Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Job To Travel The World
We love to romanticize the notion of traveling the world, but it isn’t as glamorous as it appears
I like traveling. Although I have yet to venture outside the country, I have managed to make it to a handful of different states and cities. I’ve eaten a slice of real Italian pizza in Cleveland, gaped at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, trudged through Fifth Avenue in New York City, and climbed the famous Rocky steps in Philadelphia.
These trips have been far and few between for me, but all of them have been special. With limited time and funds, I don’t have the opportunity to travel as much as I would like to. This is why, I suppose, I like to torture myself by scrolling through the travel photos people post on Instagram. You know which ones I’m talking about — the photos of sun-kissed models lounging on the white sand beaches of Bora Bora, or the lovesick couple embracing with a view of Paris over their shoulders. These cinematic images capture places I hope to visit one day — even if that day isn’t any time soon.
Lately, I can’t help but notice that whenever these glamorous photos of exotic locations pop up, there’s inevitably someone there to tell you how you should “quit your job and travel the world”. If it’s not the person who took the picture, it’s another travel blogger/vlogger.
Don’t get me wrong — I have nothing against people who hustle their asses off so they can live like nomads. I’ve met enough people to know that some just can’t be tied down.
That being said, this lifestyle isn’t as dream-worthy as it seems. The photos and vlogs we see on online of crystal-clear waters and five-star dining don’t accurately portray the reality of traveling full-time.
Living like a nomad is easy if you’re rich, but not if you’re a freelancer
When you travel full-time, there’s really only three main ways to make money:
- Have rich parents willing to foot the bill
- Work odd-jobs in exchange for food or free housing
- Become a freelancer
Most full-time travelers (who lack the first option) tend to become freelancers. Although working for yourself on your own schedule sounds like a good idea, anybody who’s ever actually freelanced before can tell you how difficult it is.
When you’re bouncing from country to country, it becomes even more complicated. Freelance work isn’t always steady, and the only person guaranteeing your paycheck is you. You could have a month where you only make pennies or nothing at all. Unpredictability is hard enough to manage at home, but when you’re traveling, it could leave you stranded and homeless in another country.
You also have to consider how much money you’ll be making. Traveling full-time is expensive, and budgeting your money is a challenge when you’re constantly moving to places that all have different standards of living. You might be able to live cheaply in Thailand, but visiting Dubai is going to cost you.
Perhaps the biggest issue that people fail to consider is the long-term effects of freelancing and traveling full-time. Things like health insurance and pensions won’t exist — the only 401K you’ll have is the one you make yourself. If you get injured, depending on where you’re at, you could end up paying a pricey hospital bill out of pocket.
The frustrating part is that travel bloggers/vloggers — especially the successful ones — rarely talk about how difficult it is to work for yourself overseas. In fact, they don’t usually talk about the negatives at all. Why? Because they want to sell you e-books and online classes that divulge the secrets of “how to make tons of money by traveling around the world”. Talking about the hardships behind their scenic Instagram photos would discourage people from opening their wallets.
It’s not that traveling full-time and freelancing is impossible. There are plenty of people who do it, but it isn’t easy — and it’s not always a sustainable option long-term. It might work for a couple of months or a year, but sooner or later, you’re going to have to confront the lack of security that comes with this lifestyle.
Traveling full-time is not a vacation
Part of what makes my memories of traveling so special is that, beyond the interesting locations I visited, I also got a break from life too.
Vacations give us the opportunity to take a time-out from our ordinary lives. It’s a chance to relax, go somewhere new, and not think about all of the things that regularly stress us out.
Because most of us associate traveling with vacationing, we tend to think of full-time travel as one long, never-ending vacation — but this isn’t true. When all you do is travel, your life is going to just as stressful as it was before — if not more so.
Jinna Yang, a traveling photographer and founder of Project Inspo, has some words of wisdom to impart about this, “I think people glamorize this, like it’s all happiness and no sadness — which is obviously completely untrue…but it’s all about expectations. You can’t just pick up and leave and expect your life to be filled with only happy moments — there are going to be problems no matter where you are.”
We associate vacations with happy memories, but traveling full-time isn’t like taking a two-week trip to the beach. Your life will still be full of stressors, but you’ll have the added component of moving around constantly.
Traveling full-time is lonely
Not many people consider just how lonely traveling can be. It’s like moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone — except, you’re doing it all the time. It’s difficult to make friends or form connections when you’re only staying in each place for a couple of weeks at a time.
I know this is a contradictory message to the photos and videos we often see online. In these pictures and vlogs, full-time travelers appear to constantly be meeting new, interesting people from all over the world. As exciting as this may seem, meeting all the interesting people in the world is not a substitute for long-term friendships with people you care about.
When you travel full-time, you form plenty of shallow connections, but not a lot of meaningful ones. You’re unlikely to make a lot of friends, and you won’t be able to regularly see the ones you do make.
Traveling does not equal happiness, and having roots is a good thing
I know that our steady lives seem to pale in comparison to the cobblestone streets of Venice and the crystal waters of the Carribean, but having roots is a good thing. Not only can you connect with people and establish long-term relationships, but you have a place to call home.
Don’t let the glamorized Instagram photos fool you — there’s nothing wrong with working a steady job, owning a house or being able to buy a car. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than being able to come home to your own house and hang out with your cat.
As fun as traveling can be, it is not the key to happiness. Sunbathing on a yacht in Mexico won’t suddenly make your sadness or loneliness disappear. If you’re unhappy before you travel full-time, you’re likely to still be unhappy after.
Some people love living like nomads, but, for a big portion of us, traveling full-time would be more stress than happiness. It isn’t the relaxing vacation so many people make it out to be, and in the long-term, it might make you more unhappy. Being able to own a car, have a pet and build meaningful relationships is worth more than all the white-sand beaches in the world.