How We: Quit our Jobs to Travel

Leaving & Coming Home, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, New York City, Planning, Quitting & Career Management — By on March 3, 2007 at 4:21 am

Office life might be little more than fuzzy memory now, but here’s what we have to say about giving our job–and yours–the old heave-ho.

How We: Quit our Jobs to Travel
Initially, Jen, Holly and I worried that it would appear a little flakey to take a working hiatus after only five years on the job-would leaving be occupational suicide in fast-paced, career-centric NYC? To our great relief and surprise, our bosses seemed to recognize, as we did, this it’s not everyday you find two friends willing to travel around the world with you. They were sad to see us go, but supported our decision to leave.

In the end, it’s actually pretty simple put the old grind behind you (just two little words will do the trick), but telling your boss that you’re giving up a steady paycheck to backpack across the globe can require a certain level of finesse. So, based on our own experiences with bosses, HR and exit-interviews, here’s how to quit with a little panache-and perhaps, one day, to get your old position back.

1. Give Plenty of Notice: Nearly everyone advised us to give the standard two-weeks notice, as it could be uncomfortable sticking around the office longer. While it can feel a little awkward to be the lame duck employee, your superiors will likely be grateful if you give them four full weeks to prepare the department and start interviewing candidates for your position. If your job is technical and fairly hard to staff, you may want to consider offering even greater lead time. Give your boss a little courtesy now and she’ll remember you when it comes time to write a reference or recommendation later.

2. Find the Positive Spin: Whether you’re taking off for three months or three years, present your adventure as an opportunity too incredible to pass up. Explain how the experiences you’ll have abroad-learning foreign languages, immersing yourself in new cultures, volunteering in developing nations, etc-can increase your skill set and make you a more valuable employee upon your return.

3. Negotiate long-term leave: When Jen told her boss that she’d be hitting the road with us, he surprised her by offering to hold her position-provided she return within three months. While she couldn’t take the offer (she had her heart set on a year abroad), it taught us that anything job-related is up for discussion-even quitting. If you’ve got a good relationship with your boss, consider asking for 6-12 weeks of unpaid leave. That way, you can have your extended vacation and keep your position, too.

4. Finish with Style: Once you’ve officially given notice, it can be incredibly tempting act as if you’re already a free agent, but few things put a damper on years of hard work and dedication quite like slacking off at the very end. Make your boss’s life easier by creating a “cheat sheet” to your workspace and paperwork. Include any computer log-ins and passwords, a status report of your pending projects and instructions for locating digital files and their hard copies. It may take a little time to get the document together, but you’ll probably save yourself a few emails from your frazzled replacement.

5. Be grateful: You probably sent a thank you note to your boss after she interviewed you, so don’t forget to show your appreciation that she actually gave you the job. It’s not necessary to make your departure a Hallmark moment-a simple, heartfelt “thank you” will suffice.

6. Keep in touch: When you’re finally living the backpacker life in Argentina or Thailand or New Zealand, take a few minutes to send a postcard or email to your former boss and co-workers. It’s a great way to ensure that you’re gone-but not forgotten.

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  • Bugsy says:

    Or…. you can do it before you even start working, like I did. But it’s going to spoil me for years to come. You can also write up a big sponsorship proposal, send out press releases, get a community involved, and donations from others. It’s possible to get investors with a good crew or solo. It’s endless. Well done ladies, well done.

  • Anonymous says:

    Very good advice. It was nerve racking for me to quit my job so that I could spend 6+ months in Mexico. But after talking with my boss and giving plenty of notice, everything went smooth. I still keep in touch and have the option of going back to my old position. It pays to be honest and up front in these situations.

  • Jamie Sinz says:

    I just read this section of your blog, and think you put it perfectly. I did these exact steps 3 months ago before leaving my great job at an architecture firm in Portland, OR. I gave 2 months notice! One of the greater benefits for giving so much notice was that I had plenty of time to have 1-on-1 lunches with most of my coworkers before I left to talk about the trip. So by the time I was gone, everyone knew exactly what I was doing and was extremely supportive. I received several hugs telling me that whenever I was done seeing the world, that I should come back. It’s always good to leave on a good note!

  • brian says:

    It is always good to leave on good terms. On the flip side you’ll have people who won’t understand why you are leaving a perfectly good job to travel. Some may even resent you because you can do it and they can’t.

    In either case, follow your dreams. If they support you, great. If they don’t, great too. You’ll know who your real friends are.

  • John Smith says:

    Its not easy to give up a permanent or a stable job to search for something else like a travel jobs but the sacrifice or the risk is worthwhile. Being able to see the world and earn at the same time is a great experience and opportunity to meet new people.