Think you can’t travel if you work full-time? Think again! Here are 5 tips for maximizing travel opportunities if you work full-time.
There is nothing like travel for enriching the soul and re-energizing our minds and bodies. But the pressures of modern living and the demands of our professional lives mean that we don’t often have as much time as we would like to explore the world and feel that sense of joy. When returning to the USA after three years of living abroad, one of my biggest challenges was balancing travel while working full-time. The United States has one of the lowest paid time off (PTO) policies in the world—an embarrassing 10 days is considered generous at most companies.
I have found it a bit ironic that while it’s never been easier to book trips, it’s also harder than ever to actually get away from our desks with the crushing pressures of the American 9 to 5 pushing us to work more, and take less time off. Despite my participation in America’s world culture since returning home, I’ve found little ways to bring more of the world into my life within the constraints of a 40-hour work week. Here are 5 ways I’ve maximized travel while working full-time. I encourage you to bring up any one of these options with your supervisor during your next check-in to see if these are feasible solutions to satisfying your wanderlust while still making a steady income.
1. BLEISURE AKA “BUSINESS LEISURE”
Combine the words “business” and “leisure” and you have bleisure, a growing phenomenon of adding some leisure travel to the beginning or end of business trips. We know that travel is more important to millennials than almost every generation than has gone before. A recent study found that 81% of millennials would look to add personal time onto a business trip abroad, and 39% of millennial and Gen Z workers also said they wouldn’t accept a job that didn’t let them travel. Whenever I am on a job hunt, I try to find organizations that align with my travel needs. That includes organization with PTO policies that increase with tenure or those that have missions related to travel.
At the international business school I worked at in Massachusetts, we were invited to a global kick-off in Barcelona, Spain and I was able to attach some personal travel days in Madrid once the work obligation ended. The same institution also sent me to live in New York City for three weeks, and my paid accommodations were smack dab in Times Square on 51st street! At an EdTech Company I was briefly at, I was introduced to Sonoma County, one of the premiere wine destinations in the world. And at my current place of employment, I’ll be heading to Orlando, Florida in October to organize one of the largest conferences in the world, all while enjoying the perks of Orlando’s great theme parks. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, here I come!
2. WORK REMOTELY
Working remotely basically solves all your “travel while working full-time” problems. Want to work in Tokyo this week and Buenos Aires the next? Totally doable, especially if you are someone whose work is primarily digital. Remote working tends to suit writers, designers, editors, and virtual assistants (among many others). Many remote workers are also selling their properties and, instead of paying a mortgage, they use their income to stay in Airbnbs and travel in budget airlines from one city to the next. A recent study found that 70% of people work remotely at least once per week. While I was working as a travel writer in Vietnam, I fell in love with being location independent and today, I work for a nonprofit that mandates remote work 3x a week! About half of our company are 100% location independent! One of my favorite things about working remotely: discovering great cafes to work from.
3. LOYALTY PROGRAMS, AIRMILES, AND TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS
Airline and hotel loyalty programs are a great way of compiling enough credit to travel for free. Also, if your company consistently reimburses you for credit card expenses incurred, why not invest in a travel credit card to make business transactions? The next time you go on a business trip, especially if your company has an airline-of-choice, sign up for their loyalty program and see if you can capitalize on the travel benefits without having to spend your own money. Websites such as The Points Guy are a fantastic way of navigating the scene. Based on my own experience, I recently got the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and it has changed my life! $300 USD annual travel credit, worldwide access to airport lounges, and Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® reimbursement are only a few of the many benefits of this card. I used the $300 travel credit, which I received within my first 60 days of owning the card, to purchase a ticket to Oaxaca, Mexico!
4. GO ON WEEKEND TRIPS
We know the working week can often be a write-off. But most of us are fortunate enough to have our weekends clear. And, as much as we sometimes just want to lie down in a dark room and catch up on sleep, weekends can be a fantastic way of getting away without missing out on our work commitments. When you do the math, you’ll find more than 100 days per year when you could travel! Ways to become a weekend warrior: try to take a half-day on Friday or leave Friday night, so you wake up ready to explore on Saturday morning. Don’t be afraid to make Sunday a long day by taking a red-eye in the evening and going to work straight from the airport. That’s what after-work naps are for. When you are planning your weekend trips, try to travel no farther than 2-3 hours away, even by flight, as to not affect your health and well-being. You won’t be able to maximize on weekend trip if you are stuck recuperating from your last weekend getaway. City breaks, like my recent trip to San Diego—a 1-hr flight from San Jose—are the most obvious weekend escapes but national parks can also be fantastic destinations for long weekends. Get planning!
5. TAKE A SABBATICAL
The nuclear option, perhaps, but not one to ever take off the table. If the working world simply gets too much and you crave the peace and joy that comes with travel, why not consider taking a sabbatical? While I was in Nepal, I learnt many Europeans take sabbaticals and are invited back to their companies even after a year of travel. While sabbaticals aren’t commonplace in traditional corporate America, progressive companies are beginning to see the value of employees gaining a little more life experience and coming back refreshed and reinvigorated. For those who are feeling fatigued/drained at work, look into the possibility of taking a mental health break with your HR team. As talent gets increasingly hard to find, companies may weigh a prolonged mental health break more fiscally sound than onboarding a new employee.
A few years ago, I decided to take a sabbatical between teaching jobs. At the end of my 7-month long sabbatical traveling around Southeast Asia, I craved nothing more than settling down somewhere and found myself excited to work, which was a feeling that was not present before I went on my sabbatical. It’s not completely absurd to be bettered after a complete reset.
👉 Have you used any of these approaches while working full-time? Do you have more tips/hacks on how to balance travel while working full-time? Comment below!
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