuff during our trip, when we actually moved back into an apartment, we couldn’t bring ourselves to acquire more “stuff.” Instead, we decided to go zero-waste at home and focus on owning fewer, better things. We’re more concerned than ever with our impact on the environment and the world after seeing so much of it and experiencing how others get by with so much less than we do. We can’t stomach the American ideal of owning a big house full of a lots of useless stuff, and we’re much more easily impressed by tiny things (like ice, which STILL feels like a huge luxury to us). We’re re-using and re-purposing everything we can, eating less meat and more plant-based meals, and generally trying to minimize our impact on the environment as much as possible.
- We gained clarification on what we wanted in our careers. My husband returned to his old job, teaching high school here in Oakland – he’d missed it the entire year, and was overjoyed to go back. But I found myself disenchanted with my old career. I missed productivity and routine, but I didn’t miss my long commute and the feeling that my life was slipping away from me as I sat at a desk day in and day out, working for somebody else. I did a brief stint in an office and hated it so much that I decided to focus in blogging full-time, instead. Which was terrifying, but ultimately SO incredibly rewarding! Now, I get paid to travel and write about it. Like, as a job. How crazy is THAT?! You can read more about my decision to become a full-time blogger here, and be sure to follow us on Instagram where I capture my daily life as a travel blogger in our Instagram Stories!
- Quitting our jobs to go travel helped us create lives that we really, truly love. Before we left for our trip, it felt like we were constantly “waiting” for … something. Waiting for the next phase in our career, or our love lives, or our bank account balances. Always waiting, never truly living for the moment, for TODAY. After our trip, we no longer feel that way. We know without a doubt that we’re doing what we love, that we’re spending each day the way we chose to. We’re living for nobody but ourselves. We don’t feel obligated to abide by arbitrary rules about societal norms or obligations, and we question things that we used to take for granted (like that paper towels and trash-bags are necessary, and not just completely wasteful and pointless and easily replicated with rags and soapy water. Even when we DO buy into those “American Dream” style things – like the little patio in our apartment’s backyard which we’re head over heels in love with decorating and tending to – it feels GOOD. It feels AUTHENTIC. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve experienced that feeling of “not really living.” We don’t feel that way anymore. We’re really and truly living, and each day feels like a gift, and a choice.
Psst: We have a bunch of posts related to this one! Here, check ’em out:
Are you considering quitting your job to go travel? We’d love to hear about it! Ask us your questions and leave us a comment below.
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