I am often asked questions such as “Do you ever work?” or “How do you afford to travel so much?” If it looks like I don’t have a full time job, then clearly I’m doing something right! The truth is, I have quite a stressful job as a nurse anesthetist but I refuse to let that keep me from my passion!
This past year I have been skiing in Vail, working with refugees in Greece, swimming with pigs in the Exumas, attending a wedding in Dubrovnik, celebrating the 4th of July in Seattle, hiking Trolltunga, marvelling at Machu Picchu, and am planning to go to Iceland the end of the year. I’m not trying to brag, but just to show that I truly make the most of my schedule.
Here’s some tips for how you can also make more travel possible.
Ok, I realize not everybody can suddenly change their career. This is mostly for my younger readers or those in a position to make a change. If travel is something you prioritize, choosing a career that is amenable to that is not a crazy idea. I chose nursing for this reason. It’s not glamorous, but the perks are amazing. Having a skill that can translate around the world is quite a benefit, not to mention the flexible hours. Other careers that allow location flexibility are engineering, computer sciences, social media management, web building, to name a few. If I could go back in time and learn the hell out of coding and computers, I would be a digital nomad, which is a dream for those with a gypsy soul.
I have a friend who worked in corporate America until her 40s, but she kept getting paycut after paycut. One day she just said “Bye Felicia”, took a course and got certified as a tour director. Now she basically lives in Africa running high end safari tours. She is a huge inspiration to me.
Finding Time for Travel
Sadly for many with a full time job in the USA, vacation time is a very sad thing. I think the average is two weeks. I personally think we all need to collectively revolt against this ridiculousness, but for the time being if that is what you are working with, you have to make the best of it.
Take those weeks!
Many are guilted into not taking them for reasons I will never understand. If you don’t use your vacation time, you are throwing money that you have earned into the trash! To gain more vacation time, I suggest using the weekend before and the weekend after and instead of 6 or 7 days you now have 9 days. Forget having a day to prepare or a day to rest after. Prepare in the evenings after work. You can’t be wasting days when you have limited time. I once came back from Thailand (12 hours time difference) and immediately worked three 12 hour ICU shifts in a row.
Am I crazy? Yes. Did it suck? Yes! Was it worth it? Hell Yes!
I recognize that I am very fortunate with a job that actually has good vacation time; However I still work the schedule to get the most out of it. I try planning a trip when there is a holiday, so that is one less day taken from my vacation bank. If there are many places I want to visit, I will sometimes choose to have quantity over quality and split up weeks off so that I spend a Thursday to Sunday somewhere and on another trip take Saturday to Tuesday. It all depends where I am going.
It Never Hurts to Ask
Instead of a yearly raise, ask for more vacation time. If you are able and willing, ask for a week off without pay. If you want something badly enough, you have to make sacrifices and get creative. Try negotiating with your boss about doing longer hours and less days every now and then to get a day off. Luckily in my line of work this is possible. I sometimes work 13 hour days and get one day off during the week. If you are not settled in your profession, finding one with flexible hours is definitely key for those with the wanderlust.
Finding Money for Travel
Having money for travel is really about your priorities. If you you must travel, then all your extra money should go to this because let’s face it, travel ain’t cheap my friends. Even for cheap places you need SOME money. Stop clicking those pinterest pins that promise you can travel the world for free. Nothing is free!
Research your spending habits
A few years ago, I had no extra money and was sitting around feeling sad that I couldn’t travel more. After taking a l hard look at my life, I made some changes. I downsized to a smaller apartment and leased a cheaper car. I went out to dinner less. If I am went to a bar, I had a drink at home beforehand and spent less out. A weekend out in Miami can cost the same as a plane ticket to Europe. For real! Having exercise or walking dates with friends instead of drinks or dinner is both healthy AND economical. I always rationalize that the less I spend on eating and drinking not only saves me money but saves me calories!
Make small changes
I cleaned my own apartment instead of having a cleaning lady. This saved me between $600 and $1200 dollars per year. I stopped getting manicures and pedicures routinely and started doing it myself. Does it look as good? No. Does anyone notice except me? No.
That gym membership that I rarely used? Cancelled it and figured out how to work out with my own equipment. I don’t buy $1000 shoes like many woman in Miami. I only purchase clothing and other items if they are travel related. Once bills are paid, I literally save everything for travel.
Just cutting a few monthly expenses can save several hundreds per year.
This has been incredibly helpful to me over the years and I have a post with many tips and strategies to fly free or get upgrades.
So that’s it folks. You know my secrets now. I hope this helps! It’s not a simple fix but it’s my reality and it works. I can honestly say that I travel as much as is humanly possible for somebody with the kind of job that I have.