At the beach in Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

By Norbert Figueroa, an experienced architect, travel writer, long-term budget traveler, and photographer with over 13 years of travel experience in over 139 countries and counting. @globotreks

GloboTreks is reader-supported through affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support! – Norbert

Quitting your job, and your traditional daily life, is one of the biggest and most frightful steps to take when you want to pursue an unconventional life path or travel long term.

I already shared the why of my round the world trip but I want to share a bit more about my quitting process and how frightful it was to me. Honestly, it wasn’t that smooth.

I had already been working for this architecture firm for a few years, and while it was a good, stable job, I wasn’t happy there. I felt that my career was stagnant and that I had hit a wall there.

One day I came to the realization that I had to make a drastic change, otherwise I know that today I would still be doing the same basic tasks I was doing 3 years ago (and with the same pay).

As I mentioned before, due to the recession, another job was almost out of the question, so traveling long term was more than fitting for me.

Queenstown, New Zealand

Putting Things in Motion

In June 2011, I made the plan to quit by the end of February 2012 to start my trip on March 1st. I felt that it would be enough time to save enough money to quit and travel for a year (in addition to the money I had saved before).

But, a few months before, in March of 2011, I was offered to do the 3-month MatadorU Road Warrior program in Belize. I turned it down, for fear of not being able to leave my job and because I felt I didn’t have enough money to continue traveling, so I would’ve had to return home, jobless, in a not so pretty economy.

In June, I was offered the opportunity again, and again I declined… regretfully. Same excuses.

Hell, Norway

By the end of July, a third invitation came. Absolutely nothing had changed between June and the end of July, except for the fact that I had maybe $2,000 more in my savings account.

I thought, opportunities like this don’t really come often, and I’ve had it three times already in my footstep. Am I going to turn it down again? I accepted!

My trip was set to start now in October 2011, instead of March 2012 as I had previously planned. I was both excited and scared since I didn’t know exactly how I would financially manage my trip after those three months, but I still wanted to take that leap of faith. I knew that I was determined enough to make it work in the end.

Quitting My Job

I had no idea how to tell my boss about it, but it had to be done.

As I expected, my (former) boss wasn’t thrilled when he heard the news. Even though I was giving a 1-month notice (instead of the customary 2 weeks in the US), he felt I needed to stay longer in the office –until end of December– to continue some of the projects I was working on.

It is easy for people who don’t know the entire thinking/planning process behind your life decisions to think you’re doing something irrational or irresponsible.

To them, it might look that way (even my mom thought that at one point), but when someone decides to take a major step in their life, it’s probable that action has been considered, thought about, and planned for a good while already. At least I did.

Arbeit Macht Frei
Arbeit Macht Frei, it means “Work will set you free” and was ironically used by the Nazi in the concentration camps. Well, work can either tie you, or indeed, set you free. It depends on which work you do.

So, respectfully I declined his request to stay longer for two reasons: I had already decided on going to Belize, and I didn’t feel there was any incentive (professionally or economically) for me to stay longer.

I didn’t know if I was making a mistake or not, but I felt like I had to move forward. Why would I throw away this amazing opportunity of three months of travel in Belize to stay in the same working situation?

Again, he wasn’t thrilled about my refusal, but we managed to end our professional relationship in good terms and in the end I was bid farewell by my boss with an “I hope you find everything you’re looking for.”

That day, when I walked out of the office the world looked different to me; more vibrant and colorful. Tons of possibilities ahead!

Quitting Changing My Lifestyle

“Quitting” my life in New York, while not as hard, it wasn’t stress-free either. I sold and gave away everything I had. What I wanted to keep, I shipped to my mom’s house or stored temporarily at a friend’s apartment. (Thank you, Heymi!)

Norbert carrying his bags
No, I don’t really travel with all that (normally). This was after our car crash during the Mongol Rally.

That last week before I left New York, my apartment was reduced to an air mattress and a bag full of clothes. One night, as I packed things, I sat down in my empty room and cried almost inconsolably. I thought, “What the hell did I do? In a few days, I’ll have no job, no home, nothing!!” I was scared.

Everything was ready and planned, yet I was still scared. The unconventional path of life will always be scary, no doubt about that, but the trick is not to overcome fear by not having any; you overcome it by knowing how to manage it.

Do one thing everyday that scares you.

-Eleanor Roosevelt

I didn’t know it back then, but somehow I started working for myself the moment I decided to travel long term and make a living on the road. It was unintentional, but the fear of ending up in a ditch in Thailand with no money to come back home made me work hard to keep this dream alive, and not just a dream, a lifestyle.

Instead of fearing failure, I realized what I had to lose and planned to prevent that from happening, or at least minimize my losses.

In Dakar, Senegal

Today, over three years after I quit my job, I’m still going strong and working hard to continue this life. Fear of failure always creeps up here and there (even now), but when it does, I try to focus it on working more.

And, don’t think failure hasn’t happened to me on the road; it has, several times. But, I learned from them (whether mistakes or lessons), and moved forward to improve and do better things.

How Can You Overcome Your Fear of the Unconventional Path?

So, I want to leave you with a few tips on overcoming your fear of following your dream, quitting your job, traveling long term,  creating that startup, or whatever you might have in mind:

1. Realize rationally what you have to lose

We all have something to lose if things go south, but understanding the fear of losing that can be good encouragement to work hard and smart into accomplishing your dream.

2. Don’t fear failure

It happens. Learn from it, analyze things, and redo with the necessary improvements.

3. Create a perspective

Make that choice that will define the rest of your life. Are you up to take those bold steps to make those dreams and ambitions a reality?

4. Accept and understand reality

An unconventional travel life, a startup, or whatever new that may be; as glamorous as it may sound, it’s probably not easy.

I can say that while I can enjoy beautiful beaches around the world, at the same time I work more hours in my hostel room than I used to work in my previous job in order to keep me afloat.

5. Write down your goals

Studies show that people who write down their goals are five times more likely to achieve them. When would you like to leave your job? Start a business? How much money would you like to save and when? Set goals, and work towards achieving them.

6. Understand there’s never a perfect time

We always think, now is not the right time. Well, it is in our nature to want things perfect, but guess what, the world does not work that way. Something will always happen to make any given moment not perfect.

But, what if you took the risk, worked over your fear, and made the moment work for you? That moment will become the perfect moment because you made it happen.

7. Create and read affirmations

I thank my mom for this one. She always said that what comes out of your mouth is more likely to become true.

A lot of people believe that if you think positively and focus your energy on something, the universe (or supreme being) will conspire to make it happen. I somehow believe that too.

8. Again, overcome fear

Trust yourself more, gain some confidence, create a plan, and understand your worst-case scenarios. And yes, minimize procrastination. (I’m still working on that)

9. Educate yourself

Never stop learning. Knowledge is power and it will take you much farther than you think. Even for a traveler; never stop learning from and about the world.

10. Take the plunge!!

After you do, you’ll see life in a different way.

We all have dreams, but it is up to us to decide whether they will become a reality or stay as dreams and aspirations.

Enjoy the journey!

Adventure Awaits


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  1. I dream of one day being able to travel the world (and hopefully make a living off of it). I think the one thing holding me back now is student loan debt, those pesky things! So here I sit at my boring but stable desk job slowly chipping away until I can finally take the plunge. Great article, helped me keep my eye on the prize

    1. Thanks, Craig! Well, believe it or not, I too have student loans. πŸ˜‰
      What I did was plan on having a reserve out of my travel money to pay my student loans for at least a year (as it was my original travel plan). No matter what I did on the road, that money was saved exclusively for my loans.

      Keep an eye on the prize and plan slowly to get it. Don’t think student loans are shackles that will keep you in one place. Plan and work with them in mind. πŸ˜‰

  2. Wow! I really enjoyed this. You’re story is very similar to the experience I went thtough earlier this year. I’m almost 4 months into my trip and while it wasn’t easy, I know I made the right decision.

    1. Thanks, Miquel! I’m glad you also took the plunge to travel! I believe it is quite rare for someone to say that they regret quitting their job to travel. I guess we’re onto something good here! πŸ˜‰

  3. This post is FABULOUS. My husband and I went through every single thing you have stated here when we made the decision we wanted to travel at the beginning of 2013. We made the decision and spent a whole year executing it until January 2014 when our house sold, we put notice in at work (which like your experience was TERRIFYING) and hit the road. We’ve been on the road for 10 months now with well over a year of plans ahead of us. It has been the most incredible ride and we are so thankful we followed our hearts and just did it.

    1. Hi Lina!

      Congratulations on doing this!! It is terrifying, like you said, but it is so worth it in the end when you know that you’re doing what you really want to do. It’s also so empowering to feel you can do things you once might have thought almost impossible to do.

  4. Thank you so much for this article (well for all of your articles really!).
    I am currently saving money to be able to live out of a backpack and travel the world as well, and because I am terrified (even though I know what I want) and have terrible anxiety, posts like these really inspire me and push me forward a little more. Thank you πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks, Grace!! Felling terrified about doing something like this is completely normal. I was at one point (and if you see the comment above, Lina was also terrified when she did it!), but that’s part of what drives us to do things better and work harder to achieve things. Fear should be used as a driving tool, not a stopping tool.

      Keep pushing forward and hope you start living out of a backpack soon!!

  5. Hi Norbert, I just read your article on quitting your job to pursue your goals & I think it’s an amazing story, I found you because my wife & I have started our own natural hair product business. Our business has made a decent amount of money & we’ve been thinking about quitting for a while because we’re not happy where we work, (Yes we work together at the same job haha) & we’re tired of working for someone, we just want to be our own bosses & earn a living doing what makes us happy, not answering calls all day at a call center. However, we’ve done some calculations, & from what we last sold, we’ve made enough to cover both of our bills for at least one month until we drop our next product & sell out of that to have money for the following month, but the thing is, we’ll be only just covering it, if we put in our two weeks notice, because on top of the money we made from the business, we’ll have 2 more paychecks each left to receive, which should be a big help for each. Do you believe it is a good idea for us to say f it & just quit even though we’ll struggle for a while? Or should only one of us quit while the other one works for a while until the company makes enough money definitely for the both of us to quit? I would appreciate it if you could get back to me at your nearest convenience, I ask myself this same question everyday, & I really want both of us to leave our job but I don’t want to leave my wife in a difficult situation. Thanks in advance.

    Best regards,

    Christian V.

  6. I have been slow to making the leap. I sold my house over a year ago and am staying at a friends house. I have money saved to travel but also have a decent job i like enough to not quit.

    So instead of quitting i am thinking about doing remote year for a month to see how i like traveling: mainly because i am a little bit scared to travel solo.

    I obviously have a lot of fear about travel but I am going to step by step do it. I moved from England to USA so I know i am capable. We all just get stuck in our little comfort zones and need to break free and expand them.

    Bit by bit i will expand mine and never look back.

    Thank you for your post

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Congrats on taking the leap! It doesn’t matter at which pace you do it; the important thing is that you’re doing it and following that dream you have. Hey, having fear is ok; it’s a way of knowing that you are pursuing something that, while uncertain at the moment, it thrills you with the potential of a much better future.

      Don’t be scared of traveling solo. Once you do it, you’ll see it’s so liberating and enriching. It’s such a great way to meet people too!

      Best of luck in your endeavors!