Psssst — hey, you. Yeah, you. The one discreetly clicking on this article at work while your boss sits inches away. We know your secret: You’re itching to drop everything and book a one-way ticket across the world.
We’re not judging. In fact, we support you. At Travel + Leisure, we talk to people all the time who ditched the 9-to-5 grind in favor of full-time globetrotting to get their tips and tricks for making it work.
From food and adventure-loving couples who cut ties with their home base after the wedding to record-breaking solo travelers and parents who believe in “world-schooling” their kids, we’ve rounded up some of the best advice we’ve received so you might finally be inspired to make your dream a reality.
Use cash back rewards and loyalty programs.
Dean and Julie Couchey quit their jobs after saying their vows and have traveled to 20 countries together before their first wedding anniversary.
They do have a blog – “Two Fat Americans” – but they don’t yet sell advertising on it or get paid for sponsored posts on Instagram. Instead, they lean on loyalty programs, Ebates, and credit cards that give cash back as you spend.
By using Hotels.com while traveling, they earn one night free after every 10 nights. They also make these bookings through Ebates (Hotels.com is a participant), earning 3 to 6 percent cash back on every transaction. They pay for this with their Citi Double Cash card, which gets them an additional 2 percent cash back.
Save your vacation days.
If you have a job that pays out for unused vacation days, sticking around long enough to accrue a bunch before you give notice could be well worth it. Dean and Julie Couchey did just that to pad their savings.
“We were the typical Americans that had saved many many weeks of vacation and luckily we were able to get it paid out,” they told T+L.
Cut back before you go.
At 27 years old, Cassie De Pecol became the fastest person to visit every country in the world earlier this year. The adventurer visited almost 200 countries in 18 months and 10 days.
Lots of planning – and even more saving – went into making it happen: “I pretty much had to give up my social life, no going out,” she said. She spent lots of time babysitting and saved $10,000 before she left.
(Dean and Julie Couchey also said they gave up Starbucks and eating out to save up extra funds before hitting the road.)
De Pecol ran out of money while trying to break the record, but she got creative when it came to financially supporting the rest of her travels, marketing herself and pitching companies through LinkedIn and cold e-mails, and partnering with organizations to give talks about her journey.
Stay with locals.
As Melissa Roy’s 30th birthday approached, the avid traveler set a new goal for herself: get to 100 countries by the end of her 20s.
“I was having a midlife crisis about turning 30, and I’m like, ‘I haven’t gotten married, I haven’t had kids, I need to do something really cool before I turn 30 — what should I do?’” she told INSIDER.
Roy accomplished her goal, ringing in her 30th in Antarctica — her 100th country and seventh continent — using her own money. And her favorite way to save was Couchsurfing.
The online network connects millions of people in over 230 countries around the world with hosts who are willing to have them stay in their homes for free. In addition to saving money, Roy valued the service for allowing her to see her destinations through locals’ eyes.
“Engaging with locals for three days is a fuller experience than staying for two weeks,” she said.
Use Instagram to your advantage.
We’ll be the first to admit gorgeous travel bloggers Jack Morris, 26, and Lauren Bullen, 24, who met in Fiji and have been involved in a jet-setting romance ever since, are tough to emulate.
But Morris, who started out as a broke backpacker and now makes up to $9,000 for one sponsored Instagram post, was kind enough to give the rest of us some tips on how he makes his feed so desirable.
On his blog, Do You Travel, he revealed he takes his aesthetic very seriously, from getting up at dawn to shoot photos in popular places before the crowds, to traveling with a tripod and timer for capturing the perfect couple shots his 2.3 million Instagram followers now know him for.
Morris said he uses Lightroom, not Instagram filters, to edit his photos. “I also look at the grid and try to plan the next image to make sure it works well with the rest of my recent feed,” he added.
He also uses Instagram (along with Pinterest and word of mouth) to find the idyllic destinations he visits and photographs.
T+L’s Erika Owen met Clement Kovalenko, 22, and Julie Elsenberger, 23, in a hot tub in Norway. And as she put it: “While there were plenty of differences between our trips — I was on a family trip with my brother and these were two buddies off on an adventure — there was one thing that stuck out: We were paying for a room that night — and they weren’t.”
The friends had been traveling the world and receiving hotel stays, meals, plane tickets, and more for free, simply by asking. They are on a mission to prove kind strangers do exist, and when they share their project, they are often welcomed with open arms.
Of course, there are trade-offs: Currently, they’re working for their keep at a family’s home in Sweden. “We helped renovate a house and we get free food and a bed in exchange,” they told T+L.
And when they’re not getting free meals at popular restaurants, they pick through garbage bins outside of grocery stores — though they say they’re able to find plenty of food that still has a shelf life.
Make it a learning experience.
As daunting as making the decision to change your life and travel can be when you’re on your own, there’s so much more to consider when kids are involved.
Sarah Blaine, an attorney and mom who also happens to be a former high school teacher, is taking her two daughters out of school to travel the world. To ensure her second- and seventh-graders get a proper education on the go, she is planning the family’s itinerary based on their home state’s curriculum.
“I wanted us to have the opportunity to learn about the world from experience rather than books,” Blaine told the Washington Post, though she said she will be in contact with the girls’ teachers back home to check that they haven’t missed any important lessons for the year.
Take your home on the road.
Instead of keeping their office jobs and missing out on watching their baby grow, Terry and Jennifer Constant decided to sell their house, pack up their son, and buy a motorhome.
Since then, the family has journeyed through Spain and set their sights on Portugal, more of Europe, and Africa, all while starting a blog, Travel As They Grow, and saving the fees they were once paying a nursery to watch little Ethan.
“I had to pay for someone else to look after my son, while I continued to stare out of the window at work wishing the day away until I could pick up my little boy, in order to basically just put him to bed on a daily basis,” Jennifer told T+L.
To other traveling parents, the Constants recommend planning only one major activity or city visit per day, and driving no longer than two hours at a time. They use Search For Sites to find free overnight campsites, and volunteer as they travel so Ethan can interact with other children.
Keep your eye on the prize.
Johnny Ward, now 33, has been to all 197 countries in a span of 10 years. Oh, and did we mention he made $1 million while doing it?
Ward, who had to volunteer himself for medical research to afford a plane ticket in the first place, says he is proof anyone can accomplish what he did.
Once he was able to purchase a flight to Thailand, he started spending long nights blogging. Now, he owns a media brand with 100 different sites and makes a living off advertising revenue.
Ward gives tips on how to start a successful travel blog in 2017 on his website, One Step 4 Ward. He warns not to pigeon-hole yourself: “Choose something you can mold into something else should you wanna do that later down the road,” and he reminds young bloggers how important it is to be professional: “…anything referencing drugs, getting drunk, having sex might seem cool now, but when Nikon, or the Four Seasons refuse to work with you 2 years later because of your branding, you will wish you choose something more professional.”
And most of all, the traveling entrepreneur advises wannabe travelers to never give up.
“I’ve had to be diligent enough to take out my laptop and work in the evenings when I was in Mongolia, or Kazakhstan, or Ethiopia,” Ward told The Telegraph. “Those were the tough times, putting the work in while I was actively traveling, not knowing if it would pay off or not.”
Let yourself let go.
Michelle Phan has 9 million YouTube subscribers, more than 2 million Instagram followers, and two cosmetics businesses. But one day, she finally let herself unplug.
“I started getting so much anxiety whenever I heard the little ‘ding’ message on my phone,” Phan told Refinery29. “That was when I realized, I don’t think this is healthy.”
And so, Phan bought a one-way ticket to Switzerland and went totally off the grid. “I even had contracts where my team still needed me,” she said. “But I had to go.”
She avoided Wi-Fi and spent uninterrupted time in nature, truly connecting with herself. (Meanwhile, some of her fans thought she had actually died.) But now she’s back, refreshed, and wouldn’t change her decision for the world – and she’s hoping some of her followers who need breaks of their own might take her lead.