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Combining full-time travel with a full-time job? How is this possible?
Do you ever catch yourself looking at travel photos from your family, friends or famous travel bloggers on Instagram? Wondering where they get all the money and time to basically travel the world full time? Well let me tell you, most of them are neither well-paid trust fund managers, nor have they won the lottery. Of course, a few travel bloggers have made a living out of traveling and even get paid to do this. However, to get there most of them had to face a lot of setbacks and did take high risks by cutting all strings and starting full-time traveling the world.
Yet, the majority of these people you see every day in social media is traveling the world while still working on a full-time job. So how is it possible to travel the world without quitting your job? And by traveling the world, I´m not talking about one or two vacations to the Mediaterranean Sea or Florida each year. I´m talking about seeing the whole world and every continent in hardly 5 to 10 years.
As mentioned at the top, there are basically two parameters which hold you back from traveling all day: Money and Time.
First of all let me tell you, you are very lucky. You are living in the age of cheap travel opportunities. Travel was never as cheap as it is today and it probably will not be as cheap in a couple of years as it is now. You can basically fly on the other side of the globe (even non-stop), without spending more than 1.000 USD. There are cheap around the world flight ticket offers which will make it possible to circle the globe without spending a fortune on it. And by cleverly using air-miles and other promotions, the opportunities for cheap travel are endless. This topic could fill one or two additional blog posts. Just a general advide to stay in your budget in the long run: Try to combine both, expensive and cheap travel destinations during each year.
There are basically two parameters which hold you back from traveling all day: Money and Time.
There is endless guidance out there how to save money while traveling the world. This blog post is about how to travel the world on a full-time job. So its focus is on time – which is our main scarcity here.
You will say, even if I have a well-paid job and enough money to travel the world: Where do I get the time to travel regularly while working all day long? The key is setting preferences and time-management. Of course there are other restrictions on time than your job. For example: Do you have a family or are you taking care of a relative? Do you have kids? What about your other hobbies? Are you willing to reduce time spent on them for traveling? If not, this will probably not work for you as well as it did for me. But if you are able to reduce your other restrictions as much as possible, there is nothing holding you back from circling the globe each year whithout worrying about getting your monthly paycheck.
I set myself a tagret to travel once per month, which makes at least twelve different trips per year (Note: you should set your own target which fulfills your individual preferences).
Below is a list of my travels in 2019:
- January – Canary Islands (PTO), Malta (WE)
- February – Hungary (WO), Russia (WO)
- March – Canary Islands (PTO), France (WE+)
- April – Croatia (PTO), Netherlands (WO)
- May – Peru (PTO), Bolivia (PTO)
- June – Argentina (PTO), Brazil (PTO)
- July – USA (WO)
- August – Switzerland (WE), Latvia (WE)
- September – Netherlands (WO), Iceland (PTO)
- October – Estonia (PTO), Finland (PTO), Portugal (WE+)
- November – USA (WO)
- December – Poland (PTO), Singapur (PTO), Indonesia (PTO), Vietnam (PTO)
(Legend: PTO = Private Time Off / WE(+) = (Long) Weekend / WO = Work related trip)
Which adds up to 22 countries in twelve months (four of them work-related travels). Surely it is helpful if you are working in a position which allows you to go on business travels. It will save you money and days off from work, using the weekends during business trips on your travel plans. But even without those work-related travels, for me it added up to 18 countries in twelve months. So how was this possible?
1. Key player: Annual leave/Private time off (PTO):
The most important variable in your equation will be your private time off from work (I spend 100% of these days on traveling). How many days you will get off from work depends on the country you are working in. While in Europa you will get up to 30 days off, it can be difficult if you are based in the US with way less. Nonetheless you have to spend these days wisely. The annual leave days will make up to 70-80% of your travel time, so time will be scarce:
- Choose non-stop flights over multistops (if you can afford it).
- Plan your travel destinations extensively to combine as many as possible during your one to three week periods of annual leave.
- Use each day. Start you travels on the night of your last work day and get back by the last PTO day. Don´t waste any days at home.
- If you want to travel the world, include multiple locations into each travel period. Three weeks off in December? Travel through four or five countries in South America or Southeast Asia. Do not just fly to Rio de Janeiro or Bangkok and stay there for three weeks.
- Use bridge days to extend your PTO periods (see step two).
- Cover only long distance trips with PTO days, i.e. different continents or multi-country trips (see step three)
- Do not cover destinations you can reach within one to three hour flights with your PTO days (for me these are basically most destinations in Europe; I did not really follow this advice last year, but it still worked out well).
As I´m working in Germany I was starting with 30 days of PTO. Which adds up to six full weeks (or eight weeks including bridge days). I traveled to fourteen countries in 2019, only using my PTO days.
How did I get to my 8 weeks of PTO?
2. Multiplicator: Bridge days:
You are probably aware of bridge days and already considering them while planning your PTO for each year. But are you really optimizing them? As with PTO days, national holidays differ from country to country. So you will have to do this assessment for yourself. As 2019 was a perfect year for bridge days, I managed to get 40 days off from work with my 30 days of PTO. Including weekends before/after this adds up to almost 80 days of uninterrupted travel time. Which is a lot! So, plan those days upfront and adjust your travel plans based on bridge day opportunities.
3. Most important: Use your weekends!
Ok, so I have 8 weeks of PTO, almost 80 days off from work. But how do I travel at least once per month? We all know a year has twelve months, so this will get complicated. Of course there is a way to cheat yourself to this target, planning your PTO weeks at the end of each month, so you can cover two months with one trip….but this is not what we are here for. So the easy solution? Weekends.
If you are working full-time, your weekend probably is Saturday and Sunday. Not much time to travel the world, right? Again, time is a scarcity. Thats why you should cover your long distance travels with your PTO days and save all short distance destinations for the weekends. Actually…a weekend is longer than you think it is.
It is definitely an advantage if you live in a big city and close to an airport (to avoid a 2-3 hour drive from work to the next big airport as in my case). Always start you weekend trip on Friday (or Wednesday/Thursday if you have some bridge day opportunities). No matter when you get off from work, there will always be a flight on Friday night to one of your bucket-list travel destinations. Pack your things on Thursday (we don´t need much for two days, also save those baggage fees…), throw them in the car and head off to work on Friday morning. After work, head straight for the airport.
As this is short term travel, you will probably be in your hotel room before midnight. Which means you have Saturday and Sunday wherever you chose to go. This is perfect for city-trips. You can do London, Rome, Barcelona, Stockholm, Istanbul, Paris or New York, Boston, Toronto, Havanna, Cancun, Miami – all in one year. Or head to one of the mediterranean islands and enjoy two days at the beach. It´s up to you. Flights are so cheap right now if you don´t bring any luggage. Take a flight back on Sunday (not too late…as the late flights are usually more expensive and you probably will be hungover on Monday morning).
Last year I did only five weekend trips – an island trip to Malta in January, bike trips to France and Switzerland in March/August and city trips to Riga and Porto in August/October. You can cover way more on weekend trips than I did (esp. if you don´t have as much PTO days)
As a reminder, these are just few advices how it is possible to travel the world (seemingly) full-time, while still working full-time. There are endless of other ways which might work for you. However, you should consider for yourself if you are willing to spend most of your free days traveling and cut off on family, friends, hobbies and other goals in your life. If not, I hope some of this information can still be helpful optimizing your travel time going forward. And to stop wondering about those people who seem to travel non-stop: As there is always an individual sacrifice, which you will not spot on their perfect holiday pictures made or exciting travel stories told.