As only those who have quit their job to travel can truly understand, living a nomadic lifestyle is highly addictive.
Travel gets under your skin and into your blood. It empowers and invigorates you.
When you’re on the road, there’s no boss, no deadlines, no commitments, no agenda that you have to stick to if you don’t feel like it. You can explore, take risks, make a complete fool out of yourself and not even care. You will never feel so free in your entire life.
It’s easy to understand why many people have chosen this lifestyle over a more permanent, settled existence. But…it’s not for everyone.
When I was at my corporate job I was miserable. I felt like I was drowning; like little pieces of me were slowly disappearing and I wasn’t sure that I would ever get them back. Every day that I walked into that office I felt like I had to put on a mask and hide who I really was.
Losing that job was the best thing that ever happened to me. I loved my 5 months on the road – that feeling of not having to answer to anybody but myself; like the world was my oyster and I could be at home anywhere.
Sure, it wasn’t perfect. I managed to burn myself out a few times. I went horrifyingly over-budget (with no one to blame but myself). There were moments when I would have given anything to sleep in my own bed again. But all the discomforts I went through were so worth it for the sheer exhilaration of feeling like I was really alive.
So…why did I ever come back?
I could have gotten a job teaching English in Southeast Asia. I could have continued to freelance write & web design from anywhere in the world.
I thought about it, but someone very special was waiting back home for me. You don’t hear a lot about him, because he prefers to stay ‘off the grid,’ but just this once I’m going to gush a little. He is my biggest fan, and the greatest support I’ve ever had. He encourages me in my moments of self-doubt, and some days his steadfast belief in me is the only thing that keeps me going toward my dreams. Plus, he’s pretty cute. 😉
The truth is, as much as I loved traveling, giving him up forever wasn’t a cost I was willing to pay.
Unlike me, he loves his job. He likes the company he works for and the people he works with. Because of that, and other reasons I won’t get into – he isn’t able to just walk away from everything and come gallivant around the globe with me full-time. At least not yet.
Maybe you’ve been bitten by the travel bug as well but you’re not able or willing to just pack it up at this point and become a permanent nomad. Maybe you have family commitments, financial responsibilities, or you’re still in school. Maybe you have a job you actually like.
Whatever the reason – you can still live a life of freedom, travel, and adventure while having a permanent home-base.
So how do you travel when you have a full-time job?
Tip #1: Make travel a priority.
Plenty of people say they wish they could travel, but when bonus time rolls around, that money goes toward new furniture, a new car, or that flat screen TV you’ve had your eye on. And sure, all that stuff is great, but you have to figure out what you really want.
Figure out how much you can realistically set aside each month for travel. That might mean cutting back elsewhere. You may have to make sacrifices, but one way to make them a little easier is to remember what you’re saving for. Pick somewhere specific that you’re going to go. It’s a lot more fun saving for “trekking through the rain forest in Nicaragua” than it is saving for “general travel.”
Stick pictures on your refrigerator, write down things that excite you about your upcoming trip, set aside time each week to make specific travel plans – whatever helps keep you motivated.
Put your travel plans in writing. Book your tickets as early as you can afford to. Tell your friends, put it out there. Do whatever you need to do to keep yourself accountable. If you don’t, something else will come up.
Tip #2: Use your weekends wisely.
One of the things I love most about Europe is the way people use their weekends there. Too often here in America, ‘weekend’ means errand running, housework, or just crashing in your sweatpants because you’re so burned out from the work week.
Hey, I love a good day of doing nothing, but not every weekend. Pack your bags Thursday night so when Friday rolls around you can hit the road.
Hop over to Airfarewatchdog.com, sign up for fare alerts for your nearest airport, and snag a deal on a weekend getaway.
Be sure to take advantage of long weekends like Labor Day or Memorial Day. It’s a greater challenge to travel while working full time in American than it is in Europe, or even Australia. With a sad shortage of bank holidays, and a corporate culture that typically doesn’t value time off, you have to get a little creative. But it can be done.
If you live near enough to your family that you don’t have to fly to see them, volunteer to work Thanksgiving and Christmas in exchange for an extra day or two off somewhere else. I’ve successfully pulled this off at several different jobs.
Travel doesn’t have to mean the other side of the world. Chances are, someone from the other side of the world might view your area as an exotic destination, and I guarantee you haven’t see all there is to see there.
Go hike through the National Park a few hours away, or drive up to the little town with the cool antique shops. Check out a museum you’ve never been to.Take a walking tour of your own city. Volunteer on a wildlife conservation project near you. There are endless possibilities, all you have to do is think outside the box. You don’t have to sit through a 9-hour flight to get out of your comfort zone. Road trips are awesome!
Tip #3: Travel smarter, spend less.
Just because a destination is popular, doesn’t mean it’s better. If you travel to the most popular destinations during peak times, it’s going to be expensive.
For example, if you’re booking a ski holiday in Vail, Colorado, you’re going to pay an arm and a leg for it. It’s beautiful, sure, but check out Powderhorn Mountain Resort, near the Grand Mesa. Not only are nearly all of its tree areas skiable, it’s only 30 minutes from Palisade, the unofficial capital of Colorado wine country.
Don’t be afraid to try somewhere you’ve never been before. In fact, you should try new places. If you keep going back to the same place you go every year, you’re missing out on one of the best parts of travel – discovering new things.
Instead of Thailand, consider the Philippines, which can offer a lot more value for the money. Large portions of the country remain undamaged by Typhoon Haiyan and the people are welcoming of tourists. Looking for crystal clear waters and white sand beaches? Skip Bora Bora and head to the Dominican Republic. If it’s rain forests you want, think Nicaragua instead of Costa Rica.
Unless you have kids, don’t even think about booking a trip during popular spring break times. Wait until all the little monsters are back in school or, better yet, head off in February when the cabin fever is driving you nuts.
Don’t be a travel sheep. Get off the beaten path and your dollar will go a lot further. Not to mention you’ll end up exploring new parts of the world you might not have even known about.
Tip #4: Take a break in between jobs or look for jobs that involve travel.
Long gone are the days when you got a job with a company, worked your way up the ladder, and retired with a nice pension and a shiny gold watch. Today’s workforce stays at a job 4.4 years on average and it’s still decreasing. While employers may not like this trend, they’re going to have to adjust. According to Forbes, a whopping 91% of Millennials expect to stay at a job less than 3 years.
That means, on average, you could have between 15-20 different jobs in your life. Use that time in between to recharge your batteries and explore part of the world. If you have another position lined up, sometimes you can even negotiate a few weeks before your start date to take a trip.
If you’re not 100% sure what you want to do with your life (and lets face it…that’s most of us) try out a job that lets you travel for work. Here are a few to consider:
Flight Attendant – This one is the most obvious, but it’s also the most accessible. Most airlines don’t require prior training, only customer service experience, before they’ll hire you. The pay isn’t great, and the hours are somewhat erratic, but the perks are pretty fantastic.
Event Coordinator – A job coordinating festivals or trade shows can log you some serious travel miles. I started my marketing job as an event coordinator and made it over 20 different cities my first year.
Retail Buyer – If you’ve got an eye for fashion and a serious case of wanderlust, this is the dream job for you. Retail buyers attend vendor meetings and trade shows all over the country (sometimes the world) to identify consumer trends and make purchase decisions.
Consultant – Because consultants are specialists, their client-base is usually spread all over the world. Fixing a specific issue within a company, and maintaining good customer relations often requires regular on-site visits.
Destination Wedding Photographer – Hey, someone has to take the photos at all those destination weddings. If you’ve got a great eye and a willingness to travel, it might as well be you. Granted, this job requires some special skills & equipment, but if you love photography this could be the career for you.
Tip#5: Negotiate for more vacation time (and actually use it).
When you’re interviewing, be up-front with perspective employers about your desire to travel. Negotiate for more PTO instead of just more money. And then USE IT.
The biggest mistake I made when I was still a part of corporate America was to cash out my PTO every year instead of actually taking time off. I let myself be guilted into never taking vacations. I’d come into the office even when I was sick. If I didn’t, my company phone would buzz all day anyway. The one time I actually used my PTO was for my grandma’s funeral. And I brought my laptop.
Don’t do this. Seriously, it’s never worth it. Don’t ever feel guilty for taking the time off that you deserve. When you come back, put in the extra effort to show your employer that travel helps increase morale and productivity.
You can also take unpaid time off. Just because you’ve used up your PTO for the year doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to take a few extra days off. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box – the rules aren’t always black and white. Apply the same passion and creativity to your job as you do toward travel, and no one will give you grief for it. (If they do, chances are the job isn’t right for you anyway.)
Tip #6: Have fun saving for travel.
Saving doesn’t mean you have to live like a miser. We all know that cutting out Starbucks, canceling cable, and packing our own lunches is a good way to save money. If you like to shop, you probably know you don’t need really that 46th pair of shoes.
But saving isn’t just about cutting stuff out. There’s no reason you can’t have a good time while putting money aside for travel! Here are a few creative ideas:
- Have a jar for spare change labeled ‘Adventure Fund’ (or switch labels depending on your next trip).
- Instead of going out to dinner, light some candles and cook together – it’s more romantic anyway.
- Find a fun project to work on – like training for a 5k – instead of spending money on activities.
- Take advantage of free events, like movies or concerts in the park.
- If you’re naturally crafty, set up an Etsy shop and sell some jewelry you’ve made or photographs you’ve taken. Put the extra cash in the travel fund.
- Throw a party for your friends instead of going out – ask your guests to bring a bottle of wine or a case of beer.
- Have a stay-at-home spa day – bubble bath, pedicure, facial, the works. (If you’re really lucky, you might even get a massage from your significant other).
- Pack a picnic and walk through the woods while the leaves are changing.
The point is, having fun doesn’t have to mean spending money. My special man-friend and I live on a very strict budget and we’re two of the happiest people I know.
Stop making excuses for why you don’t travel. “It’s too expensive, I don’t have time, I work too much, etc…” If it’s important to you, you CAN find a way to do it. Make the decision and just go. Making regular travel a part of your life might take some adjustments, but before long you’ll have been all over the world while still keeping that job that you love.
Your turn, guys. How do you make travel a part of your life while working full time?
If you liked this post, please share it with someone who could use a little travel inspiration in their life. 🙂
This post is part of the #SundayTraveler series. Check them out for more awesome travel posts or to link up your own!