Advice on quitting your job and travelling for a year

Embarking on an extended adventure often means taking a leap of faith and leaving key responsibilities behind. But those that have done it say the experience is more than worth it.

Most of us see the world in snippets at a time – a long weekend here, a two-week vacation there. But when wanderlust grows beyond what those trips can contain, a longer journey might be in order. 

Embarking on a six-month or year-long adventure often can mean taking a leap of faith and leaving key responsibilities behind, like arranging for an extended leave of absence or resigning from a job. But those that have done it say the experience is more than worth it.

We sought out some of those brave, inspirational souls on the question-and-answer site Quora.com, asking: “what should I know if I want to quit my job, leave everything behind and travel for a year?

From the logistics of planning such a trip to the difficulty of managing others’ expectations and re-entering the workforce, the Quora community chimed in with their most useful advice.

Expect people to worry on your behalf
Quitting a job may seem like a huge risk to others around you. People will bring up the dangers to your career, dangers of getting hurt out there, dangers of not finding a job when you come back,” said Kyle Pennell, who recently left a marketing career in San Francisco to live in Oaxaca, Mexico. Those dangers can be real, but according to Pennell, “the places you see, the people you connect with, the pace of life, the person you might discover yourself to really be – it is amazing”.

"It’s easy to keep doing what you’re doing, and it’s hard to go do something completely different,” said Julia Lam, a former Facebook employee who left the San Francisco Bay area and is currently in the middle of taking a year off to travel around the world. “You’ll probably have moments of regret or confusion, so stay focused on your goals and why you’re doing this.”

Do not over plan
Travellers who are used to planning long weekend or weeklong vacations may be tempted to lock in as many logistical details as possible before departing. But according to Quora's world travellers, keeping the itinerary open allows for more flexibility and the chance to take suggestions from locals on the road. 

“We bought only transcontinental flights in advance,” said Sasha Katsnelson, who quit her management consulting job in New York to travel South America for six months. “We landed in Quito, Ecuador and had 40 days to get to Rio for our flight out. Everything else was booked during our travel.” Other travellers had success buying one-way or round-the-world tickets and having only an outline of possible destinations for the first few months. 

“Part of the fun is to wake up each day and say ‘What do I feel like doing today?’” said Shahaf Abileah, who left his software development job in Seattle and travelled with his wife for a year through Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands. “We ended up in entire countries that we didn't plan to visit [Uganda, Rwanda, Myanmar], simply because we met people along the way who said, ‘You gotta go there!’"

Have a goal or theme to guide you
Although over planning an extended journey can be limiting, wandering the world completely aimless can be equally frustrating. Andy Anderson, who has visited more than 35 countries, enhanced his year-long journey by finding ways to incorporate his passions. “I found a way to work at an Italian winery,” Anderson said. “I also spent a full season in a ski town, skiing being another passion of mine.” Software engineer Marcin Czech travelled from his home in Poland to Malaysia completely on land, and now finds his feat differentiates him from other world travellers.

Not sure where to start? Abileah recommended planning around big festivals.By dumb luck we ended up in Lalibela [Ethiopia] during their Christmas celebrations, and it was one of the highlights of our trip. It felt like walking into Biblical times,” he said. “There were other events that we just barely missed. For the next trip we'll definitely check out the big events happening in different countries.”

Know your budget
While you do not need unlimited funds to take some time off and see the world, knowing how much you can afford and how long you want to travel will help you make the right choices. “Your money will last a lot longer in places like Southeast Asia or South America, than places like Australia, New Zealand or the Middle East,” Anderson said.

Toni Middleton, who left her job as an IT portfolio manager to travel solo without a cell phone, suggested looking into what housing might cost in your possible destinations. “Practice looking for lodging online at places like hostels, Airbnb and hotel websites, so you can devise a daily or monthly budget before you leave,” she suggested.

Do not over pack
Katsnelson warned travellers to pack as if for a two-week vacation. You will need to do laundry,” she said. “Whether you get laundry service in Southeast Asia, use a washing machine in your hostel or hand wash clothes on the washing stones at a farm, you'll get to see a very real part of local life and you'll not break your back with six months of clothes.”

Embrace your journey, even after it’s over
While some Quora users went back to their original careers after returning home, others started new ones. Anderson said the job hunt could take two to three months upon return, but suggested starting to look at the end of your trip for a jumpstart.

Interviewers may question the gap in your resume, but that could also work to your advantage. Gary Forman, a marketing director from New York, used his experience to screen potential employers. “Some of them couldn't relate; those weren't the folks I wanted to work for,” he said. “Others loved the idea, and had taken similar journeys themselves. Those were the places I wanted to be.”