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Photo: robotson

Your resource guide to dropping out of the workforce and joining those vagabonding masses in worldwide exploration.

YOU SEE THOSE PHOTOS OF YOUR FRIENDS frolicking around Phuket or Goa or Barra de Navidad. You decry these people as dropouts and slackers who’ve rejected modernity. They look like they’re having too much fun and not getting anything done!

You are sitting at your desk eating a turkey sandwich from the cafeteria. It tastes like it was made weeks ago, defrosted, and put into a plastic container. You hate this daily routine: lunch in front of your computer pretending that you are somewhere else. After months of jealousy you finally decide to take the plunge and join this itinerant kingdom of voyagers.

Hate your job.

You forget about travel for weeks. Your boss gives you a promotion. No raise, but a better title, more responsibility. Your job seems like it’s going to get better. During a happy hour you tell your boss that you actually enjoy working there. The company finally understands your potential. But you quickly discover that these new responsibilities aren’t worth it. You have to micromanage a team of interns, you have to work longer hours, you have less time to sit in front of your computer eating turkey sandwiches and living vicariously through your friends. Shit stays the same. Nothing will ever change. You want to quit your job and book a flight — but it just seems so distressingly overwhelming!

Questions run through your mind each night obstructing you from sleep: What would your family say? What would you do with all of your possessions? Would you ever be able to reenter the workforce? Would this affect your permanent record? Will you have to cancel your account? In a rare moment of slumber you have a dream that clarifies everything: There is no alternative to the life you want to live. You have to jump off the corporate ladder. And with a little planning this will all come together so easily.

Set up a timeline.

In a daydream you walk up to your boss, a real dickhead who slyly worked his way into middle-management, and tell him to “fuck off!!!” You imagine yourself holding each syllable as you spit these words into existence. You think about how awesome that would make you feel. But being pepper-sprayed and dragged out by security might make you wish that you’d reconsidered your word choice, and that you’d become better friends with the security guards. You recognize that it’s probably better not to be spontaneous about leaving the workforce. You decide to plan things out. You buy a travel guide, research your destination, and set up a timeline.

3 months out: save money.

You give yourself three months to strategize and save money. This will make your travels come easily. You discipline yourself. You put aside every dollar that you’d regularly spend on “Prohibition-era” cocktails knowing that it will go towards another night of accommodation in Chiang Mai. You rarely go out at night anymore.

You drink $3.75 bottles of wine and read through a friend’s copy of Southeast Asia on a Shoestring. The next morning you feel like shit — too many bottles of cheap wine. You consider staying home to recover, maybe read some more. But you know that every sick day you accumulate will be transferred into cold hard cash. One sick day in America is worth a week in Thailand.

You are traveling to find paradise, and the brochures insist that where you’re going is paradise, but you know they’re just trying to exploit locals and tourists for a quick buck — kind of like what your company does. You also know that paradise is anywhere outside of your office.

2 months out: buy your ticket.

You learn that buying a ticket a couple of months in advance (and booking on a Tuesday) will save you money. But you buy your transcontinental flight as more of a deposit. Having that ticket in your hands is insurance that you won’t wimp out and stay with that job you hate.

You worry that someone on your Facebook feed might inadvertently alert your boss to your departure. You make sure to only tell the closest of your confidants about your trip. You halfheartedly try to convince a few friends to come with you. No bites. You know this is a solo journey. You’re worried that you’ll get lonely. A friend who just returned from Guatemala assures you that if you stay in hostels you’ll never really be alone.

1 month out: vacate your apartment.

You know that you’re only supposed to spend 25-35% of your income on housing, but this is New York City: Half of your paycheck goes to rent. There’s no way you’ll be able to afford this while you’re abroad and unemployed.

You think about pulling an epic vagabond move: Selling everything you own. You go on eBay to see how much your shit is worth. That process exhausts you. You figure you’ll just sublet your apartment. You calculate that it’s better if you just get rid of your place. That security deposit will cover the cost of your flight. You leave all your clothes and furniture at various friends’ houses. You know you’ll probably never recover any of these things. You don’t care.

You’ve done all of this a month before your flight leaves. You’re still bringing in an income from that job you hate. But now it’s going to directly into your bank account for you to spend in emerging economies.

You crash on friends’ couches. Once you even sleep under your desk at work. You know this is temporary, but this homelessness will help ease you into the nomadic nature of travel.

1/2 month out: leave office.

Two weeks before you quit, you follow the standard practice of putting in your notice. It’s not as jarring as telling your boss to “fuck off.” But that confusion on his face is great. “You’re quitting to go on vacation?” You want to tell him this isn’t vacation, this is a monumental moment in your life, but you just nod your head and smile.

You spend the next two weeks at your desk posting humble brags onto Facebook: “Just decided to quit my job to traverse the jungles of Borneo,” “I guess I won’t have to fill out that annual evaluation sheet,” “I won’t have dental insurance anymore — but at least I’ll be in Bali!!!

Now you’re really traveling!

Your old roommates throw you a goodbye party at a bar around the corner. A girl you used to have a crush on shows up. You talk to her for a few hours about your plans. She’s just gotten back from a trip around the world. You start to wonder if you’ve made a mistake.

Your former roommate and best buddy looks at you and can somehow tell what you’re thinking. He whispers into your ear, “Don’t worry, the best women are already on the road.” You know that he’s right, plus you already bought a non-refundable ticket. You enjoy your last night on the mainland.

You’re sitting at the terminal, overwhelmed with an excited anticipation. You haven’t felt this level of exhilaration about the unexpected since you saw your freshman dorms for the first time.

You know that you’ll be away for a long time. You did the right thing. You’ve reclaimed the freedom that you’d been selling to that soul-crushing organization. Eventually you’ll want to come home (possibly) and rejoin the workforce. But you know that this trip will help you to return on your own terms. You quit your job to travel because you decided to control your life, and that’s exactly what will happen.

NarrativeCareer Advice


About The Author

Josh Heller

Josh is a writer from Los Angeles. He has lived in Mexico City, New York, and Berlin with extensive jaunts to Latin America and Europe.

  • Iain Montgomery

    I’m really pretty close to this. Just 9 more days in the office, then it’s hello gap year! 

  • The Cubicle Jockey

    Oh, man.  Dont’ tease me like this!  Amazing as all this sounds, it’s much easier said than done.  But that’s just me.  I’m too chicken to break away from the creature comforts that come with a life of quiet desperation.

  • Jill

    It’s not easier said than done. It’s easier done than dreaded! 

  • EHA

    I agree, such a tease! You’ve got my little heart all a’flutter at the prospect of picking up and starting another adventure. This is great advice, and I’ll definitely be passing it along to my friends who talk about travel as if it’s this far-off and unattainable fantasy. A really enjoyable read!

  • Timothy

    I’ve only ever had to spend one night in jail (thankfully), but the feeling I had when I got out the next morning was very similar to the feeling of arriving in a new country far, far from home after quitting a job.  It’s truly a euphoric feeling of freedom.

  • Gigi

    Great, there you go encouraging my daughter to quit her job, oh, wait, she doesn’t have one, and travel the world for months on end, oh wait, she did that last year, and this year in Jan. she left for South America for 6 months, so… ok, well maybe you didn’t encourage her, but after this article, which she posted on FB, I’ll never get her home. Thanks!

  • dylane1

    Ah, I remember those days – I absolutely loved telling my boss I was leaving my job to travel! I’d say start saving a lot longer than 3 months ahead though, unless you plan to work while you travel. I saved for a year and was able to travel throughout Asia and live well for a year and a half without working and even had $ left over for when I came back. If I could go back in time, I would have started saving even more than a year ahead.

  • Cloud Sequence

    … or you can save less and get a job in another country.  I did this with a guy called Big Smoke once.  I have been trying to get him to join me again ever since.

  • Jono

    Very very close to what I have done! 8 months in to my adventure to Canada and no plan to go home to Aus anytime soon!

  • Jan

    How exciting.  The going away party.  The non-refundable ticket.  Then it is just you and the road.

  • Sapphire Anne

    Best article ever

  • Slyplace3033

    I so love this article…so right on the money with the emotions!

  • Star

    It’s such a shame this will never be realistic for most of us. One of my sick days is not equivalent to a week in Thailand. My rent is more like 75% of my paycheck. I could never save enough in three months even if I only ever ate white rice and drank water to quit my job and travel.

    Must be nice to live the kind of life where you could, though.

    • Floyd96

      You can keep saying “never” or you can figure out a way to do it. Your choice.

    • dylane1

      It’s realistic for anyone who really WANTS to do it. Saying it’s not possible is easier than actually planning it out and working towards a goal, I guess.

    • Mandy Moore

      If you wanted it, you’d figure it out.   You’d move to a cheaper place, get a few roommates, get an extra job, etc. if it was something that was important enough to you.

  • Miruna

    Great article! I am still undecided but I enjoyed reading your post.
    Thanks, Josh.

  • Traveling 9 to 5

    We are only 2 months out from the great feeling of telling your job your quitting to travel the world and it still feels great! The emotional roller coaster is rightly explained in this article – Proud to not have dental insurance and to be getting my diving certificate in the Gili Islands!

  • Turner

    Great article. I do miss it. But the “Would you ever be able to reenter the workforce?” question weighs hardest one me.

  • flyingknuckle

    Learn a skill on the road (foreign language, travel writing, monkey trainer, etc) and put that on your resume when you return and apply for jobs. My God, do you know how bored interviews are with men and women who have no stories to tell?  Do, however, let them know: “I’ve got the travel bug out of me, and am committed to building a career!”

  • Wanderlustress

    Great tips. I did exactly this and it lead me to living the life I’ve always dreamed of. Celebrating my 10th anniversary of quitting my job this year:

  • Jen Horn


  • Joannabee

    I’m sorry, did you just plagiarize what was in my mind? ;) Love it!

  • Uzi888

    Not really possible if you are a native of a country like Pakistan. My daydreams stay daydreams because for me each country I want to go requires a visa to be applied for 3 months before traveling. Hotels need to be booked before. Cant backpack on a whim. Cant work my way through travel. Cannot travel through South America, live in a city work my way through and them move on to another city. Cant come to Australia just for the reason for traveling because the visa gets declined. These are just some example. It is a really shame really. Mostly it is possible for a person living in a developed country. Bad rep country like, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, or any other this are much more difficult to travel. Seeing the world for us is a kind of privilege and a dream. 

    • Rbsocialmedia

      You are still the man and I hope it works out for you someday :)

      -ryan beatty

    • Linesoflatitude

      Take out cant from this post and it’s a lot more fun to read and dream

    • reee

      Definitely, the freedom of mobility is confined to developed countries. It is a privilege that most people don’t realize and don’t take advantage of. I recently immigrated to canada and only now I’ve started to “see the world”, my friends back in el salvador can’t even dream of doing that (at least not outside of central/south america), which is a huge shame! So we’re in the same boat. Although, once in while i’ll get a mean immigration officer who’s convinced that I plan on becoming an “illegal alien” Oh well, such is living in a white-privileged world.

    • Susanne Cheekyface

      @29c2d6858f1e226fd014486e4d659464:disqus  you are correct about Australia…the reason you are not going to get a visa for this country is because you come from a politically unstable country. Bottom line. I know quite a bit about dealing with immigration because I have been doing this for about 3 years now, and your country is not the only one. Our closest neighbouring country is Indonesia, and they cannot come here on a Tourist Visa, because they also have a politically unstable country. I am not Australian but I do come and go as I please, however, I don’t have much money and I do know that when you are dealing with any country, you MUST do your research first. Find out the different types of visas available and then decide which one you can work with the easiest. You do have to plan ahead no matter what, so your attitude of being able to country hop at will, is only a dream. Do your homework and then find a starting point. NOTHING in this world is a barrier, if you tell yourself you can do it. 

    • Cindy

      I know it seems hopeless, but I also believe, where there is a will there is a way… “ask above” and see what comes your way… I believe in miracles.

    • Susanne Cheekyface

      Life comes in cans, not can’ts!

    • ash

      poor thing i feel very sad for u! :( my love for travelling made me overstay my visa for 3yrs, and i do believe in miracles my friend! think n keep dreaming, i pray it works for u one day! remember u r never too old to travel!

  • Mat Masterson

    Free! Free! Free! Free!

  • Kmellett

    The second to last paragraph sums it up for me…!  The more I read about people who think like I do and actually make it happen, the more strength I draw to do it myself.  Thanks for the great article.  : )

  • futuretraveler

    Best article ever. I’m in the process of doing this – already have a flight booked – and reading this article gave me the chills.

  • Joza

    learn French very easy and fast here

  • Luke Kingma

    Don’t want to make excuses, but a hefty student loan debt with huge monthly obligations (in addition to my mega New York City rent) makes being able to save up in a year, let alone three months, improbable. Any tips for the student loan generation?

  • Elysiakoretz

    This pretty much summed up my situation to a tee.  3 weeks to go….

  • Mach |

    Inspiring but this is just a scary proposition, at least for me, who needs a stable job and a steady flow of income. 

    • Mandy Moore

      Why do you “need” those things?

  • Gary Sovel

    I enjoyed your article and have already followed your advice,except rather than quit my job, my job quit me. I was a General Contractor in the mountains of Western North Carolina,building upscale second homes,until the economy tanked.
    Your advice would make one long to change careers and begin to think aboutTravel Writing Careers

  • Cameron Johnson

    Thank you Josh.

  • salamanca

    i love this, thank you! one question though: what’s the cheapest way to get health insurance on the road?

    • Mandy Moore

       In most places, local medical treatment is decent and cheap.  You can get Evac insurance through D.A.N. for cheap to use in case of serious emergency but unless you’re generally unhealthy or you’re going to be doing dangerous things (most of which aren’t covered anyway) I’d personally not worry about it.  I had it on my first year-long trip and never used it – got sick 2 weeks after it expired.  Hospital visit and meds cost about $50USD.  Have been on the road for more than 3 years now and have spent about $350 USD total on medical care, $150 of which was last week when I got a piece of sand stuck in my eye on a Sunday.  I’d have spent WAY more than that on insurance.  However, if you feel you MUST have insurance, just do a search for travelers health insurance and do some comparison.  Make sure you read the fine print.

  • Asienia_81

    This post reflects what I feel. I decided to go away for 3 months next year, leaving my husband and job behind. I just feel like no one understands my need of travelling. I feel bad, but excited at the same time.

  • Bruce Jones

    Great article!
    I did exactly the same thing over 10 years ago and traveled the world for 2 years.  I sold it all, home, car, bike, furniture, cashed in my savings, did a ton of research and just “went for it”.  No excuses, get over the fear and just go. The world is easy to travel if you have a Lonely Planet guide book, a plan, a flight date and some courage.  This is my outdated travel website .   10 years later I know am president of a TEFL certification school to train people to teach English abroad and help dreams come true. 

    Maybe selling it all and spending it all isn’t your cup of tea but want to go live abroad and get paid.  There are nearly 100,000 new job openings each year teaching English, it’s a ticket to adventure.  If you want to get some advice, support and see the world go to International TEFL Academy and put up your own travel site one day and make your friends watch your adventures from their computer at work.

    • Megan

      Bruce, I walk by your new office every day on my way to and from work- it’s awesome to get an idea of how it all began! Very inspiring stuff. Teaching English abroad is a fantastic way to travel while still staying employed, and is something I totally plan on doing some day. 

      PS: But really, I LOVE what you’ve done with the office. I work in an open office, and what you have seems to be a really awesome blend between open concept/personal space. I may or may not creepily stare through the window every time I walk by…

    • ESLinsider

       You don’t actually need a TEFL/TESOL certification to teach in most of Asia.

  • Unstoppable Family

    Awesome Article Josh!

    My follow up is.  How to Quit Your Job (7 years ago), Travel the World (3.5 years and still going)  and….Make More Money While you Do It, and NEVER go BACK!  

  • Kiira

    I really like how you closed this article.  I quit my job at a “soul-crushing organization” a year ago… Took a couple months to travel in Europe.  Not quite the world, but still a great way to clear my head a bit, so I could return back to “real life” a bit more on my own terms.  The unemployment was hard after I had returned and was actively on the job search, but was still totally worth it.

  • Sonia

    I really really love this article.  I did this last year and I have no regrets!

  • Mandy Moore

     Very encouraging article.  I did this the first time in 2001.  Was in Europe for 14 months.  Then I came back to the US and tried to settle back into “normal” life.  Managed it for a few years then was completely miserable.  I’ve now been living abroad for over 3 years and I’ll never go back to that “normal” life.  I love my lifestyle and I see no need to change it any time soon. :)

  • Toffy

    I wish it were possible in Nigeria, but it is not, and it doesn’t appear to ever be. God’s intervention in Nigeria, I pray…..

  • Trip@dora

    Totally agree! I did quit and I’m loving my freedom. Being a freelancer opened up to new opportunities that I wouldn’t have noticed had I been tied to my job. 

  • Riz

    Totally Agree! I almost quit my job. Almost. This article is a sign. hmmm

  • Navino


  • soloflightEd

    wohooo! just what I did two months ago! Preparation is definitely the key. I’m currently on my second month now, backpacking across Southeast Asia! 

  • Monique

    Love it!  Did this 12 years ago, spent the last 6 years back at “home” and now I’m back in the country I started in – Albania! 

    Never going back…home is wherever you decide to make it.  <3

  • Melanie

    Note to self, don’t give six weeks notice thinking you are doing the company a favor because you might be jobless earlier than you anticipated. Other wise, best decision I have ever made!

  • Thomas C.

    Assuming that you have a job/you don’t have any kids to support/don’t have to pay mortgage/don’t work a low-paying job/have parents or friends who will help you out when you come back/have papers & visas/then you should be OK

  • ThePointsGuide

    So how do you stay traveling? If you quit your job, where does your money come from to ‘continue’ traveling?  I just don’t see how your statement “But you know that this trip will help you to return on your own terms.” can really apply to the ‘average’ person.. you run out of money 1 month into your ‘vacation’.. you become a bum in some foreign country.

    • Mandy Moore

      You get creative and/or you plan ahead.  It took me 6 months to build an online business that would make enough passive income to support me traveling full-time.  If I can do it, anyone can.  While on the road, you have lots of chances to work for money or barter in order to extend your trip.  And people should always have enough put aside to be able to get home but, realistically, in many places it’s pretty easy to find jobs that let you  make enough to get by in the local way of living.

  • Around the World in 80 Jobs

    Love the freelance writing too. Although it is not as lucrative as I would like at the moment. I made some good money doing timeshare sales while traveling, but for the long-term, freelance is a way better option. Here is a link on how to get a timeshares salesjob if you need to make some cash while you are building up your freelance clientele.


  • Christinamallkoun

    amazing! every word u wrote talked straight at me!

  • M6_6152003

    this is no problem with me.  I am where some wished they could go to.  i was born here not of my choice but it is a wonderful place.  if you have 365 friends you have food all year round as normal food is in abundance… you go out and pick some leaves from your neighbor’s backyard who wish you get more than you need..  and the climate is dry or wet.  no winter. and no lions, nor tigers, nor elephants, nor bears.  if you eat frogs, get them it you can catch them.  nobody owns them. the best beer in the world costs less than half a dollar and have all fried peanuts you can eat. 

  • Cindy Eyler

    omg – what an awesome article!!  so so sooooo true!  I gave it all up in a slightly different way, but all the stuff you describe so hits home!   The letting go of your stuff and knowing you won’t ever see it again, the look on your bosses face, the emotions and questions… all of it – exactly!  Anyone having the nudge to “just do it” … this is a real life road map described here!  Go for it.

    I have traveled all over the place… and now am living in Egypt ;)

    PS I loved the “questions” and cracked up at the pondering… hahaha… keep writing… it’s great! :)

  • Wandering Minds

    Great post.  We did exactly that (travelling with our 10 month old son)  one month ago and have no regrets.  You can check out our blog at

  • Maurmiet

    feeling inspired, and laughed my way through the post, thanks!

  • guest

    Damn sight better to do what I did: get a job that requires travel to places that tourists never dare visit, live there on expenses while doing really interesting shit, have sex with the locals (taking precautions of course), and so on. Make your job a holiday, don’t take a holiday from your job.

  • smackfairy

    That’s exactly the article I needed today. So so true.

  • Susanne Cheekyface

    Life comes in cans, not can’ts!

  • Rebeaka

    Love love love this! Love everything about it!

  • Firstnameloo

    I have just discovered this at the same time as contemplating leaving my promising career to backpack around Borneo… It must be a sign!

  • Billy Abercrombie

    Ive never done anything like this, but this article hit it on the nose with how I feel.

    I want so badly to get out there but don’t have a clue where to start or how much to “save”.

    • Nicolai Bo Larsen

      Where are you going dude?
      And how do you vision yourself traveling?
      Traveling can be super cheap or super expensive.

  • Nicolai Bo Larsen

    Great article! I recognized the girl showing up the last night before the big jump into the world – hilarious.

  • Antonello Curcuruto

    everithing OK if you do not have children…….

  • Eric Hoffman

    It’s not that difficult. My wife and i have done this twice (currently one month into our second around the world journey) . You just have to realize what is most important to you in life and act.

    • Kim Mcleod

      …well…that and $$

    • Sameer H. Doshi

      The author of the article is a bit too blithe about this. If accumulating wealth were so easy, a lot of America’s econo-political problems would be solved. People supporting other family members

    • Sameer H. Doshi

      can’t really do this. People with low education/skills who barely earn enough to pay for food and a small apartment in a bad neighborhood can’t really do this.

    • Sameer H. Doshi

      I certainly admire those who do devote their lives to seeing the world, though. :-)

  • Samantha Martin

    This sounds all-too-familiar. I enjoyed the snark:)

  • Jamaica My Way!

    Awesome. I’ve done this twice now. The first time was a 10 year career I ditched. The second time was only 3 months into a new office job before I realized I’m just not meant to sit at a desk anymore. I HIGHLY encourage this type of behavior!

  • Deepa Gupta

    Its precisely what I am going through at the moment….its almost like I wrote the article….i live in india and the scene here is not all that rosy for travel writers or for people who do decide to eventually get rid of the corporate ladder syndrome…i really do need a job as a travel writer….one that pays me to enjoy doing what I do best…can you help?

    • Vijay

      Hello Deepa, I’m a travel enthusiast looking for a career as a travel writer in India. It’s only recently I have started looking for a “career” change from a corporate job. I would like to know what you are up to in your efforts of becoming a travel writer and share ideas. Thanks.

  • ash

    get otta ur comfort zone! none’s easy! earn it hard, love it hard enuf! sure does things come ya way!

  • heidi

    I need to do this if anyone would like to join, email me

    • Susanne Cheekyface

      Learn a skill like travel writing, photography, movie or documentary making, or Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and travel the world. Join my Facebook page Heidi (Susanne Cheekyface)…I intend doing this at some stage

  • SDsc0rch

    mandy! how!?! write me?? SanDawgScorch at gmail

  • Working Nomad

    Best think I ever did, cannot imagine a life now where I would have been stuck in the same town or city for years on end!

    Travel broadens the mind and nourishes the soul.

  • Michael

    This exact page motivated me to set things in place for travelling back in January, it’s now April, I’ve cleared my over draft, paid off my credit card, booked my flight and for the first time ever managed to save, I’m 25 in a really good job tied down by car finance and loans etc but honestly, if reading that article gives you butterflies just decide here and now that you’re doing it, the time flies and that horrible ‘what if’ feeling disappears and you’ll find a way to make the rest work.

    I fly out on the 17th August to spend 12 months backpacking Central & South America :)

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