“You have a full-time job, and you constantly travel? How do you take that much time off work?” I have been asked variations of this question on several occasions, and I guess the best way for me to answer this question is to demonstrate the reality of it all is through some basic math. Let’s use 2015 as an example for this analysis:
|Weekends (52 x 2)||104 days per year|
|Public Holidays*||16 days per year|
|Annual Leave||15 days per year|
|Other Leave**||8 days (in 2015)|
|Total Days off in 2015||143 days|
To put this into perspective: that’s 40% of days spent outside the office.
*Based on Thailand’s public holidays and corporate calendar.
**Other leave in my case refers to compensation leave days received from working over hours or travelling during weekends for business trips. It also includes any annual leave remaining from the previous year that was carried over into 2015.
The truth is, I did not allocate all of the 143 days towards travelling. I do have a family and social life in Bangkok that I would like to sustain! Also, I’m pretty sure I would physically give out if I did spend all those days travelling. I did however spend over 80 – 90 days travelling last year, whether it was a short weekend getaways or an extended overseas trip.
I’m not going to sugar coat this: It was absolutely exhausting, and took a lot of my time, effort and dedication to travel all year round with a full-time job. You have to really want it bad enough; and I definitely did.
Here are a few tips and tricks I used to juggle my 40-hour work weeks with my travels.
Plan ahead, but don’t overdo it.
Anyone that has a full-time job and loves to travel will give you this essential tip: Always plan ahead. My advice would be similar, but I would add: Do not over plan. Yes, you should have an idea of which countries you want to visit, when the best times to visit them are, and plan out your trips a few months in advance (especially if you need a Visa to enter). However, it is just as important to be flexible enough to take on spontaneous travel invitations by others. It is even more important to align your travel dates with your monthly workload cycle. Plan trips around the time you expect to be least busy at work. This way, you don’t have to spend your vacation worrying about things at the office.
Take advantage of long-weekends.
Following my previous point, if you plan in advance, you can take advantage of long weekends at cheaper rates. Everyone wants to get away during a long weekend, and if you’re planning to do the same, you better decide well in advance otherwise everything will be booked out, and prices will be hiked up a notch. If you live in Thailand, the prime months of travelling are in April and May. We get so many public holidays that it would be a shame to waste away the travel opportunity. Take an additional 2 to 3 days off on top of the government holidays, and you’ve easily scored yourself a comfortable 9 days of getaway.
Select the most suitable mode of transport for you.
Be smart about the way you travel. Think about your travel options whether it’s by train, car, bus, or plane, and weigh it up against how much it will cost you in terms of time and money. It all comes down to what’s more valuable to you. For me, travel time is always more valuable, so I tend to choose the mode of transport that takes me the least amount of time. This means that I might spend a lot more than the average traveler. It’s not like a make a ton of money, but I live by the mantra of “work, save, travel, repeat” and I’m willing to spend the extra amount if it buys me more travel time. It all comes down to your preference.
Look at all flight options and especially timings.
This point will come down to how dedicated you are when it comes to travel. I have spent my evenings rushing from the office to the airport to catch my flight, and in the same manner rushing from the airport directly to work on a Monday morning. Yes, it is extremely exhausting to say the least, but for the love of travel, I’ll happily do it without complaints.
Ask for small favors.
Following my previous point, if your flight leaves at 6pm, and you need to make a dash from work to the airport to catch it, do not be afraid to ask your boss to leave early. If you work hard and show results, you will be awarded these tiny requests and favors. Trust me, they make a huge difference between deciding to catch a 6:00pm flight versus having to wait the following day to catch an afternoon flight, and you’ve just wasted all that time.
Don’t underestimate the power of a weekend.
There are easily 1 to 2 months where I’m not travelling overseas at all. This does not stop me from making weekend getaways to nearby places accessible by car, or taking a cheap flight to get some sun time at the beach. Remember, there is always something to discover in your own backyard, and especially if you live in Bangkok, you have a pretty big backyard. Do not take your own country for granted.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate at work.
So you’ve used up all your annual leave. Now what? Well, don’t be afraid to ask for unpaid leave. All companies have an unpaid leave policy. Do not use it if you don’t need to, but if it’s only a few additional days in the year you’re after, then by all means, ask and you shall receive. Otherwise, you’ll just never know.
Extend those business trips.
I’m lucky enough to have a job that sends me on business trips every so often. If you do too, then take advantage of it! They’ve already paid for your flights, so it’s really up to you to choose your departure and arrival dates. Take the little amount of leave you might need to stay the additional working days and into the weekend! I do it all the time.
…And finally, manage your office persona.
You do not want to come off as the person who constantly travels and doesn’t take work seriously. When you are at the office, work hard and don’t be distracted by making travel plans. It’s important that your colleagues realize that you are committed and dedicated to your tasks, and your boss sees you as a value-adding asset to the company. Let the results of your work speak for itself. When taking time off to travel, make sure to tie up all lose ends, and have someone to back-up your tasks incase something urgent comes up while you’re away.
If you want to travel and you prioritize it as such, having a full time job will not stop you from seeing the world; that’s a guarantee. Just make sure you have a job you love, so that you never have to feel like it is holding you back. I don’t want to state the obvious, but the perks of having a full-time job means I’m able to financial support all my travel dreams! I’ll be writing an entire post about how I “Save Smart and Spend Smarter” soon!