I am encouraging everyone to quit and go travelling. So I should probably have something to tell them. I dumped my thoughts onto the page a while ago so I will start including them here bit by bit.
Caveat - These will be reflective of my thinking and planning - ie went to uni for too long, got a good job as a doctor (pays well, yeah, but it's a career that takes some planning to step out of), married, no mortgage, no kids, no pets (by design, for literally this purpose)...
I want to make this clear because generalising advice like this such that it applies to everyone would be to smear it so thin that it could never apply to anyone.
So I will tell you specifically what I have done and won't feel bad if it doesn't perfectly line up with your particular circumstances. Rant done.
So - "How to Quit Your Job and Escape for a Year (and Why You Should...)"
- Part 1 - How to Quit Your Job; Section a) - Don't Tell Anyone
"If you feel the need to escape, first don’t tell anyone. Sure, tell your person. But don't discuss it with anyone else.
This is almost like that first rule of Fight Club...
Don't tell anyone.
Don't bring up "I had the thought of maybe going..." at parties. Don't ask the advice of your extended friend group. They very likely won't support your effort to escape. Rather they will sincerely support you to "go for that promotion at work", or "just do it, put a deposit that house you've been looking at" or whatever. All sincerely, of course. But potentially poisonous to your efforts to escape. At worst, some of your friends will be jealous of your plans and desperate for you to remain unhappy and under-fulfilled with them...at Friday drinks...every Friday...discussing interest rates and childcare costs...and sportsball...forever.
And definitely don't discuss it at work. This will become important later. Because as soon as you do, you will find reasons not to escape. Just as you are at the very beginning of an idea, just starting to mull it over, before the idea has even fermented a little, some middle management type will say something like “oh just do it later in your career when you are a bit more settled” and you will. And by then, life and career and osteoarthritis will have taken over, and you will never escape (or at least this should be your working assumption).
So, again, the first rule of quitting your job and escaping is "don't tell anyone"..."
- Part 1 - How to Quit Your Job; Section b) - Get a Good Job
"Once you have had the thought that escaping might be nice, and not told anybody, you will need a good job to fund it.
'Good' should mean a few things here:
- Roughly in your field of interest. You need to be able to willingly trade time for money for this period - soul crushing labour is not sustainable.
- Scope for career progression is broad.
- Job security is high.
- Your role is well-defined.
- You are paid to the level of a skilled professional. (This does not imply you have a University Degree...)
- Leave can be accrued. (This will become important later)
Think government bodies like health or industry. Some of the big private firms. Universities. etc
University Requirement: Nursing - Incredible job security and demand for labour; career progression is clear and broad into multiple specialties and levels of seniority; good pay (penalty rates) for skilled work; and leave can be accrued within a health service.
No University Requirement: Trades - Think Carpentry or Plumbing - This would need to be within a larger company with scope for progression through levels of seniority and leave accrual; high job security (given staggering demand); skilled labour that demands a premium; low competition against incoming tradesmen not committed to doing 'good work'.
I don't care how you Get the Job, but for the love of all that is holy, don't tell anyone your plans in the job interview. And if you already have a job, ensure it is a 'Good' one per the above criteria.
Don't worry, if you are interviewing for a job you are not lying by omission. Because at this point, you are literally at step 1b of the plan. You couldn't tell anyone where you are going or when you are leaving if your life depended on it.
Just Get a Good Job first."
- Part 1 - How to Quit Your Job; Section c) - Do Good Work
"You have decided you are going to escape. And told no one. You have found a good job. Now, do good work.
Your next 2-4 years of working (saving) is also your CV for your return. Don’t be a burden. Do good work. When you are at work, be an excellent employee. Ruffle as few feathers as possible, but be good at your job such that you are valuable. Make yourself valuable enough that you would have no problem applying for your own job when you return (or before you even leave...more on that later).
Do not be the one putting in after hours unpaid time. That is not helping you fund your escape. You could maybe argue that it will help your return to a career, but what kind of career is that? That sounds really sucky. Just show up. Do good work. Keep quiet about your plans. Stack cash. Go home and have a fun life with the knowledge that you have an escape planned.
And, of course, don’t be a dick. It is possible to have a good job. To be saving. To be doing good work. Progressing in a career. Holding a secret. But being a dick.
Dicks don’t get their job back. And that will be important soon."
- Part 1 - How to Quit Your Job; Section d) - Build Relationships
"You are doing good work. But you need to build relationships.
This stage locks in your job for when you return. You are already working in your field of interest, and doing a good job at it. This is the time to start connecting with those people who actually make decisions. The boss of your department, unit, service line or whatever your industry's hierarchical structure looks like.
There is no need for disgusting sycophancy here. Simply being a serious adult, doing good work, telling another serious adult that you would like to progress in your shared field is usually enough to seal things.
To lock it in, just teach others in your field and put some effort in to professional development and bettering your department - in work hours of course.
By doing this, building relationships for a couple of years, you will guarantee that you are not forgotten during your escape.
And it is probably enough to already lock in your own job while you go and have fun."
- Part 1 - How to Quit Your Job; Section e) - Save
"The hardest part is done. You have decided to escape. You are in a profession in which you can progress and build a career to which you can return. The people around you will gladly see you return to your role. But they don’t even know that you are going yet, because you have successfully followed the furst rule and not told anybody.
Now to saving.
Naturally, if there is no difference between your income and your expenses then there is no mathematical way to save anything.
But you have a good job, within which you are progressing in your career. So the income side of things should be fine.
Check your spending by documenting it for a couple of pay cycles - you can use a spreadsheet or one of any number of apps. I used pocketbook for a long time before it was discontinued but alternatives include Frollo, Buddy, YNAB and the expense tracking features that some of the big banks are starting to include in their own native mobile apps.
Once you have done this, recovered from any shock that you need to recover from, you can move on.
First move on to cutting any ridiculous expenses that you may have noticed. Then move on to saving.
The aim is to pay yourself first. 'Paying Yourself' means transferring a set amount of money from your salary every week/fortnight into a specific account slated specifically for your escape.
As. Soon. As. You. Get. Paid.
And then not spending it.
Then you pay your bills and other expenses with whatever is left over.
Relax, you won't turn into a scrooge who sits at home unable to have any fun because you have run out of money. You have a good job. It pays well. You'll be fine.
If you do not spend any of your 'Escape Money' by the end of the pay cycle, even if you are just scraping through to the next pay day, then the maths becomes simple.
If you allocate $1000 every fotnightly pay cycle to your travel savings, you will save $26,000 per year.
Again, thats it.
So long as you actually save the difference between income and expenses (both survival rent/groceries expenses and fun expenses) every pay cycle, its just a matter of time until you save whatever amount you need to Escape.
We will discuss how much you need in the next instalment."
I really do think it is that simple. But, at the risk of getting too complcated, I suppose there are some extra strategies.
Not much more to it then that.
2. Declare It
Give your dedicated savings account a name like “War Chest” or “Escape Money” or "Freedom Fund". If you ever take money out of it to pay for something discretionary, you will know that that just cost yourself a week in Thailand, or a couple of nights on a riviera somewhere.
Yeah, it's dorky. But that extra week in Thailand is not...
Build in some inertia to help.
Everyone these days has ING accounts after reading The Barefoot Investor, which may be one of the most impactful documents ever written by any Australian in history.
But storing your Escape Money in a separate ING account with access to instantaneous transfers to your 'Daily Expenses' card account is a recipe for spending little chunks of your Escape Money every fortnight.
When you "only spend $50" from your Freedom Fund when out with the boys with promises to "replace it with an extra $50 when I next get paid" - you are just lying to yourself.
And cheating yourself out of an Escape.
Put your Escape Money in a totally separate bank. Ideally one without these instantaneous 'Osko' transactions between banks - which admittedly UBank has introduced - and which I have been using for years.
Earlier on, I was using Raiz to build in up to 5 days delay into cashing out any travel money given that it is held by a third party who has invested your money into the sharemarket. I placed regular 'deposits' into the lowest growth (read: risk) portfolio they offered. And knew that I could never have that money back in an 'emergency' because it would take a few days for them to 'sell my shares' and cash out my funds. This worked very well.
Given that I am well within 12 months of departure at the time of writing, I do not have a single dollar exposed to the stock market. If you have years of saving ahead, consider something simple like this - not for making any money in the stock market at all (assume you will make none), rather for the time it takes to get it out, so that you can't spend it on a whim - just to be clear.
4. No Credit Cards...yet
Perfectly filling your War Chest while living a fun life would have your discretionary spending bank account showing $0 by 11:59pm on the night before you are paid.
(You will still have money in your separate 'Mojo' account for actual emergencies - come on. If you don't know what I'm talking about, hurry up and ready the Barefoot Investor.)
This progressive dwindling of your discretionary spending amount each week is important. You can see exactly how much left you can spend before you will either have to wait until you are paid or start dipping into your Freedom Fund.
So there is a built in pressure to not do anything dumb, make it to the next pay cycle, and keep you Escape Money growing.
Credit card statements read the other way. They go up. They just don't have the built in pressure of a number approaching zero to clear you mind and sway you from buying something stupid.
Credit cards will enter the story later...
We are now at the exciting next step. I have arbitrarily moved us from "How to Quit Your Job" to "How to Escape for a Year".
Keen readers will note that we haven't actually quit our job yet in the story. I hope I have been making it clear that the 'quitting' part of things is actually an active process of shoring up your role and your career before you pull the trigger and put in your notice. The actual act of 'quitting' is otherwise fairly simple if you have followed all the steps in Part 1.
So now we embark down the path of 'How to Escape' of which quitting your job is just a stop along the way.
But, we left the last edition on a high with 'How to Save', so we might as well work out how much we should save before quitting.
Note: I have emphasised this point and will continue to here - you still have not told anybody of your plans. Everything so far has been occurring in the background, within your own mind, in a private notebook.
And we continue to tick along quietly...for just a little longer.
So, for the next instalment of -
"How to Quit Your Job and Escape for a Year (and Why You Should...)"
- Part 2 - How to Escape for a Year; Section a) - How Much to Save
This step is both very easy and impossible to get right. In fact, lets just settle on the fact that you will not be able to save the right amount of money. Once we accept that, we can start to predict how much we would like to save.
This will be an exercise in historic trends, nerdy spreadsheets and crowdsourced cost of living data.
Along with a fair amount of reading tea leaves, the entrails of slaughtered goats, flight patterns of crows and just plain old guessing.
An easy little start with planning would just be to save as much as you can for a few years. Aim for a huge number. Aim for $150,000 just for your escape year. Make it a huge, disgusting goal. Firstly because you will probably reach it if you are playing by these rules. Secondly, because if you miss, then you are probably still grossly overfunded for a year away. Thirdly because you might even have some money left over for when you come back.
But, we like to plan. So lets look at some numbers.
As a certified nerd (and young person) I kept track of my spending on some previous overseas trips.
For example, a month in Argentina in 2017 - with Absolute Daily Expense of $178.96:
About four weeks in Cuba in 2018 - with Absolute Daily Expenses of $251.63:
About 11 days in Jordan in 2018 - with Absolute Daily Expenses of $210.31:
About a month in USA, France, Austria in 2019 - with Absolute Daily Expenses of $398.14:
By 'Absolute Daily Expenses' (ADE), I mean literally just the total cost of a trip divided by total days of the trip.
This means that shorter trips are skewed to be more expensive given international flights from Australia are a massive portion of the total. And trips with multiple international transit flights within a short holiday would reflect the same.
So with this I have some data from South America, Europe, and a smidge of The Middle East as well.
And then COVID happened... so there were no more numbers to track...
Ok, so then there is Numbeo, which is an excellent site that uses crowdsourced data to compare cost of living in cities, and can be useful for planning things like this.
For example - Brisbane v Paris:
So If I was looking to spend a month in Paris, I could pretty easily work out my expected costs by simply noting my living expenses for a month in Brisbane, applying whatever increase or decrease based on the Numbeo's comparison and saving accordingly.
(Note: It looks like it is cheaper to live in Paris than Brisbane. Wut...?)
In my case, Numbeo might be useful for planning some time in Asia, since I don't have much in the way of nerdy old spreadsheets to go off.
So let's say I want to spend 3 months in South America, 3 months in Europe, then 3 months coming back through Eastern Europe and Asia with the other 3 months spread across a bit of North America and Northern Africa along the way.
Well lets run the numbers:
- 3 Months South America - 90 days x $178.96 ADE= $16,106.4 - but this has to inflate up from 2017 numbers so is more like $18.442.15
- 3 Months Europe - 90 days x $398.14 ADE = 35,832.6 - but this has to inflate from 2019 numbers - so more like $39,622.06
- 3 Months Asia - Dunno, if I spend about $1000ish per week in Brisbane, Australia on stuff, then compare this to, oh I don't know, Ho Chi Minh City on Numbeo which is about 50-80% cheaper across the board, then lets say $500AUD per week in Ho Chi Minh City = $6000 for the three months; but then lets put some safety margin in there and say $10,000)
- 3 Months Miscellaneous - Let's meet in the middle of South America and Europe and say about $30,000
So my rough total would be: $98,064.21
- I am extrapolating continent costs from country data. Naturally, I could plan every day of spending in any country I like across 365 days by comparing cost of living data of each respective location to my current spending. But that sounds boring.
- Unfortunately, I am married (Relax, just a joke...). So I need to save enough for two people.
- Fortunately, the marginal cost of adding a second traveller to a trip does not simply double the required savings. Naturally, you each need your own plane ticket, but you do not need your own hotel room etc.
- Also fortunately, my Absolute Daily Expenses from previous trips were calculated from door-to-door. From and to Australia - the most isolated (read: expensive) part of the world with respect to international flights. So I am very confident that I have over-exaggerated the required funds needed since the marginal cost of transiting from one South American town to the next, or one French village to another is not comparable to the cost of an international flight to and from Australia.
But, just to be 'safe', why not aim for $120,000 for two people to escape for a year. To go forth and travel like we travel.
Also, remember, if you run out of money, you can just come home...
In the next edition:
- Part 2 - How to Escape For A Year; Section b) - Plan your Finish Date