One of the most agonising decisions travel lovers have to make is whether to jack in a good job for travel or whether to sacrifice the travel bug for a steady income. Not a fun toss up, is it?
First things first, in order to afford to travel you need to be working or to have saved enough money to finance your dream trip. If you want to spend 6 months in an affordable destination like Thailand or Laos, then saving will be easier. If you want to spend six months in Australia or America, you’ll need to save more, even if you are planning to work, just to be prepared for every eventuality. Work doesn’t always fall onto your lap as easily as expected so it’s sensible to have some fallback money.
Before I embarked on my year long trip, I saved for just over two years. I saved as much of my money as I could. I was living at home with my parents so saving was easier and I didn’t go out very often and when I did, I didn’t spend! To be honest, I was quite a cheapskate!
In between travels, I’ve always come back to working, whether it was to freelance, temp or to take on a permanent role. But what happens when you return to the world of work? What do you do if you don’t want to leave your career but you also want to travel?
Well, it is possible to have the best of both worlds. It just takes some forward thinking.
Think about the following year of your life. It doesn’t matter that we are half way into 2017. Picture the next 12 months of your life. Where do you want to go and what do you want to do? Do you want to spend Halloween in New Orleans and Christmas in New York? Would you like to get some sunshine in January? Write out a list of places and experiences that would illuminate your year. You can always change your mind but this approach helps to hone your focus. It also gives you the chance to do some research. Subscribe to blogs, read books, ask for advice and figure out how to put your trip into action.
Use your leave wisely
Another important consideration to make is whether to have multiple short trips or save your leave for one long adventure. You could divide 4 weeks of leave into 4 different holidays or utilise it as one big block for a road trip of America or a tour of Italy by train. Bank holidays are free days that can bulk up your time away without hurting your annual leave balance. Weekend trips are also very effective. You can leave on a Friday and be back by the Sunday or Monday. This is a great way to see Europe (if you are based in the UK like me!) and sate the travel monster that lurks in us all! What I love about Europe is that each country feels so different from the last so you can dip in and out for a completely different experience.
At my current job, I have 30 days of annual leave (not including bank holidays). I’m aware this is quite generous. Some of you may have more and others less. My job also offers me flexi time which could potentially net me a further 12 days per year at the most, although I can only take 1 day per month. This year there are 7 bank holidays, although some of those have passed! I am also able to carry forward up to 5 days of leave from the previous year. Work with what you have and calculate what your maximum number of leave days is.
Be cautious with money
Will you be buying food from the supermarket or eating out most nights? Do you drink alcohol or will you stick with water? All of these things will influence your savings. My advice…save as MUCH as you can. If you have to sacrifice a few nights out at your local pub or restaurant to do so, then do it! The memories you make will make you so much richer and you can eat that pizza or drink that beer in a more exotic setting.
Depending on what you earn and what your travel goals are, your approach to saving will be different. It’s good to sit down and write out a budget. Do you want to stay in hostels, boutique hotels, couch surf, use Air BNB or stay in luxurious hotels? It’s important to be true to your budget, not someone elses. Yes, others might be able to afford private yachts and 5 star hotels but if you can’t, don’t compare. Travel is for all, not just the super rich but it’s so important to moderate expectations. If you’re only prepared to pay for the very best, you may never go anywhere!
Even if you want to travel on the cheap, which is certainly possible, you will need to save your money. If you go out every week drinking, eating at restaurants and buying 20 dresses, your travel fund will deplete rapidly. My approach is to have a ‘travel account’ and a ‘savings account.’ I put aside a certain amount of money every month into my savings account and another chunk into my travel account. The remaining money I keep in my ‘day to day funds’ for anything that may come up. Compartmentalizing your cash in this way can help you understand what you have to play with.
Take care of your health
Work and travel can mix well but it’s easy to get burnt out, tired, sick and exhausted especially if you are prone to burning the candle at both ends. Eat well, drink lots and schedule time for rest (even when travelling). Go for walks, meditate and develop regular yoga practice. The healthier you are, the easier it will be to leave work and head straight for the airport. Keep your energy levels up by indulging in healthy practices. This is probably the most important thing to consider. If you feel tired or are ill, you won’t enjoy your adventures, even with time and money on your side.
Keep your goal in mind
When you work, it can be easy to fall prey to the daily grind and travel can feel like a fantasy rather than a reality. Sometimes I’ll want to plan a trip but I’ll feel tired, overwhelmed or too busy. Keeping your goal firmly in mind is vital to following through. There are various ways to do this such as changing your password or screensavers to your destination of choice or using travel affirmations. I’ll be writing a blog soon about how I keep travel part of my life even when I’m firmly rooted in one spot (Ol’ London Town).
If you keep your goal at the forefront of your mind, it will be easier to reach it. Talk to others for tips, opinions and advice but don’t compare your circumstances to theirs. Some people save forever for their trip. Others are on higher incomes (or are receiving help behind the scenes). It is important not to get jealous or demotivated. Remember the more time you spend working, the more time you have to save (and prepare) for that big trip.
So, my big tips are:
- Get planning
- Calculate your maximum number of leave days
- Save, save, save!
- Be healthy
- Keep focused
What are your top tips for travel as a working woman?
All my love