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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