I never thought this day would come. In fact when I first quit my corporate life to start traveling the world I never knew or cared about where I would be in five years. Or even five months for that matter. All I realized was that I wanted — no, needed — to break free from my cubicle and see what all I had been missing out on.
For the previous four and a half years my life had been work, sleep, and repeat. I had no social life, no girlfriend, and almost zero free time. It was work, work, work, and all in pursuit of that “American Dream.” Get a job, buy a house, work your way up the corporate ladder, and somewhere along the way find time to start a family. Although the last one never happened — and in fact still hasn’t, for as anyone who knows me also knows that I not only have the worst luck when it comes to the love department but also that life as a permanent traveler makes having a “normal” relationship hard, very hard — somewhere along the way I lost sight of the American Dream. I realized that it was not for me.
For those who don’t know, when I turned 24 I had a midlife crisis. Sure, I had a promising career, a fat paycheck, and oh yes a work phone so that I could be woken up at 3am with more questions. (As if I didn’t slave away enough during the day I also was needed in my sleep.) At first it makes a guy feel important and necessary, especially when all my coworkers were twice my age. But it also drained me, both physically and mentally. On my 24th birthday as I sat in my office looking around at all my coworkers, many of whom had spent 30+ years with the company, it all started to hit me. Sure, they might have visited our sister office in Penang on a business trip or taken the family to a resort in Mexico for a week, but they had never really seen the world. They knew nothing outside of the confines of their office except for the “news” they saw on CNN. I finally realized that I did not want to be like them.
That Day I Made Up My Mind
After several hours of deliberation over the exact wording I went to my boss and handed in my notice. Three weeks later and I was a free man with a one-way plane ticket back to the Philippines.
Since then I have had an amazing amount of adventures, from partying with Yakuza and Japanese rappers in Tokyo to staying in remote regions of the Philippine jungle to living with some of the nicest families I’ve ever met in Central America and even getting to do a film and television game show appearance in Indonesia. Do I have any regrets? Nope! Well, maybe one…I wish I had begun travel blogging at the start of this adventure instead of several years down the road.
Sure, I’ve written about a few events from the past, such as my six month hippie road trip in the States in a converted school bus named the Future, taking it one step further than Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters did with their Futhur bus back in the 1960s. But I live in the present and have daily adventures. There is no time for me to even think about the past, let alone write about it. Besides, by this point my information and recommendations could very well be outdated and/or irrelevant now. The best that I can do is keep documenting my current adventures.
This Amazing Planet Is The World’s Largest Classroom
I’ve learned more about this incredible planet we can home, not to mention more about myself, in the last five years of my life than in the 24 years prior to that. In fact I truly believe that sometimes one must lose themselves in order to find themselves. Modern society in the western world is an incredibly fast-paced, non-stop onslaught of technology, innovations and advertisements. Corporations want people to believe that they need a new phone every three months and a new vehicle every three years. This wasteful, consumption-based lifestyle cannot sustain itself — either economically or physically. We are destroying our planet in the name of profit — profit that only a select few are seeing — while other people in this world survive off practically nothing. And here’s the crazy part folks: some of the happiest, friendliest people I’ve met in all my years traveling are also the poorest.
Money does not make you happy. To quote Notorious B.I.G., “mo’ money, mo’ problems.”
I’m not saying that it isn’t nice to have a healthy bank account — and it sure as hell makes traveling easier when you don’t have to worry about sticking to a budget — but money is not the answer and certainly not what you should be chasing after your entire life. Find yourself, try travel. After all travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.
What else have I learned from a life on the road?
Foreign travel makes a far greater impact on a person’s character, beliefs and knowledge than it does on their wallet.
It is wiser to fall in love at first sight with a city or region than a person — no chance of being stalked later.
Living an adventurous life may hurt sometimes — especially on the wallet 😉 — but a life of monotony will surely kill you.
Spend money on experiences, not possessions. You’ll find that you lead a much richer and more enjoyable life.
For More Please Read: Travel Wisdom: 4 Years & 16 Countries Later…
So What Does The Future Hold For Me?
That is the million dollar question my friend. I have no idea. Currently I’m motorcycling Vietnam, on the hunt for off the grid places where white people never visit. I have no map, no plans, just trying to take the road less traveled and see where it goes. For all I know I could accidentally cross into Laos without even realizing it. But that is the beauty of long-term travel and refusing to make any plans — all of the best stuff in life happens unexpectedly. Trying to plan things is akin to forcing something to be, at least in my opinion, and that has never worked for me.
However yesterday I broke my one cardinal rule of traveling (never plan anything) by spending a couple hours Skyping with Jenny Jusuf, my partner in crime for The Indonesia Tour de Horror, determining our exact itinerary and dates. We had to do this for a couple of different reasons, not just since she has a tight schedule and a new book release coming soon but also because we have to pitch Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, and several others for sponsorship, concessions and accommodations along the journey.
Beyond that my travel writing will not only continue but also increase exponentially in both quality and quantity as I have now fully embraced this lifestyle and learned how to juggle work and travel. You can expect posts in both English and Bahasa Indonesia as well, since Indonesia has become my newest area of expertise. I will also soon start publishing eBooks full of advice and information on how to successfully — and affordably — travel the world as I have done. I understand that many of my readers have no desire to get outside of their comfort zone and are instead happy to live vicariously through me. However I also realize that many of my friends and followers want to learn how to do what I’m currently doing and thus would love to help them achieve their goals.
But I’m also very curious…
What Do You Want To See From Me And The HoliDaze In The Future?
How can I better serve you? Would you like to see more articles with basic travel information on various countries or regions? Or perhaps you’d prefer I write more about some of the off-the-grid destinations I find or the crazy adventures I get myself into? What would make you most happy? After all I aim to please 🙂
Share any of your thoughts, comments, questions or even complaints down below, I assure you I read and respond to every one. Thanks, y’all rock!
46 thoughts on “5 Years Ago Today I Quit My Job To Travel The World”
Like a BOSS
Congrats! While traveling this weekend I realized it had been six years in Asia myself.
Nice…man how time flies! This corner of the world is addicting 😉
Proud of you & to have you in my friend count.
Thanks Lola, you have no idea how much your support means to me. You and Leah were two of the first travel bloggers I ever met in real life way back at the Texas Tweetup and because of that y’all will forever hold a special place in my heart 🙂
Happy 5 years of travel. Maybe you can make it down to Trinidad with Kenin and myself once you are ready to step foot out of Asia 🙂 We are going in May and go several times a year. You are always welcome to come with.
I would love to Lauren but I have concocted this Tour de Horror in Indonesia in May and have to return back there by then for that. However somewhere else down the line we will DEFINITELY cross paths again. I love y’all! Wish ya nothing but the best too and cannot wait until we finally reunite in real life 🙂
Great post Derek! You summarized exactly how I felt when Lauren and I made the decision to start a life of travel as well. There’s just that moment where you realize that all you are working for is nothing. You get paid more so you buy nicer house and nicer car and new toys and then you become a slave to the larger paycheck. On top of that you are working so many hours you can’t even enjoy the things you are spending your money on to begin with. It’s this vicious cycle of consumerism that completely exhausts you and wastes so many lives. The sad part is I’ve seen so many people that “followed the steps” and “put their time in” only to loose it all when the stock market crashes or they get sick and have crazy out of pocket expenses. Then they’re 60 and have nothing but memories of working hard their whole lives and have nothing to show for it. It kills me to see people just repeating the cycle every day. Keep dreaming Derek and RambleOn!
So eloquently put and so true Kenin, I feel the same way completely. I could have “rambled on” much more into the details behind of why I left my corporate life in the States but this post was neither the time nor the place. However I can tell from your comment that you already know exactly where I was coming from (and going) by my initial statements. It’s such a shame when the “American Dream” fails for the common man that I really wish that more people would abandon the dream before it disappoints them and see what all the world really has to offer — hell, that’s exactly why I write my blog. Cheers to y’all for pursing a life outside the box and traveling as y’all do. You two are some of my favorites and we had such great times together at TBEX that I wish we’d had more travels together. One day in the near future I hope that day will come. We will cross paths again — it’s not a question of if but rather when. I’ll be bouncing around Asia, Europe, and probably Africa as well the next couple years and as much as it pains me to say it (so please forgive me in advance, I apologize) but I cannot wait until your pets no longer keep you restricted to traveling in North America. Cheers to seeing y’all again soon and in the meantime keep up the great work…I love reading your blog! 😀
Don’t worry Derek we will certainly cross paths again in person. No need to apologize about our doggy either. While we love traveling with her, she does make it quite difficult in some respects. She’s just had her 12th birthday, so sadly, it’s only a matter of time. Cheers!
A life of travel… Damn. Maybe that’s why I have this inexplicable feeling of emptiness. :p
Travel isn’t the solution for everyone but it is for me. As my slogan goes: “Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel.” But don’t get me wrong, I still feel empty / lonely lots of the time. That’s the biggest downside of long-term travel, how hard it is to pursue a “normal” relationship. Sometimes I feel so lonely and so tired of failed relationships that I almost want to stop traveling. But in the end I can’t. I just need to find a woman that can hang with my travel mentality — which is unfortunately easier said than done 🙁
hahah mo’ money, mo’ problems. Happy travelversary, Sir. Wish I could come celebrate with you, but I’ll send a long distance air-five instead *slaps hand in direction of Vietnam*
High five received and reciprocated 🙂 Oh how I miss ya Seattle! Shame we couldn’t spend more time together in Thailand. However and soon as you return to “my” corner of the world than please let me know. Not only can I help you out with local contacts but we can — and will — definitely cross paths again. Please keep in touch my dear!
‘Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel.’
Loved your comment above Derek. It reminded me that I’ve tried all three at different points in my life! 🙂
So I’ve got to ask…which one was the most therapeutic, the most helpful for you? I feel sometimes many people either can’t relate to my tagline or take offense but I’m glad to hear that you approve of it….thanks! 😀
For me as an individual,someone who loves to be outside, travel has been the perfect therapy.
As a Counsellor myself and having experienced being a client, I fully appreciate and understand the benefits that counselling can have in certain circumstances.
As a foodie lover I know the joy of taking myself out to chow down on something fresh, fragrant and amazing with a glass of crisp clear chenin blanc. The one thing I would like to try at the moment is dining in the dark – what a fabulous way to engage all your senses in a different way than usual. Have you tried it?
Nicely done, Derek! Congrats!
Good for you! While I don’t travel full time, I do make a point of saving up to live it up in a new country and an unvisited American city every year…at least! And when I am not doing that I am photographing Boston, spending weekends exploring New York (dude, I can’t get enough of that city) and learning more about New England.
Coincidentally, what I can relate to most in this article is actually the refusal to accept that all there is to life is the standardized “American Dream”. I was born here, but lived in Portugal most of my life. I recently returned and was kind of blindsided by all these beliefs that you “need to become a manager”, rented apartments are for losers, forget public transportation you need to buy a fancy car, when are you having kids? or (the most hilarious), if you haven’t saved a million dollars for retirement you may end up homeless and sleeping under a bridge. It’s bullshit and for a few years I was brainwashed into believing it was flattering to be offered “50+ hour management positions accessorized with a Blackberry that is ON 24/7”!
I don’t mind my weekly paycheck in my current less responsible job and I actually love my new cubicle because it does not define me and I do so much outside of it. It is a means that is justified by the end – $$$$ for plane tickets! But I am TRULY happy for all the people I read about online that have taken a bigger leap into travel! You guys inspire me and I am happy to follow along your adventures!
Yes yes YES I’m so happy to hear that you can relate Cristina. As I mentioned in the post I could have rambled on so much more about that but alas twas neither the time nor the place…and here might not be either. But I’m going for it. The fact of the matter remains that times have changed. In the past — namely before the internet and the global connectivity that we have today — people stuck with their jobs / career field their entire life, especially in smaller towns. They married there and stayed there because that was all they knew, all they…ummm not necessarily craved but was their only real option.
Nowadays the possibilities are endless and the world is so well-connected. Why not explore more, even if just around your hometown/state/province/district/country/whatever. There is no reason to dedicate your life to one place or trying to work your way “up the totem pole” with a company that is going to:
1) cut your pay/benefits anytime the market dips
2) hire from without rather than promoting from within
3) give the fat-cats up top crazy bonuses when all the lower tier people are the ones actually bringing success and innovation to the company
4) stifle outside innovation/competition by buying up competitors and/or patents that have better technology and then burying them, just to keep their profits
5) enforce a mandatory retirement age or try and edge senior employees out b/c their pay/benefits are too great
6) outsource work to foreign countries and lay-off people in the Western world just to save a dime or appease shareholders
7) pollute the environment and employee less than ethical business tactics in obtaining raw materials from war-ridden countries
Again, I could ramble on here but I think we can all name at least a half dozen well-known companies that employ most if not all of these tactics (ahem, cough-cough Apple)
Wow, seems I’ve gotten far off-topic. I have a tendency to do that. I’m a rambler, what can I say. The point is I can relate entirely to your second paragraph. It is a form of mass brainwashing but thankfully there are bloggers out there now trying to convince people to see things from the other side.
While quitting a promising job might not be for everyone, I’ve never once regretted it. Plus it gave me the initial money I needed to start traveling, and for that I will always be thankful. Good luck with the job and keep saving as much from each paycheck as possible to fund your future travels 🙂
A milestone. Congratulations.
Thanks Jad and Carol…shame that I cannot tag people via my phone but hope y’all both see this and appreciate just how much I value your support….thanks again!!!!! =D
Congratulations!! I love your blog and reading your adventures, it’s so inspirational and makes me incredibly excited to make my way over to that part of the world. I can’t agree with you more on the money part. I have met some Costa Ricans that lived well into their 100’s (107 was the oldest) that were poor but still full of life love and energy! I’ve enjoyed following along on your journey and can’t wait to see where you end up!
Thanks Samantha, I really appreciate the well wishes and kind words. Glad to hear you agree with me about the money situation. Having a few extra zeros in your bank account will not help you live any longer yet it still amazes me how many people in the Western world strive so much for this elusive number (and I use the word elusive b/c no matter how much they make, it’s never enough). Anyway I love your blog as well and am really curious to see where else y’all visit in the future once as your travels expand 🙂
Absolutely an inspiring post, Derek. By the time you are in Indonesia, make sure you visit Bali. I’m in Bali right now. Get a job here on purpose because I thought I could travel around Bali while working here. But it is harder than I thought. And in 2 years time my friend and I are planning to have 3 months off and go for a roadtrip around Indonesia. Totally confused about the money. Hope you have some advices for us. 🙂 cheers
Thanks for the kind words Catherine. Jadi lo kerja di Bali….bisa bicara bahasa Indo? I’ve written extensively about Indonesia and my travels there already on this blog, even wrote my first post in Bahasa last month and am going to start my second one today. I see from your Twitter feed that you know/follow Jenny Jusuf. She is my dear friend and editor and I will be returning to Bali at the start of May so that we can begin our Tour de Horror 🙂
As far as travel advice for getting around Indonesia, I’m more than happy to help. Have any specific questions for me? I’ve not only motorcycled the country extensively but also taken the buses, planes and trains just about everywhere I could. A road-trip around Indonesia for you and your friend is a must — Indonesia is amazing and it’s great how the food / sights vary so much from region to region. And in regards to your confusion about the money, is it all the extra zeros or something else?
Thanks a lot for replying so soon. Ya sy bisa bahasa indo. Sy lahir di Medan.
I don’t really know what to ask. I only know that I don’t have any experience in traveling. About the money, I want to know how much I should be preparing. I’m worried that I cannot finish traveling around Indonesia because of not having enough money. Haha. And will 3 months will be enough to cover all Indonesia?
I only follow Jenny Jusuf in twitter. I don’t know her in person. If you come to Bali in May, I’d love to meet you two in person. That’d be awesome.
And how can you do traveling around the world for 4 years without any job, how can you earn any money? Haha sorry if it’s too personal, I’ll understand if you cannot answer this question.
If you stay in hostels, eat street food, and take the buses (or even trains on Java) then traveling around Indonesia is relatively inexpensive. It varies from place to place (Sumatra is more expensive than Java for example) but Bali is one of the most expensive places in the country — besides Papua, obviously. However if you really want an affordable solution then just get your own motorbike and go wherever the road takes you. That’s what I spent several months doing. But as far as an exact dollar amount, I couldn’t tell you. Some days I would only spend 100IDR on everything, other days a million. Plus I never track my expenses so I have no clue what I go through over a three-month period.
Yes, I will be, probably around the 10-16th before starting the Tour de Horror. We have a tight schedule but I’ll see if we can make it fit. Where do you stay?
I worked for a huge international company for 4-1/2 years before quitting to start traveling and in all that time it was just work, sleep, work, repeat. I had no time to spend any of my paychecks so they all just went straight into the bank. Then when my friend pointed out that my money wouldn’t last forever I started blogging to try and bring in some online income. And now voila, here I am today, still traveling, still loving it 🙂
That’s awesome. I’m staying at Denpasar. Jalan Mahendradata. If you are coming here email me!
It’s quite hard to quit my job. As I love this industry a lot and also I don’t have lots of savings. I’m working as a Commis Pastry at Kuta.
I want to pursue my dream to become a chef. I also want to pursue my dream to be able to travel around and enjoy everything. Staying and working outside my hometown has absolutely opened up my eyes. I love meeting new people, experiencing something that I used to be afraid about, and to learn about one place culture, language, uniqueness.
I know, I’m greedy! Because I want both of these things! Cooking and Traveling!
Happy anniversary! While this is not something people normally say about quitting your job but we think it is something to be celebrated because you followed your dream. You had the courage to break free from the kind of life and career that people probably expected you to have and create the life you want.
Glad the decision to quit your job and travel the world is working out so well for you:)
Thanks, happy anniversary indeed! Much rather have this milestone than some “5 years with the company” plaque on the wall of my cubicle. Ugghhhh! You know I never really thought of quitting my job as a courageous act but I guess in hindsight it was, to so effortlessly give up the stability and promising future that so many people crave. My friends back home still think I am batshit crazy for giving it all up to travel the world. However I think they’re crazy for never leaving their hometown and experiencing all the world has to offer. However to each their own I guess, right? 🙂
Congrats on the milestone, man! You proved that although it was a bold move, it was never a wrong move. Cheers for the years to come! 😀
Thanks for the support Khai, I really appreciate it. Time flies fast though…too fast in fact. Am excited to see what the next fives years bring though! 😀
Many congratulations Derek on your 5 year anniversary of being free from the rat race. It sounds like your equivalent mid-life crisis came early!
You’ve certainly lived an adventurous and exciting time with priceless memories. You are following your dreams and ambition to explore, something money can’t buy.
Whilst love has not found a resting place with you, all those experiences and the opportunity to make you a more rounded character must push you everyday into ticking every conceivable box a girl could wish for. I genuinely mean this (and not in a patronising way) I’m sure your day will come.
Keep blogging and doing what you do so well. I’d love for you to keep providing personalised, unique adventure stories. We can read many destination based articles on other bloggers. Yet only one person has the adventures, emotions and experiences that you do and that is you. That is why you are so unique and fantastic at what you do.
Keep up the good work my friend. Safe travels and here is to the next 5 years!
Wow, appreciate all the kind words and heartfelt response/advice. Yeah I’m a little worried about what is going to happen next year when I turn 30….and downright scared about how I’ll react to the big 4-0. But then again I’ve sat next to many a traveler on airplanes who have said the equivalent of: “Wow. I wish I had discovered the pleasure of traveling as young as you did.” So I guess I’m doing something right.
I can only hope that you are correct and one day I do find someone to complete me. Sometimes it’s great being alone and free to go/do/see whatever I want whenever I please. But other times it gets depressing and tiresome.
Luckily I have no intentions to stop blogging. I will be trying to write more in Bahasa, as I mentioned in the post, but those articles will also be in English as well. Debating starting a new Bahasa-only blog but it’s already hard enough juggling this blog, the community portion of the HoliDaze, my occasional web design work, and life as a permanent nomad — the last thing I need now is one more blog to juggle. (Clarification for anyone else reading this: I’m still happily and actively taking on new web design clients, I just meant that I am not looking to manage another personal blog of my own.)
Anyway in closing thanks again for all the kind words and taking the time to read about my anniversary.
Lately Boyfriend and I have been letting go more and more the idea of owning a house. We still don’t see ourselves traveling full time, but we know there’s more than what we’re doing, than what we have now.
It’s just a matter of finding out what way of life is right for us.
One thing is certain: travel has to be a huge part of it.
Thanks Sofie. I can completely relate to your feelings, full time travel is not for everyone. I tried taking a few weeks off here and there to return to the States and visit friends but it quickly became apparent I just wasn’t happy at home. I even thought about just renting out my house so that if a cpl yrs down the line I wanted to call it quits, it would still be there waiting for me. However that is a-whole-nother can of worms there and one that I decided not to even open. Glad that travel has become a huge part of your life and your future and soon I’m sure you two will find the perfect balance between the two 🙂
The idea of just traveling somewhere with no map, no plans, no whatever – how amazing! I would love to do something like this some day.
Congrats on what sounds like five wonderful years! 🙂
Oh there have been some downsides too. Getting locked up in Mexican jail for a night. Wrecking my motorcycle in Indonesia — but in my defense I’ve been riding for 8 years and it was only happened b/c I was blackout drunk…all I remember is waking up in bloody clothes in a bloody bed and in a lot of pain. (Others had to fill me in on the details.) Getting robbed in Costa Rica. Being detained at immigration and interrogated at customs more times than I can even count. But no one reads blogs for bad stories — except for Lauren’s blog that is 😉
Anyway thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read about my anniversary Lisa…it’s amazing how time flies when you are having fun. And yes, I highly recommend you go for some “blind travel” one day — that’s how I’ve discovered some of the neatest places and had the most amazing experiences.
Serious congrats. What really says something is that you quit a high-paying job. Those of us who quite jobs making $1000 a month had nothing to lose.
You asked me what my favorite country in Asia is. I’m sorry I did not respond – I got the email but I was not at a computer to respond. It’s hard to say. Cambodia and Thailand are my two favorites for different reasons. I love the people in Thailand and have more connections – so probably Thailand. I love how Thailand is laid back – I don’t like that it’s a tourist dump. But I know the off-beaten places away from tourists too.
I really want to go to Bhutan. I like the happy, laid back Asian countries. Bhutan draws me for those reasons as well as it does not have the tourists.
I am also debating on living in Taiwan for a season.
Happy 5th Anniversary! Great post…as usual!
Awww thanks Susan, you’re too sweet 🙂 Working on a new follow-up post now with quotes from other long-term travelers and bloggers that should be even more inspirational 😀
Congratulations on your 5th year! I’m just curious.. Did you ever fear getting kidnapped in some of the places you traveled to? 🙂
Hahaha nope, can’t say I have. Definitely wandered through a few sketchy neighborhoods and gotten some “what the f are you doing here whitey?” looks but never felt in danger or fearful of being kidnapped. Definitely found that most people around the world are generally somewhat friendly to foreigners, whether they Colombian, Pakistani, Saudi Arabian or any other nationality. Of course you always have to watch out for the touts who use the guise of friendliness to connive you out of as much money as possible.
That isn’t to say they are not ruthless people or some horrid scams to be wary of, but I have yet to encounter anything too over-the-top…yet 😉
Rock on man, you’re doing it and doing it damn well. Love your style of, “fuck it, I don’t need to know where I’m going!”I’m know that once I landed in New Zealand, my first country, I already felt some sort of knowledge that had been hidden inside under the depths of past societal pressure…almost like this arcane knowledge locked inside every human being and the only way to unlock it is to travel. And once I was back in the United States again amongst the reality TV and stress and distractions I knew that really wasn’t the true life. It just felt kind of like an imposed limbo, and I couldn’t wait to escape!
Speaking of “fuck it, I don’t need to know where I’m going!” seems like you are getting started on this path now with your sudden shift over to the Czech Republic. Congrats!! Was very surprised to read about that in your newsletter. While I hope you enjoy it, forgive me for saying I hope it doesn’t suck you in — I was looking forward to seeing you again in Thailand in a couple months. Plus I still feel like you need to visit some other SEA countries to really get a grasp on this corner of the world before abandoning it so quickly.
You know those last few sentences in your comment would have fit perfectly in my ‘how travel changes people’ post. I felt the same way whenever I returned to the States to visit friends and all they had to talk about was TV shows and celebrity gossip. I don’t know if the American Dream still exists but the “American Distraction” sure does.