Oct 09

Can I Quit My Job to Travel, and Still Be Financially Responsible?

My boyfriend and I have been seriously talking about quitting our jobs to travel for a year. My friends and family say it’s a bad idea — that we’ll deplete our savings and risk not being able to find jobs when we come home. I understand their concerns, but I want to do this. Is there ever a “realistic” way to make a potentially risky financial move? 

— Wanderlust


Dear Wanderlust,


Yes! You definitely can make your “quit job and travel for a year” dreams work — and that goes for any financially “risky” choice, whether it’s leaving a job to work on your side hustle full time, taking a lower-paying job in your dream field, or shifting to a new industry.


Any major move requires planning and forethought, but it’s not silly or unrealistic to plan for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure or a change your heart is yearning for. I would say that seizing the day and traveling is a great investment in your long-term happiness. Doing something “risky” could be much harder in the future: Kids, elderly relatives who need you, a job you feel you can’t leave, and countless other responsibilities could make it much harder to pack up and go. So if you think you can make a move now, I would recommend using the  “Pay Now, Consume Later” principle.


Here’s how it works: Research shows we enjoy experiences more once we’ve already paid for them (instead of just putting them on our credit cards and dealing with the bills later). In your case, now’s the time to save up and put aside money for your trip. It’s also important to have a safety net when you come back. For others, preparation may include downshifting their spending or renting a less expensive place before moving to a lower-paying job, to make sure that the lifestyle shift is doable.


Of course, you could walk right off the plane and into a job interview, and land your dream job as soon as you get home. But more likely, you’ll need to spend a few months looking. Decide what safety net makes sense for you. Three months would be the minimum, but you may feel more comfortable with six months. This is the money you’ll use to live simply and pay bills while looking for a job. Once you have your travel money and safety money, then you’re ready to hit the road. Bon voyage!


Elizabeth Dunn, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia who researches how time, money, and technology shape human happiness. She is also the scientific advisor for Happy Money, a financial company that combines psychology and money to help people live happier lives. Have a question for Liz? Write her at askliz@findjoy.com and check back every Tuesday for her next column.



How Do I Stop Panicking About My Credit Card Debt?

Do I Have to Give Up a Job I Love to Pay the Bills?

How to Get Flights For Free