I quit my day job

trekking in Nepal
Highlights of Trekking in Nepal
January 15, 2014
myanmar instagram
Myanmar via Instagram
January 30, 2014

I quit my day job


Nearly three years ago, I quit my day job. Months earlier I had started a couple travel blogs on the side while working days in a local wine and beer shop to pay the bills (and save up for travel). Though I loved the job, quitting was the best thing I ever did.


What I learned there


My boss at the wine shop, as it turned out, became my friend, something I lacked in this new area that I had moved to. I was so intent on working hard to save up, that I made few friends outside of the wine shop. Even though the other employees (just three) and I had fun ordering, discussing, selling, and tasting wine on a daily basis, I knew all of this was not mine. It was his. My boss was the entrepreneur, the small business owner. I felt comfortable and welcome there, although it was his wine shop.


Edwin was an entrepreneur and I knew I would have to become one too, if I really wanted to follow my dreams. His business had a physical location and it was becoming obvious that mine would most likely not. But I learned the value of relationships and repeat customers, observing how a family-run business operated. I also learned a lot about wine.


Wine and Geography are inseparable


While I’ve never directly used my geography degree, not a day of my life has passed without thinking about or indirectly using it. Wine is not interesting because it tastes good or makes you look sophisticated. It’s interesting because so many contributions go into making each wine unique. Geography, or terroir as it’s called, is one of the biggest factors.


By knowing which varietals grow in which countries, in which soils, in which climate, in which elevations, we can understand so much about a wine. Studying wine you’ll learn about villages in Bordeaux, wine caves in Moldova, tasting with your nose, the history of South Africa, and why Germany is  a wine country as much as it is a beer country. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.


Quit your day job


Right now I’m giving you the nudge to quit your day job. Nothing in life is without risk. Edwin started a shop in a economic climate where most small businesses fail. If you’re going to make any effort to realizing your dreams, it won’t come without risk. Everything in life is a trade off. When we loose something, we hope to gain something bigger, something better, somewhere else in life.


If you don’t try, you’ll never know. You’ll never be able to put your full time and energy into your art or your passion. For some people, just figuring out their dream, deciphering the complex code of how we should actually be living our lives, is the hardest part. Once you know your passion, you’ve overcome half the battle. Don’t be careless about it; start preparing for your life changes. Just make sure you actually push through to give yourself an honest chance at what you’re trying to do.


The Risk


The risk partly involves money: whether it requires capital or leaving a steady income. Breaking away from social norms and family expectations is another part of the equation, but that came more naturally to me. The enormous challenge for me was how would I actually make money by living out my dream. I think every budding entrepreneur has to cross this bridge. I can love travel to the ends of the earth, but how will it actually pay my bills?


How I’ve been living out my dream


My dream and passion since I was nine years old was travel. It was often so obvious and apparent that it was somehow never verbalized until my late twenties. Most surprisingly, it was never considered as career path. Growing up, when reading about a minority culture in rural China or seeing pictures of a medieval village in Italy, I knew I had to see it with my own eyes. Learning about it at home in a book was never enough. That’s why travel became my life’s purpose.


But it became more complicated than that. I wanted great experiences. Instead of amassing things, I have surfed in Bali, sampled the best food in Rome, slept in a ger (yurt) in Mongolia, practiced yoga in India, sang Karaoke in Japan, and trekked among the world’s highest peaks in Nepal. Just in 2013 alone, I did all this.


How I actually make money


It took almost a year before I was earning sufficient money to pay my monthly expenses. I make money through advertising on this blog and by publishing a online travel magazine. I do freelance travel writing for different online and print publications. Most recently, I’ve started a tour company. My profession and lifestyle is a work in progress, so I constantly need to evaluate and adjust.


Recommended reading: The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future In his book, author and entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau shows you “how to lead a life of adventure, meaning and purpose – and earn a good living.” He shares the three main ingredients needed to turn your passion into your profession.


If you want to learn more about changing your life and having amazing experiences traveling the world, sign up for my monthly newsletter.


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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine GoMadNomad.com. He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Stephen Bugno says:

    Great Colleen, looking forward to hearing your announcement!

  2. While I’m not “quitting” anything at the moment, I am at one of those life-pause forks in the road. Can’t say too much more just yet, but will be making an announcement soon. Who knows, maybe our paths will cross in this great wide world!

  3. Nicolo Famiglietti says:

    Glad I found your website, Stephen.
    Just read your short piece on Barichara-Guane.
    If you were to provide only one tip for a first time traveler to Colombia, whose main interests are fine art travel photography and disappearing traditional cultures, what would it be?

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