This 31-year-old spent $20,000 to travel after he was laid off

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107387311 1710402060563 IMG 6486

Peter Lancaster in Argentina. Courtesy of Peter Lancaster.

Forget the “quarter-life crisis.” These days, millennials are turning to the “quarter-life sabbatical.” Amid the waves of mass layoffs, people are choosing to repurpose their unemployment into soul-searching, and many are extending their time away from the cubicle to travel the world.

Peter Lancaster, 31, was laid off from his technology job in California in May last year. Although he was sad to leave a job he loved, it was finally an opportunity for him to take a real break and enjoy life a little. By the end of June, he sold most of his belongings, put the rest in storage, handed his cat to a friend and left for his first destination — Mexico City. For the next eight months, Lancaster traveled to eight different countries: Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Guatemala, Japan, Ecuador and Brazil. He said he spent about $20,000 during that time. His plane tickets and transportation ended up being his highest expenses. While Colombia and Guatemala were the most affordable destinations, Argentina and the Galapagos Islands were the most expensive, he added. Here are six things he learned during his adventure abroad.

Be flexible

The biggest principle Lancaster stuck to while traveling overseas was staying flexible and knowing that plans can change along the way. About six months into his travels, Peter met and fell in love with his girlfriend Alejandra, or as he likes to call, his “pp” (short for “Peruvian Princess”). His initial plan was to stay in Peru for four days, but after meeting Alejandra, he extended it to six weeks. “I met her in Peru — in Cusco. I was doing laundry and she saw that I was struggling, so she helped me out and then we decided to get drinks,” he told CNBC Make It.

“You think you would want to make an itinerary, but truthfully, your plan changes so much with who you meet,” he said. “Be open minded to change your motive from seeing as much as possible to maybe just spending time with somebody for a bit.” “It’s a lot easier to be flexible when you have a ‘to be determined’ timeline,” he added.

Pack lightly

“I never had more than a week’s worth of clothes,” he said. “Downside is that I had to find a laundry place, but upside is that you can move around so easily.” For the first three weeks, he only traveled with a small backpack. Along the way, he was able to purchase items he needed. Carrying less allowed him to be more agile when plans inevitably changed.

Be friendly

After first landing in Mexico City, Lancaster began to be homesick. “I wanted to go home because I was like: ‘oh, it’s going to be a long journey,'” he said. “But then then I started making friends and got comfortable real quick.” For most of the trip, he chose to stay in hostels as a way to save money, as well as to meet fellow travelers. “Just start talking to people,” he said. “Everyone’s really approachable and thinking the same thing.”

Travel smart

When traveling around foreign countries, it is important to maintain a level of caution. “I think it’s always good to just have a mentality that a lot of people might be trying to rip you off,” Lancaster said. When making purchases or decisions, he suggests: “Take your time.” If something is too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. “Especially in a foreign country, use the buddy system,” he said. Locals can usually tell if you are a foreigner, which can put you in a compromised position. So it’s important to be always aware of your surroundings and the situation.

Enjoy local cuisine

“I don’t understand people that like go travel and eat burgers and pizza,” he said. “Going to McDonald’s is more expensive than some of these local places.” During his time abroad, Lancaster made it a point to enjoy the local cuisine, which added to his travel experience.

More to life than work

On Feb. 29, Lancaster returned to the United States feeling happy with everything he had experienced. “If I had an unlimited budget, I’d probably keep going, but I felt like I just I saw everything and I was ready to work,” he said. “I feel content… it’s just nice to have time off and have like a different routine than going to work,” he said. When asked why he went on the adventure, Lancaster said: “I guess it was more of a sense that if you were to die tomorrow, having on your tombstone the only thing you did was to work … at least I can check one thing off.” Want to make extra money outside of your day job? Sign up for CNBC’s new online course How to Earn Passive Income Online to learn about common passive income streams, tips to get started and real-life success stories. Register today and save 50% with discount code EARLYBIRD. Plus, sign up for CNBC Make It’s newsletter to get tips and tricks for success at work, with money and in life.

Peter Lancaster, a 31-year-old who was laid off from his technology job, decided to take a “quarter-life sabbatical” and travel the world. He visited eight countries, including Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, and Brazil, spending about $20,000 in total. During his adventure, he learned to be flexible, pack lightly, be friendly, travel smart, enjoy local cuisine, and realize that there is more to life than work. Ultimately, he returned to the United States feeling content and ready to work again, but grateful for the time he had to explore and experience new things.

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