Thinking About Quitting Your Job And Traveling Around The World


If you're thinking about leaving your job, this post is for you. This is a guest post by NZ Muse, a mid-20s writer who just completed a six-month trip around the world and lived to tell the tale. I took NZ Muse and her husband out for lunch in San Francisco when they stopped by.

A lot of folks want to travel more for an extended period of time, but don't because they're either afraid they won't have a job when they get back, don't have the funds, or just fear extended travel in general. I feared taking a sabbatical because I didn't want to risk making less since so much of my compensation comprised of a year end bonus. I also feared getting fired!

NZ Muse's travel is why I really enjoy Australian and New Zealand culture. They are much more relaxed about work and everything seems to always turn out alright!

Traveling As A Lifestyle

When you make a life-changing decision, you generally expect some measure of shock and awe when you announce it to everyone you know. But due to the collective wanderlust that courses through the veins of most New Zealanders, the news that I was taking off to travel around the world for half a year didn't make much more than a gentle splash.

American round-the-world bloggers usually speak of encountering serious pushback when they announce their plans to friends and family. For us, it was more like “About time!” or “Six months? Will that be long enough?”

In your 20s, farewell parties for friends going on their gap years are just as common as parties for birthdays, engagements, and anniversaries.

I have plenty of friends who've already done their ‘OE‘ (Overseas Experience) and returned to New Zealand, and others who left for their gap year and still abroad a few years later.

A Rite Of Passage And Leaving Your Job

New Zealand can feel stiflingly small, even if you live in a big city. (A fun fact for American readers: our country is about the size of Colorado.) Escaping the country is a rite of passage that's been around for decades and will probably continue to be for many more.

Long-term travel was never originally on my life list. I graduated university, started saving for travel, and laid out plans for three big trips: the USA, western Europe, and southeast Asia – roughly one per year, with a month allocated for each (we get four weeks of paid annual leave a year in New Zealand).

This was derailed, however, by my changing jobs and moving to a smaller company; I soon came to realize that taking a month off at a time would now be a lot harder. Around the same time, my wanderlust intensified. More and more of my friends started leaving the country, one seemingly taking off every other month.

Leaving A Bad Job Behind To Travel

My now-husband hated his job, I hated our moldy rental house, we were planning to get married, and the time seemed ripe for a change. We talked about him leaving his job and I started reading a ton of travel blogs.

Then I researched overseas volunteering opportunities, and kept an eye on STA Travel's round-the-world deals for students and travelers under 26. And that's when our tentative one-month European honeymoon turned into a solid six-month RTW trip.

Why six months? It seemed like a nice round number. It fit in well with the destinations on my bucket list and the lengths of stay in each country that we'd legally be entitled to (luckily, New Zealanders have it easy with visas the world over). And most importantly, it seemed about as long a trip as we could afford. Bonus: the Kiwi dollar was strong, and getting stronger.

Financing A Round-The-World Trip

I'm willing to bet that as a Financial Samurai reader, you're probably even more financially savvy than me. You know how to save, how to prioritize, and how to hustle on the side. We're not going to go over all that.

We earned pretty average incomes in a high cost-of-living city (Auckland is frequently named one of the most livable cities in the world … and one of the most expensive). Admittedly, though, we didn't own much in the way of stuff (so there was very little to sell, dispose of, or put in storage), we didn't own a house (no need to find temporary tenants), and we didn't have debt.

The crazy thing about RTW tickets is that they often cost no more than a single return fare. Flying to Europe or North America and back from New Zealand will run you $2,000 or more – the same price as the cheapest RTW itineraries available.

Affordable Travel Is Possible

Our tickets wound up costing about $3,000 each, taking us from New Zealand to Asia to Europe to the US and back home again.

I set a rough daily budget of NZ$100 for the both of us on the road, which we easily hit in some places, and blew out in others. I based this on data from Budget Your Trip, which aggregates spending info from real travelers, and the budgets posted by other RTW bloggers.

When you're a young, first-time traveller, it's fine (and even fun!) to rough it. We don't eat at five-star restaurants, nor do we want to. We don't stay in nice hotels; I don't see the point. That said, I am willing to pay a little more for privacy and/or convenience in some cases.

We stretched our dollars even further, where possible, with a couple of volunteer stints (an English course in Germany and a farm in Italy – both provided free accommodation and food in exchange for labour) and couchsurfing in a handful of places.

We use the best travel reward credit cards to get points and travel for free as well. Some of the credit cards provide for discounted or free hotel stays.

Why Travel?

Apart from seeing amazing places first hand, experiencing life abroad, and making memories? Traveling with kids is super educational as well.

I now truly appreciate what we have at home, and I feel I'm now qualified to criticize our shortcomings. I'm more culturally sensitive, globally minded, environmentally conscious, a little more self-confident, and – I hope- more well rounded.

Travel has made me more compassionate – towards my husband and towards other people in general. It's also taught me never to take anything for granted, from the little things (free beach parking) to the big (democratic government).

Travel has also changed my outlook on food. I LOVE eating and I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about my next meal. Traveling has taught me what foods make me feel best, opened my horizons to new flavors and ingredients, and basically revolutionized my food philosophy, laying the path for a new way of eating at home.

See: The Digital Nomad Lifestyle Is Worth Living

But Isn't It HARD?

Hand on heart, I never got truly homesick once. That might be because I'm a very solitary person; I could happily go weeks normally without seeing anyone but coworkers and my husband. (This may sound sad and lonely, but that's how I'm wired.) And while I'm a hardcore homebody, I've moved house a lot and consequently can feel at home almost anywhere.

It was a little harder for my husband, especially when we were in non-English speaking countries. That's when it's important to carve out little pockets of familiarity: keep up with your favorite TV shows online, seek out your favorite foods once in awhile, talk to friends on Facebook, etc.

Dealing with the unfamiliar on a daily basis is a challenge, for sure. Even the simplest things can be difficult: trying to navigate laundromats or post offices (yes, I promised postcards for some friends – old school!) or a completely foreign bus system.

Shake Things Up

As Paula at Afford Anything writes, “It's when you step out of your daily routine that you can push yourself and really learn what you're capable of. Step into a new environment, however, and those triggers disappear. When we’re no longer surrounded by familiar cues, we’re forced to re-make ourselves.”

Even when I found myself in tears on the side of the street in a new country, exhausted, hungry, sweaty, and ready to sock T in the jaw, I couldn't forget how fortunate I was to be there, doing what I was doing. I've learned that I'm more adaptable than I thought I was, in regards to food, hot weather, and customs. Pushing through the tough times was no doubt easier because we had an end date on the trip; when you know your time is limited, you want to make the most of it.

Honestly, the hardest part of it all was the endless coordinating. It's ridiculously tiring to be continuously researching destinations, making decisions about your next move, figuring out transport, accommodation, subways, customs, currencies, languages. (First world problems.)

Planning used to be half the fun of travel for me, but by the end of it all, I was completely worn out from it all. I gladly swapped the mundanity of cooking and cleaning for ongoing logistical hassles back in May, and now I'm ready to switch back.

Doesn't It Ever Get Boring?

I won't lie – after awhile, like anything else, travel loses a bit of its lustre. Museum / church / mountain / skyscraper fatigue is a real thing. I imagine we would have been much more impressed by Rome and Paris if we'd landed in those cities individually and specifically for a short trip, rather than as stops along the way through Europe.

Amazing sights we visited toward the tail end of our journey probably made less of an impact than places we went to early on. When you're experiencing new and fantastic things on a daily basis, the bar for ‘special' rises pretty high, you know?

The economics of travel from New Zealand, however, outweighed this small downside. And travelling long term is pretty amazing in its own right.

Weren't You Taking A Huge Risk?

The funny thing is, I'm extremely risk averse. I do not do well with uncertainty at all. But when it came time to take the leap and hand over my credit card to the travel agent, it came down to one simple question: What will I regret more – doing this, or NOT doing it?

(Hint: ‘what ifs' are what'll get you, almost every time.)

Our friends and family are also all in Auckland, so we had a support network and knew we wouldn't be homeless. I was fortunate to have a job to come back to.

That said, I booked our flights well before revealing my plans to my employer – we would have gone one way or another, and dealt with the consequences accordingly. Finally, I vowed not to dip into my emergency fund for anything while we travelled, and stuck by that.

Conclusion – Leaving Your Job To Travel

I have no desire to be a digital nomad – at least not at this point in time. Unlike many other RTW bloggers – or bloggers in general – I didn't hate my job or harbour dreams of self-employment. The last six months were a dream come true, but by the end of it, I was happy to return to normal life.

At the end of it all, we spent a small fortune – I haven't calculated the final sum yet, but it should clock in around $25,000. That's a mind-boggling amount, and it's more than I've ever spent on anything in my life.

A lot of RTW bloggers travel for cheaper and for longer, choosing to visit low cost-of-living countries and stay in one place for weeks or months. We spent a lot of time in expensive areas – by choice. We specifically wanted to see those destinations, and not simply travel for travel's sake.

We'd be a lot closer to my other dream of home ownership by now if we had stayed put (close, but not quite there, given the prices of property in Auckland). But I decided travel was a bigger priority in life.

In the movie Up, Ellie dies without ever realising her dream of traveling to Paradise Falls – despite saving for years, there are always other things that crop up, causing her and Carl to defer their trip over and over again. I didn't want that to be me.

Leaving your job is not scary. Not pursuing your dreams is the scariest!

Recommendation For Leaving Your Job

If you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy, I negotiating a severance instead of quitting. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training.

Since you got laid off, you're also eligible for up to 27 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.

Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, on how to negotiate a severance. I first published the book in 2012 and have since expanded it to 240+ pages from 100 pages in the latest edition thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies.

Add to Cart

Start A Business After Leaving Your Job

There's nothing better than starting your own website to own your brand online and earn extra income on the side. Why should LinkedIn, FB, and Twitter pop up when someone Google's your name?

With your own website you can connect with potentially millions of people online, sell a product, sell some else's product, make passive income and find a lot of new consulting and FT work opportunities. It's much easier to travel the world when you have an online income stream.

Financial Samurai started as a personal journal to make sense of the financial crisis in 2009. By early 2012, it started making a livable income stream so I decided to negotiate a severance package. Years later, FS now makes more than I did as an Executive Director at a major bulge bracket firm with 90% less work and 100% more fun.

Learn how to start your own WordPress website like mine today with my step-by-step tutorial. You never know where the journey will take you! Leaving your job to be a blogger is one of the most fun things you can do. I was a travel blogger for years and enjoyed it all before settling down to have kids.

Blogging For A Living Income Example: $300,000+ - leaving your job to blog
A real income statement example from a blogger. Look at all the income possibilities while you travel!

About The Author

29 thoughts on “Thinking About Quitting Your Job And Traveling Around The World”

  1. How can you justify a trip like this when you already have a six figure job in your mid twenties?

    There’s too much risk in leaving that kind of job verses still working as a barista. The sweet irony, though, is the person with the job they can’t risk losing is the one who could probably finance that kind of trip.

    I personally struggle with this kind of logic and I can’t bring myself to risk a high paying job that I enjoy very much on mid-20’s wanderlust. I hope I can make due with shorter trips.

  2. Justine V. Osborn

    There’s the rub! How can you get a job when everybody is cutting back? Corporations have discovered that they can have the biggest profits ever by simply not hiring (and firing). Look at Bank of America, where Ken Lewis fired 35,000 of his most competent employees and bought disaster areas such as Countrywide and Merril Lynch retaining the least expensive and most incompetent employees, only to take home one of those “$165 million bonuses” found only on Wall Street and in the executive suites of big banks. Most of us have been cutting back – Cash is King. And now the government is cutting back. We were on a spending spree encouraged by economists such as Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. Atlas shrugged and the world collapsed. ” I see a flaw” – you’re kidding me!!! Since WWII, thery’ve called it demand pull. A house for every American and three SUV’s in every garage. Greenspan thought it was fine to take out a second “home equity loan” when Charlie’s father was saying, if you must borrow to buy a house to live in, pay it off asap. What happened to integrity, waht happened to civility, what happened to bipartisanship, what happened to our country, what happened to the world. Turn over any rock and you find money. Turn over any financial transaction and you find greed. “Greed is good?” Up to a point! Aren’t rapacious capitalism and extreme socialism ( i.e., communism) two sides of the same coin? Doe Charlie drink wine? I never asked him, but I wouldn’t be surprised. In fact, I’ll bet he he’s drinking more and paying less just like in 2008-2009. Over 50 restaurants closed in Tucson in the fall of 2008. How many wineries will close this time around. Cheers!

  3. NZ Muse, that trip sounds awesome, and I’m heading over to check out any trip summaries I can find at your blog!

    We did six weeks of bumming around Mexico but that was before full time jobs, kids, and a house. I hope to get back to long term travel now that I’m retired and introduce the kids to a few off the beaten path places around the world.

    I know what you mean about travel fatigue. The luster of amazing new sights wears off when you see them every day. I look forward to the slower pace and being out of the ordinary as much as seeing another museum or beach or hiking trail.

  4. I’m envious in two ways. Ditching everything and traveling for 6 months sounds like a lot of fun and is also a big risk and a large undertaking (especially since you are going to be moving around a lot). I’m probably more envious of the fact that you live in such a beautiful country to begin with. I’m not sure why you would ever want to leave :P

  5. Done by Forty

    I think this is on the agenda now, for year one of early retirement. I had no idea the cost of a round the world ticket was so comparable to a single ticket. Amazing.

    I’ve forwarded the link to my wife and I’m sure we’ll be talking more about how we can make this happen. Thanks!

  6. Jeffry I. Hardy

    So many different things go into planning a long-term, RTW trip. You have to worry about things like travel insurance , immunizations , and whether or not to purchase a multi-stop plane ticket . But one of the biggest questions I hear revolves around packing. For those who have never taken more than a week or two trip before, it can be overwhelming thinking about what to bring on a trip around the world. Panic quickly sets in as travelers ponder the ins and outs of packing for a trip like this.

  7. I’m currently planning a 7 week trip across the US in July. I’m hoping to do a bit of work while I’m travelling, testing the waters so to speak to see if it’s possible for longer-term travel. If all works out, I’m thinking South America next year for 6 months.

    Loved hearing about the trip!

  8. Thanks for sharing your travel adventures. I have had the good fortunate of travelling for the past 40 years, sometimes as part of my work, living in forteign countries for two years at a time, and the last 20 as part of our retirement. One of my favorite trips was cycling through New Zealand (at age 65) for three months, staying in campgrounds or hostels which were only $10 a night at the time. And…staying with New Zealanders who opened their homes to me.

    One of my favorite experiences was picking grapes in a vineyard for a week with other younger travelers from all over the world working their way along the Asian Corridor, as I call it, NZ, Australia, Vietnam, Cambodia. It was the first time I realized that graduating students in the English Commonwealth, would often celebrate graduation by spending a year abroad. What a great passage of life before entering the work force and getting tied down with house, kids, and a 40 hour a week job.

  9. Oh wow, $25,000 is going to take a long time to earn especially with bills. I just hope that if I want a vacation, I will have some way of getting a better deal. I actually tried using Groupon and they save me a lot of money.

  10. I can’t imagine taking 6 months off to travel at this point in my life.

    I’ve done summer trips – Europe, Alaska, Asia – but 6 months or more would be great, but a career killer.

    That’s one of the reasons I’m working so hard to build passive income streams. It’s great preparation for retirement, but it also gives you the freedom to take an extended break when the opportunity presents itself.

  11. I’m currently on a reversal of this trip and absolutely loving it. I worked for three years in the San Francisco tech industry after graduation and saved up for my trip. After three months in Southeast Asia my girlfriend and I bought a van in New Zealand and are roadtripping around for five months. We’re also stopping in Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and Hawaii.

    Quitting a good paying job was scary but was the best thing I could have done. I got a great short term tech gig starting this week in Wellington and beginning to get some job options lined up for when I return.

    For anyone wondering about the affordability of a long trip, my monthly average is $1,400 including all flights, food, ect. Thats less than my SF monthly spending! We definitely leaned more toward budget accommodations and I got most of our flights doing the travel hacking thing, but it really is affordable.

    1. Still in NZ? Hit me up if you are in Auckland! Campervan is absolutely the best way to travel NZ – we road tripped the South Island a couple years ago.

      I’ve done a full budget breakdown now ( and aside from initial outlay (transport, gear etc) our daily costs on the road are on par with what we would spend normally in NZ, even less in cheap countries.

  12. At times, I wished I could have traveled after college. Unfortunately, I was drafted (army) during the Vietnam conflict (1968). I have made up for it by traveling every 2 years or so overseas. We have covered almost all of Europe, Canada, parts of the Far East and Mexico. I expect to do much more in retirement (3 years from now). The biggest difference is now, we travel staying in 3-5 star hotels (points when possible), business or first class airline tickets (frequent flier miles) and a mixture of fine dining and 2 meals a day. At least my children were able to travel Europe after college on the cheap.

  13. A huge high five on dreaming about something this big, planning for it, and executing. That’s no easy task. I think it’s awesome you got to experience, especially with your husband, and see such a wide array of places.

    I can understand travel fatigue though, especially the coordinating and researching. I get exhausted trying to plan out 2 week trips. Something six months long would probably knock me out even if I did it in stages.

    I would love to make my way around the world someday but I’m happy if it’s done in multiple trips and not all at once. I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of countries already so I don’t have a constantly itching travel bug anymore. I like trips that are 2-2.5 weeks in length the longest right now. I start to miss home and get too anxious with stuff piling up for periods longer than that. If I ever decide to do a RTW trip all in one go I think I’d do it on a cruise ship. That way it’d mean only unpacking once and all I’d have to do is plan activities. The ship would get me from point A, to B, to Z.

    Thanks for sharing about your experience!

  14. Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions

    What a fabulous experience! I took a 2-month, cross-country, road trip in the US after graduating college and it remains one of my best memories. I went with my best friend and it was a challenge at times (we were doing it on the cheap — staying at hostels and campgrounds). I was going into the Peace Corps the next month and felt like I couldn’t represent my country without at least knowing what the rest of it looked like!

    After the Peace Corps, though, I’m completely done with long-term travelling. I just want to put my feet down and grow roots! Too much adventure can go a long way :)

  15. This Life On Purpose

    I traveled for 6 months after graduation. It was and still is the best decision I ever made.

    I leave for another jaunt to South America next week for 5 weeks. I don’t think there will ever be a time where I will regret these trips. I have yet to meet anyone who regretted taking time off to travel.

  16. What an interesting story and I find it very intriguing that for people in NZ it is almost a rite of passage to take a large chunk of time off to travel and this makes me very jealous!

    I have been to lots of places and completely agree that you can easily get fatigued by visiting large city after large city, museum after museum, etc. I have decided to start taking trips that would allow me to explore deeper into one area versus covering lots of ground over relatively short period of time.

    Good luck on your next round of travels and if you ever make it close to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, give me a shout!

  17. The First Million is the Hardest

    Wow, I’m insanely jealous after reading that! I can’t get over how much more liberal employers in Europe (and NZ apparently) are with vacation time and leave than they are here in the states.

    Travel is high on my list of things I want to start doing more of. I don’t know if I’m cut out for a round the world trip, but I have a list of places I’d like to visit over the coming years (Auckland being one of them.)

    I completely agree that everyone should travel internationally more often. It will give you a much better perspective on on people, culture and your home country.

    1. Haha, why Auckland? People definitely don’t come to NZ for Auckland, though we definitely have enough to keep you entertained for a couple of days. Let me know when you make it down here!

  18. That’s great, thanks for sharing! I want to do an RTW trip in about 15 years… Yeah, I know that’s a way off, but by then the kid will be off to college and we’ll have plenty of time. In the meantime, we’ll take extended trip to single destinations. I want to go to Thailand with my kid for 2 months next year. We’ll see if we can pull it off.

  19. Loved this post. Sometimes it’s good to do things like this and be reminded that money isn’t everything, it’s the experiences money gets you that is.

  20. As a kid, I had no desire to travel to other countries. I missed a lot of opportunities (study abroad in college, trips my parents would take that I probably could have weaseled my way into, etc). It’s time I made up for lost time.

    I do have 4 weeks vacation per year at my job, which certainly doesn’t give me the ability to take off for 6 months like you did, but I plan on taking advantage of what I have from here on out!

  21. I traveled in Europe for six weeks in my mid-20’s. One of the best things I ever did. Although it was almost 20 years ago I still think about my time there often. The best thing about it was waking up and deciding what great piece of art I wanted to see that day. It was exciting and like nothing else. Everyone should do it. New Zealand and Australia are on my list to visit one day.

  22. You’re unbelievably lucky to be living a country where it’s more of a cultural norm to travel that way. I work for a British-based company so we have five weeks of vacation — which is mind-boggling for most of my friends and family. I still feel like it isn’t enough though. Like you, I get that wanderlust feeling. I’ve been fortunate to do extensive traveling in my childhood while living overseas, but now that I’m back in the States full-time it drives me bonkers to be unable to jet set (and that whole thing about having to pay for it myself now…)

    I do have a tentative trip planned to India this year and I’m trying to start really seeing America on smaller trips, it is a beautiful country with so much to see!

    I have so much respect for you traveling around the world for six months (those volunteer opps in Germany and Italy sounds pretty cool too).

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