After writing this week about all the travel I did in my twenties I received a great question on Instagram:
Any tips on living a life of travel for an eager 22 year old?
It’s a great question because my answer probably wasn’t what she was expecting.
There is lots of information out there about how to quit your job and live the life of travel you’ve always dreamed of, but that’s not how I chose to do it. With bills to pay and a fondness for pretty things, that’s not how I could afford to do it.
I daren’t for a minute suggest that there’s any 1 set way of chasing your dreams but I thought I might share my personal experience of living a life of travel whilst holding down a full time job, just in case anyone out there would like to do the same.
To give you a bit of context:
During my twenties I travelled to and blogged about 40 different countries. It sounds crazy to even write that down but with determination, hard work and a little bit of luck, I did it. Aside from my gap year where I took 9 months out, I have always worked full time.
For the last couple of years I’ve been working for myself. I work from home and manage my own hours but I still work a full time job, working from 9 till 6, 7, 8, 9 depending on what I’ve got on that week. My work is essentially a mixture of social media consulting, copywriting and travel blogging. (You can find out a little more about how I make money from travel blogging here.) But I’ve never been a nomadic blogger. The whole time I’ve been travel blogging I’ve had a home base with rent and bills to pay and lots of client meetings to attend in person.
I actually started my twenties on course to be a lawyer. I studied law at Kings College London but when a series of work experience placements left me wondering what area of law I fit into I decided to take a year out. I moved home for a year (thank you, Parentals!) and worked in a secretarial role at BMW’s head office until I had enough funds to travel the world for 9 months. (Random fact: someone I worked with at BMW in Berkshire is now the head of marketing for a lifestyle/retail brand here in Sydney and has just hired me to manage their social media strategy – cultivate connections people!) This round the world trip was supposed to be where I cured my itchy feet and came home ready to settle into a ‘serious job’, perhaps getting back into law, but ha, how misguided was I?! I came home with credit card debt and the need to find work fast, but also a huge desire to work in a role that allowed me to travel, because I couldn’t see how I would be happy otherwise.
So I undertook some temporary secretarial work in London in order to make a living whilst I looked around for something that would give me wings. It took a few months but eventually I came across a boutique events agency that organised financial conferences all around the globe. I’d gained some experience in events whilst working my temporary roles, had become a pro at travel planning during my gap year and was adept at research and essay writing thanks to my years of studying law. These skills bagged me the role of events manager at the agency.
For someone who loves travel as much as me this role was perfect. I had no interest in the topic of our conferences (if you ever need some advice on Foreign Direct Investment – I doubt you will – but you can come to me!) but in my years with the company I attended events with Chinese ministers in Xiamen, organised conferences with the Prime Minister in Tallinn, Estonia and was sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina to represent our agency at a networking session. I was earning a full time wage, which covered my ludicrous rent in London and credit card debt repayments, and, with the exception of the odd meal and extra hotel night I covered myself, was travelling the world for free.
The trips I mentioned above became the inspiration for my first blog posts. (Don’t look at them. Seriously, they’re so bad. It’s like looking back at your school books and discovering you weren’t the genius you thought you were!) I would spend my weekends exploring the locations I’d been sent to work in and then spend the flight home writing up the experiences for my family and friends/the strangers of the internet who became my blog readers.
I wasn’t looking for a new role when Flight Centre UK tweeted that they were looking for people who loved travel and blogging but it was too interesting an opportunity not to look into. My blog, and the work I’d started doing on social media for my events company, became the basis on which I was hired, initially as a social media manager and then, as the team expanded, as content and community manager for the global travel agency.
I worked with Flight Centre for 2 years before setting up my own business. I continue to work full time around travelling but obviously have much more flexibility in how I do so now that I work for myself.
So that’s my story. This is what I learned about leading a life of travel:
- Seek out a job that allows you to travel. This doesn’t necessarily mean within the travel industry – these roles are hotly contested and often not that well paid! Think outside the box and look for roles that may require travel, albeit in other sectors such as events, PR or even IT. Also make sure you read the small print. Know in advance how much holiday allowance you will have and whether you’ll be able to earn time off in lieu if working evenings and weekends.
- Seize opportunities. Let your boss know that you are open to travel (it may surprise us travel addicts to know that some people aren’t – I had a colleague at the events company who would head home as soon as a conference ended) and spell out why it would be beneficial to them to send you overseas. Every networking event I travelled to for work always had a set list of objectives I had to achieve out of it. Prove that you want to travel for primarily a business objective and not just the downtime on the beach!
- Maximise your time. I would always try to be a bit smart about my travel arrangements for work and look for ways I could fly out the weekend before and come back at the last minute. As long as you turn up at work on time and looking chirpy you can technically stay overseas until the last minute.
- Prioritise travel. Whilst many of my friends were saving for house deposits or fast cars I was researching the latest airfare sales. I still don’t own a house and can’t drive a car in any country and this is the reality if you want to travel as much as I did in my twenties. I don’t mind playing catch up now I’m in my thirties but unless you’re sitting on a pot of gold this is probably the way it’s going to be for you too.
- Be prepared to miss out. My jobs often meant that I was away for birthdays and weddings and didn’t spend as much time with friends and family as I would have liked. Be prepared to miss out on some important events and make sure you have ways of being there for loved ones when they need you.
- Go it alone. Not all of your friends and loved ones with prioritise travel like you do, so be prepared to go it alone on some trips. My tip would be to start small, ease yourself in with a few solo days in a destination (perhaps around a work trip) and get used to exploring alone before booking a big solo adventure. You can also joina small group tour like those run by Intrepid Travel if you would like an expert guide and some sociability with other travellers.
- Be in it to win it. This is a strange tip but I honestly believe you should enter as many travel contests as you come across! I’ve been lucky enough to win flights to India, a holiday in Iceland and, most recently, 250,000 air miles from Virgin Australia. Some contests required skill, others were pure luck, but all of them required me to put myself in the race. If you can, have friends look out for opportunities for you too – it was actually an old work colleague who spotted Flight Centre’s tweet about recruiting and the same colleague who let me know I had won flights to India when I forgot to check my @mentions on Twitter. (Such a rookie back then!).
Do you have any tips for leading a life of travel whilst working a full-time job?
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34 thoughts on “How To Live A Life Of Travel Without Quitting Your Day Job”
Yes, yes and yes. Thanks for writing this. I work in comms and love my day job (mostly). I’m just setting out on a freelance journey alongside that, which is a little scary. But as I get older I think following your own path and not the crowd becomes a little easier as you have more confidence in your own abilities (I still have trouble believing it when someone recommends me for work though!)
Haha I still get that everyday – I don’t think the feeling wears off but you definitely learn to work with it! It’s so exciting that there are so many ways to integrate travel with our lifestyle these days but I felt I wanted to share my story as an example of one way you can do it whilst working. I love hearing other people’s travel and freelance journeys too though and wish you best of luck with yours!
I left my full time job last year and I’ve been working as a blogger and photographer full time. Finding ways to earn money in the travel industry isn’t easy. Thanks for sharing your tips in this post!
This is so true! Some months I earned more and travelled more working in events than I do now but at least now I’m the boss 🙂 Good luck with your freelance projects.
This is a really useful post! I left uni a year ago now and working full time since and I’m saving to go travelling before doing a master’s degree. The entering as many travel competitions is something I’m doing at the moment – I read the same thing on Vicky FlipFlop. Fingers crossed!
Great advice Jayne.
I’ve been surprised at how much travel I’ve been able to fit in while working full time for the last 9 months. All of it has been domestic, but we’ve still been able to explore a lot of new destinations. We’re very clever about when we use our days off, long weekends, overtime etc. So far this year I haven’t used any annual leave – that’s banking up for some overseas trips in a few months – but I feel like I’m away every couple of weeks.
Now that sounds like a woman with a plan! It pays to be strategic right?!
Love this. All too often, people think you have to be a full-time traveller to see the world!
Yes! Or rich. Which I am not haha
You had me at “pretty things” – haha, I’m the same way! I hate to admit but I am somewhat materialistic.
I had a business trip to San Diego this past spring, and flew out a few days early to explore. At our first business dinner, my boss kept praising me for “living life” and building in some time to see and enjoy San Diego outside of the conference center and, in a sense, scolding the rest of the team for not doing the same!
I remember when I was younger that I assumed everyone would do this when they had the chance to go overseas but of course the traveller’s life is’t for everyone and a lot of my colleagues just wanted to get home at the soonest opportunity they could. It sounds like your boss gets you though!
Nicely said ~ and yes I have been travelling and moving round the world for over 30 years with traditional jobs and as a single mum with three kids. Its all quite possible if its what you want. (and without blogging as internet and mobile phones didnt exist back then when I started). People keep asking so must write a post around the topic!
You really should! I’d love to know how you’ve made it work!
Love this. Great advice. I’ve always continued to work around my travels to afford them and I’m currently studying to be a teacher. Not because I don’t want to travel but because it will allow me to work and live abroad for chunks of periods and the holidays are long. You are totally right; if you want to travel you just have to set up a life that allows you to do so.
Of course I forgot that teaching is great for travel addicts and I also imagine that blogging is great for teaching in a way! Good luck with your studies 🙂
Fascinating post as always Jane, great and motivational read. G
Thanks Jayne for this post….its nice to read a more realistic view of travel blogging. Most bloggers aren’t travelling the world endlessly even though their blogs may look that way. And the truth is that not everyone wants to travel constantly – there can be a happy medium. I work full-time and live in a lovely little coastal village and spend most of my off-time exploring my neighbourhood, my state, my country and the rest of the world – Best of both worlds 🙂
Hi Julie, that sounds like exactly the kind of balance I appreciate! It’s so true that a lot of people assume that travel bloggers travel full time and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve met people who assume I don’t work! I thought it might be worth shedding a bit more light on the reality of this lifestyle 🙂
Thank you SO MUCH for this! I work in crisis communications and humanitarian aid and travel a lot for my job, and yet people keep asking me why I don’t just quit my job to travel the world. I love knowing that there are successful travel writers out there who still write successfully and still maintain their day jobs!
Absolutely! I don’t know about you but I tend to write better knowing that it’s not my only source of income. I don’t enjoy consulting as much but as soon as you take those projects away there is immense pressure to make money from travel writing and suddenly it’s not as much fun!! Sounds like you have the best of both worlds 🙂
Amazing! I would love to do what you do and hopefully one day just travel and blog. Need to get hubby on board for this one too 🙂
I’ve started doing more travel blogging e.g. http://www.liveshoptravel.com/exploring-sanur-beach-in-bali-feat-fairmont-hotel-and-a-little-bit-of-happiness/
but still have a full time job so really scared to step out of that, but maybe it’s worth thinking about. Thank you for the tips! xx
Ha yes I didn’t mention it in my post but being nomadic would probably not suit my partner! I like to travel but it’s great to come home to him!
It’s not to long and personally, I think this is the best post you have ever written! (Maybe it’s because you’ve talked about your background – that’s the Counsellor in me, whom enjoys getting to know people :-))
I think what you have done is make sense of the whole process really and shared with us how a little serendipity can work but a great bit of networking has its benefits also. You’ve become Miss Motivator. I shall read this through a few times.
Thanks again for sharing a ‘real person’ perspective and experience on this.
Thanks so much Janice. Your comments always inspire me to keep writing 🙂
Great tips, Jayne! That’s really good advice for finding a balance. It was fun to read more of your personal story, too!
I know all about needing to pay off credit card debt from the last bit of traveling while also trying to save enough to travel again soon!
It’s a juggle alright!
Thank you so much, it’s just so nice to feel not alone in this world of travel-addicts… I’ve been complaining a lot about missing trips because I was the lone addict among my friends, but as soon as I discovered that traveling alone is not so bad, a new world opened in front of me! I still prefer to have some company, but I always meet new people, and I’m not shy to start a conversation ether!
Best luck to you!
Thanks Cin! Happy travels to you too 😉
Great post, Jayne! There is such a huge push towards giving up your job to be a digital nomad (more than ever in the last couple of years), and it’s reassuring to hear how you’ve travelled so freely without having to sacrifice building a career. Like you said, one main point is to seek out a job that allows you to travel – think that will be my next goal! Even if you’re travelling for work, you still get the chance to see a destination in between corporate gigs.
I agree. There’s so much advice about building a business that allows you to travel (which might not suit everyone) but there are a lot of jobs out there that allow you to travel too. You’ve just got to know where to look for them 😉