We’ve all been there, sitting in your office, scrolling through Instagram, BuzzFeed, Elite Daily and viewing picture after picture of beautiful people on the beaches of Italy, coliseums of Greece, or the luxurious streets of Paris. The headlines are screaming out at you – “I quit my job to travel! Here’s how I did it” (insert photo of two girls holding up a peace sign with some ninth Wonder of the World in the background). You think, “Wow this can be me too!”
You eagerly open up the article and begin reading, again thinking “Wow, I can totally do this.”
Here’s how they usually go:
“All it takes is a ton of motivation, a strong will and my parents’ credit card! LOL. We searched kayak.com until we found a great deal! Packed a bag and bought a one-way ticket, from there we worked odd jobs (and blogged along the way) and we were able to travel for one year! No steady job! It hasn’t always been easy but we did it!!”
Cool. I’ve basically learned nothing from this article and I still think it’s virtually impossible to quit my job and travel. So, I’m just going to go back to pretending that I understand excel and actually listen during meetings.
Well, despite these unhelpful resources, I retained the desire to quit my job and live abroad. And I’m here to tell you that, after a lot of my own research and preparation, I’m actually about to do it. But unlike these girls on Instagram who sell tea for a living, I’m a real life person with bills and a dad who will not be letting me use his credit card. I’m also here to tell you that it is possible no matter who you are, but it does take a lot if planning, discipline, and motivation (insert peace sign photo here). Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Make the decision and start planning.
My planning actually began over a year ago. Last summer, I decided that I wanted to travel, spend all my money, then come back to “real life” and get my shit together. So, I started saving a little bit of money to do just that. At this point I had no idea what I was going to do or for how long, but my ideal timeline was three months.
After spending a year abroad in Spain during high school, I knew I wanted to go back. I started researching programs that would allow me to go to Spain for three months (since you only need a tourist visa if you are going to a country for this amount of time). I stumbled upon CIEE — a program that a few of my friends had done after high school. There was a 3-month volunteer program for people right outside of Madrid that allows you to stay with a family and volunteer to teach English at a local school! (aka major money saver.)
I decided this was the program for me, since I definitely want to brush up on my Spanish and start out with a solid home base before my travels. As anyone who has traveled abroad before can tell you, it’s pretty easy to move around Europe once you get there. So I figured I would do the program, then spend maybe a month or two traveling.
Solid plan right!? Maybe. I would still basically be without work for 3 to 5 months with little to no income as I mentioned before. So that brings me to…
Step 2: Start REALLY saving money.
Even if you don’t know where you want to go, or for how long, or have any solid plans in mind for a program or a path of travel, start saving $100 – $200 per paycheck, any bonuses, tax returns, whatever — just save, save, save. When you have a solid cushion in your savings, purchasing a one-way plane ticket for $400 doesn’t seem quite so scary.
Now, in lieu of writing a 15-page essay of what I did and how I did it, I’ll treat this more like a guide (and advice column of course) as I go and learn how you all can make it work, too. I’m about a month away from my departure date, so things are getting more real than ever, but I’m also here to tell you that anyone can do it.
If you’re feeling the itch, don’t scratch it by going out and shopping. Save your money. Sure it’s hard, you might not get to accept all those brunch invitations or eat out every weekend, but I’m sure when you’re enjoying a croissant in the Swiss Alps (why not?), you’ll be glad you didn’t try to drink 15 mimosas in 30 minutes with your six drunkest, closest friends.