We’ve all been there. It’s a dreary, miserable Wednesday. You keep looking at the clock and if anything it’s as if the hands are moving backwards. Rain is lashing at the windows and you’ve still got your hour and a half commute home to look forward to, crushed up against an obese man’s smelly armpits with the inevitable crying toddler and some teenager’s tinny dubstep in your ears. And you think to yourself ‘I wish I could just quit my job and go travel’.
Well, if you’ve ever sat at your desk typing numbers into a spreadsheet (or whatever it is people do in offices these days) and thought something like that, I’d wager you’re not alone. I was just like you, a year ago. Well, in fact, I loved my job and my colleagues, but I still dreaded the rushed bus commute, the overpriced sandwiches and the endless hours tied to my desk. And as a linguist and travel geek, I was just dying to get out there in the world, to my favourite place, anywhere but here.
But, here’s the plot twist, I actually did it. Maybe I was crazy. I’d had the same fantasy that many of us have about just throwing down some papers and walking out so many times, but it had never really seemed real. Days turned into weeks which turned into months in Groundhog day fashion and I sometimes thought I’d be sitting at that same desk forever, chatting with a nearby programmer about Nicholas Cage, Latvian swearwords or the temperature in the coldest city on earth. And working – of course I did that too. I had that same fear that everyone has – what will I do? How will I pay my rent? How will I eat? Etc. Except in my case I just didn’t have enough of it. In fairness, I was in a much freer position than many of you may be. I’m not married, I don’t have (or want) kids, and I don’t own any property, so there was nothing to tie me down to one place other than the usual: job, rented flat, boyfriend and friends/family. I’d made sure my flat was on a monthly rolling contract, like my phone etc, so the only real obstacle was my job.
So, I handed in my notice, just like that. No paper-throwing was required. I packed my stuff in a suitcase, and that was it. I just got in the car and drove out of London, and I haven’t been back since.
I left my home 5 months ago now, and since then I’ve visited 15 different countries. I’ve lived in Ukraine, Italy and Sweden. I’ve eaten, drank and chatted with Poles, Swedes, Americans, Ukrainians, Czechs, Italians, Spaniards and so many more… I’ve spoken a mad combination of Spanish, Italian, English and Ukrainian, and somehow gotten around almost everywhere with just that and a few gestures. Quite frankly, I’ve had so many crazy, memorable and awesome experiences that I could no way write them all down on my blog. And what’s more I’ve not even had to spend any of my savings to do it.
What sometimes freaks me out a little about quitting my job to travel was how incredibly easy it was. Not the actual process of quitting, of course. Anyone can do that, only to realise a few months later what a terrible idea it was. In my case I went freelance, and I’ve translated everywhere from a car in the Carpathian mountains to the beach in Italy and now my sofa in Stockholm, under a blanket (Ikea, probably…) The work really goes up and down – some weeks I’ve had almost no work (which generally I haven’t minded and I’ve just used the free time to visit new places), whilst others I’ve been so overloaded I had to outsource some. And generally speaking it’s not terribly well paid. I work for a couple of reputable agencies that pay me going rates (0.06GBP/word), one or two amazing clients that pay more and a few that I’ve accepted just because I liked the work, even though the rates were awful. Overall I’m definitely making less than I did in my job back in London. But, financially speaking, I’ve not done any worse than I did before. I’ve paid for 5 months of travel and living costs (including eating out, drinking, visits to sights, some purchases, rent, food, bills…) and I haven’t taken one single penny out of my savings. In fact, I’ve actually put money in.
And at the same time, I’ve spent about half of the time working that I used to. Since I’ve gone freelance, I’ve made my own schedule and whilst I do have to fit in work and the other tasks that go with running a freelance business (invoices, searching for clients, chasing up payments…), I still have plenty of time to head to the beach, go out for drinks with new people or visit whatever takes my fancy. It actually kind of amazes me how hard I used to work for so little money. And I’ve done so much more in 5 months than I could have done in 5 years before.
The bottom line is that it’s actually really not that hard at all to grab a bag and go if you want to. Of course if you have major commitments like a family, then it’s certainly harder. But if you’re the average 20 something who isn’t looking to settle down immediately, then if you want to do it, you should just do it. Before I left I was worried about money and the effect it might have on my career, but in fact, both of those things have gone better since I left. I’ve had the time and energy to invest in my freelance business and in writing and blogging. And now I’ve started a full-time job as an in-house translator, which gives me the same stability of a salary that I had before, but with the ability to keep working from wherever I am, and to keep up some freelance work too. I do sometimes miss some of my friends (although I’ve caught up with others on the road), but apart from that, I don’t regret anything at all.
Have you quit your job to freelance or travel? Or are you thinking or dreaming of doing so? Tell me in the comments!