How To Quit Your Job, Travel the World, And Not Go Broke

Time To Read 3 MIN READ

Have you ever had a quarter-life crisis? Olivia, a 28-year-old former marketing executive for a Portland, Ore. sporting goods e-commerce company did. She quit her job in Feb. of 2008, two months after earning her MBA from Portland State, and set off to travel the world. Four continents and one year later, she still has nine months of savings in the bank.


“I've always been a saver,” says Olivia, who has chronicled her adventures and her search for a new job at her blog, Powered By Tofu. “I was actually considering buying the condo I was renting, but I didn't want to get stuck.”

She didn't want to give up her financial freedom. And why not? Olivia is far more fortunate than her peers. Five million 25-34 year-olds still live at home, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Unemployment among those in their early 20s is now 14%, well above the national average of 8.5%, CNN reports.

Olivia, by contrast, had been working since she graduated college. First, in graphic design. Then, in marketing. All the while, she saved relentlessly. Every bonus and much of every raise went in the bank. When her MBA-induced quarter-life crisis hit, Olivia was financially prepared.

And she still is, thanks in part to growing up in what she calls a “lower socio-economic environment.” Her dad made a decent living as a logger and laborer but money was still hard to come by. “I wanted more than we had,” Olivia says. “If I wanted to change my circumstances, I knew I would have to learn and save.”

Four savings tips for the would-be world traveler

Developing those money management habits would lead to a round-the-world adventure stretching across Eastern Europe and into the furthest reaches of the South Pacific. But now she has to stretch her savings even further, needing it to survive what could be a months-long job hunt in one of the worst economies in U.S. history. She was able to make the most of her situation with smart personal money management. Tips are easy to come by, but employing self control is just as important as knowledge.

How is she managing? Here are Olivia's four strategies for frugal living.

1. Get help. Olivia is renting a room in her sister's house, on the cheap. This is very, very smart. Of all the twentysomethings who responded to my call for sources for this story, many said that taking on too much house, too soon was a massive financial mistake.

2. Be happy with what you have. “I'm not buying new clothes without a coupon,” Olivia says. This, too, is a good policy that's best supplemented by cash-back sites such as FatWallet.

3. Take advantage of free stuff. Olivia isn't attending concerts or eating out as much as her less frugal friends, and that's fine. She hikes, she eats at cheap restaurants, and her dollars go farther than they would otherwise.

4. Be a do-it-yourselfer. “I love to cook,” Olivia says, and it helps her to save money. She also gardens for veggies and for the fun of it.

In the end, Olivia can't point to one thing that helped her save for a round-the-world getaway. She didn't plan it. “Oh wow, I have a lot of money here,” Olivia says she thought to herself after her Quarter-Century-Clock had struck midnight, almost as if seeing her savings account for the very first time.

Savings had become second nature, an automatic process that would later yield benefits. “It's not really one thing [you do to save], it's how you approach your life.”