It takes a while to come to terms with the idea of quitting your job and leaving on a trip. Once I knew I HAD to take this trip, the very next thought I had was “Great-I can leave. How do I come back?”
What follows is what I’ve learned from both Allison and my own experiences. These are all the things to consider and tips we learned on how to come home from a year living and traveling abroad.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
If you love your job, don’t underestimate how much your job loves you back.
It’s incredibly expensive, time consuming, and exhausting process for employers to find good employees. Even if they do find a good potential candidate, that person could very likely turn out to be a complete degenerate when they get into the role. If you’re a good employee, you can use this to your advantage.
If you have a nagging feeling your employer doesn't like you, in reality, they are probably dreaming of a day when you’ll quit. For either of the strategies below, it’s best to start the conversation 2-3 months before you want to leave. If you plan on just quitting your job, two weeks minimum is necessary but if you start the conversation early you never know what you'll end up working out (an unpaid 3 month sabbatical with guaranteed job return perhaps?)
Or - negotiate with your employer to work remote. On the plus side you’ll be generating income while you’re abroad. On the negative side your travel schedule will likely be severely impeded by the fact you’ll likely be tied to places with reliable internet. Not the biggest issue, but even in well wired places like Bali and Thailand, internet outages are more common than you would think. Video conferencing can be extremely challenging even in the best of situations. But hey, a CoWorking space on the beach is a hellofa lot better than your current work condition and there are more and more spaces or world-wide programs to participate now more than ever.
The hardest part though is if you’re expected to be working remote during the same hours as back at home. This means you’d be essentially working second or third shift- not a great way to see the world.
There is - however - something to be said about the experience of being completely free from the burden of time. From the time we enter our school years, we truly never get to take off the yoke of responsibility for more than a day or two at a time (in the US at least). It’s a big world that is begging you to get lost in it- who are you to deny that? (And the second you're abroad you'll realize HOW MANY people are doing this too.)
WHILE YOU’RE GONE
Leave and Never Look Back
This isn’t as unreasonable as it seems. We met many people abroad who left on one way tickets with a dream in their hearts and have no intent of going back to their home and normal life anytime soon.
Let’s stop here and differentiate what this looks like though. If you are pursuing this option, the primary goal is not travel; it’s to become independent of the typical career lifestyle. If you really want to leave the country indefinitely your focus will first be on creating financial independence. It’s actually not as scary as it sounds- many people do this. We just hadn’t met them yet because they aren’t hanging out in Wisconsin. They’re hanging out in Chiang Mai, Canggu, or wherever the hell they want.
How have they accomplished this? Many different ways. Many people are working as freelancers, participating in micro transactions “gigs”, have learned new skills abroad, or are just simply working in their normal job role for companies abroad. There are also many ways to work abroad such as woofing or under 30yr/old work visas for countries like Australia and New Zealand.
Use your Time abroad to Change Careers upon Return
If you’ve been on a single career path for a few years, extended travel abroad might be one of the few moments where you really have the time and clarity to focus on changing careers. You’ll have the free time to plan exactly what your new career path will look like, the time to network (even remotely) with contacts back home put things in motion, and the time to interview to line up the best possible positioning for yourself when you come home.
In my personal experience, potential employers that I interviewed with were intensely interested in my year abroad. I was able to speak on goal setting, drive to succeed, and my newfound passion for my changing career path. Despite what you might think, a gap of employment for a year of travel is not going to make you unhirable. Instead, you will listen to countless stories in interviews of people wishing they had done the same thing.
Allison took the last few months on our trip and built her own HR Consulting business and has clients around the country and is able not only to work for herself but also from anywhere. Building your own business is something that's hard to do when you're working for someone else. Maybe your trip is also about building something yourself.
When we acknowledged the fact that it was time to start our reentry plan, we knew that we’d need to be in the right spot to pull it off. Sure, one could always travel back home and look for jobs there. However, if you plan ahead, then you can stay abroad while you job hunt for less money than sitting at home.
For example, we chose to go to Bali for a month as our last place to visit before returning home. We would be able to stay and live for cheap (especially booking accommodation for a month at a time). We would have access to reliable power and internet through a CoWorking space located close to our rental apartment as well.
Added bonus? We got to be in Bali! One month quickly turned into two at a minimum of added cost. Additionally, when “work” was done at the end of the day, there would still be plenty of island to explore and waves to catch.
If you’re looking for any sort of professional job while abroad, you’re going to need access to a computer. Luckily, even if you don’t bring laptop with, it’s easy enough to find an internet cafe where you can use a PC for cheap. One thing you’ll likely want taken care of before you leave home though is having a copy of your updated resume and references on Google Drive.
We love ourselves some personal finance. Boring Excel spreadsheets, tedious budgeting apps, retirement planning, and conscious spending are passions of ours (that's how we made the trip possible - read more here). One fundamental of any personal finance guru is that you always keep a liquid nest egg that can sustain your living costs for six months. This 6 Month Emergency Fund should be ON TOP OF the money you’ve saved for your trip
Of course, if you’re a student or you have an awesome mom and dad you plan on living with upon your return, your emergency fund need not be for 6 months. If you’re a grown ass adult planning on leaving for extended travel, you should already have a 6 month fund- it shouldn’t be something you have to save for on top of the trip money (if not -- start now - change your lifestyle because you are spending too much of your take-home pay! Read more here.)
Costs Upon Returning Home
First off, think of the obvious- return flight, transportation, food, etc. Do a daily budget for your home country just like you're doing for your trip. Multiply by the length of time until you anticipate to be working again.
Now here are a few costs that aren’t as obvious:
Vehicle Insurance- Expect a small hike on cost if you haven’t had insurance in a year.
Health Insurance and the penalty of not having health insurance- (thanks Obama) your travel health insurance is only valid out of the country, so even though we weren't in the country and had health insurance we still had to pay a penalty for every month.
Interview Costs- gas, clothing, haircuts
Moving Cost- If your job is in a new location, you may need to be for movers or a moving trailer, in addition to having deposit and first month's rent for a new apartment.
Hope some of that information helps ease your fears about leaving your current job and pursuing your dream. Before we left, know that we shared all the same fears and anxiety as you. But just remember, time passes in days, not all at once. If you feel like you're account is looking a little too close to zero you can always just come home early. Not 100% the plan, but if you're responsible its doubtful the trip is going to put you out on the streets.