Coping with the Work-Travel Balance

So, you want to travel but you’re not about to quit your job with a bag on your back and go exploring. If you can do this, all respect to you, but for me, I’m not ready to do something so daring. A consequence of this is only having a limited block of annual leave allowance each year; a positive is that when I do get a week away, I can afford to splash out a little and not skimp on activities I really want to take part in.

But, when you’re stuck at the office, watching the hours crawl by, how do you survive? How do you go long stretches between trips without losing your mind?

The truth is, unless you have a job you love or lots of fun hobbies to keep you distracted, it’s bloody hard. But – it’s possible to get through the dry spells too.

Start by maximising your time off

Plan your travels accordingly. This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people I’ve spoken to who hadn’t considered this. If you work a normal 9-5, always make sure part of your trip falls across Saturday and Sunday – that’s 2 extra days off you don’t have to claim for and can instead use elsewhere. Equally, if your company closes for bank holidays or national festivals, utilise this. It’s not always the most profitable option to travel in school holidays, say if you teach (though six weeks of exploring? Sounds like a good deal to me), but if you don’t have this option, you can also pick a month and week with a bank holiday. If you go away on a short trip for 4 or 5 days, you might be able to work it so you only have to claim time for 1 or 2 of those. 20 days, for example, could soon turn into 25 or even 30.

Sometimes you need longer to really indulge in your destination, but quite a lot of the time, especially if you’re European wanting to explore more of Europe, it’s possible to do things in smaller bursts, meaning instead of waiting all year for one big blowout, you can do something every few months to keep up the momentum.

But what happens between booking your trip and actually going?

If you have a trip planned, you have a focus point. Instead of just counting down the days, train your mentality to focus on the fact it’s now only 2 months/1 week/4 days away, and think about all that extra cash you’re going to have to spend while you’re there. Ideally you’ll find some other hobby or activity to take your mind off things too. This might be hard on the quieter days at work, but for an example, I do a lot of writing in my spare time, and I’m also a big Nintendo gamer too. If I’m concocting a fictional world in my head or delving into the story of my RPGs, I stop thinking about travel for a time.

Some people are natural planners (like me) whereas others tend to be more spontaneous, but even if you don’t go away armed with an itinerary, doing some research such as potential day trips, what to see, where to eat etc. can help keep your travel brain satisfied, or even just looking at photos of where you want to go.

Why stop at one trip? Even if you can’t travel again for another year after this one, there’s no reason you can’t start shopping around for your next big idea. I’ll obviously stray from this as time goes by, but in my mind I have a sketch of the next four years of travel planned out, and knowing that, even though I have to wait right now, those things are all on the horizon, keeps me going.

Surround yourself with good travel vibes and memories. Decorate your room or personal office space with cute travelly things, proudly display your souvenirs, plaster your walls with photographs – if you’re surrounded by all those happy memories, you’ll build optimism and excitement for what’s on its way.

Read travel blogs and magazines, connect with others who like to travel, share your experiences. If you can’t be on the other side of the world, you can at least imagine it and live it through somebody else.

Still not satisfied?

Well, in that case, maybe it’s time to take the plunge and quit your job to travel. Just make sure you have a fallback plan in place, just in case. Even travelling on a budget, if you have no savings and haven’t worked out how you’re going to build a small income on the road, that money will vanish faster than you think. If you go wrong, it’s also wise to have someone in mind you can come home to and crash with until you re-establish yourself in your hometown.

Alternatively, take the smaller step of researching ways to work on the road. Maybe take a TEFL course? Maybe try starting your own business or get some experience freelancing in your chosen industry? Maybe write a book? There’s nothing to say you can’t try to build up a secondary source of income while you’re still working your normal job, and then, once that’s all in place, you can finally quit.

What tips do you have for coping with a poor work-travel balance?

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