NOBODY quits a secure, well-paid job to travel, right?
Come on, that would just be stupid…
I Quit My Job to Travel (for realz)
I'm Kat and in February 2018 I quit my job as an air-traffic controller.
Yep, I quit a high-paying and secure job, with absolutely no backup plan- so I could travel Europe in a motorhome.
We took less than 7 months to go from ‘hey, maybe we could do this one day' to ‘Holy crap, I've just left my job and now I have no income'!
I know you have questions.
SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.
Below, I'll do my very best to answer everything I've ever been asked about quitting work to travel in my 30s, but if there's something you're still burning to know, feel free to drop a comment in the box at the bottom and I'll answer it for you.
Why I Quit my job to travel (in my own words at the age of 35!!)
If you'd like to watch a video of me talking through my reasons for quitting my job and why we chose to change our life, here it is.
In February 2018, I didn't have a blog like this, but I did have a Youtube channel. I decided to bare my soul to the people of YouTube, and I filmed my last days at work- including my reaction as I left for the very last time.
(If you want to just see my reaction to quitting, skip to minute 19.)
Watching that back is cringy for me.
A: the editing quality is AWFUL (sorry about that- I was a baby YouTuber) but also I remember that rollercoaster ride of emotions. The feeling of terror, of second-guessing everything, the complete unknown about what would happen next and then the elation when I did it anyway.
How it started…
For everyone who doesn't want to watch a (badly-edited) video, here's the story.
In August 2017, I found myself on top of a mountain in Switzerland, staring in amazement at the Milky Way.
The ACTUAL Milky Way.
I was 35 years old and I'd never seen the Milky Way before. I remember wondering what else is out there in the world that I've never seen, because we're too busy rushing around, trying to juggle work and child and life and everything else we all juggle on a daily basis.
It was such a magical night, sitting outside our motorhome in the middle of nowhere, just staring up at the sky in awe.
At least, it was until we thought we heard a wolf nearby… I have never run so fast in my life!!!
What if I left my job for a year so we could travel?
On the 500+ miles back to the UK from Switzerland, my husband and I passed the time coming up with all sorts of crazy ways that we could work more magical nights like that into our life. We joked and laughed and came up with wild ideas, like me taking a sabbatical from my job and us travelling Europe in our motorhome.
Until suddenly, they didn't seem so wild anymore.
What if I actually DID take a sabbatical?
Could we survive for a year on one salary?
How would it work? Is it the right move for us? Would it give us what we were looking for?
What ARE we looking for?
Figuring out if you can afford a year break from work.
It's a long drive back from the Swiss Alps to the UK- and we tossed ideas around pretty much the entire journey. We pulled up bank statements, added up our spending (ouch!), worked out what we could eliminate from our lives. We wrote note after note on a pad.
Slowly, we realised that we might be able to make an unpaid sabbatical work. If we saved REALLY hard for 2 years, we could probably save enough to survive for a year without my wage.
Now THAT was exciting.
Want to do this too? Here's what we did.
- Bring up your last 6 months of bank statements (12 months is even better).
- Write down EVERYTHING you have spent into a spreadsheet. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Morning coffee, £3/ day parking, sneaky lunchtime doughnut- seriously, everything. Ideally, stop taking cash out of your bank and spend only on a card- it makes it easier to track where the money goes.
- From there, work through the list and note which bills would be eliminated by you leaving work- food costs/ fuel/ childcare/ work clothing etc. You know what you spend to enable you to work.
- Then, figure out what you will be living on. For example, we knew we couldn't BOTH leave work, but luckily Mr WB has a job which is mostly computer-based and he works for himself- so he could do that while we were travelling. You need to find some options for you to be able to bring in some income (enough to live & travel on).
- Once you have those options and know roughly how much income will be each month, you need to look at what bills will still remain. Vehicle loan payments, mortgages, food, insurance- all the things which CANT be removed. Do NOT underestimate these figures- you'll get yourself into trouble very quickly.
- And then, you need to work your butt off to close the gap between what you currently spend and what limited money you will be bringing in. This bit is the HARDEST part- changing habits and saying ‘no' to friends or family or stopping buying things- it's all hard. Only you can decide what's most important to you.
Once back at home in our normal routine, we played with the numbers again.
Just to be sure.
It was a little tight and we'd have to change our spending habits a LOT, but I applied for a sabbatical from work anyway, to start in September 2019. My work didn't actually agree to it- they said they'd ‘look at it closer to the time', but we decided to act as if it was a definite deadline.
That gave us two years to save and plan.
How to Quit your job and travel for a year
We started changing things right away. We stopped spending on more ‘stuff'. I was shocked to discover that, after years of living frugally on boats, we had become ‘consumers'.
We had rented a big house (partly to look after my mother-in-law when she was ill, but partly because we'd never HAD a big house- and we could suddenly afford it.
With a big house came furniture, clothes, cars and STUFF.
So. Much. Stuff.
I was horrified when I realised how much we'd spent in the 4 months that we'd owned a property- all that money wasted.
It was one of the most eye-opening periods of my life.
So we stopped spending and started saving.
And saving some more.
I read books about financial independence, early retirement and money management. It was a whole new world I'd never really paid attention to before and I was totally hooked.
The moment of realisation
Two months later, we'd totally changed our spending habits. Although we still treated our daughter and family, we'd stopped spending on things for ourselves. We had new priorities.
At this point I sat down and realised something momentous; at our current rate of saving, we could pay for all the things we wanted to (like clear credit card bills and upgrade our motorhome) and still have enough saved for our year off within 4 months.
On top of that, we'd changed our lifestyle so dramatically that we were now entirely living on my husband's wage- and saving most of mine. We got rid of the house, moved back onto our boat and continued to eliminate anything which wasn't essential or important to our plans.
This was where things got really wild.
I started to develop a weird sleep condition. (I was waking up in the middle of the night unable to breathe. Fun…not!)
I had all the tests done for sleep apnea, but it wasn't that. No-one could figure out what was wrong. I temporarily lost my air traffic licence while they did the tests and was spending my work time in an office.
I HATED it. Seriously, I'm not sure I have ever been more miserable at any job, ever. It was horrendous.
With no clear way of getting my medical back (as no-one could figure out what was wrong) and no end in sight, one day I broke down and sobbed on my husband.
Leaving a high-paying job to travel
Looking back, it's sad that our triumphant moment didn't happen with rays of sunshine and a choir singing uplifting music. But no, our moment of realisation happened in a pit of despair, tears and snot.
There was a lot of snot.
Once again, we got out the pens and pads and started throwing numbers around. We didn't actually NEED me to be in work anymore- we were saving all my income anyway. Would the money we saved in the next 3 months be enough? Could I actually just leave my job NOW, and forget about the sabbatical.
Like, LEAVE leave?
No turning back? No job as a safety net if things didn't work out?
The fear was almost OVERWHELMING.
NOBODY does this. Or at least, nobody I knew.
Nobody leaves a high-paying, respected job… to go travelling.
My parents thought I was crazy. My bosses thought I was crazy. Heck, I secretly thought I was crazy. I was 35. What on earth was I DOING?
I had fought my butt off to get my ATC licence; dealt with the bullying, the mean girls, the politics and all the other problems which happen in a room full of Type A personalities. (You've seen “Pushing Tin”, right?) Was I really going to give up everything I'd worked so hard for, for the unknown? REALLY?
This was potentially the most stupid decision I'd ever made- and I've dangled myself OVER the edge of one of the tallest towers in the world!
Yet, mentally, I was done.
The second I saw the figures on paper, and seen we could make it work, was the second I mentally left my job. I didn't need it anymore. I didn't want it anymore.
And THAT was huge for me. Realising that my goals had changed, that what I wanted 10 years ago wasn't the same as what I wanted now. That my dreams had changed. For some reason, I'd stopped thinking about my new dreams and goals and was just going through the motions of day-to-day life without any real ambition.
And, when I stopped to think about it, I realised my new ambitions had NOTHING to do with my job. Or money. They were all to do with family and travel. Not buying ‘stuff' or getting promoted.
How to tell your boss you're leaving to go travelling…
So the next day, I just DID IT.
I typed out my resignation letter (using an online Google template because really, who knows how to do that?)
And then I went to
throw my life down the toilet hand in my notice.
Which is one of the funnier parts of the story- because there was NO-ONE there to hand it in to.
I'd psyched myself up, walked up to the management floor… and then spent 20 minutes going from office to office trying to find someone, ANYONE to take this stupid letter.
In the end, a poor girl (I think she was on work experience) agreed to pass it on to her manager when he returned.
So, my actual quitting was… anti-climatic. I'm not sure what I expected… but literally NOTHING changed. I still had a 3-month notice period to work (although with holiday it came down to 2 months) and I told pretty much nobody I worked with what was happening.
I'd just made one of the biggest decisions in my life, and pretty much nobody knew.
What's it actually like to leave your job?
Ok, real talk time.
You ready? Here it is…
All those people you've worked with for years, they don't care if you're leaving. People are only really interested in things which affect their lives directly, and you being able to leave work just doesn't affect them.
Even worse, you'll find many people either jealous or angry that you're DARING to do something outside of the norm, especially if they can't. Sadly, it will probably lead to you losing contact with many people you used to regard as friends.
And that's ok. It's not their life, it's yours. You need to do what's right for you, not for them.
But DON'T expect sobbing and pleading and begging you not to go.
On the plus side, as you walk out of the building for the last time, you'll feel like a badass who can conquer the entire freaking WORLD. It's pretty awesome- even if no-one else is watching.
Could YOU quit your job and travel?
If you are considering changing your own lifestyle, my advice is this:
- Think it through REALLY carefully. This isn't a game- it's your life. You will NEED money/ income/ new goals.
- Don't compare your journey or choices to anyone else's- not mine, not someone on Instagram or Youtube, no-one. It's YOUR life. Do what's right for you and your family.
- Don't let fear stop you. You will be scared- changing your life is always scary. But if you can, do it anyway- you'll always regret it if you don't at least try.
For us, we're now 18 months in and haven't starved yet. We've been travelling around Europe in our motorhome and having a blast. It's not all been sunshine and roses, but it's not been a horrible slog either. It's been an adventure!
I'm currently writing an update on how things have been, what's been tough and what's been amazing about quitting my job to travel. Coming very soon. Sign up to the mailing list to hear about it first.