Do you live in florescent hell? Feel a strong sense of dread every time your alarm clock goes off? For those of us with travel in our DNA the “normal” life of 9:00-5:00 as an office drone is barely tolerable at the best of times, and makes us borderline homicidal when a TPS Report is due.
But there is hope. As someone who spent his twenties striving for ever more states, countries and frequent flier miles, this savvy traveler can assure you that escape is possible. And if you do it right, you’d be surprised how little damage you do to your career. Here are five off-the-cuff ideas for an unconventional – and vastly more fulfilling – life away from the mundane:
1. Shatter your old mentality. That’s right: you’ll need to toss out some of the ideals your parents, culture and society have imposed on you. If you accept and cling to the birth-school-career-marry kids-retire-die model you’re not cut out for this lifestyle. Grow to accept that your burning desire for six months with sandals, a backpack and a guidebook is healthy and should be embraced. You don’t need Travelholics Anonymous, you need a round-the-world ticket, a blog and a camera.
2. Define your goals. Is this a month in Australia or a year traversing all seven continents? Are you a hostel kind of gal or do you need four stars and marble bathrooms every night? Deciding these aspects of your trip early in the planning stage will help you figure out budget and time frame issues. Write down everything you want to do on this trip, assess your time and financial resources and start
to develop an outline of what your escape from the “real world” will look like.
3. Establish a concrete plan of action. I’m a planner by nature, so I live and die by spreadsheets. I realize this isn’t for everyone, but you’ll need some system to keep track of the milestones on your way to boarding your trans-Pacific flight. Take out a map and plan out your ideal route. This can supply you with encouragement and motivation if your exit plan ends up taking longer
than you’d like. Set dates for things like savings goals, airline ticket purchases, giving notice at your job, putting your stuff in storage, etc. Shutting down your life for six months or more is a lot of work.
4. Pay attention to details. How will you bank while you’re gone? Pay bills? Will you need someone to open your mail? For both of my round-the-worlds I was lucky enough to have my mom volunteer to play secretary. Having someone at home to help with the mundane aspects of life is a valuable resource, and will help you feel more at ease as the world you’re accustomed to starts to recede from reality to memory. Once you let go it’s exhilarating. Adventure awaits.
5. Have an endgame. Very few people can travel full-time. And few of the most dedicated backpackers would even want to. My two big trips were six and eight months, and I didn’t work at all
while traveling. There are other ways to do it (working holiday visas, for one) but odds are you will eventually run out of money or patience and will end up back in your home country looking for another job, if only to save for future passport stamps. When you’re back and interviewing for a new gig prospective employers will almost certainly ask about the gaps in your resume. Your answer to this can be a positive or negative for you, depending on how you frame it. I would argue that
your extensive international experience makes you a more mature, worldly individual with more to contribute than most other wannabe office drones. You didn’t simply pick up your bag and go; your journey required planning, strategy and intelligence. Convey that to your would-be boss with confidence.
And maybe leave out the part of wanting to do it again in a few years.