How to Quit Your Architect Job, Live on the Road and Travel to over 100 Countries

Traveler Norbert Figueroa
Norbert in Vestmannaeyjar Islands

I’m Norbert Figueroa, originally from Puerto Rico. I’m an adrenaline junkie at heart, so I’m always looking for new thrilling experiences. I worked as an architect in New York City for five years until 2011, when I decided to quit my job to travel the world for a year. That one year has now become a lifestyle of more than six years on the road.

How and why did you get into traveling?

Traveling has been a passion of mine since I was young. I remember traveling often with my family when I was a child – whether it was a cruise, to Disney, or some Caribbean island. When I was in high school, I came up with the idea of doing a trip around the world, and I even remember spending hours on my computer planning how that trip would be. But, it wasn’t until 10 years later, after I went to college and worked for a few years, that I got serious about really doing that trip. So, I prioritized traveling in my savings fund and saved money for over a year before I quit my job to travel for a year. It was pretty much saving 50% of my paycheck to my travel fund and lived with the rest. I made drastic changes to my lifestyle to achieve that – moved with roommates, stopped going out, cooked more often, and reduced any unnecessary spending.

Part of the reason for doing this trip was to fulfill that dream I had since young and to visit so many interesting architectural marvels I studied in college – as well as discovering new ones I didn’t study at all. Learning about new cultures is something I love doing, so it felt it was time to set things in motion.

Traveler Norbert Figueroa

How do you finance your travels?

My main income comes from my blog, I started it about a year before I left New York City, so I worked hard for that one year to take it off the ground and grow it enough so it would be at least a platform that would allow me to share my experiences and hopefully help financially with the trip. Now the site is making much more than six years ago, but I still like to travel on a budget. Also, worth noting is that I left New York with almost $18,000 saved, which I spend mostly during that first year on the road.

I also do a lot of freelance writing for different publications and I still practice architecture – freelance, though I don’t do it that often. This combination helps me stay on the road “indefinitely.”

On average, I spend around $20,000 on travel per year. If you think about it, $20,000 is not that much compared to what we spend at home in most American cities.

Why is traveling important for you?

Besides being part of my dream, traveling is one of the best tools to learn about life, cultures, and the world. It helps expand your horizon both physically and mentally.

Traveler Norbert Figueroa

How do you bring your things with you?

I carry one Gregory Z40 backpack that I use to carry all my clothes and a 22L Gregory daypack where I carry all my electronics. I personally like Gregory due to their quality and versatility. I think this amount of “room” is enough for me. I started with 55L six years ago, but I discovered that the more space I have, the more I tend to carry (even if I don’t need some stuff). Now I force myself to pack light. You learn on the go. Lighter is better. (Your back and shoulders will thank you)

How do you organize things in your bags?

The general rule is to pack the heaviest stuff on the bottom and the lighter on the top, but I normally don’t follow it unless I’m going hiking with my bag. I usually just pack mine like this, from bottom to top: second pair of sneakers, pants, t-shirts, underwear, and toiletries. On the daypack, I just throw my electronics as they fit. It’s almost like a puzzle. I carry a laptop, DSLR camera with three lenses, external hard drives, and a few other things.

Traveler Norbert Figueroa

How do your bags and gear hold up?

My bags are pretty good. As I mentioned, Gregory is an excellent brand, though not the cheapest. My daypack had been with me since 2009. It’s dirty, but still in one piece. The main backpack I’ve had for about three years now, and still love it! Both bags are light, so they don’t add much weight in addition to my gear.

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

I think I prepared really well when I left New York. I took everything I needed at the moment based on what I expected to do on the road. I’ve bought/picked several things along the way based on what I’ve needed for that specific trip (like hiking poles, camping equipment, etc). Those extra things I don’t wish to carry further I end up donating or gifting to other travelers.

The one things I must travel with is my iPhone… I do pretty much everything with it, from planning my trips to keeping up with the blog, and entertainment on the road.

Traveler Norbert Figueroa

What has been your best travel-related purchase below $100?

An Ikea egg timer. It cost me like 4 Euros but it is the best (cheap) timer to take 360 degrees timelapses with my GoPro. It has a flat top, so you can stick your GoPro’s base to it.

What is your best advice for other travelers?

Don’t try to plan everything before leaving home. Leave some wiggle room for the many things you’ll discover once you get there. And, if you feel overwhelmed with planning a big trip, start by buying a one-way ticket (or return, whatever you fancy), and from there plan things one at a time. Once you buy that airfare, you’ve crossed the “point of no return,” so you’ll feel compelled to plan your trip!

Traveler Norbert Figueroa

What will the future bring?

For now, I’m dedicating a bit more time to the US as I’ve neglected it mostly on my trip. I’ve visited 111 countries so far, but only 19 states. I’d like to add one or two more in the next month. Hopefully, I’d like to make it to Namibia later in the year, as it’s currently my top bucket list destination. And, maybe New Years in Brazil (again!)

Visit Norbert Figueroa on his website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

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