Quitting their jobs to travel the world was a no-brainer for Julie and Dean Couchey, whose seven-month adventure in 2017 took them to 44 countries in travels throughout Europe, South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia, as well as to New Zealand and Australia,.

“Travel has always been something we enjoyed doing together, we didn’t own a home yet or have children, and we knew we wanted to move back to the East Coast,” recalled Julie, 30, who was newly married and living in Colorado at the time.

The Coucheys are among a growing group of folks who happily quit their jobs to see the world. A 2019 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that 49% of millennials, if given the choice, would quit their current jobs in the next two years. While their reasons for quitting varied, “traveling and seeing the world topped the list of millennial aspirations at 57%, whereas having children, buying homes, and other traditional signals of adulthood ‘success markers’ lag behind,” said Steve Dutton, media relations leader for Deloitte Global.

The Coucheys designed their trip around an endless summer, visiting each country during its summer season. They planned to start in South America in January and celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary in Paris in July. “We mostly went by the seat of our pants,” said Dean, 37. “When we got to Australia, we weren’t sure if we were going to stay there for three weeks or three months. It was very go-with-the-flow.”

The couple stayed mostly in hotels, trying to stick to a $75 per night budget. By using hotels.com, they got a free night after every 10 stays which gave them about 15 free nights, helpful “especially when we got to Europe and the hotel costs were a lot more,” said Dean, who guesstimates the trip cost about $30,000.

Highlights included cuddling koalas in Brisbane, Australia; the stunning beaches of Thailand; and visiting a glow-worm cave in New Zealand. “Every country had its own experience that was unlike any other,” said Julie, who chronicled the trip on their blog www.twofatamericans.com.

By August 2017, the time seemed right to settle down. They fairly quickly found new jobs in Rhode Island, where family lived, and are heading to Philly later this year where Dean will be an executive chef at 2 Liberty Place.

Not just for millennials

Jeannie Richter Conn and Peter Conn on Gratitude in Biscayne Bay just before crossing the Gulf Stream to Great Harbor Cay, Bahamas.
Gerry Richter
Jeannie Richter Conn and Peter Conn on Gratitude in Biscayne Bay just before crossing the Gulf Stream to Great Harbor Cay, Bahamas.

But it’s not just millennials who are leaving work behind to travel.

When Jeannie Richter Conn first met her husband, Peter, part of the attraction was the yearlong sailing trip to Panama he had taken in his 40s. He had quit his IT job to sail and he easily found another when he got back. Destined for a similar adventure together, the pair didn’t hesitate to take about nine months off in 2015, when Peter was 52 and Jeannie was 43.

“I figured I could probably get a job when I got back,” he reasoned, and Jeannie was able to get a leave of absence from her teaching job. Their timing was motivated by the death of a dear friend who had been diagnosed with ALS.

The pair, who live on a houseboat moored at Penn’s Landing, sailed down the Eastern Seaboard in their 37-foot sailboat, Gratitude, spending time in Norfolk and Miami to visit friends and family before heading for the Bahamas. They cruised to Jamaica, Bocas del Toro in Panama, Santa Catalina Harbor in Providencia, Isla Mujeres, a Mexican island in the Caribbean, the Florida Keys and then back up the East Coast.

Though the couple can’t say exactly how much the trip cost, they slept on the boat and prepared most of their meals to keep costs down. Unlike other adventures, cruising to Panama came with many challenges, including boat parts that broke and wind that didn’t always cooperate.

"You’re so lucky to be doing this, but at the same time, some moments are the hardest things you’ve done and you just have to do them because no one else is going to come along and help you,” said Jeannie. “But there’s this confidence that comes from knowing you can do this thing – sailing to Panama and back – that just lived in your imagination and now you did it.”

Last hurrah?

Khalid Ali quit his job to travel. Here he is at La Alhambra.
Courtesy of Khalid Ali
Khalid Ali quit his job to travel. Here he is at La Alhambra.

When Khalid Ali quit his job at Pepsico in 2007 at the age of 26, he planned to travel for the summer, his last hurrah before starting law school. Though friends and family tried to dissuade him, Ali loved to travel and thought this would be his last chance for an extended trip. At the time, he didn’t realize how pivotal the trip would be.

For starters, he was rejected from his top law school choices, so he extended the trip to a seven-month adventure, visiting 33 cities in Europe, Africa, and South Asia. “That was a bit serendipitous,” said Ali, 38.

With a general idea of where he wanted to go, he started in London, but kept the rest of the trip fluid. When he met someone from Morocco who invited him to visit, he went there. He stayed mostly in hostels, either booking them ahead of time on his iPhone, or finding them once he arrived in a particular city. “Thankfully, I never ended up on the street,” said Ali who spent about $12,000 on his trip, mostly on transportation.

It was in Pakistan where Ali’s life really took a turn. While visiting family, his dad introduced him to Leena, a woman from Saudi Arabia who also happened to be visiting. “I was homeless, jobless, savings-less and not necessarily looking to get married,” he said. “Two weeks later we were engaged.”

Now more serious about his future, Ali connected with the Dubai office of Pepsico, where he worked for four years before coming back to the United States. He now lives in Queen Village with Leena and their two children, Zayan, 10, and Nawwari, 7.

“I encourage anyone wanting to do a trip like this to appreciate the value of differences,” he said. “One of the most beautiful things about this trip was realizing we’re all so similar.”

Travel tips

If you’re ready to quit your job and travel, these travelers offer some tips, both administrative and as a way to gain the most from each experience:

  • Get a good backpack – it’s your closest friend, insisted Ali.
  • Get comfortable walking shoes that will last.
  • Use WiFi whenever possible.
  • Pack an extension cord to charge several devices on one converter.
  • Bring an HDMI cord that can connect your computer to the hotel TV when you need a “Netflix night."
  • Know how to use your cell phone most economically. The Coucheys found that their T-Mobile plan allowed for inexpensive GPS, internet, and phone use.
  • If you will be traveling in Europe, get a Eurail Pass.
  • Pack for two weeks and plan to stay somewhere with a washer and dryer at the point where you need to clean your clothes.
  • Roll your clothes for maximum space.
  • A roll-up silk blanket doesn’t take up much space and is very useful.
  • Stick to your budget.
  • Be sure your travel documents are up-to-date.
  • Research each culture before you arrive so you aren’t surprised by their customs.
  • Be spontaneous and flexible to discovery.