The decision to quit your job to travel the world isn’t an easy one: you need money, a plan, and an all-encompassing determination to achieve what appears to be a larger-than-life goal.
I didn’t have any of that when I got my first job out of college, working for a small local paper in Miami. It would take a few months to come up with the idea and another two years to save up enough money to make it happen.
My first job was anything but glamorous. I couldn’t afford to live in Miami on my freshman reporter’s salary, so I settled in with a family friend an hour away. During that daily hour-long commute to work, I thought about all the travel I’d missed: why didn’t I study abroad? Why didn’t I do this postgraduate trip to Europe?
I felt smothered by the 10 day vacation policy and the pressure to never take time off. The few vacation days I had I spent visiting my mother and father—each from a different state than I did—and the rest of my family in Brazil. Dream trips to Italy and Thailand would be almost impossible.
I felt an intense desire to escape from the traditional routine: Over the next two years my boyfriend and I budgeted, planned and organized our belongings for a 10 month trip across Europe, South America and Southeast Asia.
This trip around the world changed my life. And if you’re curious, you can do exactly the same thing too.
The base budget for a round-the-world trip typically starts at $50 per day. This accounts for all expenses, including transportation, accommodation, meals and activities, averaged over the entire trip.
You can go above or below depending on your travel style.
My friend and I each spent a little over $18,500 in 10 months, which is an average of $62 per day. We used this helpful chart, created by world traveler Shannon O’Donnell, to keep track of our spending in each country.
We stayed in cheap hotels or shared Airbnbs, took dozens of overnight bus trips to save on hotel nights, and avoided expensive tourist traps. Living on $62 a day meant lowering our standards: we encountered a moldy showerhead in Prague; a sheetless mattress in Dubrovnik, Croatia; an ant infestation in Mancora, Peru; giant cockroaches in Bali; and the list goes on.
Amanda Monique Brown had a bigger budget to play with after selling her condo in the summer of 2020. The 28-year-old actuary says she made an average of about $155 a day during the year-long trip. She could afford a safari in Kenya, a catamaran tour in the Galapagos Islands and an ayahuasca retreat in Peru.
“I feel like it’s so much about being willing to compromise on some things,” says Monique Brown. “If I have to eat peanut butter and jelly in my room for a week so we can pay for a snorkeling tour, I’ll happily do that.”
Take a look at your budgeted expenses and see what you can save.
I had to make many changes to reach my original goal of $15,000. I got a better-paying job, moved in with my boyfriend to split the rent, slowed down my social life, and worked at events on the weekends. The highest-paying jobs were brand ambassador jobs. This is the case when a marketing company hires you to work on events like the Miami Open Tennis Tournament. I took vacation days from my full-time job to work on this tournament two years in a row.
We actually flew back to the United States during our trip to do some more work for the event – which funded the Southeast Asia portion of our trip.
It took me two years to reach my goal and set aside some extra money for a payback fund. This pillow helped me stay afloat when I returned home and started applying for jobs.
The easiest and most exciting part of the planning process is creating a bucket list.
Write down every country, city, or attraction you’ve always wanted to visit. You can also approach this through experience – road trips to the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia and scuba diving in Thailand were high on my list. Search Pinterest and Instagram. Read travel blogs. leaf through magazines. Talk to international friends or those who have lived abroad.
Let your imagination run wild; You can trim this list later.
Place each destination on a map, then organize by region to make your trip as cost-effective as possible.
For example, my trip focused on three regions: Western Europe, South America and Southeast Asia. While I also wanted to visit places like South Africa and New Zealand, they were too far removed from others on my list and would require additional long-haul flights.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to follow a global direction. Research shows that traveling west is easier on the body. You don’t have to follow this rule, but it helps to avoid tracing and additional transport costs.
Then there’s the weather. Many world travelers prefer warm-weather destinations and plan their itinerary during each country’s summer months. Try fitting a down jacket into a 40L backpack and you’ll understand why!
Once you have a solid list of places, check out the Covid-19 restrictions for each. Some countries like Japan have yet to fully open to regular visitors.
5. Determine how long you will be abroad
If you don’t have a specific time in mind, try the following:
Add each city to a table.
Make a note of the number of days you plan to spend in each, taking into account the transit time.
Add up the number of days.
There are two ways to approach long-term travel: slow and fast.
“Slow” travelers spend weeks or even months in a single country. “You can build a community and participate in events and activities that promote the longevity and well-being of the place,” says Brittany Sneller, a 29-year-old travel blogger who has been traveling full-time for the past seven years.
“I love feeling more connected to a place and its people than making my way through it,” she says.
“Fast” travel, on the other hand, is all about seeing as much as possible in a given amount of time. When I started my journey, it was only supposed to last six months. And I was traveling fast: in the first two months I sped through 20 cities in Europe.
There is no right or wrong option. The experience is yours and you should choose what best suits your travel style.
Are you team carry-on or team backpack? I knew my bag would be thrown in and out of rickety boats and tuk-tuks, so I chose the latter.
Whatever you choose, plan to pack about a week’s worth of clothes. You will soon realize that you no longer need it. The art of minimalism is one of the greatest lessons learned traveling the world.
Essentials I recommend are packing cubes, comfortable walking shoes, a quick-drying travel towel, a universal adapter, and a Scrubba laundry bag for portable laundry.
Wait until you reach your savings goal before quitting your job.
When you submit your two-week notice period, be transparent about your plans. Your co-workers may not understand or support you, but it’s better for them to hear it directly from you than to see it on social media.
Some companies have flexible sabbatical policies and may even welcome you back when you return. My friend had a close relationship with his team and shared his travel plans months before we left. In return, the company said it would be happy to hire him after the trip.
8. Create a final checklist
Make arrangements for your pets, cars, and belongings. We put most of our stuff in one storage unit and sold the rest.
Find out about the visa requirements for each travel destination.
Go to a travel clinic to get the necessary vaccines and medicines for the countries you are visiting.
Get a long-term supply of subscribed medication and/or contact lenses.
take out travel insurance. There are some expat plans that offer coverage in the United States and abroad, ideal for those who lose their coverage if they quit their job.
9. Book your one-way ticket
Purchasing a one-way ticket is the start of your new, flexible adventure. When you finally buy it, there’s no going back.