Laid Off? Go Traveling

Back when the 4-hour Workweek book came out, I interviewed Timothy Ferriss by phone before the book hit the bestseller list and he started getting calls from every media outlet. We talked about how so many people blow a golden opportunity by getting laid off, getting a fat severance check, and…sitting around the house depressed instead of setting out for a change of scenery. “That’s a perfect opportunity–what are you sitting at home for?!” Ferriss asked. “Take advantage of this gift of time!”

severance travelThe U.S. Labor Department reported a week ago that 51,000 U.S. workers lost their jobs in July, which was the 7th straight month of job losses. Various news reports said, “That has never happened before without the economy falling into recession.” What’s a recession mean if you’ve lost your job? A painful few months (at least) before you find another job unless you have built up a fantastic network of people who can help you out or you are a star in your field who should have been the last to get the ax.

So just skip the recession. You heard me—leave. Come back when this has all played out and you can ride a new wave of job gains instead.

No matter who is in office or what problems are playing out in the financial markets, there are always boom times and slumps. In the boom times, it’s easy to get a job, to get promoted, to get a raise, and switch jobs at will if your raise gets turned down. You look like a genius without even trying. When there’s a national bust time, you lose a lot of control and you’re at the mercy of your company’s fortunes and the general job market.

If you were laid off with no severance pay, going traveling is tougher I admit. If you have no savings and no skills you can apply to work overseas (like teaching English) then you’d have to borrow money. But what are you going to do at home if it takes you months to get a new job? Probably borrow money. At least you could cut your cost of living by 2/3 by spending your time in one of the world’s cheapest destinations instead.

If you did get a package when you were shown the door, what are you waiting for? Sublet the house/apartment, buy a one-way plane ticket, load up on a few long-term travel books, and head to Latin America or Southeast Asia. If you go overseas for a while, you will spend far less, have a much more interesting life, and actually learn a lot without even trying. Come back when things are starting to turn around and you can start fresh.

And if you’re in Europe, sock this advice away for when your s&%# hits the fan a few months from now. Things are not as bad as in the U.S. there yet, but it’s obvious that this storm is crossing the Atlantic soon. It may have already touched shore in the UK…

  1. Mike

    People don’t believe me when I say, “no, I really do save money by traveling.”

  2. IGoBuenosAires

    Traveling intelligently saves a ton of money. Read up on where you are going, avoid the tourists traps, and make friends with locals, and you will be set. I think Tim Feriss outlines how much one would save “living the good life” abroad versus just living OK at home.
    Go abroad, learn a language, come back relaxed, and more attractive to potential employers for having traveled.
    Make sure to really experience wherever you are going!!

  3. IGoBuenosAires

    The economy is set to get a little better (hopefully) end of next year. Let’s all take advantage of this now!!

  4. Joseph

    I *totally* did this in 2003 when got laid-off. I took about a year and a half off. It was the BEST thing I’ve ever done for myself. Now, thankfully, i’m gainfully employed but I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. In fact, I’m building a little savings account just in case it happens to me again.

    P.S. I can’t remember where I read it but this concept is only really foreign to us “old” folks (Gen X and older). Gen Y folks and younger already do this…and in a more proactive way. They just choose to quit a job and travel around the world for awhile. They’re much more savvy to this idea.

  5. John Galt

    You’re insane. You need to get another job to provide for your family, not have a grand old time until they foreclose on your house.

  6. Real Mr. Galt

    Nobody who signs their post as “John Galt” should have the nerve to discourage people from escaping the mess others have put us in and making a living in a country where the government is not taking so much and giving so little. Ayn Rand would have nothing to do with the likes of you!

  7. Jenny

    This is actually a great idea. And I have been meaning to get off my job and travel. Thinking of ways to save up while doing so is the challenging but fun part!

    Just make sure you can find another work after you travel. That’s the whole point, have a break while waiting for the next opportunity. Sometimes you just have to relax.

  8. tim

    Administrator here. The original Galt character starting insulting and cursing after the above comment, so his comment was removed. Keep it clean kids!

  9. bristlecone

    Real John Galt:

    It’s flawed logic to say that because you disapprove of the amount of taxes the Government takes that you should ignore your family’s needs and bail out for a while.

    You can either afford to drop out and travel, or you can’t. Most Americans can’t, so it is irresponsible to encourage them to do so.

    The moderator should have deleted your comment also, as you’re insulting JG and the rest of us with irrational argument by claiming to know what the long-dead Ms. Rand would think. Although…I guess what you are espousing is “The Virtue of Selfishness.”

    Bottom line: The mess people are in (unless they are single) is having a family. Once you have a family, you have a fiduciary responsibility to them. Personal growth and contentment can wait until the last kid is grown and gone. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

  10. bristlecone

    I will admit, though, Tim, it is an intriguing idea. I went to Akumal MX during the dot com bust and met a man who had been sharing a house on the beach for $300.00/month (his half) and living well on California Unemployment. He was learing to be a dive instructor and hoped to be solvent before the UEX ran out.

    Still, if you have a family, your duty is to them…Perhaps if the ONLY thing you think you can do is something that is temporarily out of fashion (Wall Street) and you think it’s coming back.

  11. Suz

    I keep telling my friends who are out of work or not making enough to live their current lifestyles that they need to read Tim’s book. It truly changed my life. Within a month of reading it, I’d created a portable job that I still work at to this day. I don’t travel all the time, but I know that if $$ gets tight I can pick up easily and move to a cheaper location to live for a little while.

    Unfortunately, too often getting laid off creates depression which makes people less able to take positive steps.

  12. tim

    Bristlecone— Why does it make a difference if you have a family or not? There are untold thousands of expats and people on a long sabbatical that are part of a family. The problem with most parents isn’t that they have a family, but that they are a slave to their possessions. They’ve overextended themselves financially and now they’re stuck.

    Scroll down to the second book reviewed here: The Family Sabbatical Handbook.

    If you just got six months of severance pay, why is staying home for six months better than going somewhere else (with your family) where you can all live well for 12 or 18 months instead?

  13. bristlecone

    My personal experience, which includes both job hunting and sales (job hunting is sales, it’s just that the product you are selling is you), is that it simply takes a period of time to find the new job. The more time you put into it, the faster things happen.

    This does not apply if you’re trying to re-career and want to spend time understanding what you really want to do, or if the job market is completely dead.

    You are probably right that more people are owned by posessions than own posessions.

  14. Mike

    You either make travel a priority or you don’t.

  15. LayoffGossip

    People always hate to talk about when they are laid off. But as it has become every day’s news headline since Yahoo started it with cutting 1500 of its task force last year, now a need of platform has been in demand where people can express their selves in words how they are feeling about their company, whey the got laid off was that justified or not.
    And every thing they want to tell anonymously.And is providing you that platform.

  16. JobOutlets

    I have a very close friend, who graduated from Harvard. Worked for ML for over 8 years, last year he’s laid off too. OMG, now the banking industry is badly hurt, how long it would take for those financial background guys like him get back to the job market. Banking jobs are not there as much as before as easily seen on and other job sites in the region

  17. Dan

    I was laid off last Wednesday from my job of 7 years. Fortunately, 3 of those years were spent in Japan where I was able to save some money because of my work assignment. Never having been to Europe, I am thinking the best thing for me now is to use some of those savings, and to take a 6 months or so backpacking trip through the EU. Does anyone have any advice for pointing me to resources for traveling relatively cheaply through Europe? Thanks.

  18. tim

    Dan, you might want to purchase my book first to get an idea of alternatives. “Cheap” and “Europe” go together about as well as “cheap and “Japan” do, even with a stronger dollar. But at least go before the summer, get out of the capital cities, and spend some time in the east.

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