The internet is full of articles about people who quit their jobs, sell their belongings, pack their entire lives into a suitcase and start traipsing around the world. And many of us, including, me, at some point, have definitely thought…..How I wish that could be me!
The reality, though, is that, a life on the road is not for everyone. What if you have a job you really enjoy? I do, by the way, and could not imagine not working for my company. It fulfills me in ways that travel doesn’t. What if you miss your home after a while? Me – I don’t miss home per say, but I miss my family and friends. I miss filter coffee and masala dosa and paneer tikka. What if you have old parents you can’t leave for long periods of time or young children that you would rather put in a school in one place?
Cutting to the point, while there are loads of articles about people who dramatically quit their jobs and became world nomads, there are relatively few about those of us who keep our jobs and yet travel a lot. So, for all those wanderlusters out there who cannot be full-time travelers for various reasons, here are some ways in which you can travel several times a year, at relatively low costs, while still keeping your jobs.
Be ready to make financial compromises
There are no two ways around the fact that travel costs money. It can cost a lot of money or a little money depending on how luxuriously you wish to travel, but that it costs you something is inevitable. If a life on the road is your siren song, you must be ready to compromise on other things, particularly money.
For example, Suraj and I have not yet bought a house. We have not invested heaps of money on things. We do have a car, and actually wonder many times why we bought it, given the traffic in Chennai these days. Splurging on gadgets is not our thing. Eating out is something we indulge in quite often, but we do not extend that to partying. We have a small nest egg – this is our emergency stash. We never touch this for travel. With the idea that over the years, even 15000 rupees a month could become a lot, we also save a small amount every month. That apart, all our money goes into traveling. We travel three to four times a year usually. Two of these trips are usually Europe or a more expensive destination, and the other two are typically South East Asia.
Unless you are a genius who invented something amazing at 18, made money on the stock market when you were 20 or have family money, it is impossible to have that pool villa, loads of money in the bank and travel a lot.
Pick a job that lets you travel
Before I started my company, I was like every other office goer out there. I had about 24 days of vacation per year that I zealously used up. 😀 And yet, I also traveled a bit for work. How, you ask?
When I was 21, (which seems like yesterday, but was actually ages ago :P), I had to pick a job. Like many people my age, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But I definitely knew what I didn’t want. I definitely didn’t want a desk job where I would spend my 9 to 5 in an office. The thought horrified me. I was also gregarious, enjoyed meeting new people and immensely loved debating everything under the sun. Rather naively, I thought I would do well in Sales.
Although it was an ill-considered decision because all my reasons for choosing this were downright stupid, it actually ended up being a great decision for me. I invested a lot of time in attending trainings and equipping myself with what I needed to do the job well, this apart from my business certification. Type A personality, you see. 🙂 Bosses always loved my commitment, and the fact that I delivered. But also, serendipitously, I was on the road a lot.
I traveled a bit in the US as a part of my job. Then, I moved to India and traveled to the Middle East and Malaysia for work. I also traveled to Australia multiple times. When you are travelling to a different country for work, you almost always want to make the most of it, so you end up staying there for at least one or two weekends. I would use the weekends to explore the city. I actually hated sight-seeing on weekdays. It interfered with my concentration at work. But the weekends were all mine. 🙂 And cities like Sydney can be easily explored over the weekends with some planning.
Be a great performer
Once you have picked a job that lets you travel, it is important to be so good at it that people do not question you too much. I was always one of the best performers and had good relationships with most of my colleagues. This meant that even when I gained more experience and started heading teams, people were willing to fill in for me when I took my annual vacation. In those days, I used to do two vacations a year – One outside India for about 14 to 15 days, another within India for about a week to ten days. It worked well for me. 🙂
Flash forward three years, and I head my company. I try to combine work with travel as much as possible and usually do 3-4 trips per year, as I mentioned earlier.
Plan, plan and plan. And then, plan some more
If you, like me, have limitations on time and money, then planning becomes the most important part of your travel.
I am not a budget traveler that stays in hostels. But I am also not a luxury traveler who can afford to stay in five-star hotels. I am also not a full-time traveller. This means that planning becomes extremely important to decrease costs and maximize the time I have, and thus the experience.
When I have 15 days in a country, I don’t want to spend my time in queues outside sites or eat in crappy restaurants. I am always looking for ways to save time and money. How much sense does it make to buy sight-seeing passes and city passes? Find out if museums have specific days when they are open late or have free admission. Check early on if there are some places that are notorious for shutting down without notice. From the best restaurants closest to sites to where the best photo stops on a road trip might be, I research everything. I will write a separate article on the resources I use for this. 🙂
Understand your travel philosophy
Early on, it is important to understand why you want to travel and how you want to travel. There is no right way or wrong way to do this. Whether you want to live in one country for six months and pick up a teaching job there while you explore it, or you want to visit two countries in ten days is entirely up to you.
For example, I like to linger for the entire fifteen days in one country. My logic is that I would rather immerse myself in one culture than experience a dizzying kaleidoscope of cultures in a few days, most of which would be lost on me soon. I would like to experience a new country over cups of coffee slowly sipped in the local café, people watching in the piazza in the evenings, taking a yoga class in the local studio or visiting a healer that the villagers swear by.
There is another advantage to spending your holiday in one country – it costs a lot less than country hopping. For example, our 21 day trip to Italy cost us INR 3.5 lakhs, including the emergency fund that we used, because we got robbed there. Our 15 day trip to France cost us INR 3 lakhs and a 15 day trip to Greece cost us INR 2.5 lakhs including souvenir buying and airport shopping. All these expenses are for two people, including air-fare, stay and food. Country hopping in a short period costs much more.
It is possible to keep your jobs and travel a lot. Sure, it involves sacrifices, but then again, no pain, no gain. 🙂
I will end this article with a quote from one of my most favorite poets, Rumi. Very wisely, he said,
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strong pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray”.
If you, like me, have many passions in life and think it is not possible to pursue all of them, think again. If I can, you can. 🙂 Sure, people have told me my business would grow faster if I didn’t travel at all. Of course my following on Instagram and Twitter would do better if I could devote more time to it. We have been asked what we were going to do for fifteen days in Bali.
To all these questions, there are no satisfactory answers. Perhaps the people who said these things to me were right in their own way. And I am right in mine. And given that this is my life, my way rules!10