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Ask HN: Those who quit their jobs to travel the world, how did it go?
247 points by temp_-_ on Apr 25, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 168 comments
I seem to read so many comments on discussion threads in which individuals encourage others to "Quit your job! Travel the world!", which often comes across as shallow and even flippant to me, given that the advice is so easy to extend but the action itself can quite be difficult for one to do, whether due to concrete reasons or any personal reservations.

So, my question: those who have traveled for an extended period of time, either instead of working or by finding a new way to work, what was the experience like? What were you able to do? How did you choose to budget? What moved you to this decision, and how was the process of finding work again after your travels, if applicable? If you were to do it all again, what would you do differently?

Strange how all the stories here are positive & cheerful. I did the very thing two years ago, mostly due to peer pressure and reading too much HN, and it was a disaster. I didn't meet any interesting people, had no exciting adventures, tasted no great food, had no job opportunities, and pretty much only existed, lived in crappy hostels, drank bland coffee and burned all my cash reserves. I came back tired, broke, lonely, sick and with a fleeting feeling that there's something seriously weird about my complete inability to connect with people & navigate the unknown. It did open many new doors on my road to self-discovery, but if I were to go on such a trip again, it would have to be a vastly different arrangement.

Stepping too far out of your comfort zone can result in anxiety and paralysis instead of the much desired change. Try it if you want, but don't be too surprised if it ends up in a big disappointment. Contrary to what the cheerful startup crowd may want to to think, it's not for everyone.

I think travel as a universal solution for everyone and every problem is clearly overdone.

Having said that, I'm assuming you are introverted. You probably would have had a better experience traveling in a pair with a highly extroverted friend who can break the ice with other people for you then bring you into the fold. Just a thought.

It's not the travel itself that matters, but the challenges and new perspectives that it brings. You won't get an epiphany on an all-inclusive trip; and I've seen people relocate across the globe and continue to live the same life they had back in their home countries. Trying to solve anything by running away is just that - escaping. It may work for a while, but at some point you'll have to stop and face your demons.

PS. It's not a matter of introversion, as I know plenty of introverts who can strike up a conversation with a stranger. I can't, no matter how hard I try - and it gets awkward pretty fast if I try too hard. And yes, having social "guide" around does help - but it always feels like being a burden.

You say it isn't a problem of introversion; I say it is. It 99% is. What you have described is absolutely the opposite of travel experiences I have. Once you solve the introversion part, you will absolutely have a great time, meet amazing people and do really enjoyable things.

Funnily enough, we seem to have taken very different roads. Travelling was the the thing that actually turned me from being semi introverted to not being introverted at all. Hostels are great in that they put me in touch with very extroverted people and showed me how easy it is to approach people, as most are friendly and welcoming. Once you get that down, you then hang out with people, go on pub crawls, go sight seeing or on road trips together etc.

"It's not a matter of introversion, as I know plenty of introverts who can strike up a conversation with a stranger. I can't, no matter how hard I try" - this sounds disillusion. Perhaps you should look up what being an introvert entails. What you have just described is a person that's less introverted than you. Being introverted occurs at different levels in everyone. You having a lot of trouble talking to people actually means that you're more introverted than him. If you think it is something else, then what is your diagnosis? Do you have a physical speech impairment that prevents you from talking?

"Trying to solve anything by running away is just that - escaping" - so what? You "escape" into a totally different lifestyle to make new relationships, enjoy new activities and cultures, and ultimately change your life. It can be a permanent "escape" for some.

Introversion isn't an inability to talk to strangers. Like OP suggested, plenty of introverts can strike up conversations with strangers and even be 'the life of the party', so to speak. Most introverts though tire out with excessive social interaction, specially interactions comprising primarily of small talk, and need some alone time doing activities they enjoy to recharge. On the other hand, meaningful, deep conversations that go beyond talking about the weather with strangers would probably energize an introvert. Being unable to initiate conversations with strangers can be shyness/mild social phobia, or something else, which you probably mean when you refer to introversion. Susan Cain's book Quiet, does a good job of explaining introversion. Her TED talk is a sort of cliffnotes version of the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0KYU2j0TM4


I can talk to strangers in hostels like a pro, but I'm still an introvert. I can small talk and shoot the same backpacking bullshit conversation topics like a champ, but I tire of deep or extended social interaction.

> and I've seen people relocate across the globe and continue to live the same life they had back in their home countries.

I see what you're getting at but there are also four cost-prohibitive things in the US that are important to life. They are: Housing (cost of renting or buying), healthcare (free or cheap in a lot of countries), higher education (free or cheap in a lot of countries) and the ability to have a social life when you don't have a lot of extra funds. In the places I've lived, I've had all four of these things at all times and it's changed my lifestyle and my life.

When a 1 bedroom apt is a few hundred per month, university is a few thousand, a semi-serious trip to the hospital including ambulance & meds is $20, and a really fun night out (drinks included) costs $10...it can really change one's life. I should add transportation to that, too, since I've been to some amazing places (near cities I've lived in) for $2-3 round-trip.

As a rather introverted individual with a lot of issues when it comes to striking up conversation.

I find I'm actually really good at it, but I need to say that first word before anything happens.

The only advice I could give is similar to ferris' 4 hour work week advice, start small and practice.

If you can't ask someone for the time, a lighter, or for directions you won't be able to walk up to a cute girl and say "hi".

So start with those small every day questions anyone should feel comfortable being asked by a stranger. Even if you know exactly what time it is and where you are, this doesn't matter.

Also as a helper, ask people you aren't intimidated by, a non female, an older person etc etc.

Once you're comfortable with those things, start by randomly smiling at people, then start saying hi. Then start saying more. You'll get a few people who ask you to not, walk away, or look at you weird but that's ok, its all part of it. Remember you will never see these people again.

Taking along a friend is good advice in general. It can become a little bit exhausting to constantly have somewhat shallow interactions meeting only meet new people. Sometimes you just want to lay back and enjoy the deeper relation of someone that know you well.

Having a friend as an anchor and fixed point for discussions and sharing experiences can make it much more rewarding. Unfortunately it's pretty rare to have a friend with as much freedom as oneself at the same point in time.

Also I must say that if you travel and stay for 3+ months in a place you face a different problem: You've gone past some kind of threshold and started to create a new life with friends, favorite places and habits.

Leaving can then feel a little bit like you're leaving shards of yourself behind, and the physical disconnection of all those new relationships can be quite sad too.

Absolutely agree. As an introvert, I knew myself well enough to bring along an extroverted friend when I chose to venture into the unknown. He was a total life-saver; the trip would have been a disaster otherwise.

Yeah, I just finished writing mine and was thinking the same thing. The bad points for me were 1) I completely decimated my savings, 2) I had no health insurance and didn't realise why this was a bad thing, 3) I got frustrated at times with the fact that "van-dweller with no fixed address" is not apparently a draw card with the ladies.

Fortunately "inability to connect with people" wasn't an issue for me. But I stayed out of the big cities for the most part, and a clean-shaven face and mischievous smile can go a long way in getting conversation started.

> it's not for everyone.

True, it's heavily dependent on whether that person is into 'adventuring', i.e. enjoys stepping out of their comfort zone, enjoys changing up their lifestyle, and seeks out those challenges.

I have had a blast, met up with developers in the cities I stayed in, advanced my career by finishing projects for my portfolio (also worked remotely), went on constant dates via online dating in the local countries (many of which turned into at least people to hang out with), and just overall made many new friends, locals and xpats alike who I still keep in touch with, not to mention cultural immersion which broadens minds (depends on the country you pick). I've done this in major cities in South America, Spain, Japan, China, and Vietnam. 3 months abroad, 9 months at home, repeat.

People should read your post and assess what kind of person they are, but I would be afraid that you might discourage people who would succeed in having an incredible experience. Your response seems like a lot was your personality and hangups which got in the way - and you are right, it won't just automatically work for everyone, it takes a type of person.

I agree it isn't for everyone. But there are many different types of people it is for. I don't really fit with "stepping outside your comfort zone" etc.. But quoting and traveling and working online works for me.

I think way more it is about this type of thing being in your comfort zone. When I hear people talking about how they stepped out of their comfort zone it seems to me they just aren't comfortable plodding through an office for 40 years. Doing that is outside their comfort zone. The reason they did something else was because it was in their comfort zone.

I think there are benefits to shaking things up and trying things you are not comfortable with. I think way more often when people talk about that being successful for them what they really did was shake off the shackles of an uncomfortable situation and found one that is more in their comfort zone.

I think it sounds cool to say you are being adventurous and brave by doing things those boring friends are not willing to do as they stick with their boring jobs. But I don't think that is really the most accurate way to view it.

If you want the best chance of a change making you happy figure out what you really are comfortable with and create that.

If you want to grow, challenge yourself and try different things.

There is a small group that is most comfortable constantly challenging things. For them their comfort zone is to constantly be taking challenges most people would find uncomfortable. If those people really want to step outside their comfort zone they should seek the opposite of wha they are comfortable with which they don’t want to do. They also tend to like to see themselves as mavericks and brave, etc. so the story of challenging themselves sounds good to them so they use it.

For most people, fairly small attempts to live outside your comfort zone, followed by a chance to reconcile what you learned during your challenge into your lifestyle will be the most effective way to grow. We (the types of people reading this) tend to think of growth as really important. I agree but I think we may also emphasize that a bit too much and just plain happiness too little.

But who knows, I certainly don’t. These are just my thoughts this day on this topic. I do think Aristotle was right about the importance of an examined life. But at the same time I don't see a huge correlation with that thinking and how satisfied people are with their lives.

Still I believe accurate self evaluation is useful in figuring out what to do next. I think the whole step outside your comfort zone thing is largely a myth - especially the way people explain what they mean by that.

Not sure why you're assuming people do it so they can seem cool to others, and not just because they like challenging themselves and exploring the new.

Overall it seems like you're looking for a basic philosophical debate about 'plain happiness' vs. constant challenge and growth. It's a big topic of course, but to me it comes down to satisfaction vs 'plain happiness'. The scientist or inventor who toils day on end, literally sacrificing themselves to enact a vision, in my opinion experiences deeper satisfaction than someone who, to use your example, has found a way to be content working their 9-5 office job with basic consumerist lifestyle of restaurants, craft coffee, etc... One is not better than the other, but one is more satisfying, in my opinion. I think always seeking 'growth' and challenging yourself in whatever you're doing lends itself to satisfaction, and, while a lot can be achieved at home, a challenging lifestyle of setting up shop in the new cities and cultures, seeking new people, seeking new experiences, lends itself to growth and satisfaction. (Don't be a perpetual nomad, but doing it a few months per year is about the right balance.)

> When I hear people talking about how they stepped out of their comfort zone it seems to me they just aren't comfortable plodding through an office for 40 years. Doing that is outside their comfort zone.

I think people who believe that there is deeper satisfaction in constant challenge, would just respond to this by saying, well yes, not living as satisfying a life as I could is in fact outside my comfort zone.

I didn't mean to imply this

>> why you're assuming people do it so they can seem cool to others <<

I am certain that is not always true. I think often when people are explaining to others some of those people phrase things in a way that is meant to impress others (and somewhat often, impress themselves as well).

My opinions on the "stepping outside comfort zone" discussions are based on my interaction with people. I could, of course, be making incorrect judgements.

Anyway the following is mainly just for me - putting my thoughts into writing lets me think about it a bit more. I am not sure if it helps anyone else. But...

I would not assume people are stating it that way to be cool. I would, based on their other statements, how they behave, the choices they make, the way they treat others... make judgements about the particular individual in question. Those I only know a little bit, I would be more likely to be wrong. I try to make judgement with an understanding of how much uncertainty there is in that judgement.

There really isn't much reason for anyone to place much weight in my thoughts. But I just express what I have seen. And I have seen lots of people talking about "stepping outside your comfort zone" that are misstating what it seems to me is really going on (both from location independent folks and others). This mainly matters when they convince other people what they should be doing.

I think the advice would be better if people said I found out that I didn't like the common expectations and decided to take matters into my own hands to do what I felt would be better for me. And that was a bit scary for me (for most people it is) but I am happy now (or not - I tried something and it didn't work, which is fine, if you don't have this happen you probably are missing out on lots of potentially cool stuff for you). That way people don't go focus on "getting out of their comfort zone" they focus on what would make them happy and then take a look at how to get there even if it means being a bit unconventional.

Then they have to evaluate how willing they are to take risks, or try this new thing in order to achieve that new state. But the focus isn't on being uncomfortable but on getting something they want and whether they are willing to do some things that might be uncomfortable for them to get there.

There are times when just doing something crazy that you are scared to do may make sense. But I think that is fairly rare. Being willing to try something that you are not sure you will like in order to see, makes perfect sense. Accepting that you are willing to risk potential discomfort makes sense.

And there are times to try things you didn't like much (in the past) or you are a bit uncomfortable with because this gives you new data. People are complex. We change over time. What you hated once, you may not hate later. I hated public speaking as a little kid. I figured I could have a job that didn't involve that or working in loud factories (we visited some as a kid and it didn't seem fun to me).

As I grew up one way to make money that on balance appealed to me was giving seminars. Over the years I got past hating public speaking but it still wasn't something I felt at ease with. It did make me uncomfortable. I have done it and am happy. And it still is somewhat uncomfortable. But overall it makes my life better. So avoiding anything not in your comfort zone I think is most often a mistake. But I think it is not so much about doing things outside your comfort zone being innately good (which is how many people talk when they are telling people about their adventures and explaining their path to success...).

I think instead it is about seeking your deep happiness. And not falling into habits that leave you plodding along day to day in a way that isn't how you really want to leave but is easy. And not being limited because you fear any significant step outside your comfort zone. But also mainly it is about getting to places that are in your comfort zone and lead to a life of long term happiness. For many people that is a job in a office that is secure with a spouse and kids and living something close to the 1950s ideal (update in various ways). And for some people it is being a nomad, for others being a farmer for 10 years then a artist, then a computer programmer then, for others being a doctor and spending 3 weeks a year in very poor countries with Doctors without Borders, etc.. For some it is even being a lawyer (even if, in my experience these have a high rate of not being happy in the long term, that isn't universal - some are very happy with that for their entire life).

Each choice has benefits and consequences. I think many people would have happier and more fulfilling lives if they challenged the conventional wisdom (of their situation) much more. I think the main things that are required is examining yourself, think sensibly about the long term, be willing to accept the consequences or your decisions and evaluating how that is working for you.

It isn't so much an overall conventional wisdom that traps people, in my opinion but a more specific conventional wisdom for those you associate with. Like most things, this isn't universal, but it is very common it seems to me. Those you associate with and those you watch, read and listen to will shape what you think is acceptable and what options are sane and what are crazy. Often those limitations are the biggest barrier to you making as much of your life as you can. Occasionally you are blessed to have that pull you forward into being the most you can be. If so, appreciate how lucky you were. I think I was pretty lucky.

I had a similarly unrewarding experience. However, one of the biggest gains from my journey was having done it and removing the mystery of "what if?"

Now, if I encounter hard times, feel in a rut, etc, I know that for me, leaving it all behind and traveling the world (which would be incredibly costly, never mind impossible due to commitments) is not the answer.

My experience was not that bad but I would do things differently next time. What I realized was that I do enjoy traveling and living in new cultures but I hate being a tourist. I loathed staying in hostels and having to meet new people constantly. Also going from city to city felt routine after a while

Next I'd rather stay in one place and do something there. Eg attending a language school or do some work.


Unfortunately, the majority of travellers only seem to be able to talk about travelling.

"Have you been to City XYZ, you should go its awesome" x 10000

Sounds cliched but far and away the best experiences I had in 11 months in SEA were with locals.

Thanks for sharing your experience. People too often try to paint a pretty picture in their online interactions, especially if everyone else seems so "positive & cheerful"; comments like yours are very important to give some perspective, and I appreciate it a lot more than some fantastic travel story, carefully edited and photoshopped.

> drank bland coffee

That one hit where it hurts.

Good to read a different point of view. Traveling is great but sometimes it just seeing cool stuff and is not life changing.

No, it's not for everyone. Stepping outside the comfort zone is, by definition, uncomfortable.

What works for me - I get better at going outside the comfort zone the more I practise, but I need a 'safe' place to recover in between. That can be anything from a night on my own in a hotel with hot water, flushing toilet etc, to going out drinking with people who speak my language. Whatever works for you.

Did it have to do with where you went? How would you do it differently next time?

The language barrier is a huge thing - especially if you're trying to live like a local (as opposed to being a tourist). I've been to Spain and England on that particular trip, and the latter was ten times easier simply because I could communicate more or less freely. Now, some people can get by even if they barely know the language - but make sure you're one of them if you decide to go that route. And no, being barely able to order a hamburger is not sufficient for comfortable living.

It's hard, but you can learn to communicate. I spent a year in South Korea without much more than 'hello' & 'thank you' at the beginning (was 'conversational' by the time I left). Just don't be afraid to make an idiot of yourself.

I quit my job for a year and did this with my wife. We didn't work while traveling -- it would have been too hard / distracting. This might sound odd, but traveling takes as much time as a real job -- the amount you spend just figuring out where to go next and what to do is significant. If you want to work while travel then your best bet is to taking a break from travel and live somewhere for a little while. It's not a bad way to go but it's not what we did.

One interesting thing is the amount we spent for a year of travel was slightly less than the amount we spent simply living at home. If have saved enough where you can spend a year without salary then you can afford to do it.

A few recommendations -- don't plan ahead. You can't. Just plan the first place you want to go to and go from there. You'll have ample time to figure things out and be open to changes in plan. A corollary to this is that if you plan on spending less than 5 months traveling then you may not be able to travel quite that way. It takes a few months just to get into the swing of things.

Lastly, don't stretch your budget thin just to hit an arbitrary length of time. Spend what you need to and leave a few months earlier. You won't enjoy yourself if you have to scrounge for every dime. I'd see people stay in super nasty places for $5-10 / night in places that had simple, clean, and comfortable places for $15 / night.

Reminds me of a buddy I travelled with in Thailand - we had split up for a while and then reconnected on some island, he's sleeping in a real dump, mattress on the floor, squat toilet with no TP, rats walking around, for like $10/night. Literally the next bungalows over were maybe $16 per night and VERY nice. About 10PM that night he changed his mind and came and slept at my place.

> don't plan ahead

Don't take this too far though. Otherwise you might end up at some dude's house in Kilkenny trying to determine if he's going to let you crash in on couch or if he wants you to sleep in his bed. Or you might end up walking from Juno to Omaha beach hoping that you can hitch a ride with some Canadians back to Caen.

Second one sounds awesome. I hitchhiked with two German girls back to Jerusalem from the dead sea in some Russian dude's car. Fascinating guy. Highlight of the trip. YDIMA (your disaster is my adventure)

I mean, it was fun for me too and wasn't a disaster because I did in fact run into a Canadian couple whose son happened to be going to RPI. I'm just saying that not everyone is prepared for an 8-hour hike in the dark through the french countryside and those folks should plan ahead.

> don't plan ahead

You must have a passport of some country which has pretty good visa agreements. For some of us, traveling the world requires sitting in a lot of embassies first.

I had to spend time in embassies too. When you travel for a year it's possible to do that where you are. For example, I got my visas to Myanmar and India in Bangkok. You do have to plan a few days ahead. I meant don't plan it all before leaving.

This is great advice, thank you. I backpacked through Europe with my best friend and we tried to do too much in too little time. As you said, there's a lot of value in taking it slow and making decisions based on how you feel, rather than what you think you "should" do.

I've been a "digital nomad" for the last year. I left my full-time job in Australia & headed for Berlin & just picked up a few casual consulting gigs via Dribbble (I'm a designer).

I quickly realized that I really enjoy slow traveling - staying in places for 2-3 months & trying to keep a normal routine. I work full-time now, pretty crazy hours, but I generally move somewhere new every 3 months. I spend a few months of each year in SF & the rest in Europe. I'm heading from SF to Split, Croatia in 3 weeks for most of the summer.

As a final note, there are many different ways to travel. You never really understand how cheap it is until you actually do it. Before I left, everyone told me that I would need a liquid $50k to spend a year in Europe & I remember being worried that I only had about half that - very funny to me now. I've saved more traveling than what I have paying rent somewhere in Australia.

TIPS: * Try & get paid an SFBA salary & live in cities that have a very low cost of living in comparison. * Re trying to get a remote job - move to the job for 3 months first, work your ass off & prove your worth, THEN ask to move remote. * Sell everything. Forget about clothes, shoes, books, records. If you can't pack light at first, believe me, you will learn on the road!

May I ask you when you go for these 3 month stints in a city, what do you do about housing? Do you go for temporary apartments or some sort of temporary roommate situation? I work as a freelancer and while a lot of my work can be done independent of location, I've been interested to move for certain projects. However, since we're only talking a couple of months, I wasn't sure about the best housing options.

I've done a mix of both, but mostly I do AirBnb. It's much cheaper if you're renting for 2-3 months & owners usually always agree to some kind of discount as it's much better for them to have a secure long-term booking.

Thanks for that tip. I didn't even think of possibly asking for a discount for a multi-month booking.

Most hotels will do the same thing FWIW.

I've been interested in something similar to that. How did you keep from getting lonely? Seems like 3 months is just enough time to make new (real) friends and then leave?

It is lonely sometimes, but I'm naturally pretty independent & it doesn't phase me too much. I've met a lot of random people either through renting rooms, coworking spaces or just being approached in cafes by people that also work in tech when they see Sublime open on my screen.

I have met some really cool people, but like you said, I generally leave before we can become 'real' friends so the friendships I have made haven't really been that strong unfortunately. I don't get a lot of time through the week & I usually spend my weekends doing the touristy/exploration stuff so I'm kept busy.

Sometimes I find myself wishing for a group of friends / SO to do this with, but I don't know a lot of other people that can travel & work at the same time. I'm not really keen on the whole backpacker trip either.

I quit my job to travel the world about 5 years ago. I lucked out in some investments and am now in an early retirement, mostly spend my day working on my own computer projects, surfing, and occasionally going on trips to different places.

I came back after a year, but after spending 18 months in the states, wanted to go travelling again. I'm currently staying in Taiwan, and periodically travel to the neighboring countries.

I'm not sure whether it was a good decision or not. It felt like I unplugged myself from my peers, friends, and culture. After coming back, I felt out of place, and just not into what everyone else around me was. It's strange how much a shared perspective on life seems to matter regards to enjoying your relationships with others. It was like I was being slowly wrapped in a spider's web, being bombarded with the thoughts and concerns of others that I couldn't relate to anymore.

There was quite a lot of loneliness I had to deal with. That was the main emotion, I think, from when I started. Everyone became a foreigner to me after awhile.

I wasn't sure about mentioning this, but I think it's kind of important. I know of two other people who travelled like I did.. They both were really smart, both into IT, paid well, and they both (separately) went travelling for an extended period of time and ended up committing suicide. I can't really speak for why they did it. I know I felt depressed for a period of time, but got out of it.

However, it is really fascinating going to a new culture. And the longer you stay in a single place, the further the intricacies of the culture are revealed to you. There is something that is really hard to describe when you let people from other cultures rub off on you. After coming back to the states, I used to have dreams of my trip, nearly every night, coupled with an intense feeling of longing, which is a big reason as to why I left again, the second time.

So, I learned a lot of amazing things, but at the same time, I think I lost something that I can never get back.

But heck, my sadness may have to do with not needing to work anymore and adjusting to that life. Or because I've always been an introvert, and becoming an outsider, too, was just too much to overcome in order to establish solid relationships with people from my own culture again. Or because I had a tough childhood, etc., etc. I really don't have a conclusion, and probably never will.

YMMV. That's all I can say, really.

I see myself starting to feel like this too. Granted I've only been traveling for just over a year, but I do feel like a bit of an outsider everywhere - even when I was recently in my hometown in Australia.

I've found that keeping a routine, exercising & making sure I'm still doing the things I enjoy (painting, taking photos, writing) are really important for my sanity.

I think the comparison to third culture kids is quite relevant.

My dad was in the military for my first 15 years, which meant we lived in a lot of random places. My parents wanted to expose me to other cultures, so they typically lived off-base and sent me to local schools. The whole experience made my childhood more stressful than most, but looking back I'm very thankful. I admit I'm missing out on some things. I don't have a home town. I don't remember the names of childhood friends, let alone keep in touch with them. I find it hard to care about local sports teams. But the benefits far outweigh the downsides. My view of culture is much less parochial than most. I've seen the same mental algorithms running on different data sets. It's almost like cultures are using one Mad Libs template, but substituting different words. And unlike a lot of people in my demographic, I've been on the receiving end of racism (both explicit and unconscious). I find this helps me empathize with victims of current discrimination.[1]

It's fascinating to hear from someone who first experienced other cultures later in life. The realizations seem similar, but more unpleasant. While reading the grandparent's post, a strange thought popped into my head: "It's as if an adult just discovered the truth about Santa Claus." Writing this, I can still see the resemblance. GP: Please don't take that as an insult. Most people never realize how provincial their worldview is.

1. It also helps me see the perpetrators as victims of their own culture. Obviously, this doesn't excuse their behavior, but it does help one understand it. Had I spent my whole childhood in Alabama, there's a decent chance I'd be an unpleasant bigot. Instead, I see such people and think, "There but for fortune go I."

Very interesting viewpoint on solo traveling, and sorry to hear about your friends. Did the 2 friends who committed suicide travel by themselves? Do you know if they committed suicide while traveling or after coming back?

I wonder what is the rate of depression when coming back from a long solo travel trip due to reverse culture shock and feeling lonely/disconnected from your family and old friends. It is probably hard to figure out whether these kind of long solo trips may cause depression, or whether people who are prone to depression are more likely to want to escape their current situation and take these kind of long solo trips. I've always wanted to do a long solo trip around the world but this is making me think I should really find a friend/partner willing to do it with me.

I didn't know either of them that well. One committed suicide after coming back. The other after two years of perpetual travel.

I know what you mean. In my personal case, I started travelling because I wasn't satisfied with my life and didn't know what else to do.

Thanks for writing this. I liked how you described these feelings about coming back.

> It's strange how much a shared perspective on life seems to matter regards to enjoying your relationships with others.

That's my permanent state as being an xpat.

I don't like to travel in the sence what is usually meant by it. For me it is also just exhausting and similar to what the OP said. But I like to live somewhere else. You learn to see the world and people differently. Though you have to learn how to not feel lonely because of the fact that you are different and have special feelings and thoughts. You need to learn filtering people in order to find those with whom you have something in common. So the problem is not that you cannot approach new people, but that most of them are just of no interest for you.

I believe there is a spectrum with individuality on one end and community at opposite end. The closer we get to one the further we are from the other. I assume that leaving your culture has brought you closer to your self and many of the securities that lie within the pack have disappeared. Perhaps by getting comfortable with the discomfort(easier said than done) new experiences await you??

Have you been to Japan? man, if I was fortunate enough to be in your situation, I would go spend a very long time there. Such a pleasant country, totally different culture from the west, but first world++.

I've done a few 3-4 month trips in the past. I was fortunate to be earning a good day rate as a freelancer before I left and I was young, with no responsibilities and no need for a life plan. It was easy to quickly save up a little money, and travel can be really cheap, especially when you don't care about sleeping in a nice bed.

The first couple of times I travelled a lot. Too much. Moving on every day or two. Seeing the various famous sites to see along the way. It was a great adventure, but I didn't learn that much.

One day I was talking to someone on my daily train commute out of london and she was telling me about a friend of hers that was travelling the world by boat. I thought it sounded amazing, and I always wanted to sail, so I booked myself in to do a leg of the Clipper Ventures [0] yacht race - from Liverpool (England) to Brazil (took about 4 weeks).

When I arrived in Brazil I didn't have a plan at all. I booked in to learn Portuguese while stating with a local family. The 4 weeks I lived there changed the way I look at travelling. I learned about the local culture, made friends, and learned a lot about myself in the process.

In a lot of ways tourism is a much easier route than immersing yourself in a culture. Being totally alone in a country where you can't speak the language is pretty soul expanding.

I've only managed one (big) trip since then (with my now wife) through Central America. We stayed with a family in Nicaragua for a couple of weeks at the start to learn Spanish. We loved it. The hosts are always amazing (we ended up doing it a few times during the trip). Also, it's really cheap. I think we paid $100 / week for accommodation, food and school (for both of us).

So my main bit of advice would be, try to be a local, not a tourist. It's scary, but incredibly rewarding.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=effh9W_xHSg

Curious - when you travel, how do you find families to live with? That sounds really fun.

- On week 3 of a (hopefully) ~9mos trip, in Chiang Mai.

As heliodor mentions below, language schools will sort you out.

In Brazil I walked in and made gestures that I wanted to learn Portuguese (they refused to speak English, even though some of them could, a little). The conversation went on like that and eventually one of the staff took me on a bus to where I would stay with a family. I ended up with a relatively wealthy family, others at the same school were in totally different environments.

One thing I hadn't accounted for was the paranoia of that situation.

My host family were really nice, but early on we had a discussion about how much people earned in the UK (with the aide of a translation dictionary). The next night I heard them arguing, I could tell it was about money, I was fairly sure it was about me. I recorded a little snippet of it and when I played it for a friend later when I got back to the UK he said they were talking about footballer's salaries :)

At the time it made me really self-conscious. It's tough when you're all alone and you don't have anyone to talk to in your native tongue. Leaves you entirely alone with your thoughts.

Thanks for the great reply.

I want to end my trip by spending 3 months in Spain learning Spanish. I'm thinking of Valencia because I think it'll be fairly warm there even during winter months, it's somewhat central, I hear it's fun, and everyone speaks Spanish... Barcelona would be a really fun city to live in also but I think it'd be better to be surrounded 100% by the language I am learning instead of Catalan :-)

Before now, I've only heard of living with a foreign family as a thing younger students do. I'm approaching 30... would it be weird to do at this age or is it normal?


Totally normal. My wife and I were 28 last time we did it. The language school would put you somewhere appropriate I would have thought. Last time we were with a lovely lady in her 60s.

Awesome - thanks!

I'm 30 and I'll be doing this in a couple weeks, set up through a language school to stay with an old couple in Santiago.

If you're escaping Catalan, you might want to know that many people in Valencia speak Valencian, a variant of Catalan. It's not as common as in Barcelona, though.

Congrats! Chiang Mai seems more like an expat colony at this point, do you still think there's enough Thailand to see in Chiang Mai or do you suggest another destination if people were to go there for the first time now?

I've only been in CM for ~1 week and have spent most of the time working (or late night partying with Europeans / expat Americans). I spent 2 weeks in Bangkok before....

I think there is "authentic" Thai here and in Bangkok; there is still a strong majority of Thai's / SE Asians in CM and BKK. Certainly some areas of the city more-so than others. And you can find the places where they frequent...

CM is a pretty cool and affordable place. The weather is much nicer than unbearably hot Bangkok, you can get a nice quality single AC room with a queen size bed for ~$20/night in the center of town. Authentic meals cost $2-$3 (the Western-style / tourist meals are more like $5-$10). It has pretty good wifi - much better than BKK. And they have a familiarity with dealing with Westerners; though, it is ironic that Thais are particularly bad at English. I hear the worst at English in SE Asia, despite it being the biggest ex-pat and tourist country. People are pretty friendly up here too.

(depending on how your travels have been) an expat colony can be a really nice thing to find sometimes.

> Curious - when you travel, how do you find families to live with? That sounds really fun.

There is a whole industry around this. Take a look at http://www.homestay.com/, it's like Airbnb except you book a family, not just an apartment.


also curious how you found families willing to host!

I believe in cases like his, where you take language lessons, the language school provides the opportunity to stay with a host family.

It is often cheaper to travel that sit at home in your western apt. If you can sublet or give up your place, costs are not exorbitant.

1) Find an itinerary using http://www.airtreks.com/ they are amazing. Seattle -> New Zealand -> Australia -> Malaysia -> Nepal -> Turkey was about 3300 USD.

2) Get a nice place for when you land, like 3 days. Use that time to find lower cost habitation.

3) Don't over plan. Don't over spend. Talk to everyone. Read people, find good people and befriend them. Be nice. Not everyone is out to hustle you, locals often live on $5 a day. Don't flaunt your western wealth.

Total cost for 9 month trip, including the above flight and the crazy expensive flight home, 15k. I should have done this 20 years ago, experience would have been very different, more raw. As you age, the senses dull, our wealth bludgeons any immediacy and hardship (both good and bad). You are shaped by what you see and do, so see and do early.

On the flip side, I traveled a lot more when I was younger than I do now, and I wish it was the other way around.

I didn't have the perspective to appreciate everything when I was younger, and a lot of it is sort of a blur. My experiences these days tend to come with a lot more appreciation and depth.

Grass is always greener, I guess.

Maybe traveling while young allows you to see with appreciation and depth now.

Or do both...

I got laid off from a job I was at for four years. Always wanted to travel but with school and work never had a chance for any extensive travel. I took two trips on my time off.

USA Road Trip. 14 days. 17 states (NJ, PA, MD, VA, TN, NC, MS, LA, TX, NM, CO, KS, MO, IL, IN, KY, WV). 6,000 miles. Total for two people: $2750. Per person: $1375. Per person per day: $98.


European Road Trip. 44 days. 14 countries (Italy, Vatican City, Monaco, France, Spain, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway). 12,000 miles of driving. Approximate total for two people: $12,000. Per person: $6,000. Per person per day: $133.


My blog has much more in depth detail if you are interested.

Nice trip but your daily driving distance is insane. 428 miles/day is ~7 hours driving per day. It's pretty much driving the whole day. I recently did 2500 miles/20 days trip and felt that I was driving too much.

7 hours? Maybe, if you never stop and never leave motorway. 8 h drive, 8 h sleep, remaining 8 h for finding place to stay, packing & unpacking stuff, eating and other necessities - doesnt leave you much time to interact with local or experience new culture.

Best decision of my whole life so far. It requires attaining an incredible amount of humility, selling everything, even that couch you like. You probably won't be back and storage costs a fortune, basically get rid of all of your material possessions. That's really by far the hardest part then take the smallest amount with you that you can.

And... suddenly, life seems brighter. I left north america probably 5 years ago, wasn't satisfied with the uk though. I don't need to spend all of my money financing a stressful lifestyle. Most places outside of na make it easy to rent a furnished apartment. Life outside of na is largely much cheaper when compared to large na cities. And life outside of na is much more interesting because it's there due to longer than 250 years of history.

Feels great man.

If you're a software engineer, you can basically work anywhere.

Right on. I'm just now unpacking the stuff I packed up ten years ago before traveling the world. I wish I had gotten rid of everything but the mementos back then. Few things will have value after a year, three, or ten.

With clothes and computer, and pretty much at the drop of a dime, I started traveling abroad and have done so for the past several years, around S. America & Europe, staying in places for at least a few months each. When you find a few overseas places that feel like "home", you can go back and forth between them when needed. Luckily, I knew some people with startups in the US who needed part-time VAs and thus this is what I've done this whole time. I've literally spent between US$400-600/mo since deciding to live overseas. Since my work is part-time, and at times sporadic, I often don't make much more than what I spend.

So on one side, it's totally doable to live in tons of cool places on the cheap (it's become a game of sorts to live frugally). On the other hand, when you travel w/o extra funds, you cannot do an about-face when you need to (ie, you cannot retreat from a bad situation) so you then have to find ways to stick it out, which can easily mean enduring odd living quarters, strange neighborhoods, shady people, etc. I've had thousands of both amazing and not-so-amazing experiences I would not have had, had I stayed in the States doing the same ol', same ol'. My hope is that I continue to have thousands more such experiences and most importantly, to do it wisely now that time has taught me what not to do (and now that my job responsibilities are gradually increasing).

I quit my job at Amazon and went on a 4 month long bike tour through South East Asia... it was kind of a sporadic decision, but basically it was a gut feeling that I needed to get out there and mentally reset.

Great experience and would definitely do it again, especially bike touring. You kind of get into this rhythym of: wake up at sunrise, eat breakfast, decide on route, cycle as much as you feel like, go swimming, talk to people, find a place to camp/sleep, fix bike, go to bed. Every week or so you'll hit a major tourist centre where you can get a western meal/talk to other English speakers... then you're back on the road!

If you're burnt out/are looking for a reset, I'd avoid trying to work and travel at the same time, if you can afford it.

Budget: I think it worked out to about $15/day over the 4 month period, which may have included a flight home too.

I came back feeling energized, optimistic, and found a job at a great startup within a month of being back!

Hey, thanks for sharing! Could you please elaborate on your trip and countries you’ve visited?

You're welcome!

I picked my way through sections of Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. I didn't feel like being dogmatic about always cycling, so I hopped on trains when I felt like it (you can easily put your bike on the train for a modest fee). For example, I trained down south to Krabi/Ton Sai and then cycled back up the southern coast, which avoids having to bike the same route twice.

Generally you don't need to camp, since there are plenty of cheap guest houses where you can shower and get a good meal, although it's handy to have a tent just in case.

This will give you inspiration, and is a great read, even if you don't end up cycle-touring: http://www.amazon.com/Travels-Willie-Adventure-Cyclist-Weir/...

This is a great resource to get started: http://www.mrpumpy.net/

I don't have anything in the way of a blog, but I do have pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/robotkenshi/collections/721576...

I've heard Vietnam from the the top (Hanoi) to the bottom (Saigon) is a good bicycle tour. Total is about 1000km.

I fully agree with aidos. It's much more rewarding if you go to a place and live like a local. In my case I've done a few voluntary work trips, the longest I did together with my wife and it lasted a year. I always try to learn the language in countries when I stay more than a couple of weeks. It quickly breaks the ice when you work side-by-side with the locals, trying to speak their language. You may not get to see all the main attractions in a country but you get to see and experience much more interesting things.

However, I also agree with reddytowns. Traveling like that changes you. You'll probably not notice until you return but it's quite likely you will feel disconnected from your peers, friends and family. You have changed and they have not. I would recommend anyone planning to go on a long immersive journey to consider going together with some one you like and get along well with. Then at least you will have that connection when you get back. This is important since this disconnected state could very likely be permanent. At least that's how it feels for me, it's been almost ten years since my wife and I spent a year abroad and I'd say we lost something then that we haven't been able to get back. We've spent nearly ten years back home, buying a house, raising kids and yet we don't really feel like we belong in our own country with our own families.. maybe it's just our personalities..

So in the end, would I recommend quitting your job and travel the world? I guess it depends on how well you'll handle the disconnect. The fact that your own family may feel like strangers to you.. In my case I can't really regret going, I've got too many amazing memories, too much fun with people I got to call my friends for a while. The sad part is though, you can't really go back either. Trust me I've tried. It will never be the same. Leaving and coming home changes you yet again.

Could you elaborate on what you mean when you say you feel disconnected from others when you get back? Do you mean in the sense that you feel their understanding of the world is limited compared to yours because you've seen/experienced more of it? Or in the sense that you had a different kind of fun/adventure that they'll never experience or know about?

You go to a new place and start doing things differently. You discover better ways to do things and realize people back home don't understand what they're doing.

For example, in New York City, it seems the main activity for young people is to go out to bars and restaurants.

You pack your bags and head somewhere tropical. You pick up a water sport like surfing or kiteboarding. You start waking up at 6am with the sunrise and realize it's amazing. Back in NYC, your awake hours were more like 10am to 2am. You start cooking at home.

Now, you look back at your friends and view them as wasting their life in bars and restaurants. You start identifying with the older crowd who comes to the office at 6am or 8am instead of 11am. You also start wondering why your friends don't ever do anything outdoors.

When you move, you end up with new habits. Your brain has a need to feel correct, so it views any changes as improvements; therefore, the ways of before (and of your friends) are now considered wrong, otherwise your mind experiences dissonance. You'll find a way to justify things to stop the dissonance.

Yeah, I think the last paragraph probably nails it down quite well.

I can only speak of my own experience. My longer journeys has always been for doing voluntary work. Often that meant I got to experience these moments of fantastic joy and then the next day moments of extreme misery (not to my person but local people around me). So part of it is an emotional roller coaster. The other part is intellectual, I got to learn how other cultures and languages work, far removed from my own. I learned new ways of dealing with things in life. It sounds small now that I write it but it's truly mind expanding.

When I got back I felt that I had thoroughly changed, yet my friends and family considered me to be the same person I was when I left. How could they do anything else? They couldn't possibly know what I had been through. To them I had just been away for a (short) while. To me they started to feel narrow-minded and set in their ways. The things I now found interesting weren't interesting to them, they couldn't understand them. The things they found interesting had lost its appeal to me.

If you imagine everyone's personality is formed by their experience and strangers are strangers because you've had completely different experiences in your life - then by having different experiences than your family they would begin to feel more like strangers than before. It's not necessarily 'more' or 'less', I've been to half a dozen countries in SE-Asia and my cousins have been to half a dozen countries in Europe and America and I feel very disconnected from them.

I went on a trip to Pakistan and on return, it's like I can strike a conversation with a Pakistani/Indian/Nepali anytime anywhere but with a Chinese or Caucasian (I'm Asian Australian)? It's harder to build rapport and feel connected in conversation. It's still possible, but I notice it takes a little more time. I think it'll even out over time, though, since I wasn't in Pakistan too long.

The author of the parent comment may have a different perspective.

I have the same question as heliodor does - what's the disconnection do you mean? Thanks.

A lot of detailed posts here, I'll try to be brief

- It gets tiring after a while, I kind of missed my car/TV/desktop.

- Finding a new place to stay every month or week is a bit of a pain.

- I think it helps to have something to do other than existing in a different place. Eg. My photo blog: (shameless plug) jack.ventures

- I definitely don't think the nomad lifestyle is right for everyone, it can be very isolating.

I think this is one of the most useful responses to the question, and I suspect it's closer to the average experience. I have done a decent amount of traveling, and so have most of my friends, and my opinion (and theirs, I think, through our conversations) agree with this. None of us are extremely introverted, or extroverted - I'd say we're pretty normal, unremarkable people.

On the nomad matter I would go further, and suggest that it only really works for a very few people, and that most who try don't turn it into a lifestyle; it's something they do for a few years until they eventually settle down and mostly stay in one place. Most of the excited blog posts are written within the first year - I've yet to see the 10-year postmortem from a committed digital nomad.

I had planned on making the nomad transition permanently, but now I think 3-6 months is the way to go, like an extended vacation. I thought I needed a complete lifestyle change, but I just needed some time away from everything.

some more points I thought of:

- I packed a full suitcase with everything I thought I'd need (mechanical keyboard, projector to replace my tv, a full week's wardrobe etc) and it turned out to be impractical. Next time I'll just bring a single packpack with my laptop, camera and two changes of clothes.

- discovery is a big problem that I haven't solved. The best experiences I've had were when I knew someone in the city and they could show me around.

Use couchsurfing, and search for hosts that 'want to meet up', and were online in the past week. There are tons of people interesting in showing travelers their city, so send them messages. Or, check the couchsurfing forums and meetups. It's usually just a bunch of locals and travelers grabbing drinks. Popular cities have hundreds of people attending and daily events, while less popular cities might have 5 or 10 people getting together for drinks once a week. There are always new people at every meetup, so you'll fit right in showing up at the pub alone and joining the group.

Or, if you're staying somewhere for a few months, then offer couchsurfers a couch to sleep on. People are always passing through, so you give an interesting person your couch for a couple of nights, and discover the city with them.

It's made my travels a lot more fun, and I now pick places to live that are popular on couchsurfing because it's that much easier to meet people.

I traveled for about two years. I was able to work remotely, so I didn't have to worry too much about a tight budget or finding employment upon return.

It was a great experience, and here's what I'd change:

- spend more time in fewer places; be less of a tourist. (bonus: for the most part, the less you move around, the less expensive it is.) I would particularly try to do this in places that aren't typical tourist destinations. Think of stops of 1-3 months (perhaps with side trips) rather than 1-2 weeks.

- if you're traveling with someone else (particularly a significant other): (a) be really, really confident that you want to travel together for that long; (b) do whatever you can to find destinations that you both are interested in; (c) explicitly acknowledge that you will want to spend time apart during your travels; and (d) expect the relationship to get rocky at times even if you do all of the above perfectly. It's hard.

- Plan to return to your current home, if at all possible. I didn't do this, and re-adjusting to 'normal' life was much more difficult without an existing set of family and friends around. Even if you do go back 'home', re-entry won't be seamless. One of my friends spent two years in Japan and claims that she was more homesick upon returning home (USA) than she ever was in Japan.

>One of my friends spent two years in Japan and claims that she was more homesick upon returning home (USA) than she ever was in Japan.

I can empathize with that. I spent a year and a half in New Zealand and near the end of it I travelled back home to spend Christmas with my family and old friends. Upon returning to New Zealand, I experienced that distinct "coming home" feeling more so than when I returned to what I had been thinking was my home.

"Reverse Culture Shock" on returning home is a definite thing. After all, you have moved forward in your life and your 'home' (friends, colleagues, and the city/town itself) have moved forward as well, but not together.

Not only that.. but depending on where you're from and where you traveled you might have more trouble with reverse culture shock. We in the west tend to be quite wasteful and this is even more acute in North America. Commercialism drives our workforce and the continuing arms race of work and buy is even more apparent once you've seen more of the world.

curious...why the last point? what makes you "homesick"?

In 2004 I spent most of a year travelling around South and Central America. I met my wife on that trip (she was also travelling) and now we have two awesome children.

Travelling refreshes the mind. It breaks bad habits and it frees your soul. Sounds like mumbo jumbo I know but I can't recommend it enough.

Give yourself at least 3 months. Take eery opportunity and trust your gut. It can be dangerous out there if your mind isn't aware of what is going on around you. A bit of common sense and you're fine. Also get to meet the locals. Sticking around the hostels with other backpackers can drive you potty in the end.

Best thing I ever did. Finding contract work when I got back was easy due to great old contacts who hooked me up.

My biggest problem with the "traveler's" stories is my impression that often they tell them from the angle of a "Topper":


I accept that they enjoyed what they did, but it's often that some (for my perspective) important parts of their stories are completely omitted presenting their "adventure" as much more successful than it really was.

"I've once traveled 5 months with 8K USD"

"That's nothing..." then you hear something amazing, like "for 1K" but only after you research more, if you insist, you discover that the person omitted the detail that they count just 1K of cash but not the money they got from actually working. Or that the girlfriend paid for everything. Or the parents. Or that they mostly lived in the hole. Or that they drove 10 hours per day every day. Or...

That being said, as I was younger, I made a trip through the Europe by mostly sleeping in the night trains. And I conveniently won't mention my relatives in London and my friends in some other places. But you could do the same, it's amazing. I really enjoyed it and it gave me profound insights, enough to sit in front of the computer writing this instead of doing something amazing. You're welcome.

A few years ago I quit my job with the idea that I had three projects I wanted to work on, I could do them from anywhere, and probably one would pan out into my next startup. TLDR: it worked, one did, and I had an awesome four-month trip in the process.

I subletted my room in NYC for a bit more than I paid, bought a plane ticket to Goa, and started there. It was the right decision insofar as it's a very soft landing in India, which can be a fairly difficult place for a lot of people. After two weeks and some research. I moved on and spent time in a bunch of different cities in India and Nepal; most days I would simply sit and write code in whatever hostel or home stay I was at, eat cheap street food for lunch, and generally be really, really productive. When I felt like it, I'd go take a walk or see something cool in the area or take a couple days and go on a short vacation somewhere else (e.g. I would never have wanted to spend much time in Agra, but it's a short overnight trip from Jaipur to go catch the taj mahal at dawn and then explore agra fort and take a walk before getting on a bus back).

It's actually the perfect vacation -- traveling can be really stressful, always trying to get to the next place, cram in all the stuff you have to see, etc. You wind up doing crazy things like exhausting yourself taking overnight buses to save time and hostel costs. But I spaced out what could have been a 3-4 week trip across four months, and it was relaxing, productive, interesting, and fun. I got pretty well into each of my projects (all of which involved acquiring new skill sets), figured out the one that had legs and was right for me, and turned it into my next startup.

The toughest part was in Kathmandu, where at the time power cuts were 14 hours a day, and of the 10 hours with power, they were mostly at night. But it was actually nice -- I got up early every morning with a charged laptop, worked until the thing was nearly dead after the power had gone out, went to a rooftop cafe to read for a while, went back and worked/charged again for a while, went for a long walk, and got back with enough charge left to last until the power came back on.

Overall, a pretty great life.

Sounds like a great trip.

But did you ever get sick from the street food? :) I'm not that adventurous I guess.

Once! It was probably the most miserable day of my life, but in retrospect it's just a totally awesome story. I've gotten sicker from street food elsewhere (giardia in the amazon was insanely uncool), but this was particularly crazy.

I was traveling from Varanasi (India) to Kathmandu (Nepal); you can fly, but I decided to see some scenery and do it by train and bus. I left Varanasi on the day before Holi, which is the indian holiday where hooligan kids throw dried paint at people who don't look like they want to be hit with lots of dried paint. I got to Gorakhpur at like 1:30am on the train, had a shitty hostel booked and aimed to catch the notoriously small government bus to the border town at 7am the next day. Got myself some samosas from a random street vendor since I hadn't eaten for like eight hours, devoured them, and went to sleep. Woke up at around 5am with my stomach churning; promptly threw up a bunch, but had to get packing and go find the bus. First thing when I walk outside? Paint in the face. A lot of laughing kids. More paint. People saying "why are you traveling on Holi? Very bad idea!" or even worse: "why are you playing holi? just tell them no!" (as if that worked for me even once).

Once I found the bus, it took me about twenty minutes of bumpy riding before I had to throw up again. Luckily I'd gotten the rear-most window seat, so I just leaned over and vomited out the window. It was terrible, but it worked. I think I made the poor woman with a daughter sitting next to me really, really uncomfotable, but hopefully she understood that this sick white dude covered in paint was having even less fun than she was.

But it got worse: because it was holi, kids were pelting the bus with paint pretty much the whole way to the border, so we couldn't keep the windows open on the cramped government bus with no AC. So everyone's overheating like crazy. On top of that, all out luggage is on top of the bus, and every time we have to stop (or even just slow, really), kids are climbing onto the the top of the bus, riding, and throwing more paint around, so I'm getting really paranoid about whether my frame pack is even going to be there when we finally stop.

At the border I made another stupid decision. I needed some fresh air really, really badly, so I decided to walk the 0.75 mile of no-man's land between the bus stop and the nepal visa office. Whoops. Turns out the guards literally don't give a shit about indian kids crossing the border in order to follow tourists and keep throwing paint at them. So by the time I get to the other side, the nepali guys are all just laughing at me because I am totally covered with paint and still have 8 hours of bus ride to go.

But the ride got better from there, and now it's a fun story. Plus the blanket I got in goa that I took all across india with me has some nicely set colors to it that remind me of my cool trip.

Wow, I envy you. That sounds like an amazing trip.

I've always wanted to travel the world but haven't done it yet. The way I see it, right now the market is doing amazing, unemployment is low. As an employee, you have leverage (negotiate for higher pay or choose another place that offers you more pay). My plan is to work hard and make/save as much money as I can in this economy. There will be a recession one day and rather than fighting with everybody else for a job with shitty pay, that will be the time I travel and enjoy the world.

All true, but you forgot to mention: you're older than you've ever been and now you're even older.[1]

Ditching it all to be a ski bum in aspen for a year or two is a lot different when your knees are 45.

You don't want to be that weird dude in the Phuket hostel that's 12 years older than everyone else.

(and so on)

[1] ... and now you're even older.

In early 1999 I'd been working as a contractor at a major Australian bank, writing VBScript, building an Intranet site. A three month contract became nine. By then I'd managed to pay off my student debt and put aside a decent amount. I quit and traveled.

Three months in southern Africa and three months in the United Kingdom.

It was my second trip to southern Africa and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Different the second time around. While I was exploring different areas, I had a much better sense of what to expect from each situation.

My first trip to the UK. I wasted a lot of time in those three months, which could have been better spent. I did see quite a lot, but generally I treated it mostly as a tools down and relaxation period. I did return to Australia, but 12 months later, I was back in the UK and lived there for a further 13 years.

Returning to Australia, it was straightforward enough to find work. I think I was offered something on my third interview. This just happened to be with a company which would go on to become a dotcom giant, survive the crash and continues to do reasonably well today. Everything worked out well enough.

I would certainly do it all again. If I had the choice to do things differently, I probably would have cut short the UK period and seen more of Europe, although I did a lot of that in subsequent years.

In short, I would encourage people to do something like this. I don't think breaks of even up to 12 months in a career should be a concern, especially if explained easily enough. The experiences are worth a great deal.

In 2007 moved with my wife and 5 year old from Virginia to Montevideo, Uruguay for 9 months then to Buenos Aires, Argentina for another 4 months. When we arrived, we didn't know a soul and chose that part of the world based mostly on the fact that it was relatively inexpensive and safe.

We lived mostly like locals. We rented a house and bought a car. I worked in the mornings and we spent afternoons and vacations exploring the area. We saw quite a bit of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil and met a ton of great people along the way, both locals and other expats, many of whom we keep in contact with still today. My son went to preschool in Uruguay and learned to speak Spanish fluently. My wife picked up a ton of Spanish and my own improved immensely.

While we were down there we lived frugally and my part-time work as a software developer was sufficient to pay our expenses. It wasn't hard to come back and find a full-time job.

It was an awesome experience, I'd highly recommend something like it to anyone. I briefly blogged while I was down there, if interested, it's here: https://guay.wordpress.com and if you haven't already, check out Rolf Pott's Vagabonding book.

I quit college to travel for 2 years and played online poker as a means of income. There are parts of it I regret, like being a bit callous with money and not really knowing what I would do afterwards, but I was young (20) and having disposable income (which I regret not saving) can affect you as a kid. It should be noted that dropping out of college is NOT something I regret. I think that may have been one of the best decisions I made when I was younger.

1. By leaving school, I ended up teaching myself by traveling and experiencing different cultures, living on my own outside of my comfort zone, and meeting smart, successful people around the world. It's hard to replicate that sort of education in an institutionalized environment (not to mention how expensive a degree is).

2. I sucked at budgeting. Nowadays there are a lot of good resources online for budgeting[1] and nomading[2] that I wish I had access to back then.

3. I didn't like thinking too far into the future at the time but I didn't really have any backup plans after poker. I just assumed I would make enough to eventually invest in some other venture. I did, but that venture didn't work out too well. I eventually taught myself how to code and I've been working as a dev in SF for the past few years.

4. I would follow the nomad lifestyle[2]. Knowing which areas maximized life happiness + low cost of living would have really helped. I think anyone who has a craft that can be monetized online and doesn't have significant responsibilities (family/kids) should try work-traveling for some time.

[1] http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/

[2] https://nomadlist.com/

"I quit college to travel for 2 years and played online poker as a means of income." Wow--online poker! I couldn't imagine the worry factor, but I'm not a gambler. When I look back on my life, the only real money I made was doing something risky. Right now, you made me realize I need to add more risk to my life.

Online poker is (or was) pretty low risk -- you play a bunch of tables, play reasonably, there are betting limits, and you reliably win money from people that are bad at it. It's really just a grind. Of course, that's not the only way to play it.

In May 2012 my wife and I did this. It went well, but little went to our initial plan.

The experience was far more stressful than either of us expected. Constantly having to find food, a place to sleep, and figure out where/what is next, was tiresome. However, we really enjoyed the experience and found some places off the beaten path that we really loved. We found out that we love hiking and that we wanted travel more in the future.

I can't remember how we ended up settling on a budget, we targeted $80/day for two people. We saved 60k for the trip which from what I can remember was somewhat arbitrary. We also saved 20k as a 'return fund' to ensure that we had ample runway to find jobs. Returning home was incredibly expensive, we sold everything we owned before we left, make sure you budget accordingly.

Finding work after traveling was simple for me, a bit harder for my wife. I had two job offers, both from people I worked with prior to leaving, before I'd been home for more than a couple weeks. My wife wanted to change where she worked, so it took her a bit longer. None of this was to plan, we had planned to move to the west coast, the sway of a job was too strong.

If we did it again... that is hard to say. Both of us wish it was planned a bit more completely, but I see no way to actually accomplish this. I might say stay in one place a bit longer that we did (maybe a week/city). My wife says she would blog less, and I think I agree, documenting the trip was a lot of work. We did it for ourselves and our family, but it was more work than anticipated.

In the end we finished traveling after only (sorry I know "only" sounds ridiculous) 8 months. We thought we would travel for 1.5 years or more. We spent way more time in South America than initially planned and took a boat to Antarctica which was entirely unplanned. It was really amazing.

If you have questions I'm happy to address them further, I tried to keep this short as I can talk about this for hours.

> I can talk about this for hours.

Please do!

Is your blog still up?

Yes, in my profile.

Fascinating, you've done an absolutely amazing job at not just your travel but also your 'inner journey' about how the travelling changed you. Thank you!

I'm a high school teacher. After four years of teaching, I quit my job and spent 13 months living on a bicycle. I went Seattle > Maine > Florida > California > Alaska.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It's nearing 20 years since I started that trip, and that experience still keeps me grounded today. I plan to bicycle across the continent again in my 50's or 60's to see how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same.

I did the digital nomad thing for 5 years and 9 months, across 70 countries: http://www.trott.in/accounts/1/worldmap

It was incredible, and I would recommend it to anyone.

And, it's never been easier to do ... if you haven't got much tying you down then give it a shot, take as long as it still feels rewarding. You'll know when it's time to go home.

I've now settled back in Australia this past year (much to my surprise) and am equally enjoying having a fixed address, a great friendship group and relationship, and having time to really focus on my startup. I wouldn't change a thing.

I spent the last four years doing web development while on playing drums in multiple touring bands. I got to travel abroad for free, and meet great people through it.

Unfortunately I remember very little of this time because I was taking on freelance projects to make side money and using mobile broadband to work in the van. It was incredibly stressful and one of the worst ideas. Multitasking the two jobs just burned me out quicker.

I wish I had planned it all out better so I could actually enjoy it fully. If you're going to travel, make sure you have the time to actually experience it.

For what it's worth I've really enjoyed some of your output during that time though, I was actually listening to one of the o pioneers pink couch recording earlier today. Sorry to hear it burned you out though, I can definitely see how that'd happen trying to tour and work freelance simultaneously.

Thanks! I really want to get back to recording those sessions but it's so hard to get up and running.

I've travelled a lot, and worked as a travel blogger, but never 'quit my job to travel.' It's a lot cheaper than you'd expect. You could probably do it for $10-$20k a year.

I think it's hard in that it's hard to get good at, but there's not a very sharp learning curve. You need to learn how to find deals, and how to meet people when you're tired, and how to not get ripped off, and so on. But mostly, extensive solo travel isn't that difficult. It's just about amassing common sense.

I left my job in the UK nearly nine months ago. I travelled overland through Europe to Turkey while working on a couple of freelance projects, mostly staying in hostels. Since then (and after spending a month over Christmas with my family), I've been in India for nearly four months, working on more freelance projects. I'm going to try somewhere more digital nomad-friendly soon though.

It's hard work. As one of the other comments mentioned - travelling itself is time consuming. But I think the biggest issue for me travelling alone is a lack of regular social contact. I suppose I'm a relatively solitary person - I enjoy spending time with people, but can survive without it. Europe was way better for meeting people (in part due to staying in hostels). India is tougher in that respect - but it's cheap, it's such an amazing country, and the people are friendly. Having the opportunity to read more has been cool. And learning to kite surf.

I've been really lucky to have worked with some awesome clients so far (in part because they've been both understanding and just generally curious of my lifestyle - but also just because they're great people working on fun projects).

The digital nomad lifestyle is something I'd wondered about for years, and I knew it was something I had to try, even if just to get it out of my system. Travelling without a time- or money constraint changes your experience for the better, I think. I have no regrets - I absolutely recommend it, even if it's just a short-term thing that you change your mind about later on. And yes, pack light :)

Literally about 4 weeks from finishing my job and hitting the open road / seas. It's taken me several years to do it but the timing this year has kind of worked out (I also turned 30 this year).

The Why?

I am basically just "surviving" month to month paying rent, seeing same people, doing same things and not really having any new experiences. At 30, this is my last chance to qualify for various visa options which would allow work in other countries. I also recently finished paying off all my college loans etc.

The how:

I finish my job on the 28th May (also move out of my place that day) and will be joining friends for a few weeks of sailing and then heading for Asia for summer and Canada for winter.

Financially speaking it's going to be tough I am leaving a well-paid permanent role but not a huge amount of savings (but no debts). The one plus side is the average gap year costs about £5k including flights and insurance and I am well above that amount so happy.

Am I scared? Yes of cause, but I have done several multi-week trips in Europe and lived abroad before and work is only ever a plane ride away. I am actually pretty happy to be doing bar work or working retail and having some different experiences to being stuck in-front of a keyboard.

It's going to be an adventure regardless and a change I need!

Don't work illegally. It may seem easy (and is) but you never know the nightmare it can unleash.

Travel is what you make it. You can travel without moving - interact with different people locally. You can travel by changing career. It is simply a process of changing environment. Join a hiking group, a cooking club, even learn a new skill, 'push your bubble' - that is travel.

Travel the world... Take the decision carefully, but if travelling physically it is easy to not travel. Everywhere has a Starbucks to grab a coffee, apart from the places that don't, but if travelling to places that don't, is choice made simply because they don't have Starbucks and if that is in the decision chain, when why not travel to somewhere that does and not go to Starbucks? Is 9 months backpacking 'travel' when it is done with a group of similarly minded people with a half-hearted effort to learn a language?

Home is where the heart is. If you feel your heart is somewhere else, then travel to find it, it is simply a change in lifestyle, physical travel is often the opposite - a preservation of lifestyle in different conditions; without recognizing that, no change is gained.

This isn't terribly profound, but I think I just like to read books in different places.

I enjoy it; it feels satisfying. The volume on that seems to edge up when I'm in a really different location, like another country.

That's not a counterpoint to what you said. It's just what hit me, and I thought it was funny.

I think part of the joy of traveling is leaving things behind including the distractions and worried that keep you from enjoying the things you love to do such as reading. Time seems to become your own again, because it is not fractured by the typical concerns. I always buy a new book or two when I go on vacation because I know I will find the time no matter what.

Yeah. Definitely.

Usually part of the fun for me is finding a used book store wherever I'm at and exploring it.

That was particularly interesting in Thailand, because one of the shop owners wanted to talk about buddhist philosophy and seeing the types of books they had around was really fascinating

I totally agree. I love reading, and the impact it can have can really be influenced by environment. [My favourite place to read books is sitting at the back of a bus in a traffic jam in a tunnel that will last at least an hour, can get totally engrossed and know there's no escape, just me and the book, and the occasional bump of advancing in traffic.]

The worst mistake, arguably, was getting the job back on my return 22 months later (I stumbled across an ad at a temptingly higher salary, and it arguably did make the adjustment to reality a little easier) If I did it all again, I'd ensure I made a more radical break from the past on my return.

I didn't work whilst I was away, though I did read and write an awful lot more, and an awful lot more selectively. I can believe the people that find the myriad attractions of exotic destinations a less toxic distraction than constant invitations to party or the urge to procrastinate that comes from being stuck in your comfort zone, but I enjoyed the experience more for being completely guilt-free about not achieving anything in particular in a given day or week. And some of my favourite destinations had really crappy internet connections.

Budgeting was easy, even on my sub <$10k year, but then again I've never had expensive taste. A down-side to this is feeling slightly grumpy on your return when realising a single spirit measure costs more than a meal and a much better day or night out in dozens of other places you've visited...

I am on year 3 of what was originally a 6 month trip. 6 months, I find is when most people decide to go home, but it is also the crucial wall that allowed my travel personality to take over.

There was no magic pill for me. My first 6 months was miserable, it was an adventure, sight seeing and meeting fellow travelers awt hostels was still something I wanted to do. I ended up very lonely at the end of 6 months and didn't make any friends.

After that is when I mentally stopped thinking about traveling and seeing the world. I just exist and tried as hard as possible to listen to that voice inside. I went for crazy experiences that I only hear in passing. That hermit in a jungle that someone talked about in passing? I went and visited him. The cult with promise of salvation? Yeah that too.

Then I got too many friends. The experience didn't just transform what existed in me. I am literally a different person. But I had to leg go of the notion that I am just traveling and that I am going back later.

Didn't quit the job (working remotely), on my 3rd around-the-world already. Feels perfect

1 month trip, skipped return flight; became a 6 month trip. another 1 month trip turned into 7. last second 2 month trip... got home 2 years later!

Not having a planned return date made it much easier to travel. I met people 1/2 way through a year trip who were having a complete breakdown. I always figured I'd be home a month or so later and just wanted to see a bit more before I headed home! I'm very clean cut so I never had any issues with alcohol nor was I even tempted to try drugs. Remote island = cash payoff but same country caught at the airport is jail or even a death sentence! Don't get complacent. Better yet just don't do it. I had a relative get stabbed 8 times at home while I was out "risking my life" traveling... all I got was rabies shots "just in case". Oh.. rabies.. NO CURE. Once Symptoms appear = DEATH in 99.97% of cases. Insurance flies you home to die. Research it!

Hey all – long time lurker, first time poster – I’m about to embark on my own odyssey (again), and it’s absolutely wonderful / enlightening / empowering to hear the experiences of others, both positive and negative. Thank you all for your words of wisdom, I could not be more excited about this next step!

I just blogged about this here:


Tl;DR: Post-college I negotiated a remote deal and spent the last months slow travelling, while still producing good work. I think logistically, everything works out very well, it really isn't a financial question at all (if you are a half-decent developer) unless you spent most of your travels in expensive Western cities. I prefer this over full-time travel.

However, the worst thing ended up being the transient nature of travel, no matter how slow you do it. If you are a person that does well by him/herself, then that's fine, but having a stable and sustainable social life has become a greater priority for me.

I havent started my career yet, because I've been traveling and moving from the time I graduated. Most of the trips I do are sponsored through one program or another. How has it changed me and am I happy?

Well, I was/am introvert. First time moving away was to Istanbul, through exchange student program I was forced(guided basically) to socialize. It teached me how to make friends in any place I am, how to act in different cultures. Currently I am in Africa, Cameroon, volunteering. Been here for a month, and will be staying here for two months. No big concerns regards moving from europe to africa. How do I do it and what is my secret? I dont have place I call home in my country, so my home is where my ten things are. My home is where my laptop and my cameras are. I also try to find something to do on my travels. As I said, most of the trips are sponsored trough EU or some other program, this usually means I already have a contact ahead and my travels usually have a reason. Thanks to this there isnt usually a problem to kickstart my social life locally either. The most benefit I have gotten out of my trips are self discovery, through putting myself in new situations.

only regret? Sometimes I still think where would my career be if I had stayed back home.

anything bad? access online is quite s*it through out the places I have traveled.

Ps. Anyone in sw cameroon wants to meet up?

I did this without quitting my job last year.

In 2013 my then wife of 10 years and I divorced. From when my primary employer broke up till mid january, I travelled Europe. Had a (mostly) great time too but it was a little too long. When I came back a leak had damaged most of my house, so I came stayed, fixed the leak, dried out the house in January and in February spent 6 weeks in Berlin. While there my ex-wife hadn't had that great a time so we agreed she'd stay in the old house and I'd travel for just over a year, knocking some cash off the divorce settlement in exchange.

I'm only a few months away from moving back, and while I enjoyed travelling I'm looking forward to being in one place for a while. Thankfully I travel a lot for work anyway, so filling in the spaces on extra weekends and things wasn't hard. I mostly stuck to Europe, so time differences weren't a major issue for me.

Partway through the year I met a girl in London, so I became more London based. Well, kinda.

One of the things I found travelling was that the longer I spent moving between places the less connected I felt to anywhere. Sometimes I felt that everything was so transient it felt pointless making the effort to meet people. After so much travel, the UK felt like another temporary destination instead of home, so I returned more or less permanently-ish and moved in with my girlfriend.

I'm still travelling a lot (this is my first full weekend at home in 7 weeks) but hoping to calm things down a little at least when I get my house back.

I'm doing it now (driving around the US with my dog), and so far so good. It's fun, it's exciting, but it can also get lonely and stressful. In the last few months I've done some awesome stuff (Like going to Mardi Gras, and hiking national parks, and partying with spring-breakers). But, it's a mixed bag. A few points:

1. Budgeting is key. It's easy to tell yourself that you can't budget for such variably-priced things as hotels and eating-while-vacationing, but you can. Make a budget, stick to it.

2. Get hotel-rooms (or airbnbs) with kitchenettes. Having access to a refrigerator will save you a lot of money and will allow you to eat healthier food. (Because you can go shopping at local grocery stores instead of eating out every meal).

3. Keep many income streams. If you do independent contracting (like I do), don't just have one client. I prefer to have 3-4 at one time, to even out the late-payments and such.

4. Save first, have a big emergency fund. If you're a Suze Orman fan, she'd probably say to have an 8-month emergency fund in place before doing anything like this. If youre a Dave Ramsey fan, he'd probably say 3-6 months. Either way, you need money for emergencies. Once you have that, the regular up-swings and down-swings of your finances won't be so stressful.

Summary: great experience, be prepared for uncertainty and no security.

I think it's superb.

I've spent around 2.5 years overseas over my lifetime. Study exchange in South Korea, random trips here and there, a month at a time, and most recently I quit my job and went away for a year in Latin America.

My partner and I had been considering this for a while - a years travel before kids and marriage etc. Then my dad was diagnosed with a fatal illness, which put a fire under my ass and we got moving.

We travelled slowly, a month or three in each country. We were planning on surviving by teaching English, but a 'work away' (try google) we did turned into ongoing paid work we could do online, so that funded the rest of our travel. Note - the pay was exceptionally poor, but enough for us to live on carefully while travelling without giving up major experiences.

We met amazing, inspiring people. Our ideas of what's possible in life were expanded significantly.

Now, the year's over and we're splitting time between living with our parents. This isn't a terrible thing, as it's temporary thing before we head overseas again - South East Asia this time.

A return to 9-5 work looks like hell at this point, so we're busy setting up an online biz that will support us, first in developing countries, then the 1st world.

If we decided to look for work, we'd be ok - a lot of friends and family have offered work (so much it was overwhelming) - so while we'd be fine, we wouldn't be happy.

I created my going-away party as a Facebook event for three weeks out, invited everyone I knew, and worked backwards from there with my apartment and job and deciding where to go. It worked out splendidly, and I can't imagine having done it any differently. After all that, it would have been totally embarrassing to still be in the city of I'd failed to make it happen :)

(disclaimer: I already did and still do have a wonderful relationship with my landlord and employer.)

> what was the experience like?

life changing, in a good way.

> What were you able to do?

Travel for 10 years instead of the planned one. On the way I created vacation rentals booking site, like Airbnb, (in 2001) and that financed my travels.

> How did you choose to budget?

You kind of start as cheap as possible and slowly adapt to the situation, spending a bit more if you can. But mind, the more you spend, the more you isolate yourself. Stay cheap and you'll be forced to meet people.

> What moved you to this decision, and how was the process of finding work again after your travels, if applicable?

the decision was easy: I felt I either did this or wasted my youth. After that I never needed to find work again. Travel opened my eyes and changed my perspective. Also, it forced me to make some money fast and that gave me the drive to try the Airbnb thing. Without that drive I would have probably been overcome by fear.

> If you were to do it all again, what would you do differently?

nah...it was just perfect :)

Since all is about meeting people, if you are an introvert, make sure you'll try to be more open, otherwise I guess you'll have a bad experience. Travelers are very open, you can easily meet people and travel for weeks together in total intimacy (same rooms etc..) but you have to be open too, don't bullshit them, they'll stay with you only if the like you. It's so easy to say "ok, I'm gonna go to Bali, see you around"

[edit: formatting]

1 year ago I quit my old job as a web developer at a startup company in Mexico City. Had been working in multiple digital agencies, small and big ones and always doing freelance projects or personal ones in my spare time.

Had the opportunity to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina for two weeks, so I asked for my paid vacations and that trip changed my mind. I've never travelled at my age (22), so when I was back and in only one month I quit my job and start selling all my stuff I bought for 3 years. In the meanwhile I started to look for more freelance projects, and just two weeks before I took the plane - I had already bought my ticket - one remote job position was opened for me. Lot's of benefits like good salary and a brand new laptop, and they agreed that I was in another country and I was going to be traveling through all latinamerica.

One year since that, I was in Argentina for the whole year - I have really good stories. One month ago I arrived back to México, I still have my remote job position, I'm using my extra hours to have more freelance projects and I'm saving everything I have because I'm planning to go to Central America in August (Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panamá, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru).

The things I learned from this experience is that traveling isn't that hard, you just need to plan ahead. You can decide what kind of traveling experience you want. My sister right now is bagpacking from Buenos Aires and she's right now at Ecuador, she's selling jewelry and food on each city she arrives. In the other hand, my kind of traveling involves a stable job, lot's of food and a good place to sleep and work. But that's your choice, there are different flavors for different people.

I didn't quit my job, but arranged with my employer more flexible hours for six months while I travelled around Europe, working remotely (I live in New Zealand.) It was an amazing experience and I'd recommend it to anyone with a similar background who can afford it.

Working remotely was amazing. One thing I'd recommend is to work at most 4 days per week, and preferably 3 - travelling takes a lot of time and can wear you out.

If you're an introvert like me, you'll need careful management of how social you are. For six months by yourself, you will get quite lonely unless you put significant effort into meeting people. I found it helpful to spend most of my time in hostels, but 2-3 days every fortnight in a hotel to recharge from all the socialising. Hotels are expensive but as an introvert they were a lifesaver - I could just kick back and take a break from meeting new people every day.

If it's your first time doing this, I don't recommend committing to more than six months away from home. It can be more challenging than you realise.

If you're working while travelling, it's a good idea to find an office that you can share for a while. I spent 2 months in Germany, working from an acquaintance's office. I made some friends there, and it was a good base to make weekend trips from. But also having the option to not travel on weekends was very valuable to me - sometimes I just got exhausted! There are definitely times when all you want to do is lie in bed and surf the internet. Make sure you have time to do that.

Travelling possibly isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you're unsure, I would advise to give it a go. Most people don't get the travel bug by sitting at home. You might enjoy it. You might even love it :)

I had the benefit of taking some time before leaving to build a client base so I wasn't leaving "cold turkey". Have been living in the developing world and working remotely for nearly four years now and I really enjoy the freedom it has given me. Some of the challenges are:

1) Being alone all the time can make it hard to maintain motivation

2) Having multi-day fights with local ISPs when they randomly cut or throttle my connection (always have a backup mobile dongle)

3) In a hot climate, being tied to a laptop doesn't do great things for your body. I was previously working on physical construction projects 50% of the time and the other 50% was spent on the computer designing and managing those projects. Now I'm just on the computer 100% of my working time and find it hard to stay in shape - I find gym's unnatural but I have to deal with that in order to stay in shape.

4) Not seeing people eye to eye means you have to get good at written communication, fast.

I would say that traveling has been a uniquely rewarding experience. I spent the better part of 10 years on the road. Certainly I could have worked that entire time and banked a ton of money in my 20s. But, while I'm sure I will continue to enjoy traveling again some day in the future, traveling is for the young. Do it while you can!

Great question. I agree.

I quit my job with no plan and about 4,000 saved up. My original plan to teach English in S Korea but realized I would rather not so I got a working holiday visa for Australia in 1 working day and booked my flight for the montha fter.

Basically, I came to Australia hoping to find work pretty quickly which was not the case. As a recent graduate making 60k a year, I didn't want to get hospitality work and to be honest, don't have thick enough skin for it. So, I went completely broke.

Living in hostels was pretty rough too, I am young, but I'm not a drinker and prefer interesting conversation over sex with a stranger and found that aspect difficult within the typical travel community, but it just took me finding my own way and that wasn't a problem anymore.

I survived 4 months living as cheaply as possible, doing work exchanges for room + board for a few months then succumbed to the call of money and picked up a full time freelance job at a studio in Sydney. It was pretty easy getting the job. I'm wrapping up my 3rd month here and off to road trip around Australia and then travel Asia.

Basically, the experience was a bit more difficult than I thought, but in ways I could've never foreseen. I've grown so much as an individual, and also, make it my mission to help inspire other people to ask for more in their lives. I don't do that by pretending my experience has been smooth sailing, but I'd like to think that just by being me, and being confident (something I've gotten better at on the road) and alive and well, that it makes people question their situations.

Either way, stick to your own path. What feels right to you? Don't think with your head. This decision must come from some place deeper than logistics.

You'll figure it out. No matter what happens. Let go of control on this one. Then instead of relying on other people's opinions and experiences, you can rely on your gut instead.

Best of luck. :)

After 20 odd years as a programmer, I quit my job with the intention of spending 1 year teaching English in Japan. My main reason for doing it was that I wanted to learn Japanese and I felt that there weren't enough hours in the day to do it in Canada. I'm very risk averse, so I wanted to make sure that I had a job and a place to live. I was accepted into the JET Programme (I was 39 at the time -- the cut off age!). At the time, I had all the trappings of a successful developer: car, house, mountains of things in the house. I packed a backpack and let some friends live in my house rent free so that there was someone to look after it.

After 3 months in Japan, I knew I never wanted to go back to Canada. Eventually, I asked one of my friends to sell my house (that's one hell of a favour!) and got them to give away all my worldly possessions. I loved teaching English, although I was completely unqualified for it and it took me a few years before I was at all competent. My job was only 35 hours a week so I had lots of time to write code in my spare time and I did so almost every day. I learned Japanese fluently and even got married to a Japanese woman who didn't speak much English at the time. I stayed there for the entire 5 years that was available on my teaching contract.

After that, my wife wanted to go somewhere so that she could learn English. I was feeling quite a bit more confident at this point that the moving thing would work out... somehow, but I'm still very risk averse ;-) I managed to get an entry permit for myself and my wife through my English ancestry which allowed us to work in the country and we just went. We budgeted $30K for a year and in the case that I couldn't find a programming job I had a startup plan. I didn't have to worry as I found a job within a month.

Before we left, I warned my wife that it might turn out like it did when I went to Japan: that we would live in England for ever. We went with that view in mind and gave away/sold the things we had in Japan (except for a few things which we left at her mother's house). I, especially, was down to again owning nothing that I couldn't carry by myself. We stayed for 2 years (to the day!), but eventually decided to return to Japan to help look after my wife's mother who is getting older. I am now working remotely on contract for the same company that I was working for in London. We are very happy in Japan and don't plan to move again, but who knows.

For advice: You probably don't need to be as risk averse as me. Things will probably "just work out... somehow". I really, really liked staying in the 2 places for years on end. I have to say that I don't like travelling, per se, but I have really enjoyed living and becoming part of a community in another place in the world. Also, spending the time to learn Japanese and to learn a new trade has completely changed my life for the better. And I got married (which is actually a bit of a miracle to be honest).

In the 5 years that I was away from a programming job, things changed in the industry quite a bit. Also, getting a programming job in a new part of the world meant that I didn't have any contacts and the popular technology was quite different. Even though I programmed every day on my own, my technical level dropped by a fair bit. I had one especially bad job interview where I am sure I looked like a complete idiot because I couldn't do anything. But I ended up with a great job, probably precisely because I found someone who was willing to give me a chance to prove myself.

One of the responses here says to "plan to return". As you can see, I went the other way. I planned not to return. Either way can be good, but I agree whole heartedly that you need a plan because it can be an emotional roller coaster ride. If you plan to return, realize that your friends will have moved on in their lives, your job probably won't be there waiting for you, and you will fundamentally change. It will be like another new place.

Other people seem to be saying similar things about the things you have accumulated over time. You don't need/want it. Except for a few things that have incredible sentimental value, get rid of it all. Trust me. Having to get rid of your stuff while you are thousands of miles away is not a thing that you want to experience. Get rid of it before you go. If you can't easily carry it, then it is useless.

One strange, but I think important piece of advice: don't break local laws. I have been really, really careful, but I have met people who have had problems with the law in Japan. Things don't work abroad the way they work where you live. Even minor things that would be overlooked where you live now could be a HUGE hassle for you in a different country.

A big one for that is if you intend to get a job in the country you are visiting, get the proper visa. Many times you can get away without the visa and it will be fine. The times where you don't get away with it? It will not be fine at all -- especially if you like travelling. Spending weeks, perhaps months in a holding cell (which you have to pay a large fee for) until they deport you, and then having a huge problem ever travelling anywhere again... This is really not good.

I have a few friends now who work remotely for overseas companies while they travel. This can work really well if you plan things well (don't assume you will have good internet access/power!!!) Remote working is quite difficult, but also rewarding. That is a whole topic to itself.

My last piece of advice is to get comfortable with the idea that you will change on your trip. Circumstances will force you to be a different person. This has worked out really well for me and for many other people I know, but it can be shattering for some people. The "success" of the trip will depend more on how flexible you can be rather than how much you have prepared in advance.

I quit my job and travelled for almost year in South America. I later spent 2 years in grad school (studying social science) as part of an extended "break" to figure out what I wanted to do. I had no grand plans, goals nor did I become enlightened from it. I did learned Spanish and met my wife during my trip, so personally, it had a big impact in my life.

Definitely, had some regrets about grad school as it was a fairly academic program. I went straight back to coding/software after graduation.

My advice is, if you know what you want to do, just do it. There is no need to travel the world or go on any journey. But if you don't, or if you haven't travelled yet, then yes, it does wonders to expand your experiences.

I had the same experience with grad school after extended traveling. The rules and administration were suffocating after having so much freedom. I also had a hard time relating to classmates and their concerns seemed so trivial compared to the rest of the world. However, this might have been the same if I'd gone back to work.

About 3 years ago I traveled for 13 months with my wife (then girlfriend). Mostly traveled in Asia then the transiberian to Europe, some Africa and the middle east then a road trip across the US. Lots of awesome advice here. One thing I'd add is to not be afraid to do something just because western travelers rarely do it. There seems to be a lot of "common wisdom" about what is a safe/reasonable thing that is just off. As for money, I programmed 10 hours/week (mostly on overnight bus trips and the like) and our costs were approx $50/day/person in less expensive countries then $100/day/person in more expensive countries.

I quit my job making video games and cycled across the country for fifteen months.. I worked a bit in the last 8 months from my tent (40-60 hours a month).

It was epic! I would definitely do it all over again.

I am still traveling. It's definitely not for everyone, but I would recommend traveling to anyone because of what you might learn along the way. If you haven't traveled much, or at all, it is definitely harsh at times, but like a challenge it is rewarding -- and life changing. I would say take it slow to start. Travel around your neighborhood. Take different routes to work. Take different modalities: bus, metro, train, ferry, cycle, sail, walk.

did it. loved it.

[edit] but if you have to ask the question, I don't think you want to go. People who go and love it really really want to go and explore. Maybe you should pick something like "hit all the tech trade shows" around the world, or what makes you feel excited. Getting an internship at google may be a better way for you to spend a year. My SO did a few months in an African school, she loved it more than sightseeing.

I went to hit the biggest and best waves in the world. I got most of them, it made me a better water person, but surfing perfect waves for a year made me hate surfing in the UK. It's a bit shit compared to Hawaii.

We got to see lots of non-touristy parts of the world. Some waves you really have to go far from the beaten path to find. So that was fun for me.

I quit my job at a top-tier HFT firm to travel the world while working on a pet project. This was an extremely difficult decision since I really enjoyed my job/friends and was setup to do quite well financially. The main reasons I pulled the trigger were:

1) A strong thirst to experience more of the world (and knowing it would be more difficult when I'm older (I was 26)).

2) The desire to run my own show on a project I felt like I was born to do.

I received a 1-year paid non-compete, so the plan was to give the project a shot while traveling, and if it wasn't panning out, to get back into the HFT industry. I was very fortunate to have earned enough to where budget was a non-issue (though I've managed to live quite cheaply) and I had my brother and good friend joining me on my travels and helping out with the project for the first couple months.

I could write a lot, but here are the highlights after spending time all over Europe, USA, Mexico, and South Africa.

The good:

- Seeing more of the world and experiencing new cultures has been an amazing and rewarding experience.

- Working on my passion project has been a blast, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the freedom and flexibility it has allowed.

- I've grown a ton both as a person and as a coder/statistician (it's nice to have the freedom to spend large segments of time learning new skills.)

- Adopting a minimalist lifestyle has been cathartic and rewarding.

The bad:

- It's really hard to balance time between work and travel/leisure. I've opted to spend long periods settled in one place while focusing on work, "living like a local", etc., and then taking pure leisure trips where I hop around to many nearby places.

- Hard to stay connected with friends and family back home.

- Hard to make lasting relationships while traveling, especially when english is not the country's primary language.

- Learning a new language (beyond common phrases) takes a lot of time, and doesn't give much bang for your buck (beyond a challenging mental exercise) when your spending less than 6 months someplace.

My 1-year is almost up and it's still unclear whether the project will pan out, but I'm planning to continue my work/travels as I'm still enjoying the experience, learning a lot, and there's more of the world I want to explore!

"I received a 1-year paid non-compete" How'd that work?

All these experiences, I wonder are there any nomads who are black? I've heard traveling through Eastern Europe and parts of Asia and South America. You get treated very differently if you are black. Anyone with that experience willing to share?

For some reason this post reminds me of movie "Into the Wild"

Has anyone done this with their professional spouse? How did it go?

My wife and I both quit our jobs before we left to travel. We've been together for 13 years at this point, were at about 10 years when we started traveling. Something about the travel just resulted in us bickering way more than we ever have before. We aren't 100% sure what the cause was.

I think traveling even slower 1-2 weeks/city might have helped with this, but then again, some cities just don't warrant that much time.

Since coming home we've since traveled for a 5 week trip together and it was much smoother. Perhaps we just needed to learn how to travel together.

At the end of 2007 I quit my job as the CTO of an online porn company, bought a new motorcycle, and rode south. I kept a pretty detailed blog:


It went great. I thought I would be gone six months but it ended up being just shy of a year. It gave me all the adventure I had hoped for and more - new friends, beautiful locations rarely seen by tourists, love affairs, very difficult situations, even a fair amount of genuine heart-pounding danger (jumping out of a moving cab at gunpoint; involuntarily evacuated from the Darién by the Panamanian army). I came back feeling tested and proven.

Yeah, I sound like a cliche. But it was really, really good for me.

To your questions: I started out with $100k in the bank. I didn't have a budget; I figured I would come back when I was either bored or felt poor enough. After a year I came back with about half that (including ~$14k on bike+gear, "fully depreciated" by the end of the trip). Honestly though, I burned money left and right; you could easily do the trip on 1/3rd that, especially if you're not an obsessive foodie. I didn't work on the road, other than pondering the question of "what to work on next".

Re-entry was fairly graceful. I spent all the rest of my money working on startup ideas that failed, but also building some opensource software that took off and eventually working that into a consulting business that at least pays the bills. I came back to SF expecting to enjoy a good long stretch as a heartbreaker but almost immediately began a torrid romance with a woman who is now my wife... so while nothing turned out like I expected, I count it as a success.

The trip didn't make me a fundamentally different person, but it did change me. When you can negotiate in broken Spanish to get your broken-down motorcycle pulled out of a goat trail in the rain with an ox-cart, most of the annoying hurdles that modern life throws at you feel pretty mild and tractable. Not much gets me worked up anymore.

My advice for novices considering extended world travel:

* Stick to the cheap but tourist-friendly parts. Latin America, Southeast Asia, India, Turkey.

* Travel by unusual modes. Motorcycle is great. Bicycle is better. On foot is even better. My wife and I spent two months walking the Camino de Santiago across Spain a year ago and it was the best trip of my life to date. The slower you go, the more people you meet and the more detail you get to see. Travel by bus or train is the worst - you can't even stop when you see something interesting. Although, amusingly, there's a contrary problem on foot - you have to make hard decisions about points of interest that are just a mile off track.

* Depth is better than breadth. Spend more time in fewer places. You can always take more trips.

* Take language lessons. It's a good way to spend a week somewhere and you'll often make friends.

* Do remote consulting, if you can. It not only brings money but gives you an excuse to stay in one place for stretches at a time. I wish I had my current contact network in 2008; I might still be out there.

* Assuming you are in technology and at least competent, don't worry about finding a job when you get back. Don't wait until your bank account is about to run dry, but also don't fret about it. Softwarewise, not that much really changes in a year. And when it does, it's usually not a good idea to be on the bleeding edge anyways.

I lived in a van for about nine months while traveling around Japan.

I lived primarily off savings, though I worked for three weeks at a beer garden over the summer, two weeks washing dishes at the Sumo in Tokyo and did some consulting work here and there for previous clients.

Once you find your groove it's easy. For me, it was 1) from about 6pm try to find a place to shower, then a place to park. 2) spend about an hour planning the next day's activities. 3) get into some sake, read some comics, then sleep. 4) wake up early enough and move on so that no-one notices you just camped there overnight. Head into town and start sight-seeing.

Fortunately it was 2007 when I came to Tokyo to look for "proper" work and there were all these jobs supporting these people working in something called "sub prime mortgages"...

I was 27 at the time. Still here almost 10 years later though I live in an apartment now. Next month I'll be heading back to Australia to work on a few projects and the thought is a bit daunting. It was much easier at 27 to quit the job and pack it all up, but I think having the experience under my belt makes it easier the second time around.

Second time around will be more like what you describe above, the "quit your job and into the unknown." My tips (as much for you as for me) from doing it once are 1) less is more when it comes to luggage. If I didn't have to work I'd probably go entirely bagless (see: Scottevest) or close too it. 2) A lot of it comes down to a few simple requirements that need to be taken care of every day. Once you have these under control your mindset changes in ways that could fill a blog post on their own. 3) For many hiring managers, a year traveling on your CV is poison. That's their shortcoming, not yours. 4) Consider doing "local" jobs while traveling. I was working and being paid minimum wage but loved every moment of it, and I still keep in touch with my colleagues from those experiences (I've since worked at a bean-sweets factory and a hot spring resort, another stint at the Sumo, and there was a hotel somewhere in there too). 5) The more food prep you're prepared to do the more you can save. If I knew there was a market nearby I'd be up at the crack of dawn jostling with the old ladies for discounted local produce. I learnt and employed time-tested methods for preserving food (salting, spicing, fermenting, drying, etc) or bought from markets pre-preserved (I spiced and dried some meat hanging in my car one time while on the freeway with my windows open. The drag probably cost me more in fuel than I saved by being able to buy the discounted meat lol). I had several go-to meals, and became a master of one-pot cooking. Worst case I would go without, or spend a buck getting some cheap calories from the convenience store. 6) Talk to people. Everyone has a problem they need solved, and you might be the person to solve it. Maybe one thing leads to another and you have a source of income for a while, or more. All of my part-time jobs above bar one came from introductions from people I had spoken to or worked with along the way. Often you can bring a unique perspective, or worst case you learn something yourself.

I switched between a few jobs in different countries and continents. Not quite travelling, but much more relaxing and paid for.

tldr: My year off was fantastic. Not life-changing, but amazing. In the years since I find individuals reaction to hearing of my year off very telling in what they'll be like to work with and their take on work/life balance. May have set career back... by a year-ish. I would do it again.

I'd spent around seven years as part of an early-stage startup team, built up company to 500+, was worth tens of millions on paper then actually made nothing. I needed a break, and thought a couple months off would be great.

I had hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles and had planned to go first class to India, train around, see the Himalaya, then end up on a beach in Thailand as the finale. Still hope to do this, some day.

Instead I stayed in N America: skied Mt Rainier and several other Cascade volcanoes, rafted Grand Canyon with my parents, lived in Yosemite Valley climbing for nearly two months, climbed many amazing places in Cascades, Rockies & Alaska. I ended up spending around ten months off chasing adventures.

I did receive phone calls about jobs from people who knew I was off, wondering if/when I'd come back to reality. One of these calls lead to my next job, consulting at Microsoft for several years.

With over a decade passed since I took this year off I can say concretely I have no regrets. It may However, I do have friends who've taken extended time off who've felt it hurt their careers...

I've noticed a curious thing: I now intentionally tell people about my year off when interviewing, etc, and find reactions to my extended time off very telling indicator: reaction: "Hmmm, really. What can you tell me about your work ethic?" => Do not work for someone like this, period...

"A year off? I hope you got that out of your system and are ready to work hard here at Widget Corp." => Likely have zero concept or concern about work/life balance; will question your time-off requests.

"I could never do that, sounds so scary but incredible... did it hurt your career?" => These people are fine, and will love your slide-show screen-saver; intentionally pause your powerpoint every now and then to give them a taste because they'll enjoy it.

"OMG really??? I've always wanted to... where did you go? how awesome was it? would you do it again?" => Almost 100% of the time people with this reaction are awesome. Find these people.

Terrible for me. Spent all my money. Couldn't find a job for 6 months when I came back

I was pretty young when I quit (20), so I'm not sure how useful it is, but:

— [W]hat was the experience like?

10–11 months, through Europe, quick stop in Turkey/China, Southeast Asia, and finally South America. Really amazing and eye-opening, especially at my age of being relatively sheltered in my childhood mostly in the northeast USA. Nearly every day was a day where I learned or saw something new, which was awesome.

It was also pretty challenging at some points, but of course, that made it engaging as well. I'm reminded of me, a shoddy hiker, backpacking with a heavy pack through Torres del Paine in Chile, only completing it because I took breaks every 15 minutes to motivate myself with peanut M&Ms.

And yeah, it was a very formative experience, and I came back changed for sure, and, I think, more resilient.

Responding to some of the commenters before me, I was also an introvert when I went and I absolutely had some hellish times while staying in hostels and I can see how other introverts might have experienced the same. Over time, I did become more of ambivert, but yeah, I definitely also experienced some trifling times as an introvert. This contributed to a good amount of fatigue from being outside of my comfort zone (see below).

— How did you choose to budget?

Not very well, but thankfully, traveling (even in some places in western Europe) is very affordable compared to than living in a top-tier city. I could survive off of $50 a day in Europe lodging at hostels, and anywhere from $30 down to $10 a day in Southeast Asia. I generally spent more than the average, since I wanted to experience the places I was going thoroughly.

— What moved you to this decision, and how was the process of finding work again after your travels, if applicable?

A desire to expand my problem space and create a better mental model of the world that better matches reality. As for post-travel, I went back to school, but being a developer, I suspect I wouldn't have had any trouble finding work again. I didn't, though, because traveling accelerated my quasi-disillusionment with tech and my move into behavioral science.

— If you were to do it all again, what would you do differently?

Be more fearless. I was a 20-year-old kid so a bit of worry was probably on par, but being nearly 23 now, I would have taken more risks. I certainly wasn't conservative, but I could have done more. I came back home after South America because I was fatigued after challenging myself. Interestingly, I think I would have been more fearless if I let myself just realize I was burned out and let myself rest without feeling like I was wasting time "not seeing the world" or something. It doesn't always have to be go-go-go and then resting only so you can do it again—rest for rest's sake. Long-term traveling, as any traveler will tell you, gets tiring.

I would also optimize for meeting more people and traveling with them more. I did meet a lot of people, but didn't really travel with too many of them (perhaps 10% of my trips were with others). Solo travel is freedom to the nth degree, but it's also really great to have a mix of shared and solo because it's nice to experience things with others sometimes.

There's lots more I can say, but it was a pretty transformative experience and it's something I wish everyone would experience sometime.

After spending a couple of years traveling on and off after quitting a job, there are a few things I wish I'd known/asked myself beforehand.

1. In your daily life, are you typically happy/comfortable not having a schedule? You might say "I'm traveling to get away from daily life," but longer-term travel is not like taking a vacation. It's much more like daily living. If you're happy not having a schedule in your normal life, don't plan much when you travel. I didn't even ask that question before I went traveling, but by nature I have a hard time not having a plan so I planned the s* out of my travels (I picked destinations around the planet, bought plane tickets to a chunk of the first destinations, planned activities/goals along the way and even had future destinations in mind (zoom out on Google Maps and just dream/lust after places! You'll almost immediately have a plan even if you don't like planning!). Anyway, I'm super stoked I planned the trip. I would've been a bit bummed if I hadn't, but as some posters here have said, planning isn't for everyone and you have to know what you like. And of course you can have a bit of both. Doesn't need to be "no plan" vs "plan every day," but structure, if you enjoy structure, is key. If you are too structured and are traveling to change yourself, of course ignore this advice.

2. Do you feel a need to accomplish things? I'm just going to go out on a limb since you're asking this on HN that you like "getting stuff done." You might be an "enjoy the journey more than the destination" person, but a big part of the journey is progressing/growing and so, again, related to schedule, plan on actually accomplishing some things while traveling. My partner and I, though not particularly outdoorsy, took advantage of several months of traveling to do some short, but serious (for us) hiking and I have to say that absent those events during our travels we wouldn't have enjoyed it nearly as much. It's awesome seeing the world, and talking to the people who inhabit it, but the desire for accomplishment doesn't go away when you do longer-term travel. Like I said, it's not like a vacation (though of course we were happy to find ourselves on nice beaches after pushing ourselves to reach "the top of the mountain." And your mountain can be hiking, learning a language, building an app, volunteering, etc. We just happened to want to see some epic nature)

3. Does my partner "love" me enough to not kill me if we're on top of each other for months on end (and vice versa)? You can only ask this, of course, if you're planning on traveling with a partner. You can always take breaks from each other, which is likely easier if you're traveling with a friend instead of a romantic partner, but I think saying upfront what you're both comfortable with is important

Apologies for the long post. Not sure if you, the OP, will read it, but if you want a spreadsheet with an around-the-world budget, hit me up and I'll share a Google one with you. I think I still have it. The single longest trip we did during the 2 years was three months (far shorter than a bunch of the folks who commented), but I/we stayed almost right on budget the whole time, which is actually much easier than you might think because as long as you have some flexibility timing-wise you can always save money on the big-bucket items (air/travel, lodging, food).

Oh, one last comment... If you love travel, and have dreamed of doing it more extensively and think you can pull it off, just do it. The only frustrating thing about traveling (for people who really enjoy it!) is not being able to do more of it.

Hey, thanks for sharing your experience! I will be graduating soon and I am wondering about travelling too and trying to figure out a budget. It would be great if you can share your spreadsheet with the around-the-world budget.

I'd love to see your spreadsheet, I'm heading off myself in a couple weeks. My email is my username at gmail.

Wow, I got my first "That comment was too long". Okay, I'm breaking this into two replies because it's just too good to not put here.

I ended up getting a better job overseas (paid to research and code what I want). And then I quit that and ended up getting an even better opportunity after travelling again, and after a fun period interning at a magazine, then making investment banker money for building an ecommerce site.

I think the more glibly you express it, ("Quit your job! Travel the world!" would have to be one of the more concise expressions) the more possible meanings that statement can encode, so the more open it is to interpretation.

I think the essence of being successful doing that (by essence I mean one main cause and requirement) is simply the willingness to leave one opportunity to find a better one.

From a thermodynamic viewpoint, the more you raise your energy (unbound state), the more possible energy states you can access. The more "stable" things are, the less energy states (read possibilities) you will access.

From an "multivariate optimization" perspective (how you maximize your utility over a couple of metrics relevant to you with the space of possibilities some kind of undulating surface) you are searching the landscape of possibilities, the willingness to "pivot" off a local maxima and begin searching again is a strategy that makes finding higher peaks possible.

Diving deeper, heuristically the landscape is large (there are many possible configurations of your axes of utility, i.e, many possible situations), and also mostly self-similar (because there are certain rules which operate in the world which cycle and combine to produce familiar patterns, for example, human psychology, means that, broadly, people's reactions to a given situation will mostly be the same across cultures, and their motivations will be similar as well, such as in aggregate people are motivated by their fears (of not having enough, of shame) and by their ego (competing with other egos), and by their culture (social norms, shared history and cultural identity), and by what the narrative they choose for themselves (hero, victim, "normal", "outcast", "individual" roughly corresponding to high school film tropes, thou becoming more multifaceted and specialised with age -- people become niche experts at being who they are, is another way of saying habits become ingrained). So these personal identities and cultural identities drive people, and these identities are shaped by forces uniform across the world, and people drive the world, so the world, in most ways you look, is essentially the same. It is also very very different, yet the difference is obvious. The sameness merits mention because it is one of those "hacks" that is not always inherently obvious, and even when it is, there's a lot of depth to the self-similar characters of different places, and a lot of utility to be gained by learning about what's similar wherever you are.

So back to the "optimization" analogy, if we are walking a landscape that has two characteristics, it's large and mostly uniform, there are some consequences suggested by these observations. If I'm on a local peak in a large landscape (i.e, I have one a many possible jobs in many possible places), and that landscape is mostly uniform, then there's probably a lot of other peaks even a far way away.


It's like the universe at galactic scale: broadly the same in all directions as far as you look.

And if I'm on this one peak of many peaks, then if I go off searching, it's likely I'll find other peaks comparable to where I was. So the first unintuitive result is that search is likely to produce comparably stable conditions, instead of the "shattering fear and chaos" which may be feared to result from leaving a local peak.

The second result is based on the following observation: the peaks are distributed across a range of heights that's modelled well by a bell curve (based on subjective metrics of personal utility). The very small and the very large peaks are rare. This has a number of relevant consequences. Firstly, it's roughly as hard to fall off the cliff and into chaos as it is to ascend to the heights of huge success, which reinforces our first unintuitive result that search mostly preserves the equilibrium. Because comparable conditions are the most common, you're more likely to keep finding them than anything distressingly (or delightfully) too different.

The second relevant consequence for our discussion of optimization of your lifepeak is because more successful and less successful than you are more rare, it's unlikely where you are starting out in your search is anything close to a global optima. In fact it's overwhelming more likely it's just a normal peak, no matter what narratives you attach to it (like the story I told above, as good as that sounds, it's still overhwlemingly likely that's mostly normal). The great thing about this is there's a whole bunch of peaks out there that are better than where we currently are. And we give can find them if we try. We give ourselves a chance to find them only if we try.

The other great thing about looking for higher peaks is, and this is similar to the argument about why you should only focus on the biggest problems, that great peaks are mostly unoccupied. The higher the peak is, the less life is up there, because it's themodynamically harder to reach it.

And thermodynamics applies everywhere. Well, everywhere that matters for optimizing your life peak. I.e, it's unlikely you'll want to be on the edge of our knowledge inside the event horizon of a black hole. But personal utility is subjective, so...Maybe that works for you.

These two unintuitive results, first, that by searching you are more likely to find comparable conditions than worse or better ones, and second, that where you are is unlikely to be the best and there are other better ones out there that have paths untrod and are unoccupied, (peaks that are waiting just for you), provide a compelling reason for us to search from where we are.

And if you lay breadcrumbs, you might even be able to trek your way back.

This "existence proof" of a better life waiting over the horizon of travel, is not constructive.

It doesn't actually tell us how to produce such a better life.

Tho, strangely, these results do offer some heuristic algorithms for search.

1. Because where you are is unlikely to be the best, you are better off pivoting if you are desiring a higher utility co-ordinate for yourself. And you don't even have to worry about "am I up to this" because you were "up to it" to find your current peak, and given the relevant characteristics of the landscape (uniformity and scale), this means you are up to it to stumble, however hopelessly you may feel you stumble, upon comparable conditions elsewhere! If however, you have your heart set on "better conditions" then the corollary of this is that, while travel may "open your eyes" to lower energy paths through the landscape, the Universal Rules, uniformity and scale, mean that you will need a similar additional quantum of energy to raise your peak abroad as you will at home.

Let that sink in. It's actually not going to be any easier, thermodynamically speaking in the aggregate, to get your life peak better if you travel far away than if you don't. Because this is a law of aggregate statistics it goes hand in hand with all its individuated exceptions, and it still operates: broadly speaking, you've just as much chance of finding a higher peak in your neighbourhood than across the globe.

This unintuitive result has other nice corollaries in that it's not really easier to make it if you're overseas than if you're at home, contrary to the sometimes myth that it is, a result which you can contribute as a reason to variously stay or to go, as you please.

So returning to our second algorithm heuristic for lifepeak search, it works to start by realizing that there will be additional energy requirements to improve your life, wherever you are.

Now, this is where it gets really interesting.

Someone has said that perspective is 80 IQ points. That simply presenting something from a perspective that works has huge utility in itself. Perspective is a super power. You can enhance or limit your inherent abilities with your choice of perspective.

In chemistry, we call this a catalyst. Perspective lowers the barrier of entry to different achievements, making it easier to unlock higher lifepeaks. Perspective flattens the energy landscape, allowing to see further.

And travel, can give you, perspective.

That's probably one of it's most powerful operations.

And it's not some mythical hand-waving argument that travel gives you perspective just so, it's actually because (cue hand-waving mythical argument) the conceptual lag between the apparent nature of things (their difference) in other places, and their unobvious inherent sameness (the Universal Rules), gives you space. You get mental space where even though you feel you are in a different place, you are actually in inherently the same place, aggregately speaking.

And when you have space you are free to move around.

And being free to move around is freedom to change your perspective. That's the definition of perspective, mental space to move around in. And it's the very appearance of things you find in travel (the apparent difference of which hides their inherent sameness), it's the very lag before you catch up to that, before you learn that patterns, which gives you that mental space to gain perspective to flatten the energy landscape to trek your way to that new, higher, peak.

So being in the unknown is not mythically just better for you, it actually works by this mechanism to make it easier for you.

It's still going to take more energy to get to a higher peak, though maybe you're new found perspective has made that energy requirement less than it otherwise would have been, for you, and because you've learned something (by not yet learning how similar things really are) it is easier for you to go to that new higher life peak.

Time here to offer a word of caution. What makes it easier to go up also makes it easier to go down. And many a foreign expat in a faraway land has succumbed to one form of burnout or another. The fresh perspective is not a magical cure all: it's a powerful tool, and it's up to you and your choices what results you produce with that power you chose to give yourself. So if you're thinking travel will solve all your problems, maybe it will, and yet just go cautiously that you have enough resourcefulness and resilience to keep yourself away from the chasms, because even though that landscape flattens now, when it finally straightens out as your learn the inherent sameness, those chasms will seem mighty deep, I imagine, so, buyer beware.

Finally, returning to the search algorithm heurstic suggested by this line of reasoning, we have: keep your eyes open, stay loose and let go, don't try to see the sameness straight away, see the difference, because you're going to catch up anyway and the longer you stay in the unknown the more perspective you have. This is the fourth unintuitive result: spend time in ignorance longer in a new culture, let the difference go to work on you. Learn less language, not more, because being in the dark will keep you on your toes and also keep your perspective fresh, and if you're searching for that higher life peak, and fresher perspective is one of the things which works to have in your toolchain.

Now these two heuristic search algorithms we've presented:

1. Pivot. Just go 2. Stay loose. Stay dumb,

(which conveniently seem to encode rigorously the very hippy traveler aesthetic practised by the most seasoned nomads and incurable wanderers -- likely hooked on the perspective high),

neither of these, guarantee you'll find higher peaks, what you get is up to you. And maybe you'll create your own algorithms to optimize your travel experience, or even to find higher peaks in your neighbourhood. That would be awesome. Heed the general principles above is likely a place to start with that works.

And, finally, something must be said to address this question.

What if you search and you find that you were at the apex already?

Sit up there and have a cup of tea? Gaze down superiously at your surrounding kingdom and minions?

Or maybe you got to ask yourself, if you wanted to leave what was the Everest in that landscape, maybe you're in the wrong space?

So, the remedy for that is ... more travelling to gain clarity for what kind of space might work better for you.

Peace out.

What was the experience like?

Better than staying put!

What were you able to do?

Everything. Importantly, lose my introverted character. Literally went INTP->ENTP (ENTP-A). All the travel stuff, learn languages, cycle-touring, paragliding, caving, exploring, plus try other types of work, start a company, learn a lot of computer stuff, learn a lot of history/culture/geography, etc.

How did you choose to budget?

Variously. Some periods pushing red or even red, other periods (after 7+ years) back to the salary-snatch. Had a scholarship for awhile, free accommodation to boot. Initially working wasn't necessary, as $50 bought me a month's rent in 2001 in China and I left with $15k. Made it through Laos, Thailand and Taiwan on those funds. Later, I tried English teaching but found it wasn't for me.

What moved you to this decision?

Exposed to travel a little bit at a young age. Bored of the commuter 9-5 lifestyle by age 18 or 19 after only 1.5 years exposure.

How was the process of finding work again after your travels, if applicable?

Surprisingly easy. I left Australia having been on a salary of 60k AUD at age 18. 7 or 8 years later I rocked up in London with effectively no western work on my CV for that period (I had actually started a company in China, kept up many interests in programming, etc.). Once I'd taken a permanent/salaried position (at GBP 40k, which moved to 60k within 3 months) I was surpried to realise that people in 'normal' career coding positions rarely get the ability to go deep in their learning the same way living cheap in some random country being your own boss lets you. I'd done diskless systems, clustering, VOIP, digital fax, replicated databases, SMS, lots of mapping, business process automation, and all of that in 6 human languages. I'd also learned Chinese. Thus, I was in some ways more broadly employable than if I had never spent time away. After two years of salary (one in London, one in LA) I found a remote position, then moved back to China. My wife and I have since had our first child, lived a year in Thailand, and traveled broadly in Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and currently Europe, where we are looking to resettle.

If you were to do it all again, what would you do differently?

If I did the entrepreneurial thing for the first time while in a foreign country again (a real learning experience!), I would pay or beg an experienced CEO back in my home country - one with some nous - to give me a strong education in business accounting up front. What's critical, what different parties look for, how they evaluate, how to present, how you can usefully evaluate numbers yourself, etc. I would try to meet and involve skilled mentors in my businesses from day one. Other than that, nothing. Maybe buy bitcoins early on ;)

I'm currently doing this. I've been out for about 3 months, currently in Taipei, and hopefully I'll be out for a year. I did quit my job but I didn't quit working. There's contract work that I've done on and off for the last month. It's only part time though, which is good.

Since I make iOS and Android apps, it's fairly easy to get contracting work, and it's nice to not have to worry that much about money. I've happy that I can get private apartments and not have to stay in hostels. I'm not 19 anymore.

A lot of other commenters have hit the nail on the head about travel. Here are a few things that I totally agree with:

1. Traveling will not instantly make your life amazing. You will worry about money, you'll get lonely, and you'll probably really want some food that you don't have. Every city I go to I try to find coffee that's on par with Stumptown or Four Barrel. You'd be amazed what a Google search for "Hipster Coffee shops in xxxx" will turn up. However, many many times I have to settle for Nescafe, especially in Thailand.

2. Loneliness can be a big problem. I'm lucky enough to be traveling with my fiance so at least we have each other, but I've seen other travelers and digital nomads that are having a rough time after about the 6 week point.

3. After a while, if you're not working, you'll get bored. It happened to me. Being on a beach for a week is great if you're stressed. It's not so awesome if you're already a little bored. Find something you like doing. Make a list of books you want to read, programming topics you want explore, or whatever floats your boat and do that for 4 hours a day while you're out. It keeps your brain sharp and gives you a purpose.

Other observations: 1. Many digital nomads are software developers (including myself) but many aren't. The ones that aren't tend to be in pyramid schemes. Have you heard of the drop shipping lifestyle? Would you like to? It can get irritating, especially since every blog post or Facebook comment is about how they're winning at life and you should too!

2. Coworking spaces are great for meeting people that are also traveling or starting their own companies. They would also totally be down to hangout and grab a drink. See point #2 above. They can clue you in to where the best expat bars are or where to find an IPA.

3. It's ok if you don't actually want to go to museums, temples, or whatever. Finding the best coffee shop in town can be so much more enjoyable than making the trek to temple #5 and seeing the second tallest Buddha statue in the country.

4. Move slowly. The days when I'm in the worst mood are the ones that I have to put on my pack, navigate to the train station, hop on a plane, and somehow find my AirBnB in a new city. It's a pain. Spend at least a week or two in a city if you're doing long term travel. You can get cheaper rates if you do weekly or monthly rates anyway.

I have developed a taste for Nescafé, especially the cold stuff in cans, so much so that I miss it when I'm back in the west (Switzerland used to have a lot of it, but they don't seem to sell the long skinny cans there anymore).

Thailand has some great coffee shops in Bangkok, the rest of the country is ok but nothing special. Bali does ok also, and the phillipines...

I'm not a digital nomad though, I just need to get out of beijing every few months to stop from going crazy.

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