So you've saved up and you're ready to take the leap — what now?
Quitting your job is worrisome. But quitting your job to travel the world? Now that’s really worrisome. I would know: In a matter of weeks, my husband and I will leave our home to travel through Southeast Asia for three months.
To make that epic adventure happen, he’ll do the quitting, and I’ll do the worrying. So much worrying that I worry — pun intended — it’ll ruin our trip. But I have a feeling I’m not the only traveler with work-related anxiety.
(For those curious, while my husband must leave his job to take this kind of trek, I’m lucky enough to be a freelance writer, which means I will work while we travel. With my income, plus a year’s worth of savings and a very strict travel budget, we can make this trip work. But just because we can financially afford it now doesn’t mean the future won’t worry me.)
According to millennial career expert Jill Jacinto, we’re programmed from an early age to stick to a schedule, from kindergarten through retirement.
“Volunteering to quit your job and jump into the unknown is naturally a bit unnerving,” she said. “Add in the fact you’ll lose an income and potential career growth, and it’s really frightening. It takes us from our comfort zones and forces us to live a totally different way.”
I don’t know about you, but the way I want to live is worry-free. So I turned to experts for tips and tricks quitting your job and travelling the world — without going totally, completely, and utterly crazy with worry.
Start practising self-care.
The time to start managing your work and travel-related worry is now, not abroad, advises Melissa Parks, Ph.D., a psychologist who specializes in helping expats and digital nomads.
“Work on increasing your emotional resilience and self-care before you leave,” said Parks.
Start by identifying what soothes you now, and how you can take that same routine on the road. “Travel is full of ups and downs, and it will ultimately teach you a lot about yourself—but you´ll want to have tools in your self-care toolbox so that you can cope with whatever hiccups you meet on the road,” Parks said.
She said one self-care practice travels particularly well: deep breathing. “It may be something we do all day, every day, but shallow breathing sends a message to our brain that something is wrong,” Parks said. “If you practice breathing deeply you´re sending a message to your mind things are actually OK.”
Leave your job on a high note.
When it comes time to put in your two weeks’ notice, you’ll want to leave on the best terms: “It's helpful to be honest about your reasons for leaving — a desire to see the world — so that your employer understands that it isn't for reasons against the company itself,” said career coach and strategist Hallie Crawford. And, by explaining your personal values, “you’ll often gain the respect of your manager, whether they agree with your reasons or not.”
Another way to find favour with your soon-to-be former employer is to time your departure well — meaning don’t leave in the middle of a big project or when your manager is already down a man or a woman, if possible, said Jacinto. Ask your boss, and if you find you’re leaving at an inopportune time, then “reconsider the timing and push back your travel date,” she said.
Of course, if you’d like to one day come back to your job or company, “take the initiative to express that to your employer,” said Crawford. “Let them you enjoy your job and would be glad to return if that is a possibility.” You can also ask if you can continue in your position, remotely, while you travel.
Update your portfolio now.
You may also be worried about finding a new job when you return. But Jacinto assures me there are steps you can and should take today to set yourself up for future job success.
For example, the time to update your portfolio and resume isn’t when you return from your travels. Rather, it’s before you leave your current job, according to Jacinto. As she explains, all of your projects and accomplishments are fresh in your mind right now, and they might not be after too many days spent sunning yourself in, say, Bali. When you update your portfolio, “include metrics and measurable results that can speak to your success,” she said.
Another smart thing to do today connect with coworkers, managers, and clients. “Send out an email to your team and let them know you’ll be leaving,” she said. “You never know who might be helpful with a future job connection — or at least a great travel recommendation.”
Learn to stay in the present.
According to Parks, “worry occurs when we´re focused on the future, rather than being in the present.” In other words, if you’re worried about whether you’ll be employable upon your return, that worry could ruin even the most amazing sights — from a golden temple in India to the snow-capped Himalayas — that deserve your full and awe-struck attention.
To stay in the present and not miss the wonder around you, Parks advises that you practice mindfulness. “Think of it as a workout for your brain, getting your attention muscle to focus on being in the present rather than in worry land,” Parks said. “There are some great apps available to get introduced to mindfulness. My personal preference is Insight Timer.”
Portray your travel experience in a positive light.
If you’re like me, you may be worried about how you can spin your travel into a positive for a potential employer. Luckily, that’s nothing to worry about.
Good employees such as yourself have incredible hard skills — measurable skills such as knowledge of software or a foreign language proficiency. But employers are also looking for people with soft skills, such as the ability to communicate effectively and be a leader.
The act of travelling in foreign countries all but ensures you’ve honed soft skills — and you should call those out in your resume and cover letter, and during your interview, Crawford says. “Seeing how others live in different parts of the world will help you have more of a big-picture vision,” Crawford explains. “These are valuable soft skills that employers want.”
Not only that, but chances are potential employers will be fascinated by your travels — and the chutzpah it took to leave a job for such a big dream. “Most people dream of doing what you did but you had the guts to actually do it,” Jacinto said. “Let them live through your experiences. Explain your why. What made you take the time off — and what made you come back? This is where you need to be clear that you will not be pulled away again,” and assure the employer that you went, you saw, and now, you’re ready to get back to work.
Don’t hide from worry.
Of course, the goal is to reduce your worry while travelling. But if you can’t relieve yourself of worry entirely, Parks warns you shouldn’t hide from it.
“We can make ourselves even more anxious when we become anxious about anxiety,” Parks says. Instead, “try a strategy called ‘changing but for and’ to make sure that worry doesn´t hold you back.” Here’s how it works: “Instead of saying ‘I would go on this trip, but I´m worried,’ say, ‘I´m worried and I´m going on this trip,’” she said. “You may be surprised at how much calmer you feel when you allow the worry to be there, but don´t let it hold you back from pursuing your dreams.”
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