Okay, let’s be honest, it’s more like 8:30am-7pm. But the question still stands: how do you balance travel and a job when that job isn’t travel-related?
It’s easy to get lost in a sea of social media posts from people traveling 24/7 and it’s even easier to grow envious of them. I know that all too well. I’m positive that traveling that much would be amazing, but it’s not “right” for everyone and not everyone has the luxury to travel that much. So rather than looking at what you don’t have, it’s important to look at what you do have and figure out if what you have is what you want. If it’s not what you want, then make a change. But if you’re happy with how your life is shaping up, don’t let social media trick you into feeling otherwise.
Of course there are ups and downs but this is what I try to remind myself when I’m feeling low, wishing I was off exploring a foreign place instead of being in a cubicle. What I have is this: the opportunity to live a life that is fulfilling both professionally and personally, in two vastly different interests of mine.
I graduated college in May 2016 and have been working in the animation industry ever since. I work 5 days a week and while yes, Mondays are still Mondays no matter how you sugar coat it, I am grateful to be in a job I enjoy (and soon to be in another job that is just as exciting!). But a month ago my mindset was in a very different place.
A few months ago I reached the peak of “social media envy.” I was checking the Instagram feeds of others constantly, staring at their photos, replaying their live stories. I know, it was bad. I started to feel like the life I was living was restricting me from what I really wanted to be doing, which at the time, I believed that traveling 24/7 was IT. I started living for the weekends and when the weekends didn’t involve some epic adventure, I started feeling down. But that all changed when my boyfriend asked me:
If you want to travel 24/7, do it. But what are you going to give up for it?
That stuck a cord for me. When forced to think about actually switching up my life, it made me realize just how much I liked my life. I enjoy having the ability to eat out when I want rather than saving every penny to travel all the time. I like having days at the house where I can be lazy on the couch and days where I can go to a movie with friends. And above all, I love having a work/life balance and feeling like I’m working towards something in both areas. I am confident that those who travel 24/7 still find time to meet up with friends, indulge every now and then on food or shopping, and do other things that those of us 9-5ers do too. But you have to figure out what kind of lifestyle is right for you and then you have to go out and get it.
For me, the life I have right now is exactly what I want, and exactly what is right for me. There will still be a mix of good days and bad days, but reminding myself of all the decent things in my life has been really helpful. I remind myself that it’s not one or the other; I can have both work and travel. But just reminding myself that isn’t enough, I have to have the courage and determination to make it happen.
So that begs the question, how do you make it happen?
I can only speak to what has worked for me in the past and what I plan to do this year, but I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences in case any bit of it is helpful.
- Plan trips around holidays and weekends. Last year, I was able to go on a 10-day trip while only taking 5 days off of work because I planned the trip to include two weekends, one of which was a three-day weekend because of Memorial Day. This year, I went to New Orleans for four days while only taking one day off of work because I went over MLK weekend. Or if you’re not able to take any days off of work, then look for the holidays that give you three-day weekends automatically. But just be aware that everyone else has the same idea as you. So most places you want to go (especially National Parks) will be at their peak attendance during holidays.
- Get used to night driving. Since I will be starting a new job soon, the ability take off days from work will be pretty much non-existent for awhile. For most of my upcoming trips to California parks, I reserved campsites for the Friday and Saturday and will plan to drive up Friday night after work. Yes, this means starting a 5-7 hour drive late on a Friday night and yes, this may sound crazy because at times you’ll probably end up being in a car more than you will be in the park that weekend, but sometimes it’s what you have to do if you want to fit in travel amongst a full-time job. So grab a buddy, enjoy the peacefulness of driving on an open road in the dark, and above all, be safe. If you’re feeling tired, switch drivers or get caffeine. If there aren’t any other cars around, turn on your high-beams. Be aware that animals may try to cross the road.
- Plan trips ahead of time. If you work a full-time job, it’s a lot harder to do a spontaneous trip. Going on trips require requesting time-off and no boss will like it if you notify them the day, or even the week, before (unless there is some emergency of course). While it can be stressful to try to predict what you want to do in advance, try to get some trips planned ahead of time. Since most campsite reservations have to be made up to 5-6 months in advance, I’ve found it helpful to book a campsite during a weekend a few months from now, and then decide closer to the day if I actually want to go. Most campsite fees are refundable so there is a safety net, but $10 of each reservation is non-refundable so there is a risk to this method which means it’s not right for everyone. For me, I’ve decided that the possibility of losing $10 each time is worth the risk if it means I get to reserve good sites.
No matter what you do, there will also be successes and struggles. If you decide you want to (and/or have to) work a full-time job but you have a love a traveling that you don’t want to sacrifice, then find a way to make both happen. Plan, save money, and rack up vacation days. But try to find a balance. Try to spend some time focused on the parts of work that you do enjoy, and the benefits you get by working a job (includes more than just literal health benefits). It is possible to travel and work, but you have to decide that it’s possible.