Why I Don’t Quit my Job to Travel

We had just ordered our pizza and were hungrily sipping on our drinks, desperately waiting for our food to arrive after a long day at the world’s biggest travel trade fair. It had been a day of small talk and business appointments, but as the evening commenced our press badges and business selves were slowly vanishing.

We started chatting about non-work related topics, but naturally always returned to the same old one, the common favorite: Travel. — Have you been to the Algarve? Can you repeat how to say cheers in Hungarian? What did you think of Bratislava?

I suddenly realized that I was sitting on a long table inside an Italian restaurant in Berlin-Mitte, and every single person of the more than twenty I was sitting amongst had most likely been to Italy.

Is this real life? You go to a pizza place with twenty other people and everyone knows what a real pizza in Italy tastes like?

We didn’t discuss if any one us had been to Paris before — of course we all had been — we discussed if we had seen a cabaret show there. We shared insider tips for the best coffee shops in London never assuming that one of us hadn’t been there yet.

The beauty of these travel blogger gatherings is that you never have to explain yourself. If you’re planing to move to another country, or travel in the Middle East, people are always supportive. They get it. They understand you just need to go and leave everything behind sometimes.

Like many times before, meeting other travel bloggers left me scared and inspired at the same time.

These people have little belongings, little things to tie them to one place, and seemingly little obligations. I admire the life those digital natives live, but I’m also highly intimated by it.

Because I know I couldn’t do it.

Whenever I met someone new during those few days in Berlin, I hesitated to answer the dreaded question: “So, do you blog full-time?” — No, I don’t actually. And I don’t think I ever will.

Suitcase at the main train station of Berlin, Germany Traveling to Berlin

It’s not like I don’t dream of the independent travel life every once in a while: Those long Central European winter months have me longing for sandy beaches and I’d love to switch my dull grocery shopping routine for new flavors and foods I can’t pronounce.

But still, I also like the amenities of having a fixed life — including a job that challenges me just like it inspires me, a social life, and trashy TV Tuesday.

I sometimes worry that I have to justify my decision to stay in the same place for so long though. Especially among freelancing travel writers and photographers, it sometimes feels like I’m wasting my time sitting on a desk in the same old office for 8 hours a day.

Back in that Italian restaurant in Berlin, when I carefully uttered that my job contract might tie me to my current town for another five years, they starred at me in disbelief. I know, five years is a long time. Too long maybe. It’s terrifying.

I’m constantly torn between saying “Screw the system, I’m leaving right now!” and “Just give me a little while to figure all these grown-up things out — and then I might go travel long-term eventually”.

Julika in Rome, Italy
An art lover in Rome 

The truth is though, despite desperately wanting to see the world, I don’t want to become a digital nomad. And even though I start stuttering of insecurity when asked about my potential future as a nomadic freelancer, I have my reasons to not become a full-traveler, and I consider them good ones:

I’m not quitting my job to travel, because I’m really lucky: I have 28 vacation days and live in a country with quite a lot of public holidays. This May I’ll spend two long weekends abroad without using a single of my vacation days thanks to public holidays.

I’m also lucky, because my job is not a corporate one: I’m not working in a cubicle, but in my own cozy office where I decorated the walls with prints of medieval art. It also only takes me less the 30 seconds to walk from my office to a heavenly equipped and slightly moldy-smelling (I like that though) library. And most importantly: I really love working with medieval art and literature.

I don’t quit my job to travel, because my work and travel are actually intertwined: I can only understand and analyze artifacts that I’ve seen in person. When I told my boss that I haven’t seen the Bayeux Tapestry yet, she exclaimed that I just have to book a trip to Northern France as soon as possible. She travels a lot herself and thus even gives me tips on museums and new exhibitions.

14th century ivory casket depicting the story of the Châtelaine de Vergi, KHM, Vienna Medieval ivory casket research in Vienna 

To be honest, if it weren’t for my job, I sometimes wouldn’t even know of the all medieval gems that are shattered all over Europe (and beyond), and certainly wouldn’t be able to read 13th century manuscripts. My job not only provides me with new things to add to my travel wish list, but also helps me understand what I’m seeing when I visit the museums, libraries, and churches of Europe.

My job is forcing me (in a good way) to learn more about culture every day, and combined with regular travel I’m understanding the European continent a little better every day. And this ultimately is what I travel for.

My feeling torn between wanting to travel and wanting to build a solid life for myself often makes me look insecure about my life’s choices. And sometimes I am doubting if I’m doing it the right way. But as soon as I start weighing out the pros and cons, I know I wouldn’t want to have it any other way right now. At least for now.

 

Have you ever considered to quit your job to travel?

 

 

 

  • Hear, hear! Thank you for writing this and confidently responding to the assumption that you have to be a digital nomad to “really” travel the world. I’ve been teaching English in Spain for the last three years and to be honest traveling wears me out and I couldn’t imagine not having a “home base” to return to after weekenders or Christmas break travels. Don’t get me wrong—I love traveling!—but I’m a big homebody and being “location independent” is not something I’m even remotely attracted to.

    P.S. you should definitely go see the Bayeux Tapestry! I’m a big art/history nerd as well, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in my travels. The audioguide was lively and even a bit cheeky, and the Latin inscriptions (uh, embroidery?) were surprisingly easy to understand.

    • JulikaSarah

      So glad could you could relate, Trevor! Despite having a “normal” day to day life, you’re still an expat, so that’s still exciting! I know exactly what you mean though, constant travel is not the right thing for me either!
      Also: So thrilled you’ve actually seen the Bayeux Tapestry, I can’t wait to go see it some day (hopefully before my Latin gets even rustier) 🙂

  • Greg Wesson

    I have taken time off work (sabbatical, not quit, luckily enough) to travel, and it was good. But I wouldn’t want to do it full time. I have been lucky enough to be able to move to a new city and a new country on a few different occasions, and I think that helps feed the need for travel as well. There is something to be said about staying in a place, learning what it is like to live there, becoming a local and understanding the culture.

    • JulikaSarah

      Sounds like you found the perfect balance between working and traveling, Greg! I could totally imagine doing a sabbatical one day!

  • Guest

    If I had almost a month of paid vacation there’s a chance I MIGHT be able to settle down 😉 But seriously, quitting your job and blogging full time is not for everyone. While staying in one place seems kind of anxiety inducing, it seems like you have found your passion and are lucky enough to be employed in that field. I’ve realized that people will probably never be 100% sure about every decision, but you just have to go with what feels the most right.

    Though, I will have you know that trashy TV Tuesday on the road 🙂

  • If I had almost a month of paid vacation there’s a chance I MIGHT be able to settle down 😉 But seriously, quitting your job and blogging full time is not for everyone. While staying in one place seems kind of anxiety inducing, it seems like you have found your passion and are lucky enough to be employed in that field. I’ve realized that people will probably never be 100% sure about every decision, but you just have to go with what feels the most right.

    Though, I will have you know that trashy TV Tuesday is still possible on the road 🙂

    • JulikaSarah

      I probably shouldn’t tell you that some German companies even pay an extra “vacation salary”, so that you can actually really spend money while traveling 🙂 You’re right though, being a digital nomad is not for everyone and right now I’m happy with my decision — and admire yours!
      And trashy TV Tuesday is still slightly more fun on my trashy but insanely comfy couch 😉

  • I am new to the travel blog sphere, but I have been struck by the bias towards “quitting your job and travelling the world!” theme. Everyone travels differently and brings something unique to the experience. Not everyone has the opportunity to travel extensively (or wants to). I too enjoy having a home base, friends and family nearby. It makes escaping to travel all the more exciting and enjoyable. Thanks for your honest post.

    • JulikaSarah

      Thank you, so glad you could relate! I couldn’t have said it any better; Everyone travels differently and just have to find a way you are happy with! 🙂

  • This so much! I’m straddling the weird line between travel and expat blogger so I always felt left out of strictly ‘travel blogger’ groups in much the same way you probably felt.

    I think it’s absolutely great to be able to travel full time but it’s not feasible for everyone and (I’ve tried) some people just like that home base feeling!

    • JulikaSarah

      Thanks Polly! I’m definitely one of those people who prefer having a home base! 🙂

  • anne

    This is really great. Thanks for your honesty. Not many people love their job like you do! I have been on the road for over a year (with a brief stint at home over the holidays) and it’s draining. This lifestyle most certainly isn’t for everyone. In my ideal world, I’d live at “home” for 6 months out of the year, then somewhere warm for the other part. <3

    • JulikaSarah

      Thank you Anne! That does sound like the perfect living situation! 🙂

  • Eva

    Everybody is different and the most important thing is that you’re happy! Seeing the world doesn’t mean you have to be on the road constantly. Although I’m used to the expat life, I still love being around my family and I couldn’t imagine not having a base for years and years. Other people live for that, I don’t. I just work and travel with the money I save. You know the song, “a rolling stone gathers no moss” – I guess we’re just the kind of people who believe it’s not for us. I love reading your reflective posts btw 😀

    • JulikaSarah

      Thanks so much for your support, Eva! So glad you could relate!

  • Kristin

    Good for you! I think it’s wonderful that you love your job and traveling and have found a comfortable balance. Many (meaning me) can’t really find that balance and have constant anxiety as to when I can travel, how can I afford it, where should I work, I’m sick of my job, maybe I should move abroad, how do I move abroad, etc and etc.

    • JulikaSarah

      Thanks Kristin! Finding that balance is really hard and I sometimes struggle with it too. “The grass is always greener” definitely stresses me out quite often too! Hope you manage finding that balance soon!

  • Pauline Susanto

    I feel the exact same way you do. I went back and forth between quitting my job and becoming a digital nomad and I ultimately decided against it because of similar reasons as yours. I have a lot of vacation days and I enjoy my work. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling this way 🙂 I must say – I get a lot of crap from my family because I travel ALL THE TIME.

    • JulikaSarah

      I’m so glad to hear that you found a way of balancing a fixed life and travel that works you, Pauline! And oh, yes, I’ve heard those lines a lot too 🙂

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  • Julika, this is really a great post! I have the same feelings about my job, my home, family and friends. I dream about being a full time traveler, but than I realize that I like coming back to my home after my travels. I travel a lot due to vacations days I have and due to my job. Being on road approximately 10 times per year is more than great for a full time employee. I wish you a lot of travels and enjoy your job as you do right now! 🙂

    • JulikaSarah

      Thanks so much, I’m so glad you can relate! It sounds like you’re doing everything right — 10 trips per year are perfect! 🙂

  • That is beautifully written Julika, you’re awesome and it was great to see you in Berlin! It took me a long time to find a job that I really loved -I like to work on different projects at the same time and need something where I can choose my own working hours, so that’s hard to find, but I worked hard the last years, networked a lot and made long, long hours (still do) and now I’ve created a lifestyle that works well with who I am and what I am passionate about. I think that’s the most important thing, not what others tell you to do!
    I could never quit my job(s) to travel indefinitely, I love coming home and need a place to hide sometimes 🙂 But because all the work I do involves travel somehow, I don’t see it as a job, really. I love this quote by Paulo Coelho: “You know that you are close to the meaning of life when you are full of enthusiasm, when you do things with love.” and it seems that’s what you’ve chosen to do, so good for you! Love, Nienke

    • JulikaSarah

      Thank you so much, Nienke! I loved seeing you in Berlin! You definitely worked hard to make your dreams happen, and seeing how far you’ve come in the last years is a true inspiration! I’m glad you can relate to having your home base as a little hideout though 🙂 Hope to see you again soon!