Giving it up to travel the world

JAMES ADONIS
Last updated 13:19 21/12/2012
Travel backpack backpacker rucksack

Is throwing it all in to chase a dream worth it? Probably.

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Anecdotally it seems people are increasingly taking Mark Twain’s advice, giving everything up to travel the world. They’re quitting their job or abandoning their business, and packing their bags instead. Seeking what, exactly, they’re not sure. Happiness maybe. Freedom probably. But is the sacrifice worth it?

Some say it’s not. The blogosphere is packed with travellers exposing the ‘myths’ associated with spending a year or more abroad. 

They write about the difficulties of finding temporary work overseas and of struggling to be rehired upon their return back home. They say too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing, and that boredom soon takes hold. And others confess how annoying it is to live out of a backpack, and how they miss their routine, their possessions, their friends.

Of course, the positive tales outnumber the negative ones. An Aussie guy who extols the benefits of pursuing your goals is Sebastian Terry.

When he was 27, the death of a mate made him realise the truth inherent in the mantra that ‘life is short’. So, he created a list of 100 things he wanted to do before he died and has been travelling the world ever since, ticking them off.

So far, among dozens of accomplishments, he has married a stranger in Las Vegas, visited an inmate on death row, and broken the world record for the most eggs crushed within 30 seconds using only his big toes.

"I'm certainly not here to say that you need to quit your job," he tells me, "but don't ever let fear hold you back from chasing a dream. Whether it's travelling to the other side of the planet, jumping out of a plane with a parachute loosely strapped to your back, or indeed starting your own business, I'm yet to meet someone who's regretted following their heart."

That's what Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett and Amanda Pressner did when they were in their late 20s. They were nearing the stage when getting promoted, married, pregnant, and mortgaged were the expected next phases of life. And they weren't too happy about it.

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On a whim they left their boyfriends, quit their jobs, and walked away from their New York apartments, opting instead for a life of travel that took them to a dozen countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, India, south-east Asia and Australia. Their adventures over the space of a year are chronicled in The Lost Girls, their book and soon-to-be television series.

I asked Amanda Presser for any advice she has for others thinking of doing the same thing. "Never let your fears that the worst will happen — that you'll be committing career suicide, that bosses and co-workers will judge you or that your clients abandon you or leave you — rule your decision to stay home, rather than pursuing your dream of long-term travel," she says.

"No one we know (and we've literally spoken with hundreds of adventurers who've quit jobs in the legal, business, media and artistic professions) has ever been unable to return to the career they left behind ... and in many cases, they've returned home with the skills and confidence they need to get an even better job in the same or a new industry."

Robert Schrader is another intrepid adventurer. He’s the creator of Leave Your Daily Hell, a website that, as the name suggests, helps those desperately wanting to flee the nine-to-five grind for the wonders of globetrotting. 

A few years ago, he was living in Texas – broke, unemployed, and with a growing credit card debt. Despite those circumstances, he left the United States and arrived in China to teach English. Since then, he's continued travelling the world, visiting 50 countries across six continents.

He cautions people to be wary of prematurely leaving their job or business. “Unless you've just gotten an inheritance or plan to permanently roam the globe in poverty, you're eventually going to need to get back into something that sustains you,” he tells me.

That is, unless you develop a “location-independent income” - usually done by setting up a website from which you can sell e-books, advertising, training, or other freelance services - that enables you to earn money irrespective of where you’re based. 

Easier said than done, sure, but at least it’d make for a bold New Year’s resolution.

Have you quit your job or business to go travelling? Was it worth it? Leave a comment.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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