Real-Life Stories: I quit my job and traveled the world

by AOL Travel Staff Subscribe to AOL Travel Staff's posts Posted Oct 24th 2009 01:05 PM


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Real-Life Stories: I quit my job and traveled the world.

Have you ever dreamed of quitting your job to travel the world? On the slides of this gallery you'll meet ten people who actually did.

Some of these individuals, such as Doreen Orion and her husband, left everything behind to travel and re-connect with one another on a year-long bus trip across the U.S. Others were inspired by changing events in their lives (failed relationships, serious illness, the death of a loved one), to leave behind successful careers to find themselves abroad.

As we spoke with these individuals one thing became clear-not one person regretted the decision to quit his or her job to travel. In fact, everyone felt happier and more at peace thanks to their decision.

Here are their stories and, should you be considering a similar feat yourself, their tips on how to make it happen.

Thinking about quitting your job to travel? Tell us about it:

Real-Life Stories: I quit my job and traveled the world.

Name: Doreen Orion
Age at flight: 45
What she left behind: A job as a psychiatrist, her home and most of her possessions.

My husband came home one day and announced he wanted to "chuck it all" to travel the country in a converted bus. Of course, I demanded to know, "Why can't you be like a normal husband in a midlife crisis and have an affair or buy a Corvette?" We're both psychiatrists and obviously, he's the much better shrink, as we did do the trip. We packed up our 60 lb standard poodle and 2 cats into in 340-square-foot bus and set out for a year-long journey across the U.S. We traveled to almost every state-including Alaska.

We learned a lot from our year-long journey. I think part of the reason I didn't want to go is that my life was comfortable and I was content. But, I learned that maybe content isn't all it's cracked up to be-it's so important to keep challenging and stretching yourself.

How I did it: We worked really hard all our lives and saved our money, so when it was time to do something extraordinary, we were fortunate to have the savings to do so.

World-Traveler Wisdom: Everyone always says the most important thing is to spend time with the people we love, but I don't think most of us really put this into practice. Spending 24/7 together in 340-square-foot space for 365 days, Tim and I discovered we were happier than we've ever been. We had such an amazing experience that I turned it into a book called Queen of the Road, which was published by Random House last year.

Real-Life Stories: I quit my job and traveled the world.

Name: Leigh Shulman
Age at flight: 35
What she left behind: A home in Brooklyn and a high-strung New York lifestyle.

My husband Noah and I were tired. We'd lived in Brooklyn for about 10 years and we weren't happy with our daily lives anymore. Noah didn't like his job. I no longer wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom who computer tutored on the side. Our daughter, Lila, was about to start private pre-school, and the pressure and money involved in that process was overwhelming and ridiculous. So we picked up and traveled around the world for almost three years starting in France and moving on to Italy, Belgium, Holland, then to Panama and Costa Rica. Ultimately, we settled down in Salta, Argentina.

In the process I've learned to live more in the moment, enjoy where I am and not plan for things I really can't control. I also feel like we've given our child the world. She speaks two languages. She has seen in real life the animals she used to watch on Dora. She's only five, but she already sees the world as a traveler.

How I did it: We sold everything we owned in New York: apartment, furniture, books, everything, and used the money we made to finance our trip. We also travel cheaply. Check out this article I wrote for more info on how to travel cheaply.

World-Traveler Wisdom: Travel because it is what you want to do. Make sure you are moving toward something, not running away from anything.

Real-Life Stories: I quit my job and traveled the world.

Name: Lisa Lubin
Age at flight: 33
What she left behind: A job as an Emmy-award winning producer for ABC.

I had never really planned on taking a year off before. The trip just kind of revealed itself to me and evolved over time. I had just broken up with my boyfriend of five years, I was bored at my job, and my sweet cat had died. Then I read a book called One Year Off by David Cohen. He and his wife took their three kids around the world for a year. I realized if they could do it, so could I!

What was supposed to be a year of traveling turned into a two and a half years of traveling. I started by following the warm weather-heading down to Central and South America and then flying to Australia and Asia from there. In my time abroad I did a Spanish immersion program and took surfing lessons in Costa Rica, went cruising through the Galapagos islands, and went biking through Vietnam.

How I did it: Before I left I called everyone I knew and asked if they had friends and family around the world who might be able to help me along with the way. I also worked whenever I could, doing things like working at a café in Australia and teaching English in Istanbul.

World-Traveler Wisdom: Just do it! Grab the chance when you can.

Real-Life Stories: I quit my job and traveled the world.

Name: Omar Rosales

Age at flight: 32
What he left behind: A job as a lawyer and the day-to-day grind.

I was tired with the day-to-day grind, not being able to set my own schedule and achieve my goals. I also believed that an opportunity to travel would change my life and appreciation for the world, so I set out on a spiritual journey around the world.

I went to Sedona to find a Cherokee SpiritWalker, Guatemala to study with a Maya Shaman or Daykeeper, then Bhutan to visit a Buddhist Master, and finally India to meet His Holiness, the XIV Dalai Lama. My travels allowed me to complete a novel titled 'Elemental Shaman' and produce a television special about Tibetan Refugees. I traveled alone, but I would always meet other travelers and guides-old and young-along the journey.

How I did it: I would travel, come back home, work part-time or perform temp work, then hit the road again. On the road, I saved a lot of money on meals. I recommend avoiding big restaurants-street vendor food is okay as long as the food is cooked in front of you. Fruits are also safe, as long as you peel them or open them up and eat or chew the pulp.

World-Traveler Wisdom: Humor and smiles are universal. Show kindness to another and you are most likely to receive kindness, in turn.

Real-Life Stories: I quit my job and traveled the world.

Name: Susan Sparks
Age at flight: 34
What she left behind: A job as a trial lawyer

The story started many years ago when I was working as a trial lawyer, moonlighting as a standup comedian. After ten years in the practice, my career track seemed more like a masquerade ball than an expression of my gifts. I knew my heart was being called elsewhere-perhaps even to the ministry.

I traveled for two years doing everything from working for Mother Teresa and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to driving my Jeep Wrangler from NYC to Alaska. Whether it was the laughter of Buddhist monks or the Sacred Clowns of the Navajo, everywhere I went I found examples of how comedy-joy and laughter-was an integral part of the Holy.

When I returned, I entered the seminary and became a pastor. I still perform standup, which makes me the only female standup comedian in the country with a pulpit.

How I did it: I saved my money. While others bought homes and fancy cars, I bought a backpack and left.

World-Traveler Wisdom: We don't necessarily regret what we did in this life; we regret what we didn't do.

Real-Life Stories: I quit my job and traveled the world.

Name: Heather DiPiazza
Age at flight: 27
What she left behind: A boyfriend back home and a job as a graphic designer.

Around my mid-twenties I felt stuck, so the desire for change was the biggest motivation for me to take the leap. I left my job as a graphic designer and set out in search of a wide variety of experiences. I spent a lot of time in Eastern Europe, exploring multiple cities and towns in countries like Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, and Poland, to name a few.

The best part was getting engaged along the way-my boyfriend flew over to meet me for 3 weeks in Italy, and proposed while we were riding through the countryside in Fiesole, Tuscany, just outside of Florence.

How I did it: I knew I wouldn't be able to work while away, so about six months before I left, I started to pick-up extra freelance work, sold things I didn't need online and at consignment shops/used book stores, and got a credit card for back-up (which I ended up using quite a bit!)

World-Traveler Wisdom: I returned home from my journeys with a new sense of direction and confidence. After carrying around all I needed for months, I also realized that I didn't need so much at home.

Real-Life Stories: I quit my job and traveled the world.

Name: Rory Cohen
Age at flight: 30
What she left behind: A job as a life-coach.

I was a cancer survivor, so I knew how short and precious life is and I wanted to live life to the fullest. When my husband finished his residency we decided to take a year to volunteer and see Asia. We worked for a mission hospital on the Burma border of Thailand for five months, then traveled around Thailand, Nepal, and Burma.

Along the way we met an old Chinese poet in a Bamboo hut in the mountains of Thailand and rode an elephant through the jungle while smoking Thai cigars. When I came back from that trip I was hired back into my same company at a higher salary and a more senior position.

How I did it: We volunteered to lower the cost and sold our possessions to finance the trip. We were also able to travel cheaply by living below our means, couch-surfing with locals and "woofing" (working on organic farms in exchange for free accommodations).

World-Traveler Wisdom: The trip is a metaphor for the way I work with people as a coach: when your purpose, thoughts, and emotions are as aligned as possible, take action and trust that the outcome will be exactly in line with what you want.

Real-Life Stories: I quit my job and traveled the world.

Name: Philip Ceccarelli
Age at flight: 28
What he left behind: A job as a footwear designer.

I had wanted to travel the world since high school. After 10 years of thinking about that trip I decided it was time to quit the job and get going. I ended up traveling solo because it was hard to find other friends who were encroaching on 30 who wanted to quit their jobs just as their careers were starting.

I traveled the world in search of opportunities to go surfing and snowboarding. Some of my best memories are snowboarding at a club field in New Zealand and surfing the best beach break in New Zealand with new local friends. I also had an absolutely amazing time in Africa, where I met up with a friend of mine who was working in the Peace Corps at a school for the blind in a rural village in Uganda.

How I did it: I saved $22,000 over 5 years. I tore through that in 6 months. It also helps if you can find a job that you can do from anywhere in the world-for example, I continued working as a freelance snowboard and skateboard designer while I was on the road.

World-Traveler Wisdom: BE FLEXIBLE! Don't expect, or try to make something happen that just isn't going to happen

Real-Life Stories: I quit my job and traveled the world.

Name: Carol Vu
Age at flight: 27
What she left behind: A job as a pharmaceutical sales representative.

I was 27 years old when I made the big decision. I had switched jobs three times since college and hated the job that I was currently at, but instead of just jumping to yet another job, I wanted to take some time to re-focus my priorities.

My husband was fortunate enough to be able to take some time off from work to travel to China and Thailand with me for three amazing weeks. After that, he had to return to work but I kept traveling and headed off to Morocco on my own.

It was such a fantastic experience-I loved encountering different types of food, cultures, and people. Now that I have lived my dream, I feel at peace. The best part was that my trip inspired not one, but two of my family members to follow in my footsteps and quit their jobs to see the world.

How I did it: I used my savings to finance the trip.

World-Traveler Wisdom: Traveling made me feel really fortunate to live in the U.S. We take for granted the daily conveniences of our lives without realizing that it's not like this everywhere else. Coming back from China, I was so grateful for a regular toilet versus the swatter. Coming back from Morocco where women can't show their full faces in some parts, I was grateful for my equal rights as a woman.

Real-Life Stories: I quit my job and traveled the world.

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Kat Katrawitz

Love to travel the world - only trouble is, who's going to pay for it???
We're not all rich enough to be able to do these things. For the majority of people life is just the same old drudgery, day after day. Welcome to my world!

March 15 2011 at 6:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kat Katrawitz's comment

The whole rat race thing is silly,i quit it a long time ago...Now i do things i love, snowboarding, swimming...its not hard, im using to gain can easily do it too and stop this sillyness. These politicians etc are hypocrites

January 30 2012 at 10:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply