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How Long Term Travel Can Help Your Career

How Long Term Travel Can Help Your Career

Long term travel can often be seen as a ‘career killer’, but taking a career break could perhaps be the best thing you could ever do for your career! Here’s why.

1. You have time to think

It’s so easy to get caught up in day-to-day life at home. We are often so busy that we don’t have time to sit back and look at the big picture. Between work, family, sport, volunteering, friends – do you ever have a spare couple of hours to just… think? Probably not! Back in Australia, I was so busy just getting stuff done that I didn’t have time to think about the big picture. Taking a career break to travel was the perfect chance to reflect on what I really wanted in life and work.

Long term travel involves a lot of long bus, train and plane rides. You will have little else to do than listen to music and stare out the window… thinking. Sometimes you have so much spare time to just think that it can become a bit overwhelming. We’ve met a few people who have had their ‘quarter life crises’ while travelling, because you finally have a chance to stop and reflect.

While you might not have a groundbreaking epiphany while you are travelling, you will have plenty of time to think about what you really want from your career. At the end of your trip, hopefully you have worked out a career that truly excites and inspires you. You can work towards a goal, rather than just living day-to-day to pay the bills.

Gobi desert tour Mongolia
Plenty of time to think when driving across the Gobi Desert!

2. Travel broadens your horizons

Broadening your horizons and experiences is a great move for your career. Employers want employees who are able to ‘think outside the square’. Narrow-mindedness is rarely seen as a positive! As a traveller, you are constantly being challenged by new ideas, cultures and people. It is the perfect way to broaden your horizons and open your mind to new possibilities.

You will also meet travellers from all kinds of backgrounds and careers. You can learn about life in other countries, and working in different fields.Perhaps you will even find a place you fall in love with, and decide that you want to live and work overseas rather than at home.  I found that talking to other travellers made me reflect on my own career. Was I proud to tell people what I do, or was I embarrassed? Did I sound passionate about my work? Would I like to try something different? Did I speak fondly of home, or negatively?

Learning Spanish in Guatemala
Tom with our wonderful host family in Guatemala who helped us learn Spanish.

3. You gain life experience

In Australia, you often hear of young people being rejected from the army or emergency services because they need more ‘life experience’. But how do you ‘experience’ life? It’s hard to define, but I think it is having experiences that push you out of your comfort zone, and force you to stand on your own two feet. Long term travel definitely fits this bill.

You will have tough days where you think about going home, but you don’t. You will be forced to think quickly in difficult situations. No doubt you will experience a number of confrontations, whether with a taxi driver or fellow travellers. You will have to stand up for yourself and be responsible for your own actions (and money!). Employers don’t want an employee that have to babysit. They want someone with initiative and resilience who takes responsibility for their work. Long term travel definitely instils these values.

Cairo bazaar Egypt
Working on my haggling skills in the Cairo bazaar

4. You learn practical workplace skills

While on the road, you can learn plenty of practical workplace skills. You can learn a new language, or volunteer doing something you are interested in. If you are interested in trades, you can volunteer to help with building or plumbing overseas. If you are interested in teaching or childcare, you could volunteer to teach English or work as an au pair. When explaining your career break in your resume, don’t forget to add other ‘soft skills’ you may have learned. For example, skills in problem solving, communication, organisation, independent thinking and conflict resolution.

Teaching English in Guatemala
Volunteering at a school in San Pedro, Gautemala

5. Long term travel gets the ‘travel bug’ out of your system (at least for a while)

The travel bug bite is a hard one to scratch. But a good stint of travel can get the travel bug out of your system (for now at least). While I make no guarantees that one career break will be enough, it might keep the travel bug at bay for a little while!

Do you think travel would be good for your career? Tell us your thoughts below!

How To Ask Your Boss For A Career Break

How To Ask Your Boss For A Career Break

I was lucky enough to get 12 months unpaid leave from my job for our Silk Road trip in 2016. But I’m not the only one! More and more workplaces are allowing their employees a sabbatical or a career break to travel long term. Here are a few tips on how to convince your boss it’s a top idea.

1. Be good at your job

Your boss won’t give you 12 months off if you’re not worth keeping – it’s that simple. Put in the hard yards and get yourself noticed for the right reasons. Make yourself indispensable. Your employer has invested time and money into your development, so show them they shouldn’t let it go to waste. For a company to allow you to take a career break it needs to work for them as well.

2. Be honest

You don’t have to tell your boss every travel idea that pops into your head, but you also shouldn’t make empty promises. Don’t offer to take the lead on a major project if you are planning to ask for a career break during the same period – it’s not a good look.

3. Read your workplace policies

Every workplace usually has an unpaid leave policy. While they may not be intended to cover sabbaticals, it will at least give you an idea of the criteria your boss will look at when making their decision. It’s also handy to know your rights regarding leave.

There is likely to be a formal approval procedure you need to follow to get your leave sorted. Once you have broken the news to your boss get onto any paperwork quickly while it is still at the front of their mind and follow the correct procedure.

4. Pick your timing

Give you boss as much notice of your intended departure date as possible. This will give them a better chance of making alternate arrangements. Consider whether finishing up at a certain time of the year might be helpful for your employer (for example, the end of financial year). Be willing to compromise. This could increase your chances of getting the answer you’re looking for.

Also, don’t ask your boss for a sabbatical or career break when they have just had a day from hell or they are super busy. Wait until they have a relatively quiet moment, and perhaps even make an appointment in their diary.

5. Explain why

Think about why you want this break from work to travel, and explain this to your boss. It will help them to understand your motives, and hopefully show that you’re not leaving simply due to a lack of commitment to your job. Have you always wanted to travel? Are you planning to volunteer or learn another language? Do you think this trip will help develop life skills that you can apply to work? Or is life simply too short? Be clear about why you are going and what you want.

6. Be thankful!

If your boss approves your leave, make sure you say thanks. It can be easy to forget that your travel adventure is probably a gigantic pain in the ass for your workplace, and they have done you a huge favour. Shout them a coffee or a beer at least.

And if they say no? Well, then you can obviously consider resigning. If you quit, don’t burn your bridges. You might be rehired or need a reference when you return!

Need more tips on preparing for your career break? Click here!