Why do it

Is it really worth gambling away your career by exiting the workforce for several months, risking the opportunity to get a better job? Will you pick up from where you left off if you leave for a few months, or will you have to settle for a lower-paying job?

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These are all questions we can’t answer, but travel has proven to reboot some people, helping them escape from their routine lives. The trip can help you attain a new perspective on life that you can bring home with you, allowing you to return to the workforce with a higher amount of motivation and appreciation for life.

Why do it (continued)

Work can be very stressful, although so can traveling. We all need to venture far from our comfort zones at some point in our lives in order to experience what else is out there and gain an understanding of what we are really made of. Sometimes it takes stripping away all that is familiar to figure out who you really are at your core.

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First off, you should identify what your strengths are so you can use them to aid your trip abroad. Similarly, you must understand what your weaknesses are and how you can overcome these abroad, which will ultimately make you a more complete person.

How to quit your job

Don’t simply pack up and leave one day, as it will leave a sour taste in your employer’s mouth. You will want to give your office at least two weeks’ notice and you should be honest to your employer about why you’re leaving.

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Doing so will help your boss realize that you have nothing against the company and the move may even garner the respect of your manager. You also shouldn’t leave in the middle of a big project, as you should plan your getaway in a way that doesn’t greatly affect your company’s plans.

How to quit your job (continued)

If you one day hope to come back to your job, mention that to your employer. There are no guarantees here, but expressing that interest may help you reclaim your job once you return from your travels. The prospect of being able to return to your old job may even give you the added encouragement you need to take that leap.

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Your employer may also offer you the opportunity to work remotely, which would allow you to make money overseas if money is a concern for you. Alternately, you could ask your employer if they could give you a recommendation for future job applications elsewhere.

Update your portfolio ASAP

Unless you plan on working remotely, make sure you update your portfolio and resume before you leave, rather than after you come back. All of your recent projects are still top of mind, which is why now is the perfect opportunity to mention these projects, along with any statistics or metrics that bolster your profile.

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Maintain a connection with your co-workers, managers, and clients as well, informing them of your travels. There are never any guarantees in life, but keeping everyone in the loop could lead to a future job opportunity after you return. It is also wise to ask for recommendations from colleagues or managers on LinkedIn since their memories of you will be fresh. 

Start saving at home

You may have to spend several months saving money at home before you can go on your journey unless you have already been doing so. Reduce spending on luxury items, such as cable, going out to eat, entertainment and buying clothes you don’t really need.

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It’s not an easy thing to do, but a lot of us probably spend more than we have to as a way of escaping the monotony of home life. Be a little thriftier for several months, so you can properly fund your trip. It may help to keep photos of your future travel locations on hand — perhaps in your wallet and on your computer screen — so that when the temptation to spend arises, you can keep your eyes on the prize.

Do as much research as possible

Once you decide to take the plunge, you still have a lot of work ahead of you, as you’ll have to figure out how to fund your trip. Decide what country or countries you plan on visiting and research the cost of rent, food, and entertainment in these locations in order to create your budget.

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Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who have made a similar trip in the past through social media or by joining online forums. Do some research on what people struggled with, both from a monetary standpoint and a cultural standpoint. A good way to start is by looking at a map and determining where you want to go.

Create a realistic budget

Part of your research will be determined on how much money you have, how much you’re willing to spend, and what the reality of a foreign country’s economy is. Carefully plan every step, as some people are able to travel for as little as $50 a day, including food, lodging, transport, and entertainment.

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If you’re hoping to visit some countries that are a bit pricier, perhaps you should only spend a few days there, and stick to some more affordable countries. Keep your budget in mind at all times and don’t spend on expensive things you don’t need.

International bank account and credit card

Not every credit card can be used abroad without encountering high ATM fees. Some cards can’t be used internationally at all. If your card is subject to these penalties, open an international account for your travels. You may even be able to find a card that will reward you with travel incentives, such as free flights.

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One good option is Schwab as they don’t require a minimum deposit to open a checking account, while also not charging you any fees on their checking accounts. Plus, all ATM fees are reimbursed at the end of the month without a limit.

International bank account and credit card (continued)

These fees do add up, so make sure to get your bank account situation sorted out before leaving. It is a lot easier to sort through these matters from the comforts of home than it is on the road when cellular and internet reception may be hard to come by. The same principle applies to credit cards, as there are cards designed for travel with no foreign transaction fees.

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There are mobile apps for virtually anything these days, which means that you can set your bills to make automatic payments. This can help you eliminate some of your bills (and stress) as you downsize and get ready to head out.

Round-the-world tickets (RTW)

One of the most important (and expensive) things to consider is how you will approach air travel. There are two main flight ticket options you can make when you decide to travel overseas, and one of them comes in the form of round-the-world tickets (RTW). These are essentially airline alliance passes.

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This means that you can travel everywhere at reduced prices, as long as you remain with the airlines that are partners with the RTW option you choose. This option may sound like a good one, but it has its limits. Be sure to do your research before you make the purchase.

Round-the-world tickets (RTW) (continued)

Buying RTW tickets has some limitations, as not every airline flies to every country. For example, American Airlines (Oneworld) RTW tickets won’t get you to Nairobi, Kenya, among other destinations. This option will only be cost-effective if the airline’s destinations align well with your travel plans. Otherwise, you risk buying tickets for additional flights on top of your RTW tickets.

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Plus, none of the RTW alliances link up with the world’s budget airlines, which include Ryanair (Europe), Southwest (US), Air Asia (Asia) or Tiger (Asia and Australia). These budget airlines have fewer amenities but they still get the job done.

Buy as you go

The other flight option is to buy tickets as you go. The first step is to purchase your first one-way ticket, which sets the foundation for your journey. You can plan the rest of your route from there. Perhaps you will even let finding a great deal on a flight dictate your next destination!

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This option makes more sense to me, as you will be able to use the budget airlines to get to your intended destination. Skyscanner is a good website for finding good deals on flights around the world and you won’t be limited to destinations covered by any specific airline.

How much luggage should I bring?

As a general rule of thumb, you will want to travel light. Whenever I pack for a trip, I lay out everything I plan to pack. Then, I do an “editing” round where I remove duplicate items (ex: that second pair of running shoes) or anything I don’t really need. Some people believe that you should only have a backpack with you, while others are happy carrying their rollies along with them.

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There is no easy answer to this question, as it depends on your itinerary. Backpacks are better suited for trips that include long hikes or cover uneven pavements and terrain. However, traveling through a city is relatively easy with rollies and will cause less strain on your back.

How much luggage should I bring? (continued)

We would encourage you to keep your bag relatively small, even if you do decide to bring a rolly with you instead of a backpack. It should be a carry-on size, as you’ll be bringing it with you everywhere you go. You will inevitably end up purchasing items on your travels, so it is best to pack light.

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Plus, size matters as most hostels have very limited storage space, so you will want to keep your bag in a locker unless you plan on always having your bag with you. Especially for security reasons, less is more in this scenario.

Pack light

As far as what you actually bring in your bag, the answer is not much. All you really need are clothing items and maybe your laptop if you plan on working remotely. Of course, if you plan to spend time in the wilderness you will want to bring some outdoor recreation gear.

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Make sure that you bring clothes that serve multiple purposes and climates, and be prepared to wear them on a very regular basis. You don’t even need to bring toiletries with you, as you can buy these as you go. In some cases, you can take advantage of complimentary toiletries at the place you are staying.

Sell your old stuff

You will want to sell most of your old stuff before leaving unless you plan on leaving it in storage (and essentially paying rent for your belongings) for half a year. Live a more minimalist lifestyle by selling most of your stuff through the likes of Craigslist, eBay or Facebook’s Marketplace.

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The move will help you get rid of stuff, while also making money that you can then invest in your travels. If you have something with sentimental value, try to store it with a friend or family member, as you’ll want to avoid using a storage unit.

Travel insurance matters

Believe it or not, buying some travel insurance will go a long way in your travels. Things may happen when you travel abroad, as you will deal with unfamiliar cultures and changes in weather that could affect your health. Inevitably, you will eat something that doesn’t agree with you and you will be grateful to have access to medical care.

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Travel insurance covers more than your medical needs, as it can cover lost or stolen goods, as well as missed or canceled flights. A plan with medical insurance should be the bare minimum, covering at least $100,000 in medical expenses.

Remain flexible with travel dates

You can live a minimalist lifestyle on the road without much of a hassle if you are willing to sacrifice comfort for thriftiness. This approach will also expose you to new adventures and more of the local culture. As previously mentioned, travel insurance can help you with missed flights, which means that you should be flexible with your travel dates.

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Don’t be afraid to buy travel tickets at the last minute, as you may save hundreds of dollars on a flight. This amounts to a week’s worth of living expenses in some parts of the world, including Southeast Asia.

Live the local experience

The whole reason you are traveling is to enjoy the culture and society that other countries have to show you. You can enjoy the local experience by choosing to stay in hostels or at an Airbnb, instead of fancy hotels. Often, fancy hotels are pretty similar from place to place so you miss out on a crucial opportunity to experience another culture.

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It’s alright to stay in a nice hotel once in a while, but don’t make a habit out of it. Plus, you should be eating food away from tourist locations, as you may end up paying $3 or less for a meal in some countries.

Enjoy the charm of cheaper countries

It may be tempting to spend six months in Italy, France or Germany, but a more realistic approach to living abroad is to limit yourself to only a few days in these places. You can then spend the rest of your trip in the likes of Vietnam and Indonesia, where your money will stretch a lot further.

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You can also save money by volunteering with a local organization in exchange for free room and board. Indonesia has eco-villages, while Italy has olive farms through Work Away that allow you to live there for free. You will make memories you won’t soon forget.

You can live abroad for under $1,000 a month

One person who traveled abroad to Mexico said they were able to live there comfortably for less than $1,000 a month in the coastal resort town of Playa del Carmen. You can rent a studio there for $300 a month, which means that you’ll probably be able to do everything you want for under $700 a month.

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This particular studio apartment had a king-size bed, a sitting area, a newly-renovated bathroom, and a brand-new air conditioning unit. The kitchen was well-maintained and the home included half a dozen tables and some old sofas. Not bad considering you are living in a tropical oasis in the Yucatan Peninsula.

India’s affordable too

A trip to India is also very affordable, regardless of where you choose to live, and there is really no place like it. In neighboring Tibet, you can live in a rooftop room with a view of the Himalayas from your bed for only $120 a month.

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Even if you ate 10 meals a day, took taxis everywhere, and signed up for all the yoga and meditation classes in the world, it’d be hard to spend $500 a month. Calcutta is cheap too, as you can find a hotel for $5 a night and you may be able to spend a month there for a total of $400.

Australia is pricier, but still affordable

You might be surprised to learn that even countries like Australia can be relatively affordable, as you can find rooms in shared homes with Gumtree or Airbnb. One person was able to find a place located a 15-minute walk from the center of the city for $400 a month. Australia is also conveniently located near many affordable Southeast Asian countries.

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Major cities in Australia, such as Sydney and Melbourne, have an exciting nightlife scene. Still, even with frequent visits to local pubs, live music shows, festivals, day trips and meals in restaurants, you can still live in Australia comfortably for under $1,000 a month.

Thailand is another great option

Put your language skills to use! You can spend your time teaching English in Thailand, China or Indonesia and live for relatively cheap (you might even be able to save some money!). In Thailand, you may be able to find an apartment for as little as $200 a month and that includes a view of the city and the local mountains.

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Traveling in Thailand can be a unique and fun-filled experience that won’t break the bank. It will cost you roughly $500 per month including entertainment and food. In cheaper locations in the country, you can spend as little as $300 a month all things considered.

Should I do it?

Even after reading all of our suggestions, you may still have some doubts about whether or not to drop everything and make the trek abroad. There are a lot of factors that you can’t plan for, such as health issues or local crime, but don’t let that discourage you.

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Pro tip: Getting to know the locals will help steer you in the right direction, as you will figure out what places to avoid and what foods not to eat. Plus, you’ll get the genuine local experience and insider recommendations, which is something that money can’t buy.

Should I do it? (continued)

All of the unpredictable variables are also solid reasons to step out of your comfort zone and have fun abroad. You will meet people you would have otherwise never met, you will eat new foods, and you might even pick up a new language (or some new words, at least!).

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You may spend a decent amount of money making the trip happen, but the experience will be priceless. The journey will reinvigorate you once you do decide to return to the comforts of home.

Returning home

If you followed this guide, your six-month trip would have hopefully been a relaxing, fruitful, and enjoyable one all at the same time. The expedition through the world will help you gain a newfound appreciation for other cultures and perhaps even a better understanding of yourself.

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Plus, it will bring you back home ready to pick up where you left off with your career. Touch base with your contacts to see if there are any work opportunities available for you, or perhaps even get your old job back if you left on good terms and it still appeals to you.

Returning home (continued)

If you were capable of working remotely or if you found jobs abroad, use that experience to bolster your resumé. There are many transferable skills that you can accrue while abroad, as the move suggests that you are not afraid of a challenge or innovation. This is something employers value, especially in a start-up culture.

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Plus, getting back to work means you get to start making money again and building towards your future, whatever it may look like. Some of you may want to begin saving for your next travels or even make plans to move to one of the countries you visited in the future.