How To Tell Your Parents You’re Quitting Your Job To Travel

This is a guest post by Lauren Cirkot of Always Find Adventure.
All photos *not* of Lauren are by Lindsay.

It’s scary to resist your parents and tell them that instead of following the conventional path they dreamed for you, you’ve decided to chase your own dream; especially when that dream includes quitting your job and moving to another country. I know firsthand what that fear feels like, but I also know firsthand how rewarding it is to face it.

Growing up as a middle-class American, I was instilled with a very particular idea of what success and happiness looks like: work hard, get a college degree, climb the corporate ladder, save money for retirement, buy a house, get married, have kids, work until your 60s, and really enjoy life during retirement. This is the cookie-cutter American dream. One of the most common and ways to fulfill this dream is to land a corporate job with plenty of opportunities for growth.

Yes, we have a great number of entrepreneurs and small business owners in the States, but running your own business is considered by many to be a “hard way of life” and isn’t exactly encouraged (at least, not in my bubble of family and friends). Choosing not to pursue a corporate career so you can travel the world and run an online business is a foreign concept to many people. My parents were aware that this was something that “other” people did, but it’s certainly not the traditional or “right way” to do things – especially if the person pursuing this path is their own daughter.

how to quit your job and move abroad

By the way, who ever said that corporate life is easy? Being trapped in a 9-5 just to climb the corporate ladder to success has pros and cons of its own. I believe in the end, it all comes down to knowing yourself, your preferences, and choosing the path that’s right for YOU.

On top of all this, I’m an only child, so much of my parents’ attention is focused on me. I am incredibly fortunate to have such supporting and loving parents, but they are wary of career pursuits outside of their comfort zones. Admittedly, I’m envious of people whose parents fully support them and their decisions from the outset.

Don’t get me wrong, though: I’m not here to bash my parents. I’m simply here to share my story because I know I’m not alone and that many people can and will relate.

In March 2019, I went against the grain and told my parents my plan to quit my job to travel and pursue full-time travel blogging. Spoiler alert: they didn’t take it well at first.

telling your parents quit your job to travel

Deciding To Leave Corporate

My parents both have masters degrees and very quickly climbed the corporate ladder to make decent money. My mom is a nurse/health educator and my dad is an electrical engineer who switched lanes late in life to be in IT/computer networking. My dad briefly ran his own business, but it was just a way for him to make money in between career changes. My mom has never had a business of her own.

My family was never poor, but we were never “well off,” either. I remember we went through periods of cutting corners to stay afloat financially. Throughout my life, my parents taught me to work hard and gave me decent financial and career advice. I’m so grateful to them for the strong work ethic and values they instilled in me.

But as I’ve grown up and lived my own life, it’s become obvious that many of the choices I make to be happy are not the choices my parents would make. They prefer the stability of a bi-monthly paycheck and benefits more than they prefer to pursue turning a hobby into a career. Their happiness rests in that kind of predictability and security. Of course, I need financial security as well, but my happiness rests much more on how I achieve that.

tell parents you're quitting your job

While in corporate, I was working hard, making good money, and getting promoted easily. I was checking off the boxes and thought I was doing everything right. My parents were pleased with my success, and I don’t regret that I took their advice to accept a corporate job. I’m glad for the exposure I had at my company, and I use many of the skills I learned there in my business now. I believe that everything we do in our lives is a building block that takes us to the next level.

The problem with my corporate career is that I was never truly passionate about it. I always felt like I could do something more. When I realized my passion for travel, I knew I had to pursue it full-time. And ever since I was a kid, I’ve been nurturing awesome ideas, creating business plans, and selling things to people. It became clear that I needed to marry my passions for business and travel. But pivoting to a different corporate job in the travel industry wouldn’t cut it. I knew I needed to create my own business and design it to be exactly what I wanted. I craved to create something of my own and to relish in that accomplishment.

tell parents you're quitting your job

It was in January 2019 that I decided to quit my job and move to Spain with my best friend. I had been in corporate for 6 years, but it only made me stressed and unhappy. I had thought about quitting for a while before this, but I felt guilty and scared. I was afraid to leave behind a company that treated me well and all the perks that came with it: a steady paycheck with benefits; promotions and generous bonuses; a flexible and trusting boss; and great coworkers. Why would I ever give up such a great work situation to pursue a dream with no guarantees of success? Why should I go against my parents’ sound advice to find success in the corporate world?

I simply knew in my heart that corporate life wasn’t for me. I was good at it, and I was capable of success within it, but did I want to? No. I wanted to have my own business and make money while traveling. I had that on my mind for years; I just needed the courage to do it.

how to quit your job and move overseas

How I Told My Parents

I eased my parents into the decision by letting it slip to my mom (while on a trip to Paris in February 2019) that my friend was thinking about moving to Spain, and that I was seriously thinking about going with her. I knew my mom would take the news better than my dad, and I felt if I had her on my side, she’d help me face my dad. My dad has always been more of the “business type,” lecturing me about finances and life and career decisions. He’s not very adventurous, and I knew that telling him my decision would be one of the hardest things I’d ever do in my life.

I hate confrontation, and just the thought of telling him something I knew he wouldn’t like was especially scary to me. I expected him to lecture me and say things that would make me feel particularly guilty about my decision. So I spent some time preparing for the conversation by having a plan and seeking support from those who would understand.

Ultimately my mom was very sad about my decision but knew at some point I would be traveling long term so it wasn’t such a surprise to her. My dad, on the other hand, was shocked and unsupportive. He said I was making the biggest mistake of my life and that I wouldn’t recover from it. He said he couldn’t support my decision but despite that, he still loved me and wished me luck. I wasn’t prepared for that response but I was so confident and excited for my next chapter of life that his words didn’t quite get me down. I had confidence that because I was going to take the leap onto the path that felt right, that I would make him proud down the road.

telling your parents quit your job to travel

Tips For Breaking The News To Your Parents

Here’s my tips for having the “I’m quitting my job to travel” conversation with your parents:

Find other people out there (bloggers, vloggers, writers, entrepreneurs, businesspeople) that are successful. Follow them. Subscribe to their newsletters and read their stories. It helps to know that you’re not alone in this. There is a community of successful people who have done this before (and are doing it now!). Surround yourself with those people, even if you don’t know them personally. Just knowing that you’re not the only one who has decided to pursue a career out of the ordinary can be enough to help motivate you when you’re ready to back down.

Show confidence and don’t back down. You have to go into this prepared. When I went to my dad, I went in knowing without a doubt that he would disapprove. I knew he would tell me that I was not being smart. I knew all the negative responses he might have. I thought through those things and felt more confidence after rehearsing my responses.

Be prepared. If you have parents like mine, they’ll want to see that you’ve thought this out. It’s a good idea to have really thought out a decision as big as this for your own sake, but it’ll bring some peace to them while they adjust to know that you’re doing this responsibly.

how to quit your job and move abroad

Show your maturity by listening politely and respectfully. Once you’ve explained your plan, said what you needed to say, and shown them how you will follow-through, just sit back and let them talk. It’s not an easy thing for many people to hear, so just remember that whatever their first reaction is, it’s the emotional response to fear and uncertainty for you. Tell yourself it’s coming from a place of love. They will calm down at some point, but just respect their emotions in the meantime.

Remember that this is YOUR decision, not theirs. They may know you, but they don’t know ALL of you. Their fear and concern is not cause for you to reconsider what you want in your life. Just because they would never do it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Talk to a therapist. I had a therapist who not only gave me some techniques for communicating effectively but also helped me process emotions after the news was out. The buildup and aftermath were the worst parts, and having someone to support you during those times is important. I’m so glad I had a therapist who could help me deal with the anxiety before and after the big conversation with my parents.

Find a way to relate to them and calm their fears. At the time I told him I was quitting, my dad had been thinking about retirement a lot. He was constantly monitoring his retirement accounts, calculating different options, and preparing for that step in his life. He had always said to me, “I wish I started saving for retirement before the age of 35, and you have that opportunity.” He did inspire me to start saving for retirement at the age of 22 so, in that respect, I was ahead of him. But because a comfortable retirement was one of his top priorities, and he was worried he might not have “enough” for himself and my mom, he was projecting his fears onto me. He thought that by quitting my job, I was setting myself up for disaster decades from now. But because I understood this side of him, I was able to give him space vent and lecture me about how he thought my decision to quit my job was stupid without losing my own cool.

tell parents quitting your job

Be assured that their concern and fear comes from a place of love. Know that your parents most certainly love you, and that their reaction, even a negative one, ultimately is coming from a place of love. It may not seem like it is, but it is.

Stay hopeful that they’ll come around. If your parents do love you and care for you, they’ll come around. Remember that this is a big change for them. Maybe they still see you as their child that they need to nurture and care for. It could be hard for them to accept you are your own person forging a path that will take you far away. Maybe they had a certain vision for you for so long that now won’t come to fruition. It’ll take time to heal that wound. Honestly, it’ll help if you are quitting your job to travel. The distance will help heal on both ends. You’ll be growing away from them, and they’ll be moving on from your decision, too. When they see you again during a visit, it won’t even matter what you’re doing because they’ll just be so happy to have you home for a bit.

Keep them updated on your journey. Chances are, they don’t know anyone who’s doing what you’re about to do. You are likely their only frame of reference. While on the road, if you keep telling them how much you’re thriving and learning, it’ll bring them peace and help to slowly eliminate that fear for them. They’re stepping into the unknown with you, in their own way, so for them to know that you’re doing okay will help them to come around.

telling your parents quit your job to travel

The Outcome

Standing up to my parents and claiming the life I wanted for myself was one of the most freeing experiences of my life. It helped me to realize the strength and confidence that I knew I had within me.

I am proud to say I did get a happy ending! I travelled a bit over the summer of 2019 before moving to Spain with my best friend in September 2019. By that point I started my business as a marketing consultant and travel writer, and I’m lucky to be able to say that I’m thriving and happier than I was a year ago. My health is much better, I feel much freer, and I am proud of myself.

In May 2020, my dad sent me a text saying, “I’m really proud of you.”

You may never get that from your parents, or it may not come for a really long time. I wasn’t expecting it, and it was both deeply consoling and satisfying. Eventually, your parents will come around to you, too, and I promise that day will eclipse the tumultuous times.