04/11/2012 07:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Should I Know if I Want to Quit My Job, Leave Everything Behind, and Travel for a Year?

This question originally appeared on Quora.

By Julia Lam, Traveler and Innovator

I'm currently in the middle of taking 6-12 months off.  I left my apartment, consolidated my life, rented a storage locker, and took off.

Now for some travel best practices:

  • Have a meaningful goal at each of your destinations. This keeps your trip focused and keeps you engaged.  Your goal could be as simple as see the sights, learn a language, cook, do a specific activity (scuba diving, rock climbing, yoga retreat, etc.), volunteer, or see friends and family.
  • Go to a place that also has a lot of travelers. Travelers are generally incredibly inviting and helpful and have the same amount of free time that you do, so pick destinations where there's also a lot of people traveling through.  My recommendations are South America, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • Alternate between spending time with yourself, and spending time in groups.  Traveling by yourself can be exhilarating as you really push yourself to the limits, meet all sorts of new people, and end up in all kinds of situations that you would not normally be a part of.  You're incredibly flexible and free - it's pretty fun! That being said, constantly making friends can be taxing and a travel buddy can be nice, so I recommend to meet up with other friends from your home abroad, visit people you know in other countries, or join a tour group for a bit to give you some variety.
  •  Don't be afraid to move on.  If you start getting bored or anxy anywhere, move on.  Don't think about it, bite the financial bullet (if there is one), and just go.  You probably won't do this again for awhile, so make sure you're always having a good experience.
  • Know when you're coming back. Once you've packed up your life, you can travel for one month or 5 years - it feels about the same.  It's easy to keep going since you don't have any strings attached, so if you intend to re-enter the workforce, give yourself a general time frame of when you'll be back.

Few other things to keep in mind:

  • Travel will change you, or help you realize that you've already changed.  You'll finally have the time out of your frantic life to sit, think, muse, philosophize, and reset.  You'll have time to relive all your decisions for the last few years and ponder which ones made sense or what you could have done differently.   You'll come back with a lot more clarity on what you want to do, how you want to do it, and what you'll do differently which will affect your life path when you return.
  • Everyone will tell you you're brave (or stupid) for leaving... and they're right.  It's easy to keep doing what you're doing, and it's hard to go do something completely different. You'll probably have moments of regret or confusion, so stay focused on your goals and why you're doing this.

Return Advice:

As long as you didn't lose all connection and peace out for a year, it shouldn't be too hard to get a job again.  You've now had unique experiences, you're refreshed, and you're focused --- you'll know exactly when you're ready to jump back in again, and you'll probably be excited.


A few tips to stay relevant in your year off:

  • Stay active. I give myself brain exercises on an ongoing basis to make sure I'm not losing my touch.  This could be a project that you care about, a presentation, a blog post that you never wrote, etc.
  • Stay involved. Make sure others know your intention is to come back so they still consider you for opportunities.  Meet with people you like and take your time off to volunteer, advise, mentor, or help others as it fits into your travel schedule.
  • Apply the same travel principles once you return.  You'll feel a bit disconnected when you come back and it'll probably take a few months to find something you like, so make sure to make goals for your life back, similar to when you were abroad.

Happy travels and enjoy!

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