Around this time last year, I told my boss of 3.5 years that I will be leaving the company.
A month and a half later, I was on the road for 4.5 months, fulfilling my dream of travelling around the world.
After my long trip and a few shorter ones, I returned to Singapore in search of a new career as I wasn’t brave enough to continue travelling forever, unlike some people.
Even though I have no regrets about quitting my job to travel, I must admit it is not for everyone. For those who are still thinking if you should take a career break to travel, I will have two posts on the pros and cons of leaving your career to travel.
First, the bad news.
1. Currency exchange is not in favor of most Asian countries
There is a reason why many travellers from the West flock to Southeast Asia for their gap years. Their exchange rate is strong enough that a day’s spending in SEA is probably worth less than two meals in McDonald’s back home.
That is the same reason why many of us from Southeast Asia (or most of Asia, excluding Japan and Singapore) cannot afford to quit our job and spend our days in foreign lands. (Indonesian travel writer Trinity points this out in her tweet.)
Of course there are cheap ways to do it but making money in a country with strong currency helps a lot if you are thinking about leaving work to travel.
I was lucky that I started my career in Singapore where the currency is stronger than other SEA countries. If I were back home in Malaysia, I cannot imagine how long I would need to save before I could leave my work for long term travel.
2. There’s no such culture (in Asia)
While travelling around the world, I’ve only met one Taiwanese girl who quit her job to travel. I’ve seen other Asian travellers (mostly Taiwan) but most of them were on holiday and on short trips.
It’s hard to buck the trend. Most likely none of your older cousins took time off to travel so you can’t point to him/her as an example.
Plus, growing up in an Asian society where fitting in is important, it’s a tough decision to make if you want to quit your job to travel.
3. People will question your decision
Related to the entry above, my decision to travel long term was questioned by a relative, a fortune teller and a hiring manager.
The relative asked if I knew the opportunity cost of leaving my job while the fortune teller didn’t see the point of seeing the world.
As for the hiring manager, she wasn’t very pleasant about my decision. During the first call to schedule the job interview, she said, “What? You are 27 and you’ve travelled around the world? You must be rich or a really lucky girl.” I mumbled that I had saved up my own money for the trip but that didn’t help with that interview session.
It’s not easy to still believe that what you do is right when there are people out there trying to make you feel bad.
4. It’s harder to get back into the workforce
At a travel meetup, I met a man in his thirties who took 5 months off to travel in South America. I asked if he found it difficult to find a new job after his trip. He said it wasn’t difficult, adding that he was in the shipping industry.
Maybe it is because I don’t have as many year of formal working experience, I found it rather difficult to find a job after coming back to Singapore. I tried to joke that it was the end of the year so everyone who wanted to quit were still in their jobs as they wait for their year-end bonus.
5. Travelling doesn’t solve any problems
Before I went on my journey, a tiny part of me wished that I would turn out like Liz from Eat, Pray, Love: I would find myself with a full stomach, lots of spirituality, a hot boyfriend and a book deal. The only thing I actually achieved was a full stomach.
Leaving your job to travel does not help you figure out your next step in life.
5.5 It’s hard to find good Asian food outside of Asia
OK, this list is getting into the weird zone but bear with me. If you need to eat rice for every single meal, you might find Europe or South America a culinary hell unless you live in a Chinese-run hostel.
If you love experimenting with foreign cuisine, then travelling around the world is pretty awesome. (Nice to eat you, ceviche.)
You don’t have to quit your job to travel
There are plenty of ways you can travel without leaving your job.
I met one guy who is a tutor and he takes long trips when the school holidays are in. I know another guy who makes use of his work perks to travel all over in short bursts.
I know a lady who travels during the weekend ends. I even have a series on weekend travel.
- Should I quit my job and travel the world? from ytravelblog.com
- It’s not about quitting your job to travel from ourfavoriteadventure.com
- 5 Reasons NOT to Quit Your Job and Travel the World from milkthepigeon.com
- Things I Wish I Knew Before I Quit My Job to Travel from the-shooting-star.com
Are you depressed now? Don’t worry because I will have a follow up post on the pros of quitting your job to travel. Travel safe.
10 thoughts on “5.5 reasons why you should not quit your job to travel in your 20s (Asian edition)”
Great post, thank you. I am quite conscious that being so career minded, I have missed out on the kind of overseas travel most people my age experience. I love that this post differs from the usual onslaught of ”why you must travel” articles.
Hello~ Thanks for dropping by. I wanted to be honest about how long term travel is not as glamorous as it seems.
That said, I will have a Why you *should* quit your job post next week. ;)
Aww that’s so true, i think lots of people romanticize quitting jobs in a big hoorah and going off someplace else only to realize it’s not their cup of tea. I’ve been thinking about a long trip too, but for now I’m able to take really long breaks in between work, and the flexibility is great. I also realize it won’t be easy coming back to job search… I’m still holding out for this year ;) Next year though, might bring new decisions :P hahaha…
It’s awesome that you get to have flexibility in your work. Safe travels!
Great post! It’s something I’ve been thinking about for awhile, and of course most of the stuff you read online is pretty rosy, so something like this is a good reality check! Still I think if it’s something you want to do, you should just do it, whatever happens next :)
Good luck on your job search in Singapore! Now’s probably a good time to look because bonuses just went out, so lots of company movement happens around this time. Year end’s not good because everyone’s just hanging on for their bonuses and people are too busy on holiday to quit!
Thanks for dropping by, Jac. I agree that if we want to do something, we should that do it. Life has a funny way of working out in the end.
I’m also happy to report that I found a job in March. Let’s break out the champagne~
I’m loving this Asian edition. So true! You’re probably the first Singaporean I know (and not the last I hope !) who has gone on a trip that lasts more than 2 weeks and does not involve shopping!
I just read your entry on Machu Picchu. Unfortunately, it is rather underwhelming and over hyped.
Tikal was much more “mystical” and impressive in my opinion.
sir , this life is about doing what you’ve always wanted to do , achieving your dreams .. and its completely stupid to tell someone don’t follow your dreams and go find a job ! ..
You’ll be glad to know I have another blog post talking about the opposite: https://yqtravelling.com/2014/02/25/5-reasons-why-you-should-quit-your-job-to-travel-in-your-20s-5-was-my-biggest-motivation/