The two biggest obstacles that prevent people from traveling are time and money. However, there are big misconceptions with each. Travel can be affordable if you take the right approach (read How I Afford Travel for more on this). And regardless of whether you’re a student, recent grad, professional with an established career or self-employed, there are ways to make time for more travel into your life.
If you’re still in school, this one is a given. Studying abroad is an experience I recommend to every student. Check out StudyAbroad.com, and contact your university’s international programs office to find out what your options are.
Intern or volunteer abroad.
If you’re a recent graduate, gaining international work experience can give your resume a boost, and you’ll never be more free to move to a new country than you are right now. A variety of programs can help place you in internships abroad — GoAbroad.com has a good search engine to help you find them. Try to make sure the work you’ll be doing has some connection to what you think you want to do in your career so it translates well to a job search back home (if you even decide to come back!).
Volunteering abroad is another option, if you’re able to swing unpaid work from a financial perspective. Volunteer experience still counts as work experience on your resume, so don’t discount these opportunities.
Negotiate for more vacation time.
In the United States, two weeks of vacation is fairly standard for full-time, salaried positions. Some companies are very strict about their vacation policy, but not all — and you won’t know until you ask. The best time to talk to your employer about this is before you accept a new position. When discussing compensation, make it clear that you require a certain amount of paid vacation — if the offer is 10 business days (two weeks), request 15 instead. When determining the amount of pay you ask for, remember that employers making an offer may have more wiggle room with vacation time than they do with salary.
Or take a few days of unpaid leave.
If a company extending an offer to you is unwilling to compromise on paid time off, find out if management will allow you to take a few days of unpaid leave. It’s not ideal, but it will still allow you the freedom to book a trip that’s a little longer than your allotted paid time off.
If you’re already employed, discuss it with your employer during performance and compensation reviews. You have a bit less leverage when you’re already in the role, but this can still work.
Take all of your vacation at once.
Let’s say you have two weeks of vacation. When you think of how to use those, do you immediately assume at least one of those weeks will be consumed by travel to visit family during the holidays or other preplanned obligations? Take a closer look at the other types of paid time off your company may offer. If any kind of personal days or floating holidays are available, consider using those around important holidays and taking all two weeks of vacation time at once. If you’re going to fly a long distance, it’s better to make the most of that long flight by staying gone for as long as possible. And don’t forget the weekends surrounding your trip — a full two-week vacation is about 17 days long if you use the weekends surrounding, leaving on a Saturday and returning the Sunday before you go back to work (a tough readjustment, but worth it).
Plan vacation around existing holidays.
I recently took a two-week vacation to Brazil to attend the World Cup and explore Rio de Janeiro. Because the Fourth of July — a paid holiday — fell during that two-week window, I only used nine days of vacation instead of 10. Sandwiching other types of paid time off around vacation is a smart and efficient way to stretch those precious vacation days.
Roll over vacation and take longer trips less frequently.
Will your employer let you roll over any of your two weeks of vacation time into the following year? What if you took a one-week trip to somewhere reasonably close (assuming you’re in the U.S., Central America comes to mind) and let that second week roll over into next year? Then you could take a three-week vacation the following year. Or, don’t use any of those two weeks so you can take a month-long trip. Thinking strategically about using what you’re given can help you make the most of it.
Take advantage of time between jobs or big moves.
If you’re taking a new job or moving to a new city, think about how to time this natural break in your life so you can squeeze a few weeks of travel out of it, too. Maybe you set a start date for your new job that’s a bit further out than you might otherwise have. Or perhaps you make the move to a new city or state a little later than planned. This usually requires that you have a bit of savings built up to pad the time you’re taking without pay.
Take a working vacation.
If you work for yourself or can negotiate some kind of remote work agreement with your employer, consider taking your business on the road for a few weeks or months. This obviously works best if you have the kind of business or job that can be run from your laptop or if there’s someone who can cover for you back home for the tasks that can’t. Travel to a place with a low cost of living and plenty of cafes with Wi-Fi. If you need to maintain U.S. business hours, take a trip to South America, where the time zones are the same. Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a great example of a city well worth visiting for its own reasons (it’s called the “Paris of South America”) with a low cost of living.
With some creativity and strategic planning, it is possible to make travel a larger part of your life. Don’t assume that travel is only for the wealthy, self-employed or lucky. If you banish these self-limiting stereotypes and assumptions and make travel a priority in your life, you can be on the road much sooner than you thought.
Photo credit: Megan Van Groll