“Quit your job, sell your stuff, travel the world.”
It’s a tale as old as time, and has been covered so extensively across so many travel blogs and websites, it’s honestly starting to become a bit repetitive. After all, is it really that simple?
The answer? Yes, it is…for a while. Then, it becomes not-so-simple.
Ask any frequent traveler what their travel/”normal life” balance is like, and you’ll probably receive one of these common answers:
- They quit their job to travel “indefinitely,” until they run out of money. Then, they’ll either go home and return to their normal life permanently, or they’ll begin a cycle of bouncing back and forth between saving money at home and spending money on travel
- They’re working some sort of remote freelance or English-teaching job while traveling (probably a low-paying job in a low-cost country)
- They have the standard 9-5 job at home with limited vacation, and travel when they can
I know people who follow all of these patterns, and make them work very well.
But none of them have worked for me.
The problem for me is that NONE of these lifestyles would ever be sustainable for me in the long-term.
My adventurous urges are, quite frankly, much too strong to be contained by a 9-5 job with 2 weeks of vacation. In all honestly, I would probably lose my mind if I was forced to admit defeat and limit my travel enough to fit this type of schedule.
On the flip side, I’m not so nomadically-inclined that I’m comfortable with living out of a suitcase for the rest of my life (oh, and there’s that whole fiance bit to think about!).
The good news? I’ve found another way.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
I too have my own “quit my job to travel story,” although mine had a twist ending: when I told my boss I was quitting my job to go traveling, she asked me if I wanted to work remotely instead.
This was the event that opened my eyes to the possibility of remote work; of traveling long-term while also making a steady income.
I won’t lie, it was great having an excess of incoming funds as I backpacked around Central America. As for the parts that weren’t so great?
- Telling my new friends from my hostels, “Sorry, I can’t go to the beach/go volcano boarding/go on that hike with you all today, because I need to work instead.”
- Battling the mind-numbingly slow internet connection in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras as I attempted to get work done.
- Having a full-blown panic attack when Utila experienced a complete island-wide power outage the day I had a project due, and I missed a work deadline for the first time ever.
Thus, I learned that working while traveling wasn’t quite all that it was cracked up to be.
Yes, technically I was employed and traveling at the same time…but this new job set-up came with many new challenges, frustrations, and annoyances that were perhaps worse to deal with than those I had left behind at my full-time, location-dependent job.
Not to mention, this backpacking stint in Central America taught me that while I love the occasional multi-month trip, long-term travel with no end in sight doesn’t quite align with my other life priorities (i.e. my career, my fiance, my friends and family at home, and my desire to have a home base to return to).
So, when I returned home from Central America at the end of 2015, I decided to try something different: I became a travel agent.
Long story short, this lasted all of three months before I realized that working as a travel agent involved WAY too much blurring of the lines between business and pleasure. After all, travel is my passion ; booking cruises and airline tickets for strangers with travel styles that were so completely different than my own made it all seem so dull, clinical, and uninspiring.
…In other words, the subject of travel suddenly felt more like a job and a chore than like something I truly loved. Which is exactly what it had become.
Which leads me to today.
Today, I have a set-up that doesn’t quite have the “obvious” appeal of working while traveling or working in the travel industry.
My job description doesn’t sound glamorous or exciting; I simply have a flexible job doing what I’m good at: content creation.
Actually, I have three jobs doing what I’m good at. Without going into too much detail, I work part-time hours at an office job here in Houston where I do marketing and social media work, and I also have two ongoing writing gigs, which I do remotely.
All of these jobs are contract-based, and since I’m not a full-time employee, I don’t receive any benefits like healthcare and paid vacation. However, I work from home every Friday (meaning it’s easier than ever to dedicate long weekends to travel), and all three of my employers are extremely flexible regarding the amount of time I take off to travel.
So yes, on the surface, my life and my career are extremely normal, in every since of the word. I’m employed, I have an apartment and a car, and I’m newly engaged and planning a wedding.
I’ve also made sure that this lifestyle allows me to carve out plenty of room for travel when I need it. I’m not in career that only allows for two, three, or even four weeks of vacation per year. I’m also not wasting precious hours abroad glued to my laptop.
With a bit of trial and error, I’ve finally figured out what my perfect balance of travel and “normal life” is:
- I like having a home base, but having the job flexibility to travel when I want to.
- While I don’t mind working a bit on longer trips, I appreciate being able to limit my work schedule and just relax when traveling on shorter trips.
- I like that travel is my passion and my hobby, not my job.
- I like the feeling of watching my career progress and grow, and knowing that I am working in a career that I want to stay in for many years to come (rather than just having a job for the sole purpose of making money).
The ultimate goal for me would be to eventually transition my job to 100% remote, and right now I’m operating at about 40% remote. But hey, it’s a start!
UPDATE 1/11/17 – I now work 100% remotely as a freelance writer, marketer, and social media media writer/coordinator!
In other words, I’ll probably NEVER be a full-time traveler or permanent nomad. I’ll also probably NEVER go back to the standard location-dependent 9-5 job. It doesn’t have to be one extreme or the other; there are options in between.
The most exciting part of finalizing realizing and (at least partially) achieving this ideal lifestyle is that I can totally see the sustainability of it all. I can see how the balance that I’m building between travel and normal life today will help me to be happy five, ten, twenty, and thirty years down the road.
Sure, my priorities may shift and my ideal travel/normal life balance will more than likely change, but I have a strong feeling that I’m on the right track.
In other words, you can live a “normal” life and make time for the travel you want.
In case you’ve never visited my “About Me” page before (go on, give it a read, I’ll wait) I wanted to share this little excerpt that I wrote more than a year ago about my main purpose for writing on this blog:
I know that there may be many people out there in similar situations–dreaming of seeing the world and experiencing foreign cultures, and wondering if they have to abandon the things and people they love most in order to fulfill those dreams.
For that reason, I am very happy to tell you that it IS possible to have both.
With careful planning, budgeting, and prioritizing, it is possible to have both adventure and stability, love and independence, and excitement and normalcy.
This blog is the story of my endeavor to balance a “normal” lifestyle with an adventurous spirit. My hope is that my travels and stories will inspire others to see more of the world, without feeling required to give up the comforts of home in the process.
This sentiment is true today more than ever before. It’s taken me more than a year of trial and error (and yes, multiple failures) to figure out what truly makes me happy in a career, in travel, and in a lifestyle. I’ve taken some risks and ultimately relied on my intuition to guide me in many cases, but it’s paid off: I’m finally truly content with the work I’m doing, the life I’m living, and the travel opportunities that stand before me.
Of course, not everyone is the same type of person that I am, and what works for me may not be what works for many other people. The goal is to figure out how to make travel fit into YOUR lifestyle, based on YOUR priorities, goals, and values.
And you know what? It’s totally possible.
Here’s how to find your own travel/lifestyle balance.
- In your heart of hearts, do you see yourself traveling for as long as you can without coming back to a home base? OR do you see yourself having a home base and taking shorter trips as frequently as you can?
- What is your motivation for travel? To “get it out of your system”? To look back on your life without regrets? To do something crazy and different, just once? To learn about the world? To explore new hobbies and experiences? To bond with your travel companion(s)? Your answer could help you determine if you “need” to take that one big round-the-world yearlong trip, or if you’d be better off taking more weekend or week-long trips.
- Realistically, does your career path allow you to work remotely (even just on occasion) or take extended amounts of time off to travel? If yes, this is definitely a sustainable way to either increase your travel frequency, or the length of your trips (or both!). If no, would you consider taking a leave of absence from your job to go on one long trip, before returning to work?
- What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your ideal travel-lifestyle balance?
- Whichever route you choose, can you make the money you need to fully support yourself in your chosen lifestyle?
Ultimately, the key to finding your dream balance between travel and “normal” life is to realize that there’s no right answer, or right path. Want to move abroad permanently? Make it happen! Want to take a year off from work to travel and have fun? Do it! Want to work remotely while traveling slowly? You’ve got options! Want to travel half the year and live at home half the year? Go for it! Want to take three week-long vacations each year? Negotiate it!
Be creative, know what you want, and leverage your skills and resources to build the lifestyle you want from the ground up.
Other bloggers who have nailed down their travel and “normal life” balance:
- Bridges and Balloons: Success! I found my travel-work-life balance (for now)
- Nomadic Matt: The Long Road Ahead: Finding a New Balance Between Work and Play
- A Dangerous Business: You Can Live a “Normal” Life and Travel, Too
What’s your ideal balance between travel and “normal” life? What are you doing to make it work? I want to hear all about it!