3 Reasons I Knew It Was Time To Leave My Job To Travel

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Steph Castelein walking in the Badlands of South Dakota during a roadtrip.

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In 2016 I left my job to travel the world.

To take off and be free.

To travel into the unknown and see what would happen.

I know it seems impossible. And crazy. And a bit like ‘oh I wish I could do that but I never could’.

I felt the same way too. Sure, I wanted to travel but I actually liked my job. And my life. And my community, and friends, and routines. I was learning and growing and starting to enjoy life post college, which is a big feat. Let’s be real, life after college is shockingly different, ya know what I’m saying?

How was I going to make money? What was I going to do? Where was I going to go? What would I tell people? I didn’t have a plan, didn’t know a foreign language, I’d never traveled alone, and I sure as heck had never done anything like this before. It seemed wild and crazy and fun and spontaneous and just like something I needed.

So I knew I needed to travel, now I just had to leave my job. My great, insurance included, benefits provided, salaried, really fulfilling job. Yikes.

For real, that’s scary stuff. To enjoy and learn and build and invest and support and befriend and love what you do and then say ‘see ya’? Oofta.

It’s definitely easier said than done.

But I knew it was something I had to do. How? Here are 3 reasons…

1) I KNEW IT WASN’T THE END ALL

Steph Castelein jumping with all her travel gear while backpacking in Europe.
Me jumping for joy with all the gear I brought for backpacking 3 months solo.

What I’m saying is I could always come back. Funny enough this was maybe the biggest reason I was finally able to leave, knowing that I could come back.

I was scared. The unknown is thrilling yes, but honestly also scary. What happened if I failed or didn’t like it or it wasn’t at all what I thought it would be? Well, I could come back saying I gave it my best, and yes, that would be enough.

It took me a while to realize this though. I spent months asking anyone around me what they thought. What they would do. HOW IN THE HECK ANYONE MAKES A DECISION IN LIFE!? My boss, for months, kept saying “it’s not the end all”. She meant I could always come back. Sure, yes, ok I get it I can come back but that’s not the point, I want to go. I didn’t want to talk about coming back!

It took talking with a friend one night to understand. We were out for a drink after playing softball. I had made friends (remember, a big feat with the post college life!) and every Wednesday played on a women’s league where we would typically go out after. I loved it. Every part of it. The sunshine, the high fives, the gals, the beer. It filled me up. (Being with people filled me up….ok and the beer too.) Anyway, I was telling her I would miss days like these with people and activities I had been searching for and finally had found. She told me, “Steph, in 10 years we’ll still be here. You go and when you come back in 10 years I guarantee we’ll be playing women’s league softball on Wednesday nights and coming downtown after. It’ll be like you never left. You can always come back. But you have to go and see what happens knowing that if you don’t, you could be missing something really big. Go. We’ll be here cheering you on from afar and we’ll welcome you back anytime.”

Boom. The clouds cleared and it all made sense. I went to my boss the next day and said “I get it. I can always come back. Me leaving isn’t the end all, it’s just the beginning.”

Knowing I could come back gave me the confidence to leave.

2) IT’S ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT

Visiting a fjord in Tromsø, Norway.
The fjords in Tromsø, Norway. My mind was blown. I’d only dreamed of seeing places like this.

Two months before I was getting ready to leave, traveling was all I could think about. I would dream about it, daydream about it, think about it, talk about it, research it, listen to podcasts on it, read blog after blog after blog about it.

I knew I had to travel, but what would that look like?

I knew I didn’t want a break. I didn’t want a hiatus. I didn’t want a sabbatical. I didn’t even want to have ‘plans’ because I knew it would suddenly turn into a countdown instead of the life I was living.

No, I wanted to dive all in.

I wanted to see new things. Try new foods. Meet new people. Hear new languages. I wanted to force myself to be alone, I’d never been alone before and it scared the heck out of me. I wanted to see what would happen when I got lost. I wanted to discover who I was. And I knew I wanted this change to be my life, not a trip. Not an experience or a period of time or short lived. I wanted it to be a part of my story, who I am, and the person I wanted to be.

And so, I knew I had to leave my job. I had to trust and know and believe and pray a whole lot that it was all going to work out. That I would figure it out as I went and that if I really wanted to do this thing, I had to do this thing and I knew what that meant.

3) SOMETHING HAD TO CHANGE

Steph Castelein jumping at the top of Monserrat near Barcelona.
Climbing to the top of Montserrat near Barcelona in Spain.

I liked my life. I liked where I was, liked my job, liked my community, and friends and how involved I was getting and I had a routine, and it was really, really great. But there’s this quote “If you don’t change where you’re going, you’ll end up where you’re heading”. And I was heading into greatness, but also safeness. So, so safe.

Friends, I don’t say this to say staying is a safe life and that’s bad. Please know it can be awesome and maybe it’s just what you need. My decision to leave my job and travel were 3 years in the making and I knew that I needed adventure and different and the unknown. I needed change. I needed to go somewhere else.

I kept thinking about my life in a year and it looked very similar to my life at that time. Again not bad, it’s just not what I was looking for. I also knew that it would only get harder to change as time went on. I’d keep moving up in my job, meet more people, get even more involved, keep settling in. It was the right time to make a change.

That change started by booking a one-way ticket and then, leaving my job. If it seems extreme, it’s because it was. Buying a one-way ticket and leaving your job doesn’t happen every day. But, change doesn’t come without change and I was ready for it.

I’ll tell you this friends because I’ve been through it. You can do it. You can leave your job to travel. I promise.

Yes it’s crazy, yes it’s unknown, yes it’s ridiculous and scary and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but you can do it. There are steps that have to be taken: finances, a ‘mini’ plan, your motivation behind it, where you’re going, etc. Also, this is directed at people who are on the fence or have been thinking about leaving their job to travel. I know it’s not easy, but it’s oh so worth it if you can figure out a way to do it.

So, if it’s finally time to make a change and traveling is all you can think about, then you must go. Leave your job and go, because you can always come back to the life you currently live.

Happy travels,

Steph

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