I’m travelling to 30+ countries this year and I have a full time job

These days the internet is full of bloggers who packed in their day jobs to pick up their rucksacks and travel the world. With no plan, they gallivant off to undiscovered lands book cheap flights to Southeast Asian countries to “discover themselves” whilst sharing incredibly glamorous photos on Instagram and pitching a stress-free, experience-rich lifestyle. Doesn’t that sound great?

Well the reality is that, sadly that lifestyle only works if a) your blog is sufficiently successful to provide you with enough money to survive, b) you’ve saved to travel and once the funds run out will probably have to return to work if you do not find an alternative source of income such as a), or c) if you have incredibly kind and supportive rich parents who are bank-rolling your adventures.

If you don’t fall into any of the above categories or you simply just like your job or the concept of stable income, then you may have resigned yourself to living vicariously through such blog posts, spending time day-dreaming about how great it would be to be on that beach sipping that cocktail rather than constructing a game plan which is going to get you to that beach so you can drink that cocktail.

I am concerned by the fact that I don’t seem to have a photo of me drinking a cocktail on a beach…

I often have friends and strangers contacting me and asking how I manage to travel as much as I do (in general), how I afford it and for the ones who know I have a full time job too – how I find the time. The thing is a resignation is not a pre-requisite of travel. It is possible to travel and hold down a job simultaneously, it just takes a bit more planning and know how. Of course all situations are different and not all jobs are as flexible or travel friendly as we might like but the following tips have all worked for me at one point or another so hopefully they might help you too!

  1. You have to really want to travel 

    Prioritisation is key when it comes to making travel happen. I twigged early on that travel was something very important to me and consequently, be it taking assignments in far-flung locations or giving up Starbucks to bolster the savings fund, I’ve engineered my life around that. (Seriously, giving up Starbucks makes a big difference!) While you don’t need to go to quite the same life-altering extent, you do need to consider what sacrifices you’re willing to make in order to travel because travel takes time and money – which is probably currently being used on something else.

    Conclusion: How high is travel on your priority list?

    My day spent working with the Patara elephant conservation program in Chiangmai was worth 100+ office days

  2. Use your holiday days 

    In the UK, almost all full-time workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks annual leave (28 days) – and it is up to the discretion of the employer whether this does or does not include bank/public holidays. You have holidays for a reason – so take them!

    In a YouGov survey from 2015, respondents gave their reasons for not taking holiday; intending to roll it over to next year (27%), meaning to but forgetting (22%), had no reason to take their holiday (17%), couldn’t afford to (16%), culture of presenteeism at work (7%), enjoying work too much (6%) and boss says no (4%).

    So firstly – really? 6% love their job so much they don’t want to take holiday?? Wow- don’t get me wrong, I love my job…but I also love travelling, lie-ins and lazy brunch. I envy those folks! Anyway, the point is that most of those reasons on that list are easily tackled by a change of attitude and a bit of planning so if you want to travel, stop making excuses such as ‘forgetting’ or ‘having no reason’ – now you have a reason and a reason to remember!

    In addition, as the survey noted, in some companies it is possible to roll holiday over into the next calendar year. If you’re planning a big adventure (like I am with One Steppe Beyond), be sure to think about this in advance and roll over some extra days.

    Conclusion: Kick the guilt-trip. Take your holiday.

  3. Be smart 

    At the start of each year, a number of newspapers like to run articles where they suggest how to get the most out of your holiday – for example, if we assume that your leave allowance doesn’t include public holidays then you could’ve taken 55 days off using just 25 days leave by strategically taking your leave around public holiday.

    There’s two slight problems here; the first is that of course that lots of people want to take time off around public holidays and the second being that the travel industry knows lots of people like to travel over public holidays and so there’s normally a price hike. To avoid the impacts of both problems, request your leave and make your reservations as early as you can.

    There’s plenty of trips you can do in a weekend too so don’t think travel is purely limited to vacation days. If there’s a real reason stopping you from using all of your vacation, don’t be afraid to do weekend getaways. If you’re based in Europe, there’s more than enough to keep you busy without having to fly any further afield.

    Conclusion: Have a holiday strategy.

    Weekend euro breaks (Paris, Luxembourg, Vienna, San Sebastián)

  4. Travel with work 

    The ideal situation is that you have a job which is location-agnostic or one which enables you to travel. While many whinge about work travel, I personally believe that (again, with a little planning!) it can be a fantastic experience in which you can kick-ass at work and get in your manager’s good books while also ticking off a new city or country and adapting to working in a new place.

    I work at a consulting company and fortunately, the premise of consulting is that it can be done anywhere. While this isn’t always the case in reality (some clients understandably like face time) others are remarkably flexible. In a previous client, our team was spread out across the world and management didn’t really care where I was as long as I was online when I should be and the work got done. As such, I could go back home to Switzerland and spend long weekends with my parents while working from their house. There’s also a lot of opportunities to join international projects – so far I’ve travelled to the Philippines, USA, Japan and Singapore for work. Not bad for 18 months in the job.

    Conclusion: Seek out flexible working arrangements and make your work, work for you!

    Trying balut during a work trip to The Philippines

  5. Ask for more 

    It’s amazing today how often we’re told to ask for things – and yet we still don’t. Be it a pay rise or an opportunity, lots of people (particularly women) really don’t like asking for things. There can be a number of reasons for this – we don’t want to inconvenience our colleagues, we think it might negatively impact our standing in the office or the way other people see us, the list goes on. However it really doesn’t have to be this way. It largely comes down to how you pitch it.

    For example; let’s take my upcoming One Steppe Beyond adventure as an example. OSB will require 30 days leave. I’m also currently in Japan on assignment and each time I take a flyback, I use up a day or two of leave so I can spend a little bit more time in London before I return. Consequently, my annual leave allowance wasn’t going to be enough.

    I had options; I could a) say nothing and accept the fact my holiday was insufficient and thus not go or b) I could go to my HR department and pitch to them on what a fantastic opportunity One Steppe Beyond is and all the positive impact I’m going to create. The very warm-hearted people in my HR department saw both the personal development aspect and societal contribution aspect of my pitch and granted my additional leave request.

    Now of course, if I’d gone to them and said please can I have an extra XX days of leave because I want to go and get wasted in Thailand for the Full Moon Party, then they’d probably have said no (and rightly so!) but with the right message and the right pitch, there’s nothing to stop you asking.

    Conclusion: If you don’t ask, you don’t get

  6. Be flexible 

    As much as you may want to travel and want to prioritise that above all else, the other people around you (be them family members or colleagues) will have different priorities and if you need their support in order to achieve your travel goals, then it’s important you be understanding of them. For example if your manager is unwilling to let you take your holiday in May, rather than accepting this rejection outright, ask if it would be possible to take it in June. Alternatively, if you’re requesting leave for a particularly long period of time and your managers are concerned about how this would impact a piece of work (to the extent where they may reject your request), consider offering to maintain a line of communication while you’re away – however do ensure this is time boxed and both parties are aware of what is and isn’t acceptable otherwise your holiday will simply become ‘working from a foreign location with a frustratingly mediocre internet connection’.

    Conclusion: Other people have priorities too. Be nice.

  7. Do it yourself 

    What are you waiting for? If you’re waiting for someone to come and organise your travel for you then first you need to call them and then you need to pay them (they’re called a travel agent). Worse, if you’re waiting for someone to hold your hand and travel with you, the likelihood is you’re going to be waiting a while. Embrace the challenge! You’re a big girl/boy and I assure you, travelling alone is a wonderfully fulfilling experience and you are perfectly capable of doing it (unless you’re still living in your parents basement and your mother is still doing your laundry… in which case, perhaps work on some life skills first).

    Conclusion: Be the master of your own destiny!

This year, through a combination of prioritising travel as #1, using all of my leave (and my rolled-over days from last year) and taking additional leave, opting for overseas assignments, I’ll be hitting over 30 countries so I’m proof that with the right conditions, it is possible to juggle a full time job and a life-consuming wanderlust addiction!

Leave a Reply