For millennials, quitting their job to travel the world has become sort of a trend. We have heard of travellers giving up their careers so they can travel. They give up their comfortable life to backpack in some ass place to get that tattoo they’ve been wanting to have, to eat that delicious Pad Thai in the street of Bangkok or to climb that remote mountain in the middle of the Andes.
However, most of these people who quit their jobs are the “lucky ones”. The privileged of the flock. The people who were born in first world countries. And I’m not saying this in a condescending tone. And I’m also not disregarding the hard work of these people. I am aware that most travellers work hard in order to follow what they want and do what they want. I know because I’m one of those privileged people who can afford to travel but at the same time work hard in order to achieve that.
And speaking of privilege, unfortunately most Filipinos can’t just quit their job to travel the world. And I’m not saying this because I don’t believe in “if there’s a will, there’s a way” motivational speeches. Trust me I do. But if you will compare Filipino travellers to Western travellers, there’s more to it than “you just have to work harder and know your priorities”. There are lots of reasons why we can’t just quit our job to travel. I am not saying it is impossible. But it is a hard and a tough decision. And here are some doses of reality.
- Visa Restriction
Being a Philippine passport holder, we know a lot about visa struggles. Unfortunately, we can only enter 67 countries visa free. And most of them are too far away for us to even afford it. Without a job in the Philippines, it will be hard for us to get a visa. It is doable, yes. But it will be harder to prove that we’re going to go back home after our visa limitation. And even if we don’t need to apply for visa, we will be questioned thoroughly by our own immigration officers and will be accused of planning to “TNT” (Tago ng Tago- which refers to Filipinos hiding because of overstaying in one country to work).
2. Breadwinner of the family
Most of us are breadwinners or helping the family with bills and daily expenses. We have a very family oriented tradition. It is our duty to help our family, especially the parents once we get our own work. So if you quit your job, that means it will affect your family as well. And it’s not the easiest decision. I know a lot about this because I am the breadwinner of my family. Although I quit my senior management job to pursue the life of travel after years of contemplating, it was by far one of the hardest decisions I had to make. I just got too lucky I was offered a location independent job even before I could finish my 30-days notice from my previous company (which is another story). And this is one of the biggest reasons why we can’t just hop on the plane to attend Moon Party or do that 3-month backpacking in Europe. No one could enjoy that expensive margarita or that selfie in Eiffel tower while your family is struggling at home.
3. No support from the government
Once we quit our job, we basically on our own. We can’t rely on government to feed us. There are programs such as 4Ps to help alleviate extreme poverty in some places but it’s only applicable to the poorest of the poor. This does not apply to someone who quit their job to travel. Unlike some of my friends from Europe who get a decent amount of money from their government funded unemployment welfare, this makes things easier for them to quit their job as they have a back up (or sometimes their able parents can still help them). I surely know a couple of people who applied for welfare and then used the money to travel and party in Thailand. So knowing that you won’t have anyone or something to back you up, it is not an easy to decision to make.
4. Most Filipinos don’t have credit cards
For cashless society such as USA, having a credit card is a necessity. Americans use credit cards to pay for everything. In fact, a lot of my American friends rarely bring cash. So why a credit card matters you say? It is a good back up to borrow money from when you’re unemployed. Or even borrow money to pay for your travels. And you can pay them later. A shield from the rainy days as they say. A lot of news popping up lately show millennials quitting their job or travelling the world by racking up credit card debts. For Filipinos, getting a credit card from the banks are as hard as getting visas and for the most part, our credit limit here is so low compare to other countries. In fact, only around 7% of the population in the country have credit cards as of 2015. So if we quit our job to travel and run out of savings, we are most likely to rely on ourselves.
5. Weak local currency and meager salary
As much as we want to travel the world, especially if you’re quitting your job, one of the facts that we always have to face is the low value of our local currency compare to other countries. So even if you have “enough” savings to quit your job, this doesn’t guarantee you to have enough to last on your trip. There are lots of ways to save money when travelling, yes. But also a lot of losses due to currency conversion. Case in point, my one night in a hostel in New York City is already equivalent of one week stay in Bangkok. One dinner with a friend in San Francisco cost us 2-week budget in food in Manila. This is why Western travellers are more likely to get more value on their money compare to us. Which leads to another problem – the meager salary. It’s true that all countries are suffering from low pay and a lot live in pay check to pay check way. But if someone from first world country can save $300 from their low -income salary every month, that’s already equivalent of a decent paying job in the Philippines. Which almost leaves nothing for savings, much less for travel.
I am not trying discourage anyone to quit their job to travel the world. What I’m trying to point out is it’s not easy. So before telling everyone that they can do it (and judge them for not being brave enough), let’s also try to see things from their perspective. And this is from someone who took the courage to leave a great job to pursue the life of adventure.