By: Jade Doherty, a pro-quitter & digital nomad.
What does freedom look like to you?
Is it living in a van and road tripping across the Balkins? Or is it surfing during your lunch breaks while you work remotely in Bali?
Some might define freedom as an adventurous solo holiday in the mountains with a cabin all to themselves, and others might consider freedom to be calling it quits on a tedious job and taking a sabbatical and living Unsettled for a month somewhere in the world.
And if your version of finding that freedom includes starting with a blank slate in the new year, this one is for you.
Before we go any further, you might be asking “who are you, and why are qualified to tell me how to quit my job and move to Bali?”
Well, I quit my job and moved to Bali.
So there’s that!
I have, in fact, quit a fair share of jobs. I’ve quit shit jobs, I’ve quit great jobs, I’ve quit jobs as a 50% raise (plus benefits) was confirmed and offered to me (it was actually all comedy; “I quit”… “Do you want a promotion?”… “No. Maybe. No!”). I’ve also quit schools to be home-educated and left some of the best football teams in England (one was mid-match!).
So, you could say I know a thing or two about quitting.
Or better said, I know a thing or two about identifying that I’m not happy in a situation, that it’s unlikely to change, and that there’s a better alternative out there.
Now that you know how good I am at quitting things, with no further ado, I’d like to help you do the same. So, here are my simple steps to quit your job, embrace the unknown, and start living the life that you have secretly dreamt about.
STEP ONE: GET CLEAR ON YOUR WHY
It’s super important to know why you’re doing this, and that why should be beyond “it looks cool on Instagram”. You are entering into the unknown, and as such need a strong and true why to anchor you into what you’re doing.
For me, it was feeling like there must be more to life and knowing that whilst I could easily climb the corporate ladder, it wouldn’t make me happy.
I’m guessing I’m not alone in feeling that way.
Maybe you’re burnt out and need to leave for your health and well-being. Maybe you’ve lost yourself in a world of targets and deadlines and want to rediscover who you are. Maybe you’ve gotten too comfortable, verging on stagnant, and need to shake it up. Maybe you’re looking for something more fulfilling.
Whatever your why, make sure it’s a good one that moves you forward (rather than just being in conflict with your current situation which keeps you stuck).
STEP TWO: WHAT KIND OF QUITTING ARE YOU INTO?
Quitting your job means different things to different people.
For some it means taking a year out, and then coming back to their old life more wiser, more worldly, and with some awesome stories.
For others, it means quitting and not coming back. Ever. Branching out into the world of freelancing, working remotely, or starting their own business.
Having a year off to travel is very different to starting a business on the road. Choose your path, or at least have an intention, before you make a move.
STEP THREE: EVERYTHING YOU’RE LEAVING BEHIND WILL STILL BE THERE
I know it can be super scary to quit your job. You have security, a trajectory, and tried and tested path that generally leads to not so disastrous results.
But leaving all that means steps stepping out into the vast unknown, the void, the abyss. An untrodden path with no way back.
The career you left will still be there if this traveling thing isn’t for you. You might have taken a step back, but it’s still going to be there.
I left a job in Graduate Recruitment, and if I wanted to go back, I could. I might not be on the same money as I was offered when I was quitting, but my network is still there, I still have the skills, and I could pick it up again. (In fact, I still get offered jobs via LinkedIn.)
STEP FOUR: COMMIT
If you’re serious about doing this, you have to commit. Or else, it becomes another idea. Another “one day”. Another “I’d love to, but…”
It’s easier to keep things the same than it is to change them, so change requires commitment, focus and some rocket fuel to make it happen.
This is when you want to start working on your exit plan. That might look like saving money, renting your apartment out, moving towards remote or freelance work, or seriously researching about where you want to go.
This stage can take a while. You might be a slow saver (or have limited resources to save). And that’s OK. As long as you’re moving towards your goal, you’re moving in the right direction.
STEP FIVE: DOING THE DEED
The time has come! It’s the day you’re going to quit. You’re a mix of nervous and excited. You walk up to your manager, and tell them you’re outta here.
Good for you! It’s becoming real.
I would recommend, as much as possible, maintain a good relationship with your coworkers, and don’t gloat too much about leaving.
I’ve seen people quit jobs and put down the whole company and concept of jobs in the process, and this just makes your coworkers feel bad, destroys your professional network and burns all your bridges. Go for a “this just isn’t for me” over a “you’re all idiots for staying here”.
STEP SIX: BET ON YOURSELF
As I see it, one of the biggest things that keeps people from leaving a job they don’t like is the tension between security and freedom.
A job provides security (or at least the semblance of it). Quitting it, especially to work for yourself and/or going traveling, is unknown. You haven’t done it before and you’re going to be having a lot of new experiences.
I say, at a certain point you have to bet on yourself.
You have to bet that you’re a good person, that you’re smart, capable, and you want more, so at least give it a go. As discussed, the industry you left will still be there if you need it. But your adventurous spirit (and ability to act on it) might go away sooner than later.
STEP SEVEN: BUILD AN INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY
Now that you’re walking an unconventional path, you’re going to need some people. Some fellow adventurers who not only think there’s another way, but are up for trying it out. Call them your tribe, your peeps, your brothers and sisters, or just your friends.
But where to find them?
In my experience, like-minded people are everywhere, but also nowhere. They might be sleeping in your shared Airbnb, and voila, travel buddy, or you might wander for weeks never meeting that someone who you can really connect with.
I like to look for my peeps in their natural habitat; coworking spaces for my #DigitalNomads and yoga studios for my yogis.
I’ve found that it really helps to have places to go to meet like-minded people, be it a place to work, and place to stretch and breathe, or (shameless plug coming up…) an Unsettled retreat, where you arrive with a ready-made group of like-minded people who have all come to meet people just like you.
STEP EIGHT: EMBRACE THE UNKNOWN
You have to fully and wholeheartedly embrace it. Make friends with it. Cozy up with the unknown, buy it a drink, get on a first names basis with it; because you’re gonna be seeing a lot more of each other.
When you’re forging your own path, everything is unknown. Sure you can find mentors, friends and guides, but you’re going to be doing a lot of the unfamiliar.
You’re going to be exposed to new people, languages, cultures, foods, smells, customs, experiences, work situations, concepts, and life is going to ask things off you that you might not have answers to yet.
STEP NINE: BE RESPECTFUL
If you are traveling, keep in mind that you’re a guest in someone else’s country, and that you ought to respect their ways and customs.
In Bali, for example, they’re big on women not visiting temples when menstruating – to the point that some priests recently even suggested that the volcano erupted due to women climbing the mountain during that time of the month! When visiting Bali as a women, you’ll be asked bluntly if you’re on your period before you’re allowed in a temple.
So if you’re moving to a new country or spending a few solid weeks there, take time to engage in the culture, speak to locals, and always, always smile!
STEP TEN: ENJOY!
This should go without saying, but I want to end by saying: ENJOY YOURSELF!
You’re doing something awesome, you’re doing what most people only talk about, and you’re about to experience and learn so much about yourself.
You have no idea where this journey is going to take you. Who you’ll be hanging out with this time next year, where you’ll be, or even who you’ll be.
Try the foods, speak to the people, wake up early and watch the sunrise. Make “I don’t know” your catchphrase. Let go off your ideas about who you are and be open to discovering something new. Fall in love. Make friends. Bargain in markets. Smile at children. Be so settled in yourself that you create space for your world to be completely unsettled.
Enjoy it. Appreciate it. We live in amazing times where the world is smaller than ever, travel is easier than ever, and it’s no longer a choice between making money or feeling free.
You’re a powerful mix of determined, brave and blessed. So enjoy, and move with joy.