When I was studying abroad last spring, I got used to hopping on a bus and wandering all over England. My days were filled with hiking, exploring, and adventures. And when I got home and started working full-time right away, it was kind of a rude awakening.
I think it can feel this way at first for anyone who’s transitioning from school to work, because suddenly eight hours of your day are gone, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Instead of committing to a few hours of class per week, you are expected to give your job your full attention and responsibility. Overtime hours can eat up evenings and weekends. It’s a big change, and one that can be a little rough.
The hardest thing for me was accepting that travel might never again look the same as when I was in school. Instead of months-long summer breaks and flexible part-time jobs, I now get a couple weeks of PTO. I was just discovering my love for travel, and all of a sudden my travel options became extremely limited.
So what can be done? Here are a few suggestions based on my experience in the working world this past year.
Always have something to look forward to
If you feel stuck at home, it’s helpful to be planning a trip, even if it’s months away. Or even if it’s just a weekend trip to somewhere nearby or somewhere you’ve been before! There are always uncovered facets of a place to explore.
Make these explorations a priority on your calendar. Dream up places you want to go in the future, years down the road. Think of somewhere you can feasibly go on your next free weekend. Look forward to something. It will help you feel less stuck.
Do something you love
No job is perfect, but if you care about your job and find it meaningful in some way, you can remind yourself that the reason you aren’t traveling is because you’re doing something else worthwhile.
I read a book called Designing Your Life that talked about how there are many paths your life can take, and all of them can be equally good. I often tell myself that I could choose a life of more travel (working a job I’m not crazy about but that pays well, saving up, traveling when I can), or I can choose a life where I’m working towards a career I love and traveling less. That’s where I am right now, and it helps to know that there isn’t a “right choice”; even though I can’t travel as much as I want to, my life is still going in a good direction.
Travel on the holidays
My latest scheme is booking longer trips over New Year’s, so I get a few work holidays off and can use some PTO from each year.
I’m also trying not to sit at home on three-day weekends but instead to find somewhere affordable that I can go.
Make travel your career
Easier said than done! But if this is something you really want, I think there are a few steps you can take, at least to get started thinking about your options.
Look into jobs that require travel
This might mean finding specific companies that offer opportunities for travel. One of my friends has gone to China and Japan for his engineering job; I went to California a couple of times for my technical writing job. Business-related jobs might include more travel. Think about fields and companies that offer what you are looking for.
Again, you will have to do a lot of research into work opportunities and visas. And a lot of your time overseas would be spent working, not traveling. But you will likely have access to a lot of places and experiences you wouldn’t otherwise. A few jobs I’ve known people to do in other countries include:
- Being an au pair
- Doing religious missions
- Teaching English, via
- Temporary internships or training programs in the EU
- Temporary Workaway placements
You can also apply for full-time, permanent jobs overseas, especially if you have a specialty in an in-demand field or have personal connections to a company. It never hurts to try!
Find a flexible job
Depending on your field and interests, some jobs allow you to set your own hours. I met a salesperson who could take as much vacation time as he wanted because he got paid on commission. If he wanted to work and make money, he could, and if he didn’t want to, he didn’t have to. He traveled all over cheaper countries in Asia and South America, where his money would stretch further.
I’ve also known people with seasonal jobs that pay a lot for part of the year and leave you with a couple of free months to do whatever you want. These are often labor-intensive outdoor jobs, and may require you to work for yourself and find clients, but not always.
This was super hard for me at first. It was all I could do to take one day at a time, much less think years down the road. All I worried about was whether or not I had enough money in my checking account to pay my next credit card bill.
But it can be helpful to make future plans if you want a career that involves travel. I knew someone who worked five years in an American company that eventually led to him being transferred to England. If you find a job that could include a transfer or increased travel down the road, think about if that’s a direction you would like to go. Look into companies that might offer those opportunities to you.
Another route might be working your way up in a company until you can work from home (and therefore live anywhere you want) or starting your own business that allows you to set your own hours. Or maybe you could do contract work and travel in between contracts. Think about options that apply to your field. Look at what the higher-ups in your company are doing. Talk to freelancers or people who have started their own businesses, people who are living the way you want to. Set concrete goals that will help get you where you want to go.
You might not be traveling all the time a year from now, but in five or ten years, who knows? It’s worth putting in the work now to open doors later.
Are you feeling stuck at home? What are your travel goals?
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