Top 5 Reasons to Stay Home–And Why to Forget Them

Leaving & Coming Home, Quitting & Career Management, Travel Philosophy — By on April 26, 2010 at 10:00 am

You’ve finally gotten a great job or you think it’s going really well with Mr. Right, but something in the back of your head is nagging you to pay attention to your desire to travel. Finding the time to travel is tough. Career, education, kids, family, and fears can all stop you from taking the plunge. Lost Girl Ashley Cheng quit her job to head overseas and decided it was one of her best moves yet. Check out her tips on taking the risk, quitting the job, and balancing regular life-demands with an inner  yearning to travel.

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By Ashley Cheng

My number one travel-related pet peeve (aside from Lonely Planet typos or buses that run late) is hearing others say they wish they could do the same – quit their jobs, leave everything behind and travel the world.

Because, believe it or not, everyone can do this…it’s just a matter of figuring out how important “getting lost” really is to you and which reasons are keeping you from that goal.

It’s a dramatic life change that requires a lot of sacrifice (I do miss my family, dog and friends as well as the regular paycheck that funded the fancy dinners and shopping splurges from my previous life) and may not be for everyone.

However, in our busy lives we box ourselves into careers and rigid self-imposed timelines, and it’s always good to think outside of the box! Or in this case perhaps the cubicle.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist and professor at California State University-Los Angeles, has a great way to look at the typical “quarter-life crisis” (she prefers “quarter-life growth”).

“I think the desire to do a quarter life re-invention via travel is sheer genius because it offers a young woman a sort of psychological ‘re-boot’ where she can get away from tired old assumptions and push her limits – this kind of decision can open her up to unimagined opportunities, unrealized hopes and an opportunity to re-write her self schema.”

There are a number of common “quarter-life growth” challenges we all struggle with – kind of like writer’s block for the authoring of that self schema. Whether your worries are financial, emotional or physical, someone else, somewhere else has most likely faced the same concerns. You can find stories across the blogosphere and beyond of like-minded individuals who shared those same reasons to stay home…but chose to forget them all to travel the world anyway.  So if they can do it, why not you?

1. “I don’t have enough money.” It’s true that you do need money to travel but probably not as much as you think. Of course it’s smart to over-budget and save extra cash for emergencies, but there are simple ways to save while at home and abroad. When taking it one day at a time and understanding your priorities, it’s not nearly as daunting.

To get a basic idea of how much you need to save, Randy Ross, who teaches seminars on how to plan your first trip around the world, has a handy trip estimation spreadsheet you can download on his site.

Once your bank account or envelope hits that estimated goal, keep in mind ways to spend as little as possible during your actual travels. The main cost is your plane ticket out, but you can get creative with all other expenses. Here are just a few sites to get started:

  1. www.couchsurfing.org: An amazing international community of travel enthusiasts who offer their couches and insider advice to fellow world wanderers. A great way to get the local perspective on a city and meet wonderful people. Alternatives include http://www.hospitalityclub.org/ and http://www.homeexchange.com.
  2. http://www.wwoof.org: An international network of farms that offer free food, accommodation and lessons in organic, sustainable living in exchange for volunteer work. A truly rewarding way to get to know the land and people of a new country.
  3. http://www.helpx.net/: A network of online listing of host farms, home stays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.

2. “I don’t have the time now, but I’ll travel when I’m older.” There’s never going to be a perfect time to travel. There will likely always be a relationship, a job or some other excuse holding you back. Seek the wisdom of anyone over the age of 50, and the most common response you will find is, “I wish I would have traveled more when I was younger.”

For me, my mother is one of my greatest inspirations and, sadly, examples of what not to do. After my parents divorced, she devoted all her energy to her restaurant and supporting my older sister and me financially.

She went over a decade without a vacation. When she talks about what I’m doing with my life now, her voice resonates with pride but always echoes with a bit of envy too. She’s coming to visit me in a month, and we’re planning our mother-daughter trip around Asia now. She may have less energy, but I know it’ll be fun.

Leigh Shulman, a former stay-at-home mom in Brooklyn, NY, and editor of Matador Life,  agrees that it’s helpful to follow those instincts to travel when you’re young.

“We spend our lives until that point learning and growing and then are somehow expected to find a job and settle down,” commented Leigh on the quarter-life urge to travel. “Then, you have kids and you are supposed to be even more settled.”

“While many people are perfectly happy with this, many are not. And if you’re not, best to pick up and go.” Three years ago she, along with her husband and daughter, did just that and sold all their belongings to travel the world as a family. The only thing she’d do differently now: “not worry as much.”

3. “I think I should focus on my career now.” As my boss told me the day I gave my notice, “there will always be time to work and eventually more jobs later. Ashley, you have your whole life to work.”

Discuss options with your office, and you may be surprised by how supportive some are. While one of my supervisors cried (and I must admit that I cried a little too), the other was extremely excited for me and did her best to finagle the corporate bureaucracy so that I could freelance for the company for as long as possible.

I’ve met people on the road who were offered six-month leaves or have been guaranteed positions upon their return. The experiences you gain and cultures you get to know while abroad will change you and can make you a more valuable asset to future employers.

I found that there’s also a lot of empty time in transit during big trips that leave space for thinking about what you really want in life and confirming whether you’re happy with that career path you’ve mapped out. You can stay at home to focus on your career, but are you focusing on the right one?

4. “I’m scared about my safety abroad.” Especially if you’re a female traveling solo, this is definitely a concern worth noting. However, if you exercise common sense, trust your instincts and stick close enough to the beaten path, it’s less likely you’ll have any issues. Depending on where you choose to travel, you could have the same safety risks as if you’d stayed home.
“Being informed also goes a hell of a long way to preventing problems in the first place, so do your homework,” added Andy Hayes, managing editor at Sharing Travel Experiences. “Use social media so that people can keep an eye out for you.”

To get started on that homework, the US State Department has a great section for student travelers with advice on local laws and customs and what to consider as a female traveler.

5. “I’m just scared.” We all are. But getting over those fears can be the most exhilarating feeling and makes the experience that much more rewarding. Read fellow Lost Girl Kelly’s post on taking pause to evaluate your fears and better understand how they’re impacting your life. She quotes yogi David Swenson,There’s fear that keeps you alive. And there’s fear that keeps you from living. Wisdom is knowing the difference.”

So if there’s a genuine longing to travel tugging at your sleeve, commit to quitting your job and pull yourself up by your backpack straps to make it happen for real.

    7 Comments

  • Shannon OD says:

    Great thoughts here, I find myself often explaining these exact five points to people I meet who are on a one-week spring break and lament about how they could never do the same. With the proper motivation and a little bit of perspective though it’s really so doable! 🙂

  • maria says:

    Great article and I totally agree with everything you say!
    I have traveled a lot all my life, the last 15 years mainly with my whole family and we hear people giving these excuses all the time. “I’d love to travel the world like you do, but I just don’t have the money”… Or they don’t have the time, or they have their job or the kids have to be in school………

    And like you, I to think it’s possible for most people to travel, even extensively. You don’t have to be under 25 with no kids, or a millionaire, anybody can do it – it’s a matter of prioritizing as well as allowing you to go for your dream.
    Many times when we have traveled, we have actually lived cheaper than when we have been at home. We have traveled with some of the travel communities you mention (wwoof for example). We have also traveled within our own network of friends, relatives as well as connections through hobbies… One time, we traveled around in the US (we’re Swedish ourselves) for 3 months, all 5 of us, not paying one dollar for lodging. We started out staying with friends, were then invited to stay with their friends, and then with their friends and it continued like that.
    I believe that, whatever obstacle you perceive yourself having that makes it difficult for you to go traveling the world, there’s always a way to overcome it.

  • Thanks for the comments! I always find it so inspiring to hear others’ travel stories. I hope this post helps someone make that first step out of the cube and into the rest of the world!

    – Ashley

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  • Liv says:

    I would be very rich if I got a pound every time someone said they wished they had done some of the things I have done. My response always was and always will be, Go and do them then! If I can do these things, anyone can!
    I love this article for being bold and taking no prisoners. Life is about choices. If you want to, you will always find an excuse to choose not to do something.

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