Should I quit my job and travel the world? Signs you're ready to take the leap

What do you mean you’re taking a year off? You’re an adult. You’re supposed to work,” my co-worker demanded when I told her I was quitting. 

I winced. Was she right? I had a full-time job as an ICU nurse, a position I’d worked hard (and paid a lot of money in schooling) to earn. I had my own apartment, a close group of friends, and was lucky to live near to family. On paper, I had it all. 

I was living the dream but it wasn't mine.

While my colleagues planned weddings, bought new cars, and scoured real-estate sites for houses with three-car garages, I was looking at plane tickets and planning my next getaway. 

Related blog post: Why it’s never too late for a grown up gap year

solo woman travelling notre dame Paris cathedral

Finding my sense of purpose in the world

At first, I had no idea I’d leave nursing in favor of long-term travel. At the time, I hadn’t even heard of Workaway. All I knew was that I wasn’t happy with my current life trajectory. The unease I felt kept me awake at night searching for answers on blogs and reading books, all in an attempt to figure out what I really wanted. 

I looked for inspiration everywhere. Thinking I might like to be a farmer, I interned at an organic farm for a season before quickly realizing that profession wouldn’t give me nearly enough time to travel! I thought about going back to school to get my Master’s Degree in Public Health and took a two-month leave of absence to complete an international public health internship in Ecuador. I even considered joining the Peace Corps.

Every avenue I explored gave me more information about what I liked and what I didn’t, allowing me to dream of new possibilities for my life beyond the box of “supposed to”.

A glimpse into an alternative life on the road

While I spent time trying new opportunities, the thing I kept returning to that made me come alive more than anything else, was travel. It wasn’t until I took a month-long trip with my friend to Europe that I realized I could turn it into a lifestyle. While staying at a hostel in Greece, we met an older gentleman on a pilgrimage from Rome to Jerusalem. On a ferry boat, we met backpackers who’d been traveling longer than a year, staying with hosts from Workaway. Hearing their stories opened new doorways to my future.  

Related blog post: The Truth Behind Those Stories of "I Quit My Job To Travel the World"

workawayer Mariah picking tomatoes on a local farm in Missouri

After that trip, I went home intoxicated by the thrill of adventure. 

Rather than saving for another degree or committing years to the Peace Corps, I decided to plan my very own sabbatical. When I tell people now that I quit my job as a nurse to travel solo around the world for fourteen months, it seems kind of dramatic. In fact, I believe it’s the decision that saved my life, the one I was meant to live. 

Looking back, it’s easy to connect the dots and see how each choice led me to where I am now. Workaway helped me change my career, learn how to live in community, and embrace the unknown... It provided experiences and relationships that continue to shape me. Learning to trust and believe in the strong desires of your heart won’t give you all the answers. However, it will give you the courage to live your life according to your own rules. 

Related blog post: How Long-Term Solo Travelling Helped Me Gain Confidence

workawayer Mariah kayaking in Milos, Greece

So how do you know if you’re ready to quit your job and travel the world?

The best advice I have is to plan ahead.

Seek out stories from people who have trailblazed a similar path. Courage is a collective resource. Draw on the bravery of others and learn from their success until you have enough confidence to take the leap.

Hold your vision while taking small, practical steps toward your goal. I worked extra shifts for almost two and a half years before I quit my job to travel. I moved in with my mom to save money on rent and used my two-month internship in Ecuador to see if I had the grit to travel long-term. (Turns out, I did). 

Mariah finishing her public health internship in Ecuador and taking photos with local nurses

Be honest with yourself.

Look into other options before making a final decision. Maybe you’d rather change your career path, go back to school, move to a new area, or take more frequent short-term trips? Long-term travel is different than going on a vacation. It takes a certain mind shift and the willingness to live with uncertainty (which is part of the adventure, right?) 

By taking yourself and the decision to embark on a global adventure seriously, you will set yourself up to have a life-changing experience with a positive impact on yourself and others. And when you decide to make the leap, we’ll be right here, cheering you on!

Related blog post: Feel the fear… and do it anyway: a solo traveller’s take on life

solo woman travelling and appreciating the view in Tulum, Mexico
sabbaticalcareer breakquit jobgap yearfull time travel

About Mariah

Mariah Friend is a former Workawayer who quit her job to travel the world for fourteen months, embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. Mariah stayed with hosts in France and Ghana, gaining valuable ... show more...

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