How to Balance Your Passion for Travel with a Full-Time Job

8 tips for making travel a reality despite a demanding work schedule

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Iceland Fields of Lyngdalsheiði

Maintaining an ideal work-life balance is no easy feat, especially in America—a country synonymous with long work days and limited time off. It’s not surprising to realize that there are many unfulfilled travelers who say they “just don’t have time for travel” or they “can’t get away from the office.”

It’s one of the most common excuses—and it’s just that—an excuse.

Like so many other aspects of life, it’s all about your priorities. If you’re determined to travel, you’ll go. But that said, your job and other obligations are a factor you need to consider.

With enough effort and planning, though, these obstacles won’t take away your travel time. Put travel at the top of priority list, read our tips and then enjoy your time away from the cubicle.

#1 It helps to have a travel-friendly job. If you work on a cruise ship, as a stagehand or as a travel writer, traveling is inherently part of the job. If travel is your ultimate goal, it might be worth looking into a travel-centric position. Another option is to try working remotely, if your position can be done from any computer and your boss signs off, you could travel long-term while working.

#2 Extend your business trips. If you have a meeting or conference in a distant city, why not take advantage and stay an extra few days? The airfare is already paid for and you won’t have to waste any additional travel time, it’s a simple and cost-effective trip idea.

#3 Use holiday weekends wisely. Many U.S. companies give workers paid time off for major holidays. Columbus Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day, just to name a few, often cause three-day weekends. Take the extra day as an excuse to get away or tack on one or two vacation days for a longer vacation.

#4 Pick travel dates wisely. How do you manage to get a 10-day vacation, while only using six paid vacation days? Pick the days of the week carefully. A perfect example is an upcoming trip I’m taking. Short on vacation days, but determined to stretch out my trip, I scheduled a red-eye for Thursday night. Since that flight leaves around midnight, I can work all day Thursday, fly overnight and wake up in Spain on Friday. I took that Friday off and then the whole next week, as well. For six official days off, I’ll get to enjoy traveling for a full ten days, because I sandwiched the trip between weekends.

#5 Go Local. Sure, the “vacation in your own backyard” bit might seem a little tired, especially when you’re dying to get far away, but a short car ride can put you in a place you’ve never been before. Look at a map, pick a few interesting places within reasonable driving distance and plan out a few short weekend trips.

#6 Be a host. Whether it’s friends and family, or couchsurfers you’re meeting for the first time, you can live vicariously through their travel plans—or better, be part of them. When people come to visit, we’re forced to break from routine. Try a nice restaurant or show them around a cool part of town—that alone could feel like a mini vacation. Plus, it’s always nice when they’re willing to return the favor down the road and offer you a free place to stay.

#7 Negotiate more time off. For some travelers, time off is more important than all the money in the world. What good is cash if you can’t enjoy it? If that sounds like you, try negotiating extra time off instead of a potential raise, or see if you can exchange overtime work for vacation days instead of money.

#8 Discuss unpaid vacation or a leave of absence. If you’ve tried all of the options above and your wanderlust still hasn’t been satisfied, it’s time for a big decision. Some truly adventurous people leave their full-time gigs to travel, but if you’d like to hang on to your position, ask your boss about unpaid vacation or a leave of absence. Some industries and individual companies will be more receptive to this than others, but it’s worth a shot to get the best of both worlds—freedom and job security.

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