7 Ways to Balance Work with Long-Term Travel

This year, my family and I finally made the commitment to live abroad for seven weeks.

By David Derrick, Director of Air Product at Airtreks

I need to first confess that I’ve worked at Airtreks for 20 years, and although I’ve traveled each of those 20 years, I’ve never actually lived in a foreign location with my family. It’s been a dream of mine for all this time. The longer I kept putting off our move abroad, the more unattainable it seemed. Work, family, and budget all felt like a trap, keeping me in my place.

Eventually, I realized I couldn’t continue to make excuses. I juggled my saved vacation days with a couple weeks of remote working and took the leap to buy the flights. Seven weeks in England, France, Spain, Italy, and Thailand.

Now that we’re back, I feel great about it! In France, we learned to add more courses to our meal times. In Spain, my children got to study and practice the Spanish they’ve been learning at home. In Thailand, we reconnected with family and old friends after many years apart.

I’m not the only one at Airtreks to travel long-term or move abroad this year. Seven Airtreks employees have managed to live abroad, balancing work and travel in their own unique ways.

I want to share with you how and why we did it.

Why living and working abroad is worth considering

Office view in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa (Justin Baker)

Reasons for relocating to a new country can be compelling:

Live a new culture – Make new friends, eat new food, learn a new language. Challenge and prioritize your values. Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet the love of your life!

Spend less money – Your $, £, or € will go a lot farther in many parts of the world. The cost of living can be much lower in another country. In Mexico, India, and many other places, you can stretch your travel savings out for months. If you’re working from a country like Colombia or Indonesia while earning an urban first-world salary, you can build your bank account while abroad. Why stay in your apartment when you could live on the beach in Portugal for a third of the cost?

Whether you go short-term, long-term, or permanent, extended time abroad will make an impression on your life story.


Here are seven ways you can balance your career with long-term travel:

Enjoy A Sabbatical (or take extended time off)

Contemplating a bed on the beach

You work hard. You deserve some time off. Taking a sabbatical is known to improve both your well-being and long-term productivity.  Have fun, relax and explore the world! (Your mind and your boss will thank you for it later!)

Most travelers we’ve talked to spend between one to twelve months on their multi-stop trip. A few of the best times to travel are between jobs, schools, a hiatus from work, or when you retire. You’ve already heard my story. Committing to travel for an extended amount of time is no easy task, but if you stay focused and resolved, it will probably be easier than you think.

If you question whether you can get time off from work, or can’t afford to take a hiatus without income, try talking to your employer about working from abroad. Perhaps there are overseas partners or branches you can visit, a project to be completed, or an article you can write. Can you connect for video meetings? Can you work in your CRM or use a virtual phone? A successful negotiation of time off or remote work is a win-win for you and your employer.

If you’re considering a trip like this, I strongly recommend our BootsnAll Travel RTW30 e-course to keep you organized and motivated.

Take A Gap Year

Chris Heidrich at Cape Agulhas

For many in Australia and New Zealand (where it’s called the “OE”- Overseas Experience), taking a gap year to travel around the world is an accepted part of transitioning from school/university to working life.

For our Travel Planner Chris Heidrich, it was a fundamental and life-changing experience. As an Australian, he was able to take advantage of working opportunities available to Commonwealth citizens.

“I worked and saved during university (I think I had a paltry A$4,000 after plane tickets), then I went to the UK. I started out in London because my sister lived there, then moved up to Edinburgh around festival time. It’s easy to find work pulling pints, working at a festival, or getting a job as a temp. Once you’ve saved enough you can quit, go travel, then find another job and repeat the process.”

After nearly two years he had traveled in Ireland, Germany, Greece and the U.S.

If taking gap years is so popular with Aussies and Kiwis, shouldn’t they be more popular in the US?  According to Chris, “The answer is a resounding yes! Everyone should want to do this. Working holiday programs are available to US citizens too.”

Read more about taking a successful gap year here.

Become A Digital Nomad

When Jason Raybin started at Airtreks, he was based in Bali before moving to Chiang Mai. Today he finds himself house-sitting in San Francisco, but not for long. He leaves soon for Kerala, by way of Europe perhaps. Jason has embraced living and working as a digital nomad – a lifestyle that has exploded in recent years.

“It has been a goal of mine for a long time to be location independent so that I can work from anywhere and travel on my terms. It is a great feeling of freedom and being out of the rat race that so many of us get stuck in.”

What does it take to be a successful digital nomad?

To start with, you need to be organized and disciplined. Most employers who hire nomads don’t care how you do your job, as long as you do quality work on time and within budget.

Next, you will need to provide a skill that does not require you to be physically present.

Some examples of this could be a digital project based job such as a developer, QA, data scientist, translator, technical writer, or social media producer. Customer communication roles such as tech support, customer service, or online sales, are also common.

Ready to go? Remote OK is a great job search website designed for those looking for digital nomad work.

“The best parts [of living abroad] are a fresh start and the feeling of discovering something new. That can be friends, food, or a new favorite place to watch the sunrise. When you live and work as you travel, it’s an opportunity to learn about yourself and what your ideal life really is. It’s not an easy transition, but if it’s what you want to do then it’s absolutely worth it!”

Explore Your Creativity

An unplanned stopover in the Seychelles led to a new novel (Sara Gamber)

Traveling the world allows you to take the time to disconnect from your home trappings to seek freedom and inspiration from another place. It worked for Picasso, Van Gogh, and Gauguin (sort of).

Sarah Gamber worked for Airtreks nearly as long as her husband, Daniel. Upon returning from their last big RTW trip, she decided to change careers and explore her creative side:

“I find that meeting new people, learning about cultures different than my own, and seeing both natural and man-made wonders, acts as an inspiration for creativity. This happened to me when my family and I took advantage of an unplanned stopover in the Seychelles. I was so captivated by this island paradise, that our experience inspired me to write a historical fiction novel.”

Unless you are already earning money from your hobby or art, it’s recommended to have savings. While there’s no guarantee that your work will pay off monetarily, living abroad may just give you the best chance to succeed and do your best work. Think of how many artists and authors blossomed once they moved away from home!

Expand Your Skill Set

Take time out to reflect and imagine the next level of you

 

Let the world be your teacher. How many books have you been meaning to read, but haven’t had the time or energy? What training do you lack to land a better job? What online courses can you take while abroad?

Traveling is one of the best ways for you to develop and strengthen the hard and soft skills critical to your success. There are certifications and diplomas you can earn over the internet, and so many e-books to learn from.  What could be better than learning a new language in a country where it’s spoken natively? When it comes to learning while overseas, possibilities and opportunities are endless.

Let’s face it, most of us could use a career break to chart a better course for the future. If you’re going to be learning, but not earning, why spend thousands of dollars a month on rent at home when you could be traveling? That’s right; you can spend less seeing the world than staying at home.

 

Volunteer

There are many traditional jobs with that allow for relocation (diplomats, multi-national managers, specialists, NGO’s, academics, etc.)  Another option is to volunteer.

Travel Planner Justin Baker moved from San Francisco with his wife Fernanda to São Paulo, where he was able to experience Brazil while working at Airtreks.

After a year in Brazil, they were ready to move on – this time across the Atlantic to South Africa. How were they able to stay so long? Fernanda got a volunteer job at a primate sanctuary near Plettenberg Bay which made them both eligible for a one-year special visa. Many countries offer extended visas for study, research, or volunteering.

The exchange rate from U.S. dollars was so good, they were able to afford to rent a luxury home with an infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Living in South Africa also served as a home base to allow them to visit many surrounding countries: Botswana, Namibia, Madagascar, and Mauritius.

 

Immigrate

Immigrating to a new country may be more extreme than you were thinking, but it might not be a bad idea, or as hard as you think.

Daniel Gamber has been working as a Travel Planner at Airtreks for nearly 20 years. After years of talking to travelers every day, he felt the need to take a break from working to do some traveling himself.

On his first trip, he took over a year to travel through the South Pacific and Latin America. More recently, he took another year off to travel with his family to over a dozen countries in four continents. Follow along on their blog Our Quality of Light.

The latest chapter in Daniel’s odyssey? They’ve moved to Spain.

Off to a new life, in Spain

“My wife and I have wanted to live abroad since our first travels together. Once we had a family, we were excited to share a different cultural life experience and learn a second language with our children,”  said Daniel.

The paperwork required for Spanish residency was daunting but… “once we had a clear list and stuck to it, the amount of paperwork was surmountable.“ The end result was approval.

Was it worth it?  

“Absolutely.  It’s only been one month but the children are enjoying their Spanish immersion at the local school, we are all making new friends in the neighborhood and have been welcomed into a vibrant expat community here in Granada.”

Trying to fit into a new community can be messy


So there you have it; seven, of many, ways you can fit long-term travel into your lifestyle. There’s no prerequisite other than the ability to take care of yourself. If you have a natural curiosity to explore, don’t let life pass you by sitting in your chair. Make a list of the things you think are holding you back and tackle them one-by-one.


If you would like to make long-term travel a part of a round-the-world or multi-stop journey, be sure to check our Airtreks Tripplanner for ideas and prices.