I quit my job and sold almost everything I own to travel around the world. A friend suggested that I reflect on why I’m doing this so I can compare my thoughts at the end of the trip with my thoughts today.
At the start I’d like to say that this isn’t for everyone. A late-twenties trip around the world is common enough to be a cliche. You only have to read the responses to Ellen Huerta’s article about quitting Google to know that publicly posted self important mission statements drive a set of the population to fits.
You don’t have to quit your job and travel full time. But if you’re thinking about it you can read why I’m doing it below.
Why am I leaving?
I have gotten comfortable and I have gotten soft. I’m looking for a sense of adventure again in my life.
I’m also not ready to dedicate myself to one pursuit. I think I’ll know what I want to do when I find it, but right now I have an overwhelming desire to try new things.
I’m also much more aware now than I have been in the past that I’m going to die. I’ve known a bunch of people who died and I have had health issues of my own. It doesn’t make much sense to save money all my life for a retirement that may never happen. I might as well retire for a bit while I’m young and enjoy it when I know I can.
Time vs Money
For a long time I thought of travel as self indulgent. Most travel I’ve done in the past has been. On my recent trip to Thailand I had lots of money and limited time. As a result I stayed at nicer hotels than I need to, ate nicer meals than I needed to, and took cabs places where a bus would have been fine. I didn’t want to waste limited vacation days because of bad sleep, bad meals or long transit.
Coming home and reviewing my expenses from Thailand I realized all the extra money I had spent to maximize my vacation in a limited amount of time. The thought came that rather than indulge with money why not indulge with time?
What would I do if I had infinite time? I wrote a list: I’d live cheap, eat cheap, wear the same clothes every day, spend more time with friends, visit my dad who recently retired, and follow the work I have gradually become more passionate about: writing and photography.
Basically I found out that if I were rich in time I would live simply. I’ve traded time for money and then spent much of that money sustaining a lifestyle to support the income: a nice apartment in a fun neighborhood, a car to drive to work, and nice clothes.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense yet, but I knew that if I gave up the job I’d be comfortable giving up almost all of those things.
So I started to sell things. I sold a few cameras, my TV, and my Aeron chair. I sold old clothes, my monitor, and programming textbooks that had been sitting around for years. Each sale went into my travel fund. Within a few weeks the travel fund broke $10,000. Backpacker around the world travel budgets quote a cost of about $20,000 per year. I was already halfway there.
Why leave the country?
Even with infinite time travel remains a bit vague. California is a perfect place to live. It’s sunny and around 70 degrees every day with limited rain. You have stimulating conversations because people are always making new music, starting new companies, and experimenting with outlier diets and exercise routines.
The culture is accepting of alternative lifestyles. If I were to quit my job and live in a bus or teach Yoga I wouldn’t be much of a social outcast here. The homeless are more accepted than anywhere else I’ve been and a nude man can walk down the street in San Francisco without causing an uproar.
So just living in California exposes you to new opportunites and ideas. But infinite time in California gets expensive and my rent is actually more than the cost of traveling full time. So California isn’t an ideal place to take a year to pursue hobbies.
Leaving home also gives you space to see yourself without the surrounding posessions, habits and friends. Today I almost always eat at the same restaurants, get coffee at the same shop, and hang out with the same people because it’s comfortable and predictable. I like all these things, and I really like my friends, but travel is an easy way to shake it all up.
Ultimately I’m traveling because it’s a lazy way to expose myself to new ideas and experiences. I want to experience different countries before I’m too old to enjoy them.
There will never be enough money. Things will never be perfect to drop and leave the country. Though being young, single and physically fit makes right now good enough.