7 Reasons to Quit Your Job and Travel The World – Part 1

by: JD

by JD on October 20, 2010


“You’re crazy”


These are the typical responses I’ve received when telling my friends, family and acquaintances that I’m going to ride my motorcycle to Chile (that’s right, the country). Not surprisingly, many people just don’t get it. And to be honest with you, I wouldn’t (and didn’t) expect them to.

Though my reasons might not make sense to most people, I still have them. And to me, it’s a perfectly rational decision. I’m excited about this adventure. And even though I know it will probably be exceedingly difficult, the primary reason I’m doing it is that I believe I have more to gain through the experience than I could lose. If you’re curious how that could be, and why you should also consider traveling, read on.

Reason 1: Build Reference Points

Each and every person on planet earth must find a way to make sense of their reality. We seem to have an innate need to understand who we are, why we’re here, and what each experience we have means to us. While this need is generally universal, we all go about that process differently. However, one thing we all share related to this need for psychological structure are our perspectives.

Through some kind of eclectic mix of past experiences, learned behavior, genetics, and who knows what else we tend to filter whatever we experience through what we already know. Author Tony Robbins calls these known variables “Reference Points”.

References allow you to learn skills, remember experiences, answer questions, and make decisions.

For example, a child may obtain references about learning to walk. Those reference points may include the following:

  • Put one foot down in front of the other.
  • Don’t go too fast or you will fall.
  • Carpet hurts less to crash on than tile.
  • Walking is faster than crawling.

These may not be conscious references. But that’s generally how we learn. People who can acquire references more quickly, and retain them more readily, generally learn faster than those who do so more slowly.

They can also make better decisions because they have a better understanding of the world, themselves, and other people (via more reference points). This is exemplified in most employer’s preference for workers with experience (lot’s of references) over those new to a particular industry (not enough references). More references result in a faster learning curve and less training. These people are already more accurate at their jobs because they’ve already spent the time required to make mistakes and learn from them.

I’ve never been to another part of the world, I’ve never been sky diving, I’ve never been to Europe, I’ve never done a beer bong, I’ve never smoked pot, I’ve never been married. I have no references for these experiences.

So, I can’t possibly make any sort of accurate, or reasonable assumptions, predictions or conclusions about what it might be like to do those things. Secondly, not having the references those experiences would yield means I can’t use that knowledge to make decisions.

As far as I’m concerned, that alone is reason enough to experience what it’s like to ride my motorcycle through multiple countries. For the last 25 years of my life, I’ve spent every single night (aside from my current truck camping experiences) with a roof over my head and a warm, comfortable bed. There are plenty of people in this world who would be utterly thrilled to say that was true for them. I take it entirely for granted. My bed is always there, so I sleep in it.

I have no idea what references I will gain by becoming nomadic and traveling, but it doesn’t actually matter. The fact that I will gain any at all means I will have a more accurate map of what it means to be alive.

Reason 2: Avoid Risk Aversion

Comfort is the worst kind of slavery because you’re always afraid that something or someone will take it away. But if you can not just anticipate but practice misfortune, then chance loses its ability to disrupt your life…

Emotions like anxiety and fear have their roots in uncertainty and rarely in experience. Anyone who has made a big bet on themselves knows how much energy both states can consume. The solution is to do something about that ignorance. Make yourself familiar with the things, the worst-case scenarios, that you’re afraid of… Practice what you fear, whether a simulation in your mind or in real-life.”

Tim Ferriss

Most people are terrified to take any sort of significant risks because of what they fear they might lose. But if you’re particularly risk averse you’ve misunderstood two things.

1. You’re going to lose everything in death anyway.

2. Taking risks often means great reward, not loss. At a minimum, you’ll learn something.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” Helen Keller

A year and a half ago I was afraid to quit my job and pursue a career in Personal Training. I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t know how I was going to make the transition, and I didn’t have another job or income source lined up.

But I believed that the rewards resulting from making the transition quickly, by burning the bridges behind me (my salaried job), would be of greater benefit than the security of working 9-5, with little time to pursue my new passion. So, I took a risk and quit.

As it turned out, I went in a small amount of debt, my bank account dropped down to two dollars at one point, and I paid a few bills late. But what I got in return was a career I’m deeply passionate about, I now feel like I make a significant contribution through my work, I’m in the best shape of my life, and I love what I do.

But, if I had let my fear of earning less money make the decision for me, I never would have gotten here. The risks were well worth the reward.

I know this journey might be dangerous. Central and South America aren’t entirely safe places. But that’s kinda the point. I’m not trying to take a rich boy’s vacation, I’m trying to learn something, and if something untoward happens, then that will certainly provide me with an opportunity for personal growth. I seek that, I seek it all the time. It’s what I live for.

I have no idea what I will gain from this experience, to suggest I do know would be useless speculation. I’m just going to jump in, do it, and see what lessons I can draw.

To be honest with you, I’m afraid. I have no idea what will happen. But if you never make any choices that scare you, then you live your life in a state of fear. You make decisions based on what you’re afraid of, not based on what you love, or what you want to experience.

As far as I’m concerned that’s simply not an option. So, the fact that I’m a little scared to do this is in and of itself a compelling enough reason to try it out. Perhaps my fears will be totally unwarranted? Perhaps they will be substantiated? Either way, those are reference points I want to have.

Continue on and read part 2 of “7 Reasons to Travel The World”.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel October 10, 2011 at 9:53 pm

You do realize of course, that I’m jealous? :) I still want to quit my job and join the Peace Corps…

JD October 11, 2011 at 10:15 am

Dahh… you can do it! Maybe you’ll have to alter the plan slightly or change mediums, but you can make it happen. :-) Thanks for the comment, Rachel.

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