So you find yourself reading rousing accounts about how these travelers just left it all behind to travel the world. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? I certainly know of a few people who travel continuously for years and it seems to work for them. I find their tips of living on the go very helpful at that and the lifestyle certainly is feasible… for some.
But what if this is just not an option for you? You certainly are not alone. There are many reasons why most people who love to travel are just unable to or unwilling to take this route, whether it be for fear, financial or even family reasons. Do you throw away your travel dreams altogether if you find yourself unable to live a nomadic lifestyle? I think not!
on the road – a stranger in a strange land
As for me, the reason is far more fundamental. Despite what many people think, I don’t live like a nomad. I have a full-time job and believe it or not, all the journeys published in this blog are packed within this framework. I don’t travel for months because I can’t stand being on the road for more than 3 weeks. There’s nothing like coming home a changed man after a long trip. Aside from the journey itself, I find the coming home bit to be one of the great pleasures of traveling.
I thought about writing my own version of this piece after being inspired by the concept of Diary of a Part Time Traveler. Rather than contribute on the big pile of written work (excellently written if I might add!) out there on why you should quit your job in your 20’s to travel the world, I shall make what is a less idealistic and not as romantic case on why you can still travel to the places you want and yet still have a full time job. I know it almost borders to being a killjoy, but for most people it’s probably more realistic. I hope these tips can be of help to you.
1. List down your must-go places
Bucket lists, dream destinations, places to see before you die… it goes by many names. But I’m sure every single one of you would more or less have these places in mind. In the earlier versions of this blog, I had this sidebar on the right listing down my Top 10 countries to explore. I did it as a reminder and thought it was a good way to direct myself subconsciously to those places. I would recommend you to do this, too. It really doesn’t matter what your interests are. Whether it be a trekking tour of Peru to see Macchu Picchu or simply a relaxing holiday whiling away in the beaches of Maldives, it’s good to have a rough idea of what it might entail to visit your most desired destinations. Things like possible budget, number of days you’d need to spend and visa requirements are things which would be handy to keep a mental note of so when an unbeatable offer arises or a traveling window opens, you’d pretty much be able to gauge how ready you are to go on your dream trip.
2. Don’t underestimate the weekend
Saturdays and Sundays are a mere 2 days but you’d never know just how much you can stretch that. Anything within a 2 or even 3 hour (flight time, driving time) radius are prime candidates for weekend trips. I live here in Singapore where places such as Bali, Bangkok, Angkor Wat, Saigon and Phuket are a mere 2 hours flight. Extending that for an hour more can get me to Burma, Laos and Chiang Mai. Depending on flight and bus schedules, you can really make the most out of these weekend trips by leaving as early as Friday night right after work, and coming back Sunday night.
3. Get lost in your own city
This may sound a bit like a fool’s consolation at first but wandering around your home city can be a good alternative if time is an issue. No matter how long you’ve lived in a place, there’s bound to be some hidden corners yet to be explored. A good way to gain a new perspective to the city you live is to go for staycations. Try living in another part of town to get new perspectives of the place. It might just surprise you.
4. Work your vacation days around preset holidays
This may sound obvious but is nonetheless one of the best ways to make the most out of your journeys to faraway places while maintaining a full-time job. Try to center your one or two week trips during times when there are holidays. Travel costs around these days are bound to be higher, but can be mitigated by putting the start and end of your trip around the opposite ends of the holiday. For example, if you’re going on a 2-week trip and there’s a holiday on the 10th of that month, you can try planning a departure of around the 3rd of the month and returning on the 17th. That way, you get to avoid those few days when costs, especially airfare, skyrocket.
5. Going on a business trip? Extend it!
Most suitable to those who hold jobs that involve traveling, it’s an excellent way to get to a new place, especially since the plane ticket is already covered by the employer. If your business trip ends on a Friday, extending it by 2 additional days won’t hurt work-wise. Taking additional weekdays off after a business trip may also be a good idea, depending on how you discuss it with your employer.
6. Plan your trips well
Now this is rather controversial. Travel purists eschew schedules and itineraries, preferring instead to live nomadic lifestyles in order to really soak in the atmosphere of a place and have the opportunity to immerse in the local culture. But what can you, with your mere 12 vacation days, really do? There’s not gonna be any denying that at some point, there will be a list that will have to be ticked. Some travel planning is essential. But the advantage is that you will constantly be on the go, and if you plan your trips well enough, you can even sneak in a little time for some r&r. In this way, you can also add variety on your trips with planned and unplanned legs. You will still be able to see the Taj Mahal or go skydiving from several thousand feet from the air if that’s the stuff your dream trips are made of. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
7. Don’t let your travel plans distract you from your work and vice versa
Your work persona is different from who you are in your personal sphere. However, the culture in the workplace these days has gone to the extent that there’s bound to be some spillage into one’s personal life so if you’re someone who really loves to travel, chances are your colleagues and even your boss will know about it. But fear not. It doesn’t matter if you’re a travel junkie at heart as long as it doesn’t affect your work performance. Show your colleagues how well you can balance these two worlds and soon enough, you can gain their trust and any attempt to spread rumors about you being a slacker won’t bear fruit. Ensure you’re covered well during your vacation days (having a work buddy helps!). If the traveling increases your overall motivation at work, your boss will thank you for it.
8. Check out your employer’s sustanability program
Just because you only have 12 vacation days doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have to scrap the “immersing on the local culture” bit. Many companies these days have an employee volunteering scheme where staff can take some time off the cubicle without any compromise to your pay or performance to help communities in need. This can be quite flexible and depending on the program can involve teaching English to kids in Cambodia or giving much needed aid to remote villages in Nepal. In many cases, these activities can actually be much more in-depth culturally than having a backpacker stay for 2 weeks in one place where the likely community encounters are the tourist trap kinds.
9. Work from offices abroad through temporary assignments or long-term transfers
I left this for last as there are very few people who can even get this kind of privilege to begin with. This type of arrangement is more plausible for MNCs, and only if there is a good match between your current role and one in an office in your dream city / country. For this, it helps a lot to network to colleagues in overseas offices to know more about the roles available. Or you can start by inquiring in your local office if you can get a temporary assignment in another office.
What do you think? Do you agree it’s still possible to travel extensively while keeping your job or is it necessary to quit to get an authentic travel experience?