Burnt out despite great job. Travel? Remote work?

Vizient / Eng Gzxo63
Aug 8, 2017 40 Comments

Senior dev, competitive pay
Great company, excellent team
Flexible hours, 6 weeks vacation

I love doing development, and I really can't ask for much more in this market except maybe a modest raise. And yet, I'm reaching that point where I'm getting burnt out and bored with work and stressed about long-term savings. Biggest expenses are eating out and high cost rent. I know I could save some more by eating out less or moving to a less desirable area, but that just seems like lowering my quality of life -- for what? I'm at the point where I could also likely transition into a lead position at any number of companies in the area, but while the extra income would be nice, the idea of asking for a raise here or getting a new job just seems like additional stress due to more responsibility and needing to work harder.

The idea of taking an indefinite vacation with no responsibility and no stress seems very freeing, yet leaving a great job seems irrational and irresponsible, and the dev team is small enough that I'm not sure I could take any significant leave of absence without them having to replace me. My lease is also up in two months, which means I could potentially travel indefinitely without any major bills here if I were to leave. I could cut both my food and rent budget in half and still really enjoy life in most other countries. I'm not even sure what other expenses I'd have besides a phone and internet bill. And if I were to find a good remote position while abroad, I could likely save an additional $40k per year without compromising on an active lifestyle.

Realistically, 2-3 months abroad would probably do wonders for my stress, my weight, and my motivation at work, but I'm not sure packing up my life and leaving my job or majorly inconveniencing my employer for just 2-3 months abroad makes sense. I love photography, and the idea of having more time to develop that skill and maybe take some classes or become conversational in a new language is appealing.

My other options are to keep my apartment and job and try to take 4-6 weeks unpaid leave. While inconvenient, they would probably work with me, but I'm not sure if that's enough time to feel fully refreshed, and I probably wouldn't have time to really learn anything new. This would be a quick and easy hack, but I'm not sure it's a long term fix.

My last option would be to leave indefinitely, take a couple months off to unwind, and then find a remote position where I could continue to travel and learn new things, both technical and non-technical. It seems like there are a surprising number of good remote opportunities for senior level developers. (Are there also good part-time remote positions?) I was also surprised to learn that the first $102k of income is exempt from federal income taxes if you spend 330+ days abroad during a 12-month period, which means even taking a slight pay hit combined with a lower cost of living might result in considerably higher net savings. If I hated it after a year, I could come back and pick up at a new position roughly where I left off, likely with a fair bit of savings from my time abroad. This makes perfect sense on paper and seems like the obvious choice, so I'm not sure why I'm uneasy about it.

Thoughts? Is this type of burnout normal around this point in a tech career? Is taking a few months off reasonable and smart, even if it means having to leave a great job, or does it make more sense to commit to a full year working remotely abroad (for tax purposes) if I'm going to do it? If I were unemployed, I pretty sure I'd be off traveling the world for at least a few months in a heartbeat. It's hard to make the same decision when you're otherwise very happy with your current job.

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TOP 40 Comments
  • EPAM Systems / Eng aNqI04
    Man, as I read that I felt like I was looking into a mirror, down to the eating out and rent payments. I wonder how many others out there are dealing with the same sort of fatigue?
    Aug 8, 2017 2
    • Vizient / Eng Gzxo63
      OP
      Glad to hear. I know I went a little long in that post, but I've been wondering if I'm the only one struggling with this. Sometimes I feel like we're spoiled having such great jobs and wanting more, but it's nice to have a community where others are in the same position.
      Aug 8, 2017
    • EPAM Systems / Eng aNqI04
      Likewise. I have people ask me all the time how it can be a bad situation. The truth is, it's not a bit situation at all, it's just that the burnout is real.
      Aug 8, 2017
  • SAP Adult
    Quitting your current job and moving abroad for a few months is becoming a trend in the tech industry, so I wouldn't worry too much about employers seeing the employment gap it would cause, if you can explain it. You also mentioned working remotely abroad, which is another trend in the industry, and the people who do this sometimes referred to as "digital nomads". I haven't had experience doing either of those things, so I can't comment on the benefits, but I have heard argument for and against it from people who have quit to do these things.

    The most common thing I have heard is people saying they get their international-itch scratched from a month or two of being there, before the absence of ultra modern conveniences like stable internet starts getting to them (usually people who go to Southeast Asia).

    Can you take unpaid leave, after you use your vacation days up on your adventures? That sounds like the way to go to me. I know I would eventually worry about finding a job, if I didn't already have one lined up, and that would stress me out.
    Aug 8, 2017 3
    • Vizient / Eng Gzxo63
      OP
      This is what I've been trying to figure out. I've got a week or two of paid leave left for the year. Could I get another month of unpaid? They wouldn't love it, but I'm sure I could. That may be enough time that I'd be excited to come back to the States.

      Then again, I could get an apartment in the Caribbean and go relax for a month, and that would just be scratching the surface -- I'd still want to go see Central America, Southeast Europe, maybe Southeast Asia, maybe spend a couple weeks per city just slowly exploring the region. I've taken several 1-2 week trips abroad in the past, and I'm sure I could easily spend a few months exploring and love it.

      I've seen a lot about digital nomads, and it appears that they tend to be younger and more junior level overall--or maybe that's a misperception on my part. I haven't seen a lot of senior level people who move abroad for the tax savings. $25k savings on federal income taxes means I could save $60k a year or more = a healthy retirement account of ~$1-2 mil in 10-15 years. It's almost surprising to me that this isn't more common as a way to enjoy life while young and then retire early.
      Aug 8, 2017
    • FastSpring / Eng
      RickS_C137

      FastSpring Eng

      PRE
      Amazon, Motorola
      BIO
      Full stack of despair
      RickS_C137more
      But these countries have rules about expats working there. I guess some won't care much but I would do the necessary research. The last thing you want is a locked up abroad episode made out of you.
      Aug 8, 2017
    • Vizient / Eng Gzxo63
      OP
      After a bit of research, I've discovered that you can safely work for a foreign-based (i.e. US) employer in a good number of countries and will not be considered a resident or charged local taxes if you stay there less than 6 months per year. So by spending a little over 5 months each in 2 countries + a month back home, you can avoid having to pay any income taxes.
      Aug 10, 2017
  • Apple / Design
    aplanonymo

    Apple Design

    PRE
    Google
    aplanonymomore
    You ask the wrong question.
    Need more wages? Update your skills: Swift/React.
    Man, you are still a JS dev after 10 years... that’s not a burnout, it’s skill set problem.
    Aug 8, 2017 1
    • Apple / Design
      aplanonymo

      Apple Design

      PRE
      Google
      aplanonymomore
      Are you fluent in React? We may have job for you at Apple then.
      Aug 8, 2017
  • Intel / Eng xeonist
    I assume you are in your 30+ with no dependants?
    Aug 8, 2017 3
    • Vizient / Eng Gzxo63
      OP
      Very early 30s, no dependents.
      Aug 8, 2017
    • Intel / Eng xeonist
      If I were you and I assume you are not interested in having kids, I would focus on building my career. Once you hit 40 and you haven't done either of these things, midlife crisis will hit you like a steam train. my $0.02
      Aug 8, 2017
    • Intuit wUVe67
      Xeonist you're suggesting that even though he's burned out and losing interest, he should wait almost 10 years to take a break at 40? I disagree...take the time you need otherwise sitting around being burnt out WILL affect your work and your career
      Aug 8, 2017
  • Apple cashme
    Deal with your food addiction issues
    Aug 8, 2017 1
    • Vizient / Eng Gzxo63
      OP
      🥓🍗🥙 😛😛😛
      Aug 8, 2017
  • FastSpring / Eng
    RickS_C137

    FastSpring Eng

    PRE
    Amazon, Motorola
    BIO
    Full stack of despair
    RickS_C137more
    I just did that - quit 120K high stress job and got a 130K remote instead.
    I can work and travel as long as I have health insurance and reliable internet. Took a nice break in between to get a feel of freedom.

    But 4K for rent and food is too much in Texas - have you been eating steak every day. Downsize to bare necessities and live a frugal yet easy life. Does more to the soul than chasing the next shiny thing.

    Read up on the financial freedom standard books (Suzy Orman Dave Ramsey Rich dad etc) or - subreddit r/personalfinance
    Aug 8, 2017 3
    • Vizient / Eng Gzxo63
      OP
      Have you been abroad more than a year? Have you actually claimed the FEIE exemption, and did you really save $25k+ on taxes as a result? I mean I know it's written into the tax code, but it seems hard to believe it's as easy as just moving abroad to claim to claim that type of savings.
      Aug 8, 2017
    • FastSpring / Eng
      RickS_C137

      FastSpring Eng

      PRE
      Amazon, Motorola
      BIO
      Full stack of despair
      RickS_C137more
      My wife's a CPA I can ask. If you move to Europe or Australia or any county that offers free healthcare for work - you need to get proper documents and deal with immigration - I don't wanna do that hassle to save $25K in taxes.
      Aug 8, 2017
    • FastSpring / Eng
      RickS_C137

      FastSpring Eng

      PRE
      Amazon, Motorola
      BIO
      Full stack of despair
      RickS_C137more
      I'm just going to visit number of places domestically in US and US territories and maybe visit other countries for tourism. And keep my base in US (currently Arizona). Honestly I only spend 100 bucks on groceries per week - I spend more on my dog than myself
      Aug 8, 2017
  • Allegion anonce
    Regarding Federal taxes, check out this site:

    http://losthorizons.com

    I'm still research it, but if it's valid, it's mind blowing.
    Aug 8, 2017 2
    • Cracking the Code, but for taxes.

      Nice startup idea!
      Aug 8, 2017
    • FastSpring / Eng
      RickS_C137

      FastSpring Eng

      PRE
      Amazon, Motorola
      BIO
      Full stack of despair
      RickS_C137more
      You cannot avoid death and taxes. Even if you go live in the Himalayas
      Aug 8, 2017
  • Nuance / Mgmt ferris37
    I respect that you want to travel. Another idea if you're burned out is to serve. Find a non-profit, soup kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, whatever. Connect with real people who are less fortunate. Do it on a regular basis, not just once or twice.
    Aug 8, 2017 1
    • Vizient / Eng Gzxo63
      OP
      Actually, I would love this. I've looked into Habitat and volunteer at other places on occasion. The chance to travel for a while and do some volunteer work at the sane time would be a great opportunity.
      Aug 8, 2017
  • Intuit wUVe67
    Why not take a 2-3 month sabbatical? Many companies offer personal leave options if you're feeling burnt out
    Aug 8, 2017 1
    • Vizient / Eng Gzxo63
      OP
      It would definitely be worth asking HR if that's an option. I did search our employee benefits guide and didn't see any options that seemed to accommodate this.
      Aug 8, 2017
  • Apple cashme
    Sorry but $2000 a month is an insane about of money on food.

    I'd start by giving up alcohol for 30 days and living on $100 of groceries per week.
    Aug 8, 2017 0
  • General Motors / Eng
    Stitch90

    General Motors Eng

    BIO
    Vehicle Electronics and Software
    Stitch90more
    Do it... travel the world for a few months. I did it for a few weeks some years ago. And if I could do it again, I would have done it for a few months to a year.
    Aug 8, 2017 0
  • American Express technician
    Go for it! you've said it yourself...the window of opportunity is opening. all you need to do is walk through it. No regrets.
    Aug 8, 2017 0
  • Living in SF eating $2,000 is insane. Reign that in and you'll stop worrying about your finances, which will stress you out less.
    Aug 8, 2017 2
    • Vizient / Eng Gzxo63
      OP
      To be fair, those are Texas prices and includes Starbucks, drinks on weekends, dating, etc. I agree it could come down a bit, but frankly there's not much to do here besides going out for dinner or drinks.
      Aug 8, 2017
    • Get a VR headset? Go hiking?

      It's basically the same wherever you go.

      Fun is whatever you make it.
      Aug 8, 2017
  • Cognizant vguglani
    Browse "Remote Year" site. You may want to try. I like their concept of having to meet with people you never knew and then travel to I guess 27 cities(much I remember) and you can work remotely too. They provide all the basic necessities.
    Aug 22, 2017 1
    • Intuit wUVe67
      My cousin is currently with the Remote Year program. Looks like a TON of fun, though also likely not a ton of work being done - so not sure how it'll help your career, but I'm pretty jealous of his Instagram account.
      Aug 22, 2017
  • Meggitt / Eng anon10101
    why would you eat out 4-5 times a week spending 2k a month.... your averaging 100 dollars a meal lmao....
    learn how to cook.. you could buy lobster tails, jumbo scallops, jumbo shrimp, wagyu beef for 2 every single day and you'd still be under 2k a month lmao...
    Aug 8, 2017 1
    • Vizient / Eng Gzxo63
      OP
      I see how it could appear that way. See my response below for an explanation.
      Aug 8, 2017
  • Salesforce twinpeaks
    Are you sure travelling/living abroad is going to help you relax? I did it for a month and a half, after about a week it turned into the most lonely and draining thing (and I consider myself fairly extroverted and adventurous). Re: staying active/healthy, if you're abroad (especially if you're traveling) it's hard to find the right kinda of regular nutritious/healthy foods you enjoy.

    But, if you have done that already and know it wouldn't be a mistake then go for it!

    Honestly I'd just take a month off and relax, work on myself and any personal projects/side hustles I have, go on a few adventures and spend some quality time with friends and family.

    But... That's just me and my experience of traveling.
    Mar 22 0
  • Deloitte PVaQ48
    White people problems fo real. JUst use your vacay. You have enough vacay. Sounds like you need to find something to really "do." Sounds like you are not doing something you are not passionate about. Passion never = bored. Just sayin...
    Aug 8, 2017 0
  • Vizient / Eng Gzxo63
    OP
    Everyone is focused on the $2,000 for food, and I think that's fair, but let me clarify:

    - Day to day finances aren't tight. I've got $60k in my savings account + I paid for my $20k car in cash.

    - The financial stress is more of a long term stress of worrying about not saving enough for retirement, how to afford private school if I ever have kids, etc. I'm saving $20,000 a year into my 401k and have no debt. I'm early 30s and have over $100k assets between savings and 401k.

    - I can and have taken a month or two where I'll eat in if I have a big purchase or trip coming up.

    - $2,000/mo (which might be a slightly high estimate) is not simply stuffing my face with lobster all day long. It includes $6-8 for Starbucks or Whataburger for breakfast a few times a week. $75-100 for a night out with friends for drinks a few times a month. $100-120 for a nice dinner date with drinks a couple times a week + several meals in a week. Etc. Do the napkin math, and it's easily into the $1,500-2,000 range to live an active lifestyle as a single person in the city. Could I save by cooking every meal in, never going out with friends, and not dating actively as a single person? Sure! But again, it comes down to quality of life. Time to cook, lack of social life, etc.
    Aug 8, 2017 0
  • Noble Software Group / Design deeertyJ
    dude spending $2000 on eating out is insane. your money worries are self-inflicted. I hope you have a decent net worth. You don't wanna to be one of those people who get paid well but have no money.
    Aug 8, 2017 0