This is a guest post by Alexis Grant who is a journalist, social media strategist and author of the new guide, How to Take a Career Break to Travel. She left her job in 2008 to backpack through Africa.
We’re all inspired by Natalie’s nomadic lifestyle, but what if living out of a suitcase doesn’t suit your career or your life?
If you’re not ready to travel as a lifestyle but want to get your travel fix, here’s another way to fit it into your life: take a career break to see the world.
Whether you want to hit the beaches in Thailand, volunteer in Malior, road trip through Australia, taking six months, a year or even more to travel independently might be the best way to escape the daily grind in search of that travel high.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking you couldn’t possibly take six months or more away from your job or your family. You’re thinking you couldn’t possibly afford to travel internationally for more than two weeks. You’re thinking there are so many logistical details involved in that type of trip that you couldn’t possibly pull it off.
I’m here to tell you that you can.
I faced all the same obstacles as you and managed to backpack through Africa for six months. I saved enough money, then left my job, apartment and friends in Houston to travel – and rebuilt my (new and improved) life when I got back.
If taking a career break to travel sounds appealing, here are four tips for how to make it happen:
1. Make your trip your priority.
No matter how many seemingly impassible obstacles stand between you and your Big Trip, you can overcome them if you put this at the top of your list of priorities.
Sometimes we get so sucked into our daily lives and keeping up with the Joneses — even if we don’t mean to — that we forget who’s making decisions in our lives. We are. We take on responsibilities, and we can shed them if we want to. We create our own priorities.
Once you make a conscious decision to make your Big Trip your priority, other pieces will start to fall into place.
2. Think about how traveling could help your career.
Taking time away from the traditional workforce doesn’t have to be a career-killer. In fact, if you play it strategically, it can be just the opposite, a career booster.
Here’s the key: Gain skills during your career break, and market them well when you get back.
What can you learn during your travels? Maybe you want to boost your photography skills, learn a language, gain experience as a writer or get your online business off the ground. Whatever your goal, make sure you’re gaining skills as you accomplish it. That way, when you return home and look for a job, you can tell potential employers how those new, tangible skills will make you a valuable employee.
Use your career break to make yourself more marketable, and the experience could put you ahead of your competition.
3. Seek support.
Look around you. How many people in your life have taken career breaks? If you’re like most of us, the answer is not many. Maybe even none.
Because you’re likely the only person you know who will take a career break, it’s important to find other people who will support you. Having a fabulous support group will help you get commit and actually go.
Thanks to the Internet, finding a support network is much more doable than it used to be. In fact, once you get the hang of Twitter, Facebook and blog-hopping, I’d go so far as to say it’s easy to find an online community that’s supportive of Doing Something Awesome. And those online connections will lead you to in-person relationships, too.
4. Be creative about saving money.
Money often prevents us from taking time off work to travel, but if you make your career break a priority, it might be more feasible than you think to save the money you need.
Rather than solely minimizing your expenses, aim to increase your earnings. Of course, you can’t just snap your fingers and get a raise at your day job. But you might be able to earn more money on the side.
An increasing number of workers are bringing in money by freelancing, so much so that The Atlantic has called this the The Gig Economy. If they’re all cashing in on their skills, why shouldn’t you?
The reason this works better than getting a second job at say, a retail chain, is two-fold: You’ll likely make more money than you could working for someone else, and you’ll have more flexibility. If you’re lucky, you can even dovetail your side business with your long-term career goals and learn new skills or make new contacts that will help you get there.
Are you starting to see how you might be able to make this work?
Starting to see how long-haul travel might fit into your life, even if your career won’t fit in a suitcase?
Go for it. We’re all here to cheer you on.
Natalie’s note. If you’re not up for my lifestyle yet but you do like what Alexis is proposing with a career break, then make sure you check out her fantastic guide How to Take a Career Break to Travel.