You’ll certainly have a lot of things to do when escaping the corporate world, but these three mindset-based approaches will set you up for success.

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How to Escape the Corporate World

The best ways for escaping the corporate world are:

  1. Bend your reality by controlling media and exposure to the right people. Mimic successful people who escaped before you. Convince yourself that escaping the corporate world isn’t a big deal.
  2. Keep a written account of why you want to exit. This will come in handy right after your escape when you’re doubting yourself.
  3. Remember that your decision to exit the corporate world is reversible and isn’t permanent. You can try location independence for a while to see if you like it. Thinking this way removes some of the pressure.

Before we get started, here’s my story of escaping from Corporate America to travel.

Tropical bungalow in Sumatra

1) Create a Reality Around Corporate Escape

I learned firsthand how making the transition to self-employment, remote work, and a life of travel can be daunting. Part of the problem was my environment.

We are all influenced heavily by our environments. I’m sure you’ve heard many times how we’re the average of the people we hang around most.

Scientifically, that’s proven to be true. In fact, even the friends of our friends we’ve never met influence our mental and physical well-being.

If we manipulate our environment, we can shape what we call our reality. We can’t control everything, but there are aspects we can change.

In this modern world, our “environment” includes all media we consume, and yes, social media.

Watch Out for the “Mean World”

If you’re thinking of embarking on a long, solo trip, traditional media isn’t likely to provide encouragement. Sure, you should know about realistic threats, but they are often reported in an unhealthy ratio.

You won’t see many stories about thousands of happy travelers enjoying food and drinks at their guesthouses.

Instead, you’ll hear more about the handful of kidnappings, plane crashes, thefts, and so on. You’ll begin to think that the world is more dangerous than it really is.

This “Mean World Syndrome” influences society.

Brainwash Yourself

Instead, if you surround yourself with people (even virtually) who have successfully done what you’re about to attempt, you set yourself up for success.

If you want to prepare for a marathon, hanging around people who have already completed one makes the undertaking feel more “normal.”

You’re telling your brain over and over: What I’m about to do isn’t that radical. Lots of people have done it safely and happily. I’m no different—I can do it, too.

On the other hand, surrounding yourself with sedentary people who say, “Wow! Are you serious?!” when you share your aspirations will have the opposite effect.

If you’re saturated by media telling you that long-term travel is only an option after grinding 40 years in the corporate world, you’ll begin to doubt your decision to escape.

Create a New Normal

Like others, I often cite the 1952 Summer Olympics when Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. Until then, physicians and trainers said it couldn’t be done due to anatomical constraints.

They reinforced a limiting “reality” for the other athletes.

After Roger dispelled the myth and showed his peers what was possible, his world record only held for 46 days! Shortly thereafter, numerous runners were able to set new records.

Even though training techniques remained the same, athletes could suddenly do what was previously considered impossible.

In 2005 when I was planning to escape the corporate world and begin my vagabonding travels, I didn’t know anyone in real life who had done what I wanted to do. This created a lot of self-doubt.

My region of the U.S. didn’t have much of a travel culture. To make matters worse, I was getting some resistance from friends and peers who suggested I was making a career-limiting—or even dangerous—choice by quitting a job to go see the world.

I was fortunate enough to come across the online community (now defunct) on Bootsnall.com. The forums were filled with “regular” people who had gone before me. They were a steady reminder that what I was attempting was obtainable. In some ways, they were my Roger Bannister.

I also bombarded myself with travel books, blogs, and healthy media. My reality began to shift over time in a direction that set me up for success.

When my departure date finally came around, I was still nervous, but I no longer felt like I was attempting the impossible.

Instead, I felt like I was simply following in the footsteps of thousands of others who had gone before me.

Escaping from the corporate world and doing remote work while living a life of travel became my new “normal” before I actually began doing it.

Corporate America cubicless

2) Log Why You Are Escaping the Corporate World

Our brains have a natural tendency to embellish or smooth over details as years go by. Having a written reminder of why you escaped the corporate world will come in handy later.

Do yourself a favor and start a “journal of grievances” now while you’re still working for someone else.

I recommend making it sincere rather than just a low-value collection of petty complaints. You should probably password protect it, too.

Prepare for Future Doubt

No matter how dissatisfied you feel at your current job, at some point, you’ll question your reasoning for escape. Maybe it’s the idea of a reliable paycheck, less pressure on yourself to perform, the camaraderie, or something else.

You’ll begin doubting yourself and thinking you made a mistake by leaving a good thing. We’re especially susceptible to this “grass is always greener” thinking when the going gets tough.

Although the idea of escaping the corporate world may give you tingles right now, not every day after will be a walk in the park. I wish that were true but it’s not.

The real work begins after getting out of the corporate world.

Expect Resistance

Resistance from loved ones and peers may add to the problem. Balking the trend doesn’t always go over well.

People who think they have your best interests in mind may warn that you’re throwing away your future. These skeptics exasperate the self-doubt and imposter syndrome you may already be facing.

Fortunately, I had the foresight to log grievances in a document file while I was still at IBM. It was just a simple, bulleted list with dates next to each item. Despite my honest effort to log only real injustices and no petty complaints, the list grew impressively over my eight years with the company.

Later, when I was getting my butt kicked by the road, doubt set in. I began wondering if I should crawl back to the corporate world to be flogged as the prodigal son.

Instead, I opened the file and was instantly reminded of the hell happily left behind.

Even a bad day on the road was better than a good day in the cubicle.

Well-Timed Adversity Is a Good Thing

The last entry in the file was dated December 31, 2005. IBM had actually called me for a network problem on New Years Eve, the night of my last day with the company.

I didn’t even have an employee badge at that point, yet they still had expectations I would respond and work—for free.

Up until the bitter end, they confirmed that I was making the right decision by escaping the corporate world.

Thank you, IBM.

People trekking in Nepal

3) Remember Your Decision Isn’t Forever

No one likes to think of potentially wasting time, energy, and money. But us Americans, in particular, suffer from a culture of A-to-Z linear paths.

Deviations are viewed as something that could cause us to fall behind in the Rat Race rather than gain experience and perspective.

Thinking that we’re one decision away from losing some sort of life race can cause us to become too risk averse. The best way to counter this thinking is to remember that leaving a corporate job to begin traveling doesn’t have to be forever.

Adopting a more casual mindset removes some of the stress and pressure.

Nothing Is Forever

Sure, some time and money may be spent coming home and reestablishing yourself, but you’ll have new insight. Anything is better than wondering “what if” for the rest of your life.

Plus, gaining life experience is always valuable and will help in whatever you attempt next.

The decision to begin remote work or escape the corporate world isn’t as permanent as it seems. You may think you’ll do it forever, but life priorities and variables change. Who knows what the future holds.

Even stepping away from a conventional life for a year or two will provide an entirely fresh outlook and some powerful self development.

That means whether you make a lifetime out of your escape from the corporate world or simply try it for a while, you come out ahead as a more refined person destined for success.

But you’ll never know until you try.

By the way, the best way to escape Corporate America is to know how to avoid the Rat Race in the first place!

Top photo credit: Laura Mayer

Greg Rodgers Greg Rodgers is a corporate escapee, budget traveler, and location-independent writer. He created Science of Escape to help others also enjoy a thrilling life of travel.