After reading countless of those “How I Quit My Job and Traveled the World” articles…I realized something:
Most of them simply aren’t helpful.
Back when I worked 9–5 as a telemarketer, I wolfed those articles down. That was my ultimate dream — traveling the world just like those bloggers. I had a porcelain globe at my desk, and every day I’d pick it up between sales calls and imagine what life would be like as my own boss.
But…those articles never helped. They were usually clickbait, written by an affluent young person trying to sell me something. I discovered that most of those articles were empty-calorie success stories that didn’t teach you what you really need to know.
Now that I am living that life — traveling the world as a full-time writer/speaker/author with millions of readers — I realized how unhelpful most of those articles really are.
So why am I writing one? What makes this article different?
I’m not here to sell you anything. I’m not making empty promises about timelines, getting rich, or quitting your job. All these things are very hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
But it’s not impossible. I made it, and so can you — if you’re willing to pay the price.
Here’s the real, no B.S. way to quit your job and work for yourself.
Most People Can’t Stick With Hard, Unsexy Work
I didn’t quit my job in some sudden “burst of courage” or something. It wasn’t magical. It wasn’t like the movies. It was a slow, unsexy process involving discipline, focus, and consistency.
In 2016, I was sick of telemarketing. I was sick of the online, for-profit university scene. I wanted to be a writer, and travel the world like all those bloggers had read about.
But I had bills to pay. After 3 years, my blog still had virtually 0 readers. I was making no money from my writing. To quit my salaried, full-time desk job to “chase my dreams” as a writer would be ridiculous and foolhardy.
My wife and I — tired of our manipulative bosses, long commute, and desk job drudgery — made a plan. It would take about 12 months of discipline and focus. It was not going to be easy.
Do you have a plan? Or are all your dreams and wishes just that — a dream, a wish, with no follow-through?
First: we’d need to complete an English as a Second Language (ESL) certificate. We explored every option for traveling — missionary work, working our jobs remotely, work visas, Greenpeace, volunteering, sponsorship programs — our best bet was teaching English.
I was in full-time work and full-time grad school simultaneously — what little free time I had went to the ESL certification. It took 3 months for us to complete it.
Are you willing to do the work it takes to succeed? You can have whatever you want…if you’re willing to do whatever it takes.
Then, another 3 months researching and applying for jobs. Unsexy, boring, discouraging work — most companies only hired single teachers, not a couple like us.
We found some options. Another 3 months of back-and-forth interviewing. Unsexy, difficult, lots of letdowns and disappointments.
Finally, we found something — a couple’s teaching position in a little coastal town in South Korea.
We had gained a lot of weight by then — all the caffeine, junk food, and bad sleeping habits were catching up. Hard, unsexy work. Looking back, it’s funny how many times we heard our friends and colleagues say they wish they could travel the world, too — well, they could! But most people don’t stick with hard, unsexy work.
We did. And after 12 months, we were finally handed out official job offer. We sold our stuff, packed out bags, and flew across the world.
Consistency is the Most Fundamental Virtue For Your Success
The first plateau is never the end of the road — you have to keep going. The journey doesn’t stop there.
When we moved to South Korea, my writing still sucked. But I had a profound realization the first month there — if I didn’t make my writing work there, it’d never work. I’d have to move back to America and find another horrible desk job. It was sink or swim.
That kind of desperation motivates a person. For the first time, I began waking up at 5:00am consistently. We had long, difficult days as teachers — lesson plans and grading homework and navigating the language barrier. But I’d still wake up early, stay up late, and spend most of my lunch breaks at the Starbucks across the street, writing.
I wrote. I wrote consistently. I began publishing an article once a day instead of my usual once per month.
Hard, unsexy work. Consistently.
I worked as a teacher for 12 months as I built my writing. It was difficult. I had no personal life — all I did was my teaching job, write, read books, and play basketball some nights.
After 12 months of hard, unsexy, consistent work…I had built a small, functional writing business. I was making almost as much from my writing as I was my teaching income. It was messy — there were lots of refunds and annoyed readers about my first attempts at online courses.
Consistency, I told myself. Remember — you’re not going back to another horrible desk job. Keep learning. Focus. Read more. Learn more.
But I had “made it.” I remember the first $27 sale I made from my first online course. I remember taking a bike ride along the Taewa River, marveling. It was working. It was possible.
When we moved back to America, I had gotten a little full of myself. A little proud. A little too arrogant.
The bills starting piling in — we weren’t used to paying car insurance or gas or even rent. I made $4,000 dollars my first month back, but it plummeted to around $1,200 the next month. All those “how I quit my job” articles weren’t helping with the anxiety and panic. What if this doesn’t work? Why isn’t this working? It’s supposed to be beaches and margaritas and “viral articles” from now on, right??
I only made about $20,000 that year for myself (which is still a lot more than I had ever made through my work). But it wasn’t enough for my wife, who wasn’t working, and I to live, especially back home in California.
Anyone Who Claims It Doesn’t Take Hard, Unsexy Work is Lying (Or Trying To Sell You Something)
If you want to quit your job and work for yourself, it’s going to take a lot of hard, unsexy work. Anyone who claims otherwise is trying to sell you something.
Things have leveled out since last year for me. This past year, I’ve tripled my income(!). Things are looking up. I’ve learned more, built more relationships, created more. More focus, more discipline.
But it still took more hard, unsexy work. It took lots of long walks around my crowded, loud block in Los Angeles, coming to terms with my unstable income as a self-employed writer.
Anyone who claims it doesn’t take a ton of hard, unsexy work to quit your job and work for yourself is lying — or trying to sell you something.
I’ve been working for myself for about 2 years now — this is my full-time gig. I don’t have a 9–5 job anymore. I work from home, I’m my own boss, and I only answer to my customers, who are amazing incredible human beings. Helping them achieve their goals is one of the best parts of my job.
There’s lots more I can say about quitting your job and working for yourself. But I’ll end with this:
It’s gonna take a lot of hard work — more than you’ll expect to do. It takes planning. It takes discipline, focus, and persistence. It’s not going to be a fun, brightly-colored story that looks good on Instagram.
But if you can last long enough doing the hard, unsexy work, you just might make it. There’s no guarantee, but there’s really no other way.