Many dream of handing in their notice at their jobs, picking up their passports and heading out into the world. Reality is that sadly, most of us won’t ever have (or make) the opportunity to do it, but these people have done just that.
Whether it was because they lost their jobs, or met a guy, or just felt the urge to travel, they’ve all left work, family, friends and security behind to explore the world. It may be a Tennessee William’s cliche, but you learn a lot when you have to rely on the kindness of strangers, when the only belongings you have are crammed into your backpack, and you’re probably not going to have Wifi on tap.
Here’s what nine adventure seekers learned on their travels, it’s advice we could all do with taking with us into our ‘normal’ lives:
“You learn to appreciate the simplicity of life and the fact you could go anywhere and do anything at any time.”
Newlyweds Jason and Leah Topp left their jobs in London for an extended honeymoon, making their way back to their original home in New Zealand. Having been away from their homeland for five years; one in Canada, three in London and one on the road. After getting married back in NZ, the first leg of their adventure was four months driving around Europe in a camper van (which was broken into on their very first day, taking all their electronics and passports), and included a short trip back to London for Leah to run the London Marathon.
They then flew to Lima, Peru where they joined a 48-day overland tour of Peru, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, before backpacking as a pair around Colombia, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. Now back in Auckland, the trip has only whetted their appetite for more travel – next time with their baby, due in Jan!
“When you’re traveling, you are able to be the person you want to be instead of the person others expect you to be at home (or are used to you being). Being yourself, your true self can actually be easier in a place where no-one knows you yet.”
Julie Bennett left Sydney, Australia in 2008 just after the credit crunch, closing her previously successful business in the process. She packed two bags and moved to Boulder, Colorado without a job or any connections (or a work visa).
Luckily just two days before her return flight to Oz she was offered a job, and in Boulder she stayed, eventually meeting her now husband. The travel bug hasn’t left her and she now lives, works and travels with her husband full time in a motorhome, covering 48 states in the past 26 months (and still traveling). Her advice ‘things will always work out, even if it’s not the way you thought it would be’.
“Plan for the good to minimize the bad.”
Jeff and his wife Amanda packed up their San Francisco home after discovering that their rent was so high, they would actually be better off financially traveling. So they did just that. With savings from their careers in technology and financial services, they packed their bags fourteen months ago.
Currently in Helsinki, they’ve so far covered South America, Europe and the South Pacific Islands and plan to spend the winter in South East Asia. Along the way they are making an income from trading investments, teaching (online and in person) and through consultancy work. Not everything goes as expected while traveling, Jeff’s learned to hope for the best, expect the worst, teaching him to be patient, resourceful and establish a support network both abroad and at home in the US.
“Letting go of stuff you own isn’t the end of the world. Some of the best things in life aren’t things.”
Leaving a 20+ year career in IT wasn’t easy for 43 year old Stephanie De La Garza, but she was determined. She sold everything and moved from Texas to Costa Rica to work on conservation projects, telling herself she would stick it out for at least a year.
It’s been 3.5 years since she left the US, traveling to Central America, Panama, New Zealand, Australia, all working on various wildlife volunteer projects, and supporting herself through freelancing on web development projects. She’s just applied for a residency visa to live in New Zealand with her Kiwi boyfriend. Her best tip for those wanting to travel? ‘It’s great if you have a skill you can take anywhere in the world with you. It makes life much easier!’
“Be flexible and comfortable with the fact that you won’t always be in control.”
Erin Morris was feeling disillusioned, overworked and generally fed up despite her self described ‘cushy’ job at a University in South Carolina. She handed in her notice and flew to Costa Rica. She spent a year, then another and another in Central America, and is still traveling. Erin’s resourcefulness and business sense has allowed to her start her own business that funds her nomadic lifestyle, allowing her to ‘live a freer, healthier, happier, more creative life’.
“Follow your heart, make calculated risks, take a leap of faith, – money really isn’t everything!”
Avichai accidentally travelled to Fiji during a backpacking trip in his twenties, and discovered an unexplained attraction to the South Pacific islands. Fast forward ten years and Avichai felt like something was missing, so he left his job at Google to head out to, as he describes it, ‘the end of the world’, leaving everything behind. He spent six months covering 21 tropical islands across five countries, covering 5000km. He now runs travel website X’ Days In ‘Y’ to help travelers plan a great vacation with realistic itineraries.
“You meet the kindest people where you least expect it, with so much war/hate in the world, traveling reassures you that the good outweighs the bad.”
When Katie Ashley handed in her notice at work in Hertfordshire, England to travel, she was thrilled that her company gave her the option of a sabbatical instead, giving her 20 months off and keeping her job (!). Having backpacked for 18 months already when she was fresh out of university, she knew there were more beautiful things and places to see and explore.
‘I didn’t want to be that person that has their heart set on something, says they will do it and never does.’ Katie set off for South America where she spent 6 months before flying to Africa (with a pit stop at home to change her kit), climbing Kilimanjaro, going on safari, volunteering at a school then joining a G Adventures tour of India. Her future plans involve Hong Kong, China and the Everest Base camp hike in November.
She said that she’s learned to be very patient, learning to love and embrace other cultures. It’s also a test of character, when you’re put into situations that wouldn’t happen at home, it’s interesting to see how you deal with them, how you can challenge yourself.
“You only regret the things you don’t do.”
After being made redundant, Heidi Van’t Reit and her husband, who were living in Vienna at the time, decided that it was now or never to take their kids out of school and travel the world. The couple were bored of the ‘rat race’ and keen to immerse their children in cultures and countries that were very different from their own. They packed up four backpacks and spent eight months on the road, traveling to South America, Australia, Vietnam, China and Nepal. Along the way they took on volunteer work in five countries, homeschooling the kids en route. The trip was a reminder to the family about how lucky they were, and that being curious makes for amazing opportunities.
“Your job doesn’t define you.”
Sara followed a boy she met on a plane from Adelaide to Canada back in 2008, quitting her job as a flight attendant in the process. Having wanted to travel since the age of fourteen, she jumped at the opportunity when it presented itself. The pair travelled from Vancouver to South America, Los Angeles, New York and Hawaii.
Moving home two years later, Sara realized that neither the small town nor the boyfriend were right for her, so she left again, this time for London, where she currently resides. Sara’s advice, ‘what have you got to lose? You’ll find another job, if the person you’re with is your destiny then fate will have a way of bringing you together. Follow your heart, your intuition won’t lead you astray’.