How To Quit Your Job And Travel

Me in Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico.
In April 2012 I was sitting at home on a Saturday afternoon idly researching living in Mexico. I'd been looking to make a change for some time but I was stuck as to what I wanted. I knew I wanted to quit my marketing job and I knew I wanted to travel. But how? As I scanned reports on teaching ESL, visas, cost of living and the like I suddenly thought, I can do this. I can live in Mexico.

The decision was remarkably simple, once I was ready to make it. So was the planning process. In late August 2012 I quit my job, boarded a plane for Mexico City, and low and behold, I'm still here. I'm living with my Mexican partner, I've traveled to southern Mexico and Central America, and I'm plotting to move to South East Asia. I'm still living the dream.

If you want to quit your job and travel believe me, there's going to be little to stop you once you take a few precautionary measures. I came at this decision as a single childless women without any significant financial problems, so you'll need to take that into account.  But what I can say is this: it's a lot easier than you think. The people who tell you you'll die without your wage slave job and that travel is too expensive to maintain long-term are WRONG, people. Dead wrong. Get dreaming, get planning, and get moving! Here's how:

1. Get Your Finances In Order

Yes, this is the scary but necessary time to go visit your financial adviser (call your local bank branch to book a free appointment). Talk about opening a high-interest savings account (such as a TFSA or GIC in Canada). If you have existing savings, ask about investing them in low or medium risk funds. If you have credit card debt, see about getting a low interest line of credit to pay off the balance on your card. Actively pay down any student debt.

Also, SAVE like a madman. If you're dicey on this, ask your employer to automatically divert part of your pay cheque into a savings account. Or get your bank to set up an automatic withdrawal that diverts funds to your savings every month/every two weeks etc.

Reading List:
2. Ask Yourself: How Much Money Do I Need?

Any way you slice it, you have to plan how much you'll save each month before you leave. I ended up saving about $7000 in eight months and I did just fine with that. But that was with the intention of working part-time in my new country and doing so within a month of arriving. I also ended up staying in Mexico City, with only two weeks of travel in southern Mexico and five weeks in Central America. If you stay in one spot you're going to spend a lot less. Every trip is different so get reading to figure out how to budget. Thankfully, there's tons of resources out there.

Reading List:
3. Stop Spending Money

Or what I like to call FINANCIAL JAIL. When I'm in jail, I don't buy anything that isn't essential. I pay my bills and rent, buy food and a few essential toiletries, and that's it baby! Cancel your gym membership and take up running or volunteer to walk dogs. Nix that Netflix subscription. Find creative new ways to wear the clothes already in your closet.

Stop socializing at bars and clubs and invite your besties over for a potluck dinner or house party. Don't eat out; instead cook a big one pot meal on Sunday and eat the leftovers during the week (or even better freeze portions so you have different meals available). Make friends with your local produce market. Get thee to the local library. Research free events in your city. This may all sound like certain death but believe me, you'll end up finding it liberating once you see all the $$'s piling up in your bank account.

Reading List:

4. Ask Yourself: What Can I Sell?

What are you sitting on that is Craigslist-able? Whether it's an old sewing machine you never use, that musical instrument you never play, your furniture, or clothes you never wear, put it on Craigslist. It's a win-win: you get rid of stuff you don't want to store plus you can use that money to travel.

Also, think about skills you can sell to earn extra cash. Perhaps you'd make a great math or science tutor. Or you'd like to try your hand at content writing for the web. Or there's a part-time retail position that would fit with your schedule. Either way, sacrifice your leisure time now and speed up your progress towards your goal. This will also help you think about what you want to do beyond the cubicle, if indeed you want to work abroad or find a financially sustainable way to travel. This will likely involve plunging into the freelance life so read up, my friends.

Reading List:
5. Research Your Destination

Do you want to work part or full time? Do you simply want to chill? Or are you looking for a great adventure? Figuring out this piece of the puzzle will help you narrow down your destination. I chose Mexico City because it's cheap, not far from Canada, offers a lot of ESL positions, is Spanish-speaking, and was a good jumping-off point to other places of interest including Belize, Guatemala, southern Mexico etc.

Generally, you're going to want to choose a country where your dollar goes further such as South East Asia, Mexico, South/Central America, or Eastern Europe. Then decide if you're looking for an urban experience, beach living, mountain adventure, or something else. You'll also want to make sure you live in a place where you can either get by on English/your second language. If not, are you willing to put in the time and effort to learn the language? Finally if you want to work make sure your destination country has a demand for your particular expertise and if it does, that you won't face overwhelming competition.

The visa situation is also key. Either your country of choice should make it easy to obtain residency/work permits or the tourist visa should be at least 90 days. A 30 day visa is going to have you running for the border crazy often.

Decisions, decisions. Narrowing down a choice may be hard but turn to Lonely Planet for country information, Dave's ESL Cafe for ESL advice, Workaway for work abroad listings, the US Department of State for travel advisories, expat sites such as this for the inside perspective, and A Little Adrift for the perspective of a solo female long-term traveler.

Order the Moon guide (love this series!) for your destination and read away--often you can find guides particularly tailored for living in a specific country. Before I moved to Mexico I bought Moon Mexico Cityand Moon Living Abroad in Mexico,which collectively saved my life.

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6. Book Your Ticket

Oh shoot, now you have to go! There is nothing like the reality of a bought and paid for plane ticket to kick start you into action. Believe me, once I bought my ticket to Mexico in June before my September departure I really started getting serious about planning my trip. Check out Skyscanner or Kayak Explore for deals.

By the way, if you want to find somewhere to stay in Mexico City when you land then click this link to go to AirBnB and get $25 USD in travel credit -- my gift to you!

7. Start Preparing Your Loved Ones

If you're employed, you'll have to tell only your most trusted cohorts. But it you're flying off to distant lands, your friends and family will need to be prepared. It'll help you, too. Discuss how often and through what means you'll be in touch. Plan shared vacations and home visits. Throw yourself a really kick-ass goodbye party and invite anyone and everyone. If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend and he or she is not coming with, well, I have to be straight with you: it probably won't work. I went through this and learned that when you're living such a new, different, and awesome life, keeping in touch with your honey isn't going to seem as important. Plus, you will probably/definitely meet someone. Just be prepared.

At the same time, start making contacts in your new country. Ask friends via social media to refer you to acquaintances. Sign up for Couchsurfing so you can attend events and get free accommodation when you first arrive. Check out Meetups in your destination. It's good to plan ahead of time so you'll have a social network when you arrive.

8. Know When To Quit Your Job

Easy with the social media updates and chatter about your exciting plans. You don't want your employer getting whiff of your departure as he or she may take the opportunity to let you go early. If you have a super specialized job or you're super nice, give a month's notice. Otherwise, two weeks is OK. Offer to train your replacement, leave a job description/pending tasks document, get your files in order, and be polite. If your boss/co-workers ask why you're leaving, just say you're acting on a long-held dream to travel. You don't want to burn bridges, after all who cares if you hated your job, you're FREE! Put the past behind you and look towards your amazing future.

Reading List: 
9. Ugh, The Shopping

Here's an exception to the FINANCIAL JAIL rule. You obviously have to buy things for your trip. But for God's sake if you're going to MEC or The North Face, go with a list and don't deviate. You will see plenty of sparkly things that you might think would be nice for your trip. WRONG. Most likely you will be shedding this crap a month after you land.

Research packing lists online, shop army surplus, use what you already have, borrow/steal from friends, look for used items on Craigslist, or just do without. All your really need is a passport, money, a good backpack/suitcase, and a sturdy pair of shoes. The rest can go to hell.

Also, health insurance. This needn't cost you an arm and a leg. I bought mine through Travel Cuts. Check out World Nomads too. All you need is emergency health coverage and hopefully your new country has cheap private health care. Here's where your savings will come in. Just in case. Also, buy as much of your medication as possible in advance and get immunized. Your family doctor can provide a travel heath consultation but be aware that even in Canada this will cost you. At least it's cheaper than going to a private travel clinic believe me.

10. Visas, Paperwork, Shoot Me Now

You gotta know if you need to apply for a visa ahead of time. Call the consulate of your destination country in the nearest city or click here for Canadians and here for Americans. Leave LOTS of time. Renew your passport, you'll want to make sure it won't expire for at least a year. You may also need to get key documents apostatized by the embassy. For example, in Mexico you often need an apostatized vaccination record or university degree to either get a visa or apply for a job. Research this shiznit.

11. Relax Brother, You're Almost Free

I was crazy nervous before leaving for Mexico. Thank God I had the ear of a few lovely friends and a very tolerant therapist. Make time to chill and if you're freaking out, accept it as part of the process. After all, you're not switching your cereal brand. This is big life stuff! Pat yourself on your back for making such a courageous decision. 

You may want to think about a contingency plan i.e. if I hate traveling what can I do? Ask a friend if you can crash on their couch and think about freelancing opportunities that will give you a cash cushion. It might all go south--which is OK, because at least you took the plunge. Or you could be like me and find yourself turned on to the idea of permanent travel.

You can't know, so just quit your job and travel already. Today's the day.

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27 comments:

Valerie Dawson said...

So timely!! I am quitting my job and moving to Mexico too, and am first flying into Mexico City! Would love to meet you. I write This Way To Paradise. I have a few questions. How do you receive mail, pay taxes, and what do you do for health insurance. I would love to get some info about these sorts of things!! Thanks!!
Val

B.Kienapple said...

Hi Valerie, thanks for the comment! That's amazing that you're doing the same! I've set it up so all my bank/tax/life mail goes to my parents in Canada and they yell at me if something is important. Taxes, well, I filed for 2012 this spring for what I did earn in Canada. Honestly I haven't figured it out yet. I'll let you know when I do. Health insurance I get through Travel Cuts but it's emergency only. I pay out of pocket for medication and the occasional doctor visit (about $25). Feel free to email me at b[dot]kienapple[at]gmail[dot]com for more info. Love to meet up when you're here!

Scarlett Windsong said...

Same here, just in the right time. Im quitting my job too in the end of September, planning to move to the Carribean most likely, haven't decided yet. Thank you for the great post, really useful reading lists.

casey said...

Great post, you should be proud. Very nicely done. Good luck in your adventure, sieze every opportunity!

Tori Martinez said...

I love, love, love this article! I got rid of it all and moved to Mexico with my husband and two kids... we've been living here now for two years. I'm thinking we should try another country soon! Right now I teach English and my husband is a chef (and a Mexican National)Both my kids attend bilingual schools. It was a process, but SO worth it! When I was younger and single,(a looong time ago!) I "tossed it all" and moved to Alaska to teach in the bush and loved it!
I say "Go for it!" and always tell people to follow their dreams, no matter how crazy they think they might sound :)
I really like how you end with suggested reading lists on each topic, and love your style of writing. I would love to quote you on some of your wonderful comments: "The people who tell you you'll die without your wage slave job and that travel is too expensive to maintain long-term are WRONG, people. Dead wrong. Get dreaming, get planning, and get moving!" (love!)
"You can't know, so just quit your job and travel already. Today's the day." (love, again!)
Good luck to you on all of your life's journeys and thanks for the blog!

B.Kienapple said...

Hi Scarlett, congrats on your decision! I may be biased but you might want to consider Mexico! You can beach it up in the Yucatan or the west coat (Oaxaca in particular in wonderful!) Check out this post on living in a Mexican beach town: http://alittleadrift.com/2013/06/cost-of-living-mexico/

B.Kienapple said...

Casey, thanks for your comment! Life has its ups and downs here but I always remember how how happy I am I took the plunge. Better a life lived whatever the consequences, IMO.

B.Kienapple said...

Hi Tori, I've always had the urge to head up north. Alaska must have been amazing! Congrats on your life here with your family. What part of Mexico are you living in? Best of luck to you and thanks so much for your comments!

Jeanette Williams said...

This is such a good blog post. I'm about to graduate next month and I've given myself from now to save like crazy before I move to South East Asia in January 2014. You've given me some fantastic tips and things I definitely need research ahead of time. Thank you!

Sylvain said...

Hi B.! Thanks for the great post, like everyone else I'm so happy for you and jealous too! (grin)

I'd toyed with the idea of going south myself, but trying to figure out the ESL teaching and how it all works proved a little too daunting for me. Any advice re: the ESL side of things?

Have a great weekend! :D

Sylvain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wodara said...

I think this article is great! Erik and I did precisely this. Took a year of planning and we didn't look at nearly as many resources as you've offered, but our to do list was very long and we got through it just in time! Happy travels...
Cheers,
Krista

B.Kienapple said...

Hi Jeannette, congrats on your decision! I'm also moving to SE Asia early next year so maybe I'll see you there! -B

B.Kienapple said...

Hey Sylvain, as for ESL teaching in Mexico you can easily get a job here as long as you're a native English speaker. It's pretty simple. No TOEFL degree required, usually only a uni/college certificate. There is TONS of work in Mexico City and to a lesser degree, in other major cities and resort areas. I would suggest checking out TeachingJobs.com, Workaway.com, or even Craigslist for the area you're considering. I found my teaching job through CL. Let me know if you need any other info! B

B.Kienapple said...

Hi Krista, thanks for your comment! Congrats on it all. The planning part turned out to be simpler than I thought, but it wasn't a short process! Cheers -B

Sheri Fresonke Harper said...

Sounds like a great plan! We've visited often but move, you make a great case.

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Cristina Wilson said...

Last year I visit in Australia with trip that held by organization of our company. It is first trip of me and other persons who are join recent ally this company. So we are very excited because we going to see strange country first time in our life. With the name of God our trip start toward to country of Australia and after spending long time we went in big stat and stay in national hotel for some days it is business trip due to this reason it is our first aim to complete our business meetings and after completion of our whole work we go in market by bus and see different types of devices so when we enter in big computer plaza and see different types of computers and laptop. I see a laptop in nice look. I really like it and buy it for my personal use. It is very fast in speed and has large space. I am very happy from it.

Ashwin Aj said...

I have been visited Cameron Highlands about many years ago. Most tourist attractions at Cameron Highlands lie within the major townships of Brinchang and Tanah Rata. No trip to Cameron Highlands would be complete without visiting the local tea plantations. In 1929, John Archibald Russell, who was the son of a British administrative officer started a tea plantation which is now the famous BOH Tea Plantation. Later, other tea plantations were established in Cameron Highlands, namely the Bharat and Blue Valley plantations.

David Paul said...

Cameron Highlands is really a beautiful hill station in Malaysia. It is an amazing attraction to visit in winter but my favorite winter destination is Niagara Falls I used to visit Niagara Falls two years ago with cherry blossom tours . Next month I am going there again with my friends.

Super visa insurance said...

Oh travel with nature that awesome i love this.

Super visa insurance canada said...

I was very pleased to find this site and wanted to thank you for this great read!!

Kabir Ctg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Howard Henry said...

I also have been visited there about a year ago with my friend that was such a nice trip. We really enjoy there and had a lot of fun. It is one of the Malaysia’s most extensive hill stations. It can be accessed by road via Tapah, Simpang Pulai, Gua Musang or Sungai Koyan.

Federico Caprotta said...

Hi Jeanette I am also thinking of moving to Mexico I've traveled there for six months and in Thailand for 6 months but now I would like to be able to move there and teach English to live there my 1 concern I have is I'm 58 years old I'm from Argentina originally but I've been living in the US since I was 11 so I'm fluent in English being a realtor for 25 years and owned a couple of small companies haven't done any teaching but I'm wondering what is your sense about getting a job I am thinking of getting that Tefol licensing here in the US before going over there any ideas about the job prospects with no college degree but lots of work experience in sales counseling social work very comfortable speaking in front of people used to be a crisis counselor at Stanford so forth and so on would be greatly appreciated the certificate would I believe help...what's your take on job prospects at my age with no teaching experience first day I did train a few people for working in the community through my company for the state

Federico Caprotta said...

Hi Jeanette I am also thinking of moving to Mexico I've traveled there for six months and in Thailand for 6 months but now I would like to be able to move there and teach English to live there my 1 concern I have is I'm 58 years old I'm from Argentina originally but I've been living in the US since I was 11 so I'm fluent in English being a realtor for 25 years and owned a couple of small companies haven't done any teaching but I'm wondering what is your sense about getting a job I am thinking of getting that Tefol licensing here in the US before going over there any ideas about the job prospects with no college degree but lots of work experience in sales counseling social work very comfortable speaking in front of people used to be a crisis counselor at Stanford so forth and so on would be greatly appreciated the certificate would I believe help...what's your take on job prospects at my age with no teaching experience first day I did train a few people for working in the community through my company for the state

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