Budget Travel

Quitting My Job to Travel the World at 23

Quitting My Job to Travel the World
I’ve gone from Europe to Southeast Asia in the last year and a half… and I’m not stopping now!

Here is the story of how I decided that quitting my job to travel the world at 23 years old was a better financial choice than staying in California.

It’s been a year and a half since I left California and I was lucky enough to travel to 10+ countries in 2019. Now I’m living the life of my dreams in Cambodia while working on building my businesses!

If you want to watch me take this blog from $0 to $1k and stay up to date on my travels, be sure to subscribe.

Without further ado, let’s begin.

The Day I Quit: Thursday, December 6th, 2018

On paper, everything was great. I had a cool job working as a sales representative at a start-up in San Francisco. I had all the fancy perks: catered lunch, dogs in the office, unlimited paid time off (PTO). The works.

Yet I found myself wondering one big question: “Is this it?”

Throughout college, I was so excited to start working a big girl job. I have an obsession with personal finance and am more the type to get excited about a 401k match than whatever concert is in town this weekend. 

So the idea of paying down student loans, saving for my future, and progressing in my career was everything that I had ever wanted. Right?

The original plan was great: work for 10+ years and then take a sabbatical to travel the world.

But there was one thing that I didn’t realize when I graduated from college. Your career is only made up in part by what you do. The harsh fact is that a lot of your success, or lack thereof, can come down to things out of your control.

Things like: where you live, what you look like, office politics, office seniority, the company’s needs, “typical” career progression, race in the workplace, gender, … the list goes on and on. Even now we are seeing the impact of things out of our control as the world grapples with unexpected layoffs due to COVID-19.

So after two years as a Sales Development Representative, I felt stagnant in both my personal and professional life. I wanted to have control over my future and what I did every day.

Month after month passed and my feelings of stagnation increased… the original plan went from 10+ years of work, then travel…. to 7+ years of work, then travel… That quickly turned into 3+years of work then travel.

Until one random Thursday, I gave my notice.

Quitting Life as I Know It

After my last day, I went home,  jumped for joy, and finally felt at peace.

Kidding! I went home and I cried for almost 3-days straight. I didn’t plan on quitting that Thursday and, according to my plan, I needed to have a job for at least a few more years.

And since I quit so suddenly, just a few weeks before Christmas in 2019, how was I going to get job interviews much less find a company I was passionate about with the job title I wanted?

More importantly, I’d been investing so much of my money in my retirement accounts that I only had $2,000 in my checking account. Which was much more than the $300 I normally kept, but certainly not enough to cover my usual expenses in the Bay Area.

The rent for my sad, closet-sized apartment alone was $750! If I didn’t get a job quickly, I’d be out on the streets by the beginning of the New Year. 

Somewhere between the crying and eating a family-sized bag of Cheddar and Sour Cream Lay’s, I still found the time to look at flights and dream of travel. I remember thinking, “What is the cheapest flight I can find that gets me as far from here as possible? I bet it would be cheaper to live abroad”.

The answer to my question was a $300 flight from San Francisco to Barcelona, paid in full by my credit card points, that was leaving in one month.

I booked it.

where to stay in barcelona flight ticket
Here is a screenshot of the cost of my ticket from San Francisco to Barcelona! It was just under $300… and then I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve Sign Up Bonus to pay for it.

If you are interested in learning more about how I travel hack and score free flights, be sure to subscribe!

The Financials

A flight to Barcelona and only $2,000 in the bank, what could go wrong? 

Instead of being homeless in the Bay Area by January (2019), my money would last me much longer in a cheaper city like Barcelona and I could be homeless in a foreign country by March!

What can I say, I’m an excellent planner.

Now that my flights were booked, it was time to increase the money I had coming in as much as possible. Luckily, I already knew I had more coming my way from my job’s final paycheck (2 weeks pay) and my sales commissions. I had a nice enough Quarter Four that beefed up my final paycheck to a nice lump sum of $6,000+.

For reference, my monthly expenses in Berkeley, California totaled around $3,500 for rent, food, fun, commuting, my student loans, etc. By traveling to Barcelona during the offseason, I estimated my expenses would only cost me around $1,500 a month. (P.s. it actually came out to around $1,200 a month!)

When I moved into my apartment, I had already paid my first and last month’s rent plus a $750 security deposit. This meant that for December of 2018, my rent was already covered and I could expect a windfall at some point over the next few months of some/all of my deposit.

Another windfall I was looking forward to was tax season. Long story short, when you have a variable income thanks to things like commission and bonuses, you tend to have more money than necessary withheld for taxes.

Especially when you are the kind of person that knows to lower their adjusted gross income (AGI) by shoveling money into your traditional IRA and 401k. I expected a tax refund of $4,000 at some point in 2019.

I also sold off every item I could by telling every person I spoke to that I was leaving and, “do you want to buy a refrigerator?”. I wish I was joking, but I actually mentioned it to every person I spoke to be they a stranger or a friend. 

I posted stuff on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, my Instagram story, and took my clothing to consignment shops. I managed to squeeze an additional $200 from liquidating my apartment.

The final thing that I did, which I am certainly not endorsing, was open up a 0% APR credit card. Since I didn’t know when I would be working again, it seemed smart to be able to put some money on a card interest-free. Especially when that credit card would also double as some trip insurance with perks such as a $200 cash sign up bonus and luggage protection. 

The estimate of the money I had by my flight on January 12th:

I would like to take a moment of gratitude to acknowledge I was in a financial position that many people could only dream of. While it is true that I worked very hard to get to where I was, much of my ability to take this trip was thanks to fantastic timing.

  • $2k in cash savings
  • $200 from the apartment liquidation
  • $6k job payout (final pay plus sales commission)
  • $750 (pending security deposit-  expected in February 2019)
  • $4k (tax refund- expected in April 2019)

In addition to these funds, I also have quite a bit stocked (pun intended) away in retirement accounts that could act as an additional buffer in an extreme emergency.

You know, in case something crazy happened like a global pandemic (surprise, surprise).

Leaving San Francisco

At the airport, there was another girl who also was at the beginning of her backpacking trip. There was something comforting about seeing another girl doing the exact same thing as me that made me feel less alone.

This is something I would come to feel familiar with because I am here to tell you that there are plenty of girls who travel solo. At this point, I have met at least 50 of them!

There isn’t much to say about the flight except it was long and I managed to sleep through a good amount of it. Of course, I felt a little nervous to be going, but I’m a firm believer in trying not to panic until you have an obvious reason to panic.

Luckily, that reason never manifested.

This is the end of PT 1 of Quitting My Job to Travel the World

In the next post, I will cover what it was like living in Barcelona for 3 weeks, how I ended up taking a 15 Euro flight to the island of Malta, and I will reveal my 3rd destination!

If you are interested in hearing more stories about being a solo female of color traveler, be sure to subscribe!

Kathryn Rucker is a sales consultant and content writer. With 7+ years of sales experience, she is passionate about helping businesses and individuals grow their sales pipelines by improving their online presence.

She has been traveling full-time since 2018 thanks to the location and financial independence she has gained from her business, Kat Rucker Consulting Group. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

Kathryn Rucker is a sales consultant and content writer. With 7+ years of sales experience, she is passionate about helping businesses and individuals grow their sales pipelines by improving their online presence.

She has been traveling full-time since 2018 thanks to the location and financial independence she has gained from her business, Kat Rucker Consulting Group. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

Disclosures and Disclaimers: The above references an opinion and is for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be investment or insurance advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for your financial planning. Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are ads/affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission (thanks!). Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

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21 thoughts on “Quitting My Job to Travel the World at 23

  1. Great post! I have been waiting for this post to come out. Now you have me on the edge of my reading seat lol. It is pretty amazing how incredibly strong you had to be to take a leap of faith like this. I wish I was so bold.

    1. Thanks for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed it! At the time, it didn’t feel that strong but I find in retrospect I always look back and think “… I did WHAT?!?!”. What can I say? I like to jump into the unknown!

  2. Wow. Good for you! It takes courage to walk away from a situation you are not happy with. So many people chase the salary and traditional path and end up miserable. I can’t wait to read more about your adventures.

  3. Awesome post, I love your writing style in this one and look forward to hearing what happened in Barcelona!

    It’s also really awesome that your points paid for your flight, that is much harder to achieve here in the UK but definitely helps. I sell some Pilates socks on Ebay and so far, they have paid for my blog for 2 years and for my new noise cancelling headphones. It’s lovely not to have to use my regular income to pay for these extras.

    1. Thanks, Kat! I agree, the credit card point system in the US is crazy!

      Also, I love how creative you are with your income streams! It certainly is great to have hobbies/ fun expenses covered by side hustles and investments.

  4. This is such an inspiring post Kat! While I don’t think that travelling the world is right for me *now* I’ll definitely be bookmarking these posts for future reference! I can’t wait to hear more about your trip

  5. I wish I had thought of this when I was younger and had less responsibilities. Now I will have to wait until I am older and have less responsibilities.

  6. Hey!
    Awesome article! I love the comment ‘im the type to get excited about a 401K match’!
    You are incredibly brave to quit you job and go travelling on such short notice. It’s something iv always dreamed of doing but honestly never had the guts to do it.
    Good luck with all your future plans, I will be eagerly following along!

  7. What a wonderful, wild adventure! I don’t know if it’s a risk is be brave enough to take, but I’m glad that it seems to have worked out really well for you so far. I’m interested to see what happened next!

    1. Thank you! I’m excited to see what happens next too, it is an ongoing whirlwind! I should have part 2 of the story out towards the end of July/early August, thanks for stopping by!

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