In the last six years or so, I have traveled to dozens of countries including Tanzania, Nepal and Peru. And I did it all while having a full-time job. Many think it can’t be done but I am here to prove that you can have the best of both worlds: a paycheck and a full passport!
I graduated from U.C. Berkeley on a Friday in May of 2004 and literally began full-time employment the following Tuesday at a popular Silicon Valley company. Even though I wasn’t really get paid all that much, when you’re going from making nothing to making something, suddenly something is awesome. After that job came to a close a few months later, I found myself temping at another tech company where my job was solely to be the receptionist. As you would imagine, I wasn’t all that busy so I spent most of my time online. A few days later, I had booked a trip to Costa Rica with my brother for the following week. Upon return, I got a job at another small tech company which also gave my plenty of free time as they never seemed to have enough work for me. This time, my hours of web browsing paid off when I won a trip to Antarctica from Adventure Center (the trip itself was organized by Peregrine Adventures).
I settled into a more permanent role in 2005. You know, the kind of job with 401(k) matching, stock options and very nice healthcare benefits. Once I got settled into my role, about 9 months or so, I decided it was time to start traveling again. First stop, New Zealand with Contiki. Once I came back, I was ready for more – Galapagos in springtime, Peru in the summer…now you’re starting to get the picture, right? Like my company’s fiscal calendar, my holidays became quarterly. While I have become more fiscally conscious in the last year or so as utility bills, student loan payments and the urge to build a nest egg have crept up, my sense of adventure has not come to a screeching halt. Instead, I am much more creative in my saving and planning.
Want to travel and work like me? Check out my tips:
1) More or Longer? I have opted to have more, shorter holidays than just one or two longer ones. By having a milestone to look forward to every 3-4 months, I feel like I am more productive at work and happier in life. The ability to do a “mini-refresh” periodically also helps immensely.
2) Utilize holidays, if possible. Have a bank or public holiday randomly in the middle of a month? Build your holiday around it as a way to use one less, precious vacation day. Try to travel a few days before and after it so you don’t incur the inflated holiday rates.
3) Save money, even if it’s not cool. I was lucky enough to live rent-free for a few years after college which allowed me to fund my travels. My mom was quite alright with this arrangement since I was using my money to see the world. Sure, it wasn’t the coolest thing in the planet when I was out on a date and the elusive, “So, where do you live?” question came up but when I can talk about that time I was standing on the Equator in Quito, scuba diving with sharks at the Siam Aquarium in Bangkok or standing on the Great Wall of China, I was feeling much cooler.
4) Make extra cash. If you’re determined to travel, you’ll make it happen. I worked part-time at a local drug store on weekends as a cashier for a while, I babysat long after my teen years had passed and I sold anything humanly possibly on eBay and Craigslist. If there is a will, there is a way. While the amounts might not be life changing, that extra income can easily turn into your spending money for your next holiday.
5) Find an awesome company with an awesome boss. While this one is not innately easy, when you find a company that values work-life balance and a boss that appreciates your urge to see the world, awesome travel experiences seem to come naturally. How can you find this out? Ask around – either to friends or on message boards like LinkedIn – to find out which companies offer generous paid time-off, sabbaticals or flexible work environments. During the interview process, try to weave travel into the conversation. Aspire to work abroad? Ask your potential boss if they ever have. If someone comments on your study abroad experiences (which I definitely recommend including on your resume), ask them if they studied abroad. Usually, you can quickly get a sense about the people you’d be working with. If they were a traveler in their younger years, they’ll more likely to help you have similar experiences.
6) When you’re in the office, be a rock star. When you proudly announce you’ll be taking two weeks off to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro and scuba dive in Zanzibar, you want your boss and colleagues to see it as a well-earned break, not another attempt at evade work. Put in your fair share and maybe even offer to help a colleague so that they’ll be more likely to help back you up when you are out. Also, rock stars end up with larger bonuses and more stock which all translate to more travel funds.
Have another tip for balancing work and travel? Post it here!
Kristina Wegscheider is one of the co-founders of Do It While You’re Young as well as a Human Resources Professional. Her personal motto is to prove that you can have a paycheck and a full passport.