Why a Hard-Working Perfectionist…
Doesn’t Want a Job

Y’all who know me know that achievement has been my lifelong drug. (An evolving INTJ, I recognize that this isn’t a 100% healthy thing. I’m working on it!)

So why am I not slaving away for some corporation earning six figures and telling dozens (hundreds?!) of people what to do?

1. Math.
2. 9 to 5 life is the WORST (for me).

The “40 hour work week” (that – let’s be honest – is rarely just 40 hours) is okay for a handful of people. But for most of us, it’s a good way to get to your grave with a sh**load of regrets.

Sure, a six-figure job would give me that beautiful, glorious sense of achievement as I made things happen, conquered the impossible, perfectly orchestrated brilliant progress. Oh yeah, and money. But I’d also spend the bulk of my time sitting at a desk and interacting with people who barely know me.

Quit your job and travel the world - no more sitting at a desk!

At least I’d have a plant. And a giant screen. And still be drinking plenty of water. photo: pixabay

But more important than what I don’t want to be doing with my time is what I do want. Enough time to do everything.   So back to #1: math. Don’t go! I’ll do all the calculating… promise..

The Math of Life

Several years ago I expected moving back to the Pacific Northwest would alleviate a big disappointment in my life.

After graduating university, I moved from that Oregon town to the middle of the U.S.   Sadly, my daily besties suddenly became people I talked to on the phone once or twice a month. How could these epic relationships evaporate so easily?!   Fast forward 18 months to a new boyfriend and his west coast college town.   I expected a bonus for moving west (driving distance to my amigos): more time with my best friends.

And the results?   Twelve months after the move I realized – with shock and disappointment – that I’d seen each of these precious people only once each. In an entire year.

You really can quit your job, travel and never work (trade your time for money) ever again.

What’s happening to my life?! It’s been a year?! Already?! photo: gratisography

So then I started to do the math.

52 weekends in a year.

An introvert like me needs at least half of those to be “at home” weekends… recharging, doing chores, reading a book in bed, maybe strolling to the farmer’s market… all your typical, lazy-Saturday, 20-something activities.

So that leaves 26 weekends available.

I’m also a crazy-over achiever who joined a rowing team, volunteered with several organizations, and orchestrated adventures for all my local friends. Between weekend regattas (rowing races), volunteering, and going out to festivals, backpacking trips, river trips, etc. with all my local friends, about half of my free-weekends disappeared.

So that leaves 13 weekends available.

Ideally, I wanted to see my out-of-town besties once a month. Great dream, but with almost the same number of free weekends as there are months in a year… I could only have one friend. If I settled for seeing far-flung friends once every two months, I could then have TWO important out-of-town friends. And if I could handle seeing them only three times a year, then I could have four whole friends!

But there were at least 8 people I’d like to see a minimum of 3 times a year. My life didn’t fit into my life.

Trim the Fat

Okay, so something has to go. How to make space for the things I wanted in my life?

Well I could stop rowing, but being out on the water and the exercise kept me sane while working a desk job. I could stop volunteering, but I really enjoyed the variety volunteering brought to my life… not to mention the giver’s high.   I could hang out less with my local friends, but going backpacking, going to the river, and going to local events made me feel alive (as compared to getting up, going to work, and spending a whole day in a chair managing a database). I could cut out me-time, but every introvert knows that’s a recipe for disaster. I could cut out sleep, but I was already functioning on about 5 hours a night while reading articles about how critical it is to get a full 40-winks.

Quit your job, have time for the things that matter in life

Uh, guys? My arms are getting super tired. I’m not sure how much longer I can do this. And did I mention I only slept three hours last night? photo: pixabay

By process of elimination, that left my job. Of course I loved how my work helped abused and neglected kids have better lives. And there was alllll that achievement. Working at a non-profit is one massive, under-funded problem after another. Knocking down all those obstacles made me feel like superwoman (an overworked, overtired, permanently exhausted superwoman, but I was succeeding!).

Uh… But What About Money?

Ah. Yes. Money. Well… I figured if I stopped working, I’d have lots of time to think about the money problem. I also wanted to travel desperately, so I made a rough plan:

1) Save enough money to live and travel for a year.
2) Quit job.
3) Travel.
4) Come up with a plan for when the money runs out.
5) Enact plan: return to “normal” life, but live my priorities instead of working 40 hours a week.

Seven Years Later

I still haven’t finished number three or gotten around to number five… returning to “normal” life.   In seven+ years, I’ve traded my time for money four times in three different countries for a total of thirteen months as an employee.   (see: 24 Jobs To Do While Traveling the World). In those thirteen months, I saved ferociously each time.   I also reinforced my conviction that working a job is absolutely not what I want to do with my one precious life.

During the other 71 months, I traveled, explored, fell in love, fell out of love, and worked on this website… just for the joy of writing. As my writing shifted from me-me-me content into info that quickly helps others (like  this,  this, and  this), more and more readers flocked my way. And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything that might be construed as commercializing people.

Finally, a consultant convinced me that if people actually needed to buy something, it wasn’t morally wrong if their decision to do so earned me a few pennies.

Quit your job, live without money, enjoy an incredible life!

Dear Reader: don’t go backcountry backpacking without a sleeping mat (blue, pictured here). They keep you from losing body heat into the ground while you sleep… critical for avoiding hypothermia. But, like, don’t buy one. Find one in a dumpster somewhere or something. Spending money is bad.   And I will feel horribly guilty if the life-saving advice I gave you earns me money.” photo: danka & peter

Three years later, a few pennies from here and a few pennies from there add up to enough to buy groceries and keep traveling.   Because I refuse to create “sales funnels” and “convert” people, as of this writing I still make a third of what I made working at my former desk-job (which was a non-profit). (Here’s how much money I make blogging.) According to the IRS, I’ve spent lots of time below “the poverty line.” But you know what? I’ve felt more wealthy in these past seven years than ever in my life.

Wealth Without a Job?

The FAQ’s on this site spill my secrets on  nine things that make a “poverty-line” life way less depriving than my former life as an employee.

And what about a sense of achievement that is far more critical to my happiness than money? Don’t I feel lazy not working?

Oh honey.

I work my a** off. Doing whatever I want. A lot of times, it’s writing content for this site. Other times, it’s helping my friends and family with the chores in their lives. I’m a cover-letter, resume guru: I’ve gifted family and friends hundreds of hours to help them get their dream jobs. I love doing work-exchanges. I’ve refinished sail boats, built fences, chopped wood, dug ditches, planted, harvested, churned butter, fed animals… I’ve even given a pony a haircut.

Everywhere I go, I get the “opportunity to work hard at work worth doing,” to quote the legendary Teddy Roosevelt. And people are super grateful.   And I’m always learning, which I’ve confessed before is one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

Money Demotivates

I’m reading a book right now that explains how extrinsic rewards like money turn formerly fun, creative tasks into chores. I’ve absolutely experienced this.

The moment you pay me to bottle-feed orphaned lambs four times a day, the task starts to slip toward the drudgery category. But I can scrape anti-foul off a boat hull for hours as long as the rewards are great company, being part of a cool New Zealand family, delicious organic meals, a beautiful private room in the hills outside of Auckland, and weekends adventuring in the forest and on the water.

Because of my resume/cover-letter prowess, I once started a business to make money off this talent (while living in Croatia). I hated it immediately. Well, not immediately. First there was a month-long investment of 16-hour days doing everything it takes to start a business and build a website. But the moment I got paid to do something I love? Over it.

At age 18, I became a white-water rafting guide. Teenage me thought there couldn’t be anything more glorious than getting paid to spend my days on the water under the sun. It was definitely one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had. However less than a month in, I was going through the motions, covering the same stretch of river every day, and being annoyed by the entitled customers who questioned my abilities as a young female 1I’d eventually offer them a turn in the driver’s seat and resume the throne a few minutes later wearing a triumphant smile while I rescued the boat from near-peril. Even my dream job became a bit of slog.

if you don't quit your job, this one isn't the worst to have

Up at six, stumble to staff cafeteria breakfast, don bucket of sunscreen, launch and rig boats, dress customers for trip, safety talk, point out same landscape features, tell the same stories, answer the same predictable questions, hope customers understand tips are half our wage, load boats… repeat.

When it comes to this site, the tasks I hate most are the ones directly attached to money.

E.g. I could put together a book list and make an ad for the sidebar to try and get you to buy a new one off Amazon each month, but… gross. What if you don’t like reading? What if, like me, you already have an overwhelming list of titles to read?

Example #2: A backpack company recently sent me a pack to review. I’m looking forward to writing up what I loved and hated. But just the thought of applying to their affiliate program, finding the links to the pack, implementing them on the page so I can get a cut of the sale to anyone who reads my review and then decides the backpack is right for them… is exhausting. And repulsive. And a task I will probably avoid for months. 2sidenote: if you’re reading this, love travel, and think, “I wouldn’t hate that task!” – maybe you’d like working for me. Send me an email. I’ve known I should hire someone for years… but again with the demotivated-by-money-tasks thing.   Update: done.

So even when I’m not getting money by giving the bulk of my waking hours to someone else’s dreams and passions… money is still very demotivating and doesn’t make me feel “wealthy” in the way autonomy does.

Why a Hard-Working Perfectionist Doesn’t Want a Job

In conclusion:

1. Jobs are a waste of (my) life.
2. They eat up the time I need to do the things I care most about.
3. There are plenty of ways to have a good life without being an employee.
4. There’s lots of work in the world that has a reward far greater than money.
5. Getting paid to do the things I’m best at turns joyful work into drudgery.

If you don’t want a job either, feel free to tell the world why in the comments below.

You’ll also probably like:
How to Have Enough Time to Do Everything
Why Taking Time Off is Good for You
7 Habits to Resist Overachiever Syndrome

How to Get Free Flights
12+ Tools to Become Fearless & Unstoppable
How to Sleep for Free — Worldwide

(See? I loved writing this for you. And it took me – with photos – around 4 hours. And I will never get paid for that time. Financially, it’s a horrible ROI, because there’s nothing to sell here. The idea that you can living a fulfilling life without trading all your time for money… doesn’t have any earning potential attached to it. But the mental ROI – the joy that comes with knowing that this might give you the courage to live the life you want? Worth it!)


1 I’d eventually offer them a turn in the driver’s seat and resume the throne a few minutes later wearing a triumphant smile while I rescued the boat from near-peril
2 sidenote: if you’re reading this, love travel, and think, “I wouldn’t hate that task!” – maybe you’d like working for me. Send me an email. I’ve known I should hire someone for years… but again with the demotivated-by-money-tasks thing.


  • August 5, 2023 at 8:46 pm

    Well knock me down with a feather. – halfthecloths was enough insight me to have a read. Here’s why…. I worked 16 hours a day for around 30 years to appease a wife not knowing that was mainly “just a golden goose.” It lead to me to giving away all my clothes to a room steward on a cruise ship who was the same size as me who had holes in his shoes and non-uniform clothes. Suits, dammed ties, shoes, belts, the whole shebang, disembarking mid world cruise to go backpacking. I’m pension age now and live on that so comfortably housesitting. All the time in the world for what I love now. All it takes is the first step. For those not on a pension when you are based in an area you love the paid jobs for pet sitting are the bomb. Thanks for your blog and this article. Love to all. …Bobby K.

  • July 12, 2022 at 1:49 pm

    My only question is the rent.

    If I didn’t have rent (which is so ridiculous these days whether you live in a small town or large city) I feel I would opt for this way of life again yesterday…

    I have only been back to work for 6 months after a glorious 2 year hiatus (went back because, money duh) and I’m already dying a slow painful death.

    At the end of my 2 year hiatus, I had to succumb to visiting food banks and buying an old car on a credit card and now realize that there is so much abundance and it doesn’t require being in debt to live a happy life, but living life this way without already owning land or a home seems a bit scary to jump back into without my good paying job that is unfortunately killing me mentally and emotionally.

    And I’ve perused those housesitting websites but don’t think most would allow you to bring your pet with you, please tell me I am wrong!

    • February 25, 2023 at 3:21 am

      You are exactly right Jess. I’m widowed now, my new life begins. I have cats and a dog, have to feed and shelter them for the rest of their lives, I promised. I have to pay car insurance, property taxes……but I wanna go!

  • March 28, 2021 at 5:05 am

    Jema, thank you! I did the “abandon norms, live your dream, travel the world, value experiences over money, become broke in the process, but not regret a second” thing about 8 years ago, and it was the best thing I’d ever done and a seminal experience in my life. I have (thankfully) never *completely* let go of that mentality (I have left my “real life” for months at a time to travel and explore multiple times since then) but over the past couple of years, I’ve started to slide more and more back into the drudgery of typical working life. And I have to say – I’m hitting my breaking point! I’m over it!! I can’t express enough just how much reading your articles tonight has affirmed for me that not only do I NEED to change my situation for my mental health and overall happiness and well-being, but I CAN. So, thank you! I truly believe this is a turning point for me! (And, yes, I realize that I use far too many exclamation points and parentheses and parenthetical remarks than any self-respecting former English major should) But enthusiasm and appreciation will bring that out in a person!

    • March 29, 2021 at 7:48 pm

      Allie – so great to hear of your inspiration! All parentheses and exclamation points more than welcome here 🙂 Personally, I think the authentic road is just as challenging, but so much more rewarding. Godspeed!

  • December 30, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    Thanks to other creative souls who recognize what a rich, fulfilling, “good life” looks like.
    I decided and refused to work for others. I enjoy a nomadic life of travel, writing & exploring.
    I figured I’d combine freelance writing with other creative pursuits like, DIY, building, traveling, camping & cooking, then rinse & repeat as necessary. Maybe even feature some of it in a blog.
    The thought of being trapped inside of a 40 hour work week, and never accomplishing my dreams & goals, cured me from ever wanting to work a “real” job. I’m glad to know there are others who recognize the value of living their dreams. It’s absolutely priceless & totally worth it!

    • January 11, 2020 at 4:39 pm

      Me, too, Monica! Thanks so much for writing in. The more souls I hear from who managed not to get sucked into a life they don’t want, the lighter the load of walking the unconventional (but wonderfully fulfilling!) path. Cheers!

  • September 1, 2018 at 3:10 am

    My apologies! Just realized I spelled your name incorrectly with two m’s. Sorry about that!


  • August 11, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    Normally I do never, really never, comment. But I have to now. I love your site, your writing! So down to earth, honest, real, and bringing the playful inner child in me up a little more. Your joy in living life, your life, and exploring by trial and error is refreshing and recognizable. Keep doing what you’re doing and thank you for sharing with the rest of the world!

    • August 14, 2018 at 5:30 am

      Aww, Anne – so great to get this feedback. Thanks so much for reaching out! Yay for the playful inner child! 🙂

      Happy adventuring to you!

    • August 30, 2018 at 9:26 pm

      I couldn’t agree more with Anne. I’m in the process of re-awakening the spirit inside that sings to the same tune and hearing you sing the song of freedom so beautifully is precisely the nourishment I need in this moment. Hearing you articulate what my heart knows is such a gift and I hope an opportunity to reciprocate will reveal itself. Jemma, I hope I get to meet you and give you a huge hug someday so you can feel my love & gratitude. Yay for the playful inner child!!!

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