Two decades in the corporate world was enough for 47-year-old Dan Givens.
In April 2015, he quit his job as the head of financial planning and analysis for OpenTable, rented his house in San Francisco, and set off for the coast of southern Chile.
“I got tired of working so hard for corporate America and longed for work that was more impactful to others and more meaningful to me,” he tells Business Insider. “I decided to take time off from the working world to explore the ‘actual’ world. I didn’t have a formal plan, but I figured this was as good a time as any to do something radical. I was single and I had a few passions that I wanted to explore: sailing, travel, photography, and helping others.”
Since trading in his home and career for a backpack, camera, and life on the road, he has spent time in Chile, Germany, and Thailand, volunteering for “host families” in exchange for room and board.
We spoke to Givens about his new lifestyle: what it looks like, the reality of living and working abroad, and how he’s affording it.
“The thought of building a career and lifestyle around travel has been percolating in the back of my mind for as long as I can remember,” he says.
He pulled the trigger in April 2015, when he quit his job and spent the next couple of months preparing for a new life on the road. He packed up his home and made it “rental ready,” set up his website, Dannyboy Travels, finished his sailing certifications, and looked up visa requirements in various countries.
Having worked full-time for the past 20 years while supporting only himself, Givens had a substantial savings built up, despite living in the pricey Bay Area. He was able to save about a year’s worth of after-tax salary to spend on the road. He also built a financial plan before jet-setting, factoring in expenses, income, investment return, and tax rate.
His adventure officially began August 25, 2015, when he set off for Tenglo Island, off the coast of southern Chile, where he would do volunteer work for three families.
He finds his hosts through internet bulletin boards, such as Help-X, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), and Find a Crew. In exchange for labor, he gets a roof to sleep under and at least one meal a day.
The work is usually physical — in Chile, he pruned apple trees, painted houses, and cleaned sailboats — but he’s also taught English and done some web and multimedia work. While his schedule varies depending on the type of work, his host, and the weather, he spends about four to five hours a day doing volunteer work, Monday through Friday.
“I like the variety of the work, the physical nature of the work, and the impact of the work,” Givens says. “I like the fresh air, fresh faces, and fresh perspective on life.”
The duration of his stays varies. There is no contract, so he can stay as long or as short as he wants.
After a month in Chile, he returned to San Francisco to regroup for a few days before heading to Germany to spend time with friends. In late October, he bought a one-way ticket to Thailand, where he would spend the next three months helping a family run a resort, which consisted of 15 bungalows and a restaurant.
“I helped install outdoor lighting and walkways, prepared the foundation for a beach bar, and painted the buildings,” he explains. “I also built a spreadsheet for them to manage their bookings online, instead of using pen and paper. Lastly, I implemented a set of procedures for cleaning rooms and public areas.”