How to travel without sacrificing your career
It’s no secret that Australians love to travel. From the cherished gap year, through to escaping to Asia and summers in Europe, we are a nation of adventurers. But what happens when your itchy feet are yearning for more than a week on the beach in Bali?
Once you start working, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind – job and life pressures mount, your living expenses (read: lifestyle choices) rise, and suddenly a year or two have passed. Seriously, how is it already August?
If you are ready to pack it all in, don’t stress! If you're looking to travel overseas for work, study or just seeking an adventure, I’ve sourced the best tips to get you on your way.
Not all those who wander are lost – J.R.R Tolkein
Making the big career move
Let’s call this the “grown up” gap year. While you’re probably past the 8 countries in three weeks contiki trip, you’ve got the travel bug and are ready to try your luck overseas. Or perhaps you have scored a transfer with your work and are itching to get on the plane!
Moving overseas can be a great way to try a new career, and to demonstrate that you are a well-rounded person to future employers (if and when!) you decide to move back home.
It can be a huge decision to pack up your life and head overseas. There’s a lot of emotions tied up in any big trip: excitement, nerves, panic, happiness, sadness…
Once you’ve committed to making your big trip, these tips will get you on your way:
- Make sure you save as much money as possible before you go. Sounds simple, but I know a lot of people who have been tripped up by this! This can be particularly tricky when your non-travelling friends are starting to work and have disposable income to burn. At the very least, make sure you have your bond + emergency cash lined up before you go.
- Get your life admin sorted. Just as important as saving money, having a overseas bank account set up and ready to go is critical – particularly if you are staying for long enough to rent a room. Rentals can be competitive, and often you will be required to pay your bond and a month’s rent in advance to secure your new home. Don’t be caught out by delays in getting yourself organised once you land.
- Research areas where you want to live. If you are in a big city, like London, living close to friends and work can make a huge difference to your experience: you don’t want to spend your life commuting!
- If you don’t line up a job before you go, because of travel plans or whatever reason, you will need cash quickly, be prepared to make coffee and mix cocktails. Hone your skills and be ready to try new things. I love this quote from Megan at Pegs on the Line:
While I lived overseas I didn’t work in media. I actually never took a professional job. I waited tables and worked in youth hostels. And loved it ... The experience taught me a valuable lesson. As long as I’m having fun and earning enough to get by, I don’t care what I do. Being able to live the life I want will always be more important than the title on my business card.
- Remember that job markets can be quite different: don’t assume that your study or experience will translate to your new city. One of my friends worked super hard to get into the music industry in Australia – stage managing gigs, working at festivals, writing reviews, but when she got to London the CV that she had worked so hard to build (and got rave reviews for in Australia!) meant very little. Be prepared for the curve balls, and get ready to explain your skills. Think about the jobs that you have had and the actual tasks that you were responsible for, and highlight these in your application. This will help a potential employer who hasn’t heard of your Australian employer know that you are qualified and perfect for the job!
- Don’t be afraid to just ask for work! This was another tip from my friend who just got back from London. When the going gets tough, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Remember that you chose adventure for a reason. My friend was amazed by what opportunities she could get simply by having the guts to ask.
- If you are looking for a professional job, make sure you chat to as many people as you can about the market, salary, expectations and opportunities. Before you leave line up a list of contacts to meet, and think about building relationships with recruiters.
- If you are planning on working and travelling, think about more flexible options, or part time work. If this is your plan, be careful not to burn through money when you are in your “home” city – I know that friends of mine have really struggled when they didn’t have money coming in, so they felt like they couldn’t afford to travel and enjoy the experience.
Life as a digital nomad
In the digital world, there’s so many different ways to make money.
I love the concept of being a bit of a new-age, digital nomad. Not in a hippy-sense, but more like someone who is over the standard 9-5 routine and ready to kick butt in their own unique way.
I recently read the story of Colin Wright, who threw in his lavish corporate life in Los Angeles to travel. Colin swapped 100-hour weeks for a life of unknowns, which he has funded with his blog Exile Lifestyle. Since leaving LA behind in 2009, Colin has travelled to over 30 countries, funded by writing a book, starting a publishing company and now (of course!) speaking about this gig.
Think that you can hack the freelance lifestyle? While it’s probably the more challenging route, here’s some tips to get you on your way:
- Preparation is key. If you are really committed to doing this for the long haul, you are going to need to save, cut back your lifestyle expenses and probably sell lots of your stuff before you take off.
- Think about your strengths. Are you a blogger, or amateur photographer? Perhaps you could do some freelance consulting work? Think about your brand before you leave: what do you love to do, and what do you want to be known for? These days, travel blogging is a pretty crowded space, so it definitely helps to get your site happening before you take off for good. Get your domain name (I definitely recommend spending a little bit to have your own domain) and social media handles sorted and active.
- Be flexible. You have given up the 9-5 for a reason, right? Don’t get too set in your ways. For example, if you can be flexible with flight dates and times you will save a lot of money.
- Back everything up! If you are a freelancer, making money with photography or blogging, don’t let a pickpocket jeopardise your hard work. There’s so many ways to back everything up these days. At the moment I’m loving If This Then That. Automation is pretty cool, and I love knowing that my iPhone photos are being saved to my Dropbox without any effort on my part!
Hitting the books overseas
Last, but certainly not least, are travel tips for people heading overseas to study.
Studying overseas has so many benefits. In 2009 I studied in Japan, where I very quickly learned that despite studying Japanese for years back at home, I didn’t really know that much until I threw myself into the language and culture.
When I was researching this post, I asked one of my friends who is currently studying at Oxford for his tips. He summed up the major benefits perfectly:
Returning as a mature postgraduate student isn’t like being an undergrad. It’s a good chance to take a break from work, think about yourself, who you are and how you want to interact and be within the world
While a lot of the tips for moving overseas we’ve already covered are equally relevant to studying overseas, here’s a few extra pointers:
- Make sure you put yourself out there: don’t just stick with the first international students (or connections from back home) you meet on your first day for your entire stay! Remember, you have made the bold move to study overseas and mix things up for a reason… you have an incredible opportunity to meet people you would never meet in your social circle at home.
- Consider potential language barriers where you decide to study. While a lot of Universities have courses in English, if you are heading overseas to study a particular field (unlike me, I studied Japanese language in Japan!), would you find it too stressful trying to study, do exams and also learn a new language?
- Finally, don’t just go with the flow if things aren’t turning out the way you anticipated. This is perhaps my biggest tip for anyone wanting to study overseas. When I was in Japan I had a pretty average home stay experience, which put a bit of a dampener on my trip. In hindsight, I wish I had the guts to speak up about it while I was there: I probably could have changed and had a much better experience. Don’t forget that you have saved your hard earned money to get the best experience possible… if it’s not working out, then speak up, and make it work for you.
Have you moved overseas to broaden your horizons, or simply seek adventure? Perhaps you have studied overseas? What’s the best tip you have for someone ready to pack their bags? Comment below or get in touch, I would love to hear your tips!