“I Want To Quit My Job + Travel. Now What?”

Can you really quit that job and travel the world? I did! Click through for tips on choosing a country, finding an ESL job, and calming your family down.

Want to quit your job and travel? If you’ve been dreaming of leaving your job and traveling the world, you might identify with the reader who sent me this email:

Dear Sarah,

I’ve done a bit of traveling in my past years, but in August I decided I was going to go to SE Asia for 7 weeks.  I had an incredible time, but am now itching to go back!! I’ve been looking into English teaching programs in Thailand even though I’m a bit hesitant…you know, I worry that I won’t be a good teacher, etc.
I also just want to see more of Asia as I think the people, the land and the cultures are absolutely incredible. Many people here, including my family, don’t understand this or why I would ever want to go back there long term. They have many preconceived notions, which drives me crazy!
I guess I just like the independence and dislike the way corporate America works and want to learn how others around the world live and work. Maybe I’m crazy? Maybe you’re crazy? What do you think? Any tips for English teaching? Any other suggestions?

Why Quitting Your Job to Travel is Okay

I think, if we are being honest with ourselves, not many of us truly thrive in corporate America. Two-week vacations, dress codes and cubicles are not the things are things our childhood selves dreamed of. Studies show that one in three American workers is chronically overworked and 85% of workers worldwide hate with their jobs.

It’s not too crazy to hate your job, find it unfulfilling or want to leave it.

Luckily, it sounds like you are in the position to do something about it.

Leaving a comfortable, reliable paycheck for the unknown is always scary, especially in our current economic and political situation. But you know what’s more scary? Waking up on the eve of your 45th birthday and realizing that you have not lived the life you want and that you’d like a do-over, please.

How to Quit Your Job and Travel Instead

As someone who bailed on her fancy event-planning job for a life in Taiwan, teaching the alphabet to Chinese kindergartners, here’s what worked for me.

Get some teaching experience

If you don’t know much about ESL or you don’t have any teaching experience, it’s a good idea to some class time under your belt. Because it would suck to move to a foreign country and discover you hate your job, right?

A great way to do this is by volunteering at an ESL school in your area. Many schools even provide training for their volunteers. A good place to start in Minnesota is at the Minnesota Literacy Council.

That being said, don’t feel that you need to complete a CELTA or TEFL certificate to get a job teaching in SE Asia. Most schools just require a college degree and a good attitude. If you really enjoy your job and imagine that you’d like to work in ESL for years to come, you can always get one of these certificates later.

Do heaps of research on your country of choice (and be prepared to present all of this information to any and all nay-sayers)

Many Americans have no idea what day-to-day life in SE Asia looks like. I certainly didn’t before I became interested in ESL!

When I told people I was moving to Taiwan they asked me
a) if I planned on eating cats
b) if I would be living in Bangkok
c) If I would live in a pagoda

So it’s really important that you can correct these misconceptions and point out the similarities between life in your two countries. The importance of family, the emphasis placed on education and a great work ethic are all great parallels to start with.

It’s also good to point out how developed and technologically advanced a lot of cities are … it’ll help allay those fears that you’ll be riding a water buffalo to work.

Lots of people don’t know that SE Asia is one of the safest places to travel as a single woman or that the capitol cities of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong have great health care facilities. Taiwan has four Ikeas for Pete’s sake!

Line up a job ahead of time

Your family will feel a lot better if they know that someone is picking you up at the airport, helping you find housing, and generally looking out for your best interest. It’s actually quite common to find a job before you go.

I would recommend frequently the expat message boards for your country of choice and seeing what people have to say about the different employers. Pay, benefits and expectations vary greatly between employers so it’s important to find a school that’s right for you.

It’s even a good idea to correspond with current employees at the schools your looking at. They won’t shy away from giving you the unvarnished truth.

Convince your family to chill out

Of course, your family is just concerned because they love you, they’ll miss you and they’re worried about you. All of this ground work and information should go a long way to calm your family’s worries.

It might also help to involve them in the process – invite them into your ESL classroom, take them out for red curry at Tom Rum Thai, talk to them about the amazing things that happened to your during your last trip to Asia. Enthusiasm can be contagious!

Even with all this work, it’s possible that they’ll never cheer your decision with cymbals and streamers. But at the end of the day, it’s your life and you need to live it in a way that makes you proud and makes you happy.

I have a good friend whose mother cried and cried when he told her he was moving abroad. However! This same mother regularly bragged to anyone who would listen about her brave, adventurous son and his globe-trotting life.

I think there’s often a difference between what our parents want us to do for them and what they want us to do for ourselves.

Your family will surely miss you while you’re abroad, but I bet they will also be incredibly proud of you and your bravery. I know I am!

What other advice would you offer our globe-trotting lass who wants to quit her job and travel?

P.S. 7 travel tools I will not shut up about + How to love your life if you hate your job

Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash




You left an event planning job for long term travel? That’s such a coincidence because I did exactly the same thing earlier in the year!

I moved from New Zealand to the UK for a working holiday with plans to travel round Europe whenever I had the time and money!

It has been a bit more difficult than I expected, and if I was going to do it again I would save more money before leaving and make it a long term holiday instead.

As Sarah said it’s a good idea to find out as much as you can about the realities of working in another country before you leave. Day to day work has quite a different atmoshpere from a care free holiday!


Fantastic Article Sarah. I loved the video too cute… Really I have nothing more to add. You have covered all points for your readers and the girl with wanderlust… Oh wait! One thing: references and TEFL can be good depending what country you go to. Can also make the pay higher too; I know there is a pay difference in HK for example.


I was lucky enough to be self employed – it was great!

I’ve been reading some of your earlier articles and noticed a reference to Anthropology.

Did you study this too? It was my major at uni!

If so I’m starting to suspect that you’re a funnier version of me in a parallal universe…

cheray natalie

haha what a great video! And great advice Sarah – it really comes down to doing something to change your situation! 🙂

I quit my job at the beginning of last year (after having my 3 weeks of annual leave – which I had to fight to get!), even though I didn’t have another job on the back-burner. I just couldn’t put myself through another day of a 5am wake up (i’m not a morning person) and a soul-sucking job that made me dread each new day!

Think it through, plan out your options, but when it comes down to it – it’s your life, so live it your way xxx

Young Werther

Excellent advice… there is a belief to rent in the suburb before you buy a place (try before you buy), guess it the same thing, experience the world before settling down…

I’ve lived in several places before arriving in Australia.

Miss Karen

I loved this video – I remember they played that commercial all the time on Australian TV and I always laughed and said that would never be me….I’m sitting in my coporate office as I’m typing this now. I haven’t travelled so I can’t offer any advice, all I will say is that as you’ve got your health, you can do anything…


I planned for a year, researched online forums and made sure to get one of the few credible teaching certificates for ESL so I wouldn’t feel completely out of my element in the classroom. I will *never* regret the two years I spent abroad and even though I’m not crazy about cubicle life, I do love the job I found back home. 4th times a charm, right?


fantastic advice! the wanderlust is starting to rub off, but i think it has more to do with the current shitty weather here than anything else.


Hi Sarah, yes those drainpipe pics are adorable 🙂

I’m really glad I found your blog, this article in particular is really helpful and relevant to me at the moment. I’ve deferred by job for a whole year and don’t know what to do with myself!

Keep up the good work.

I am Dane.

Oh wow I just came from dinner with my european friends and we were just talking about this! Too many people in the “western world” are unhappy with their jobs and lives.. I cant even imagine giving up my life here to sit in a cubicle all day. Everyone needs more time off, less work, more fun. =)


Be bold Wanderlust! You have one shot to make this the most interesting, amazing life you'll ever live.

I faced a lot of the same "she's crazy" criticism when I quite school to backpack solo through SE Asia, but in the end, when I returned with amazement, a feeling of being really alive and free, and maturity and confidence that measured far beyond my peers of the same age, they all knew I wasn't just crazy. Then it was easier the next time when I quite my AMAZING fun job to move abroad. Everyone just expected something like that from the likes of me. They were happy for me this time around. So it turned out best, in my case anyway, to go ahead and break them in early. Now they all know they can expect many more years of this adventuring from me! 🙂

As the wise Mr. Magorium (from the Wonder Emporium of course!) said, "Your life is an occasion. Rise to it!"


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