balancing work and travel

Posted by susan on August 26th, 2009. Filed under: travel tips.

My last post got me thinking. There are so many things that can get in the way of travel, especially if you work full time. Between limited time off, soul sucking organizations like Sallie Mae and too many commitments, seasons fly by, weekends meld together and before you know it, planes have flown without you and you are left standing – or should I say sitting – in a cubicle of lost opportunity.

As a twenty something, I believe that myself and many of my peers also have a unique set of constraints that are either pushed upon us by external forces or simply internalized to the point that they weigh us down. There’s the absurd need to rise above the stigma attached to Gen Y in the workforce, the fear of failure and it’s potential to delay future accomplishments, the pressure to say yes to everyone and everything so that you never let anyone down, and then there’s the silly assumption that you should get married, buy a house and have kids at the exact same age your parents did despite the fact that we live in an entirely different world.

Maybe I am a little crazy, but if you do have any obstacles in your way, I do believe that there are a few simple ways to get around them or at least work with them, so that you can manage to fit seeing the world around your career…

See opportunity in wedding season

There is a certain time in one’s life when weddings fill your calendar. While there is no place I’d rather be than celebrating such an important day with my close friends and family, there is no doubt that weddings are one of the main roadblocks to carrying out my own travel plans. Between the cost and the days needed to be taken off work, it is difficult to really fit in a long vacation during the year.

But, if you are attending a wedding in a new city, try and take an extra day off so you have time to explore. Let’s face it, you’re already dropping a lot of money on all these weddings, what’s another day? Especially considering you may have so many to go to that they encroach upon a longer trip during the year. It could be a great opportunity to really see a new place.

Tap non-local friends

There are four awesome things about having friends that live in different cities:

1. You can travel to see them.

2. You have a place to stay.

3. You get to see their city from the perspective of a local.

4. When they visit, you get to play tour guide, encouraging you to see new places in your own hometown.

Save, just for travel

Starting a savings account that is just meant for travel is extremely helpful. I love ING because you can open up multiple accounts and even title them differently – like, “travel fund” –  so you can organize your savings around creating time for yourself.

Become a master of your vacation days

I am a nut about staying on top of how many days I have accrued and how many I have left. I tend to use most of them in large chunks as opposed to taking a bunch of long weekends because it gives me the chance to travel somewhere farther away.

I recommend requesting a week or so off way in advance and then spending time searching for cheap flights to anywhere. This alleviates the pressure of finding the time to vacation, but it also forces you to take the days that you deserve. And, depending on what you find, you could end up in a place you never thought you would visit, just because it was cheap to fly there.

Just do it

I’m not advocating going into debt. But, sometimes you have to step back and weigh the advantages of seeing the world against accruing interest on a credit card. Think about your last trip and how much you gained in experience, how much you learned about a new culture and how what you saw will never be erased from your memory. Most times, you may come to the conclusion that those gains are more valuable than reaching a financial goal on time.

Now I know you savvy readers must have some more tips for finding a balance. What other ways can we be sure to not let travel become a nonexistent priority?

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