Stories of how people gave up their day jobs and sold everything to go travelling seems to be a very popular topic on news sites and travel blogs these days. Sounds very well-to-do and glamorous. I mean, who doesn’t want to sell all and spend the rest of their life soaking up the sun on some isolated exotic blue lagoon white sandy west African beach, climbing Mount Teide on Tenerife, snowboarding some of the finest ski resorts in the world or sleeping under the stars in the Namib desert and boiling water for coffee on an open fire? Read on to find out how I sold nothing and did those things.
It might be seen as insensible and irresponsible to sell all and sail off into the sunset without a care in the world, and it probably is, unless you are absolutely certain of how long you can sustain your intended travel lifestyle, or you have just won the lottery. In the year 2015 I think it was, one Spanish person won the Euromillions, €145million. In that case, why not buy the whole world, never mind travel it. But that is only a pipe dream for the rest of us and we need to be a little more realistic.
How I quit my job to travel
Thing is though, I didn’t. I can’t say I have ever actually quit a job to travel. I was getting paid to drive that safari truck you see me sitting on in the title photo, down roads that seemingly go on for ever through some of the most out of this world surreal landscapes I think I will ever see. Granted, I have had ‘normal’ day jobs here and there, but I seem to have developed this sixth sense of when it’s time to move on, to seize a travel job opportunity as it arises and to run with it, no matter how much it pays, as long as I have a place to crash and chow to eat. Free booze is always a plus 🙂 I seem to vaguely remember working on an Austrian ski resort…..G’day mate, lets put another shrimp on the barby!
I started out with nothing and still have most of it left ~ Me
Of course things can change when you get married and have kids, but for some people, well, they just take the wife and kids with them. I just took the wife as I have no kids, at least none that I know of.
I have met a few travelling families out there and plenty couples and singles who have sold all to travel. It is not a decision that was easy to make and takes very careful planning. Even if you are single, the decision to quit a good job, sell all and bugger off should be very carefully considered. On the other hand, having a job you absolutely hate might make this an easier decision.
In this article I would like to touch on how I’ve travelled to 35 countries, in the last 20 years. That’s an average of only 1.75 countries per year, so I guess that makes me more of a quality over quantity kinda guy. Like I say, I didn’t quit my job to travel, I just look for or am always open to jobs, or lifestyles that ‘pay’ me to travel. This is also what works for me (us). It may or may not work for you. Only you will really be able to know for sure if a life of perpetual travel is going to work. Hopefully I can offer some inspiration to help you make the right choice.
How the travel bug bit me
As mentioned in a previous article, Israel is where and when the travel bug bit me. This so called travel bug is actually a very real phenomenon. You just need to decide if you want to be ‘cured’, and you can be, or you can be like me and embrace it, ‘sensibly’. Now I’m not saying I have all the answers when it comes to sensible travel, and how to embrace the travel bug. I have, and still make travel mistakes, like spending all of the little money I had and being evicted from my hostel in Tel Aviv, with no real back up plan. Learning from that experience is what has allowed me to sustain travel for as long as I have.
After coming back from Israel towards the end of 1995 I heard of a local South African dance band who needed a ‘roady’. You know, the guy who drives the van, rolls the cables and sets up the stage, etc. That job lasted over 4 years and took me through most of my home country South Africa, as well as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. What did I see and experience? More than I can ever tell, in one article.
It was while on the road with the band in 1999 that I saw a ship in one of South Africa’s harbours. It was called ‘Anastasis’, which is Greek for resurrection. It belonged to a non profit volunteer organisation called Mercyships. A converted 1950’s Italian built cruise ship, it sailed around the world as the largest non-governmental hospital ship offering free medical care to the poorest of poor nations. In January 2000 I joined the ship in Cape Town, South Africa as a marine electrician and went to: The Gambia, Benin, Togo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Canary Islands, Spain, The Netherlands, Germany and The UK for a cumulative total of 3 years over a 6 year period. The ship went to Europe to re-supply and recruit new crew. Another life changing experience.
In between terms of service on the ship, I worked as a lift attendant and discovered snowboarding on an American ski resort. I also drove Greyhound coaches all over South Africa and worked as a driver/guide for an overland safari company. This safari job took me back to countries I had already been to with the band, only I saw things I had missed on previous trips, such as a pride of lions eating a zebra 1 meter from my tour vehicle.
A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving ~ Lao Tzu
It was while driving safari tours that I met my wife Sabine. She was a multilingual guide, I was the driver, we obviously had something in common, our love of travel, but not in the traditional sense.
Working 9-5 for 48 weeks a year then a one week all-in trip to some resort in Turkey or Croatia doesn’t cut it for us. We sleep under the stars in the desert, she cooks on open fire, I go days without wearing shoes, she doesn’t own a hair dryer. Perhaps we are kindred spirits. At one point I suggested we go work in a 5 star Austrian ski-in, ski-out chalet. We got paid peanuts, but we ate, and drank on the house and got to ski and snowboard for hours almost every day for the 4 month season.
I guess we all have a different idea of what it means to travel. Yes, 2 weeks a year going somewhere like Hawaii can be considered travelling. Hey, I travel to the kitchen every morning to make the coffee, when I’m at ‘home’.
Now I fully appreciate that a lot of people need their routine, they thrive on it, but there are people out there that can’t do routine. If I sometimes have to find wood to make a fire before I can get my daily caffeine fix, all the more fun for me.
Being willing and able to integrate work and travel has enriched my life in ways I never thought possible. Living and working alongside people from over 50 different countries in the last 20 years has also allowed me to forge priceless friendships a lot of which are still maintained to this day. Sabine and I both have open ended invitations to visit a considerable number of countries, some of which we have already been to and some of which we have yet to experience.
So what is travelling to you? What creature comforts are you willing to give up? Your automatic coffee maker? Cable TV? High speed internet? A closet to put your clothes in?
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I love these kind of post, and I liked how yours was somehow different from the other ones I’ve read.
I only just discovered your blog tonight and I’m glad I did! *bookmarking* 🙂
Hi Zascha, thank you for the comment. There are so many ‘How I quit my job’ articles out there, and they are all the same. I’m glad mine is somewhat different, that was my intention, to be different.
Quitting a job is always a big step. It wasn’t ever a thing that I felt comfortable doing.
You are right, it is a big step, and a decision that should never be taken lightly, considering how scarce jobs are in large parts of the world.
I do my best to make sure there is something else to go to before I quit a job, if at all possible. As I did say in the article, I never really quit a job to travel, I just looked for jobs that paid me to, such as bus driver, safari guide, sail boat deckhand etc etc. 🙂
I have also never been comfortable doing it, but sometimes it just has to be done, and for any number of reasons, be it mental sanity, health & safety standards, salary, job satisfaction etc etc.
“I guess that makes me more of a quality over quantity kinda guy” – YES!!!
I want to spend quality time in each destination, enjoy the people, food, and adventure. It is not about capturing 1 quick photo and a checkbox that you were there. Great story!
Love that you have this quote in the article. Perfect for the topic! Great read and learning about why you are a traveler at heart!
A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving ~ Lao Tzu
It’s the journey, not the arrival that matters. At least that’s how I feel about travel 🙂
Make like a Nike shoe….and just do it! 😉 In all seriousness though, it is something you will want to think long and hard about, but once you make that decision, it will be hard, if not impossible to look back 🙂
Inspirational read! I quit my job in 2014 to travel for ten months. My circumstances at the time made it an easy decision. However now I’m back to the 9-to-5 grind planning my next escape! I’ll refer back to this when I get to the planning part! I hope that combining travel/work is the way forward for me.
I hope so to! If you can find a way to combine travel and work, go for it 🙂
A great read – more measured and thoughtful than many of the countless ‘quit your job and travel’ posts that are out there. Thanks for sharing and keep on doing what you’re doing 🙂
Thanks Joe! But if only I knew what I was doing 😉
I absolutely love this post! One day I’ll give up my job and travel the world, but i’m a long way from that.
As I say, you will want to think long and hard about giving up what might be a very good job you may never get back. At the end of the day, only you will know if it’s the right thing to do, if leaving a ‘stable’ life for travel is going to be worth it.
Combining travel and work is the best way to do things! Especially for those of us who were never part of the corporate world and don’t own any things to sell haha. 🙂
Yes, if you can find a way to combine travel and work, do it. On the other hand, we have friends who don’t like to travel. They have a house in the ‘burbs and go on a 2 week vacation once a year, but they love to hear our stories and do follow our blog.
In my case, things got interesting when I married Sabine who was in the corporate world for 12+ years, I never have been. She gave it all up years ago and we found each other, out there.
I love this! I love that you have found a way to make it work for you both through being flexible and seizing opportunities as they arise. My husband and I are also snow lovers, currently doing our second full season in Colorado!
I am jealous 😉 we are holed up in Belgium at the moment, doing paperwork, using the high speed internet access for all it’s worth to update the blog etc. We have only been here a few weeks now, but we are already itching to move on again 🙂 We are pining for some snow!
Our dream is to work in Southern Africa, but we can’t, we don’t get visas, is it all that simple for you?
No, it isn’t that simple, for Europeans to work in Africa, nor is it simple for South Africans to work outside of Africa. To go into detail of how I got visas and managed to work, legally, in all the countries that I did would make for a very long complicated article. Also what worked for me 15+ years ago might not work for others today as most peoples circumstances are going to differ.
Rules also change, and people get older. As far as I can tell, the H2B seasonal visa that allowed me to work in the USA, 16 years ago no longer exists. I am also too old, or not young enough, to get another UK working holiday visa.
Depending on how hard you try, how badly you want to work in another country either permanently or temporarily, exactly what type of work you intend doing, skilled or not skilled, volunteer, house / pet sit, etc, you can get a visa to work in just about any country, no matter what passport you have. Sure, some passport holders might have more difficulty than others. But as long as there is a will, there is a (legal) way. Google is your friend 😉 I might also suggest searching using terms in a language of the country you would like to visit or work in. In the case of Southern Africa, they are all predominantly English with the exception of Mozambique and Angola, which are both Portuguese, mostly.
“I started with nothing and still have most of it left”; love it. I have a lot of things. I’ve maintain a storage unit for almost four years. I wish I could just purge that stuff and travel further.
Maybe one of the reasons people put off extended travel is the ‘problem’ of what to do with their stuff. This is where storage units come in handy, as well as my mothers garage 🙂 I have a box of 200 vinyl records in there, and an old Landrover in a storage unit, and thats about it really. After a while you will forget what it was that you were holding on to and eventually got rid of, you won’t miss what you forgot you had.
I’ve had the pleasure to meet you and Sabine twice. The first time in Cape Town as I joined the “truck” that you drove taking us into Namibia and beyond – I had to stop my travel at Swakopmund in August 2013. And then once again in Vancouver Island the year after. Where will it be next? Overdue, guys! Best of luck with this fun and for sure successful venture
Yes, it has been far too long. Where next? Who knows! Maybe come visit us in Cape Town;-) Nuestra casa es vuestra casa!
It’s quite interesting to find a South African nomad. In saying so, as a South African, how do you fund the visas or obtain visas to work aboard? Are there not strict regulations on bank balances, return tickets requirements etc?
South African nomads are much more prolific than you might think, we can visit plenty countries without visas, and for work, we find plenty (legal) ways;-) We are well known to be very resourceful/enterprising in many ways, finding work abroad is one of those things.
In my case, I went to work on an American ski resort as part of a legitimate work exchange program for people under the age of 30. I went with about 40 people for a group visa interview at the American embassy in Jo’Burg. Together with a return ticket, all I had to show was a letter from my current employer stating that I would return to South Africa 4 months later and resume my job. A huge bank balance was not required as a short term/seasonal job was already lined up. Just visiting the USA as a South African is another story. Yes, they are very strict in this regard, you have to show a lot more.
The other 8 odd countries that I worked in, sort of, was through the volunteer organisation Mercy Ships. One of their requirements for them to come and offer their services in such west African countries as Sierra Leone, Liberia etc was that governments had to waive all visas for all crew onboard. The European countries that the ship visited for PR tours allowed all crew a seaman’s visa which stipulated you may leave the ship, but not further than 10km from the harbour. In other words, I worked on a ship, which docked in a country. The ship was registered in Valetta, Malta. So technically, I actually worked in Malta although I have not yet been to the island itself.
Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia were the other countries I worked in, driving safari overland trucks for South African based companies. Namibia was the only country that required road crew to have work visas, which our companies organised.
My work as a kibbutz volunteer in Israel was also part of a work program, volunteer work visa was organised, there was little cost involved.
As far as funding certain visas goes…I guess I have made certain life choices that have allowed me the privilege of travel. My most expensive visas were 2 Canadian visitors visas, about 4 years apart. Each one cost CAN$ 100, which was about R1000, which is not a whole lot of money. I also had to show a letter of invitation from my friends in Vancouver, as well as a bit of a bank balance. Those exact requirements can be found on the Canadian immigration website. Getting work in Canada as a non-citizen is difficult. I have not worked there.
But to be honest, the requirements for anyone from any country to go work in another country that they are not a citizen of are pretty much the same.
There are many ways of saving money for and funding such things as travel/flights/visas etc. I just live a fairly frugal lifestyle. I have been and still am using (mostly) my dads old hand-me-down cell phones since 1996. The only 2 I actually paid for was R400 for an Ericsson GH688 in 1998, and R1500 for an iPhone 5 in 2014, which I still use to this day, in 2017. I have only ever used prepaid. I will never take out a phone contract.
I have also chosen not to make any babies, ever.
So in summary, I have funded my visas and travels through the choices I have made.