At this point in my life, I want it all: a successful career and a life of adventure and travel. I have a husband, a mortgage, two cats, a retirement plan. I also spend my time obsessively researching new destinations and trying to figure out how to cram as many activities as possible into one week when I would rather spend four weeks in a single place.
I have to admit that I often struggle trying to balance the restless soul inside of me, the traveler who wants to wander the world for months at a time with the professional trying to climb the corporate ladder and lead a responsible, “adult” life.
I’ve worked non-stop since I graduated high school at the age of 18 that I don’t think I could deal with not receiving a steady paycheck. It doesn’t seem responsible to me to quit a well-paying job so that I can wander the world but perhaps at some point in the future, I’ll be ready for a career break.
In the meantime, I feel very, very fortunate that I earn four weeks of vacation per year, much more than the average American receives. Sidenote: The average American gets about 2 weeks of vacation per year and half of us don’t use our vacation time and when we do, we’re often checking in with work. Sigh. We need to make progress on this issue but given the state of our economy, I don’t think it will be a priority anytime soon.
It isn’t always easy maintaining the demands of a corporate job and using all the vacation I’m allotted in a given year. For one thing, just thinking about the prep to go on a trip is enough to give me a headache. I’m sure many of you can relate to the long evenings and weekends spent at the office, writing detailed instructions for coworkers on how to cover for you and doing as much work in advance as possible. Returning to work is just as fun: going through thousands of emails and catching up on all the firedrills that happened while you were away.
Along with the prep work involved in order to take time off, I’ve also had to deal with negativity from colleagues regarding the use of my vacation. I suppose if you’re going to use all of your time off, you have to be prepared to deal with sneers from other people that you work with. I’m fortunate in that the colleagues on my team are very supportive and I return the favor by covering for them when they’re out of the office.
While I don’t have the perfect solution to maintaing a career and traveling, I do have a few tips to make the balance a bit easier:
- Your coworkers or manager will likely have to cover parts of your job while you’re away. Make it easy for them by spending time creating a coverage document, training them on your responsibilities before you leave and dividing your job amongst a few people so that a single person isn’t burdened with all of your work.
- Return the favor by offering to cover for colleagues while they’re away from the office. It also helps to treat your colleagues to lunch when you return.
- Make the most of holidays. Most people get Thanksgiving and the following Friday off from work. Make the most of that time by traveling abroad so that you don’t have to use as much vacation time.
- Do you travel a lot for work? Try to tack on a day or two of vacation time ahead of your business trip or after your business trip. When I went to London for work last year, I was able to spend 6 days in Scotland (2 weekend days + 4 work days).
- Do you have the flexibility to work remotely? See if you can work abroad. A former colleague of mine spent a couple of weeks working from our New Zealand office and an additional two weeks on vacation.
- Try exchanging some weekend days for vacation days. Can you work a few weekends and exchange those days for vacation time?
How do you balance traveling and work? Share your experience in the comments section below.