I frequently get asked how I have traveled for so long or how I afford to continue to travel. The other day someone commented that they were going to move their business to a foreign country so that they could travel more. What many people don’t realize is that while I was living in Qatar, I was working full-time and continuing to travel up to three months a year. Since leaving Qatar, I have continued to travel. This is all possible because I make travel a priority.
At this point, many travel bloggers would tell you that they are going to tell you how you can do the same. I am not going to tell you that. Everyone’s situation is different. I am a single woman with no kids, and that inherently makes my life more flexible than others. What I will do is make suggestions on how my strategies can work for you to make travel a priority as well.
I Moved Abroad
Moving aboard was a priority for me for many years before I moved to Qatar. After living in the Turks and Caicos for about three months, I had met a few long term expats. They told stories of places they had lived and trips they had been on. I remember thinking to myself, “I am living my life wrong!” Not long after my return, I started applying for jobs abroad. It took about three years, but I eventually landed the role in Qatar.
This was a massive shift in my travel lifestyle. Not only was I living in a foreign country, but many other countries that I wanted to visit were also a much shorter flight than they had been when I was living in the US. Before I had even moved, I started making plans to travel. I moved to Qatar in August 2013, so I wasn’t planning on coming home for Christmas. I planned to spend Christmas in Rome, which was only a six-hour flight.
Over the four years of living there, the travel trend continued. I went to Greece, France, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and many more. All of these places were closer and easier to get to from Qatar than from the US making it much easier to plan a trip.
While moving abroad may not be an option for us all, you can take trips to countries that are nearer to you. Now that I am back in the US, I am planning on taking trips to Central America. Many of the flights from Dallas to popular cities in Central America are a 3 to 4-hour flight. Meaning, I can take a long weekend trip to Mexico if I want. Sometimes we fail to see the opportunities that are right in front of us or in this case, south of us!
Using My Vacation
I am a huge advocate for using your vacation. Using your vacation makes you more productive at work when you return. Scientists have even figured out how long your vacation should be for optimal relaxation, which is eight days. I was fortunate in my last several jobs as they had ample vacation time. In Qatar, I had 24 vacation days excluding holidays and sick time. If you average that out to 5 days in a week, then I was getting almost five weeks of vacation a year.
How did I use that to my advantage then? Well, the first year of my time in Qatar was not a full year, and I wasn’t about to take off from a job for two weeks that I had just started. However, I was itching to go somewhere almost immediately. Luckily, I was able to take a work trip to Belgium that helped.
The key here was using my vacation days wisely. I only took off one day to go on my trip to Rome and combined it with the days we already have for the semester break. As a result, I carried over five days of vacation over to the next year.
I continued to schedule trips around other scheduled holidays, and since I was usually a short flight away, many of my trips were only five days. However, I was able to see many countries this way and still come home for two weeks at Christmas time every year after 2013.
You can do this too. I know that Americans, on average, only get between 10 and 14 days of vacation a year making this more difficult. Choose vacations that are closer to home. Take vacations around built-in company days off. If you can’t afford to fly somewhere, choose a town nearby and take a staycation. Get away from the stress of work and daily chores and let a hotel pamper you.
Taking a Sabbatical
When I left Qatar, I had planned to travel and not work. There was no set time frame for how long I would travel. I had saved money while working in Qatar for this specific plan. I had no long how long it was going to take me to save enough for me to feel comfortable and when I originally arrived in Qatar, I had planned to stay as long as possible.
Then the travel bug hit! I was no longer satisfied with taking a two week holiday every few months, and the dream of traveling full-time became more urgent for me with each passing month. After doing some math and looking at my bank account, I decided it was time.
I left my job in Qatar at the end of my contract in June 2017. After returning home to bring my limited amount of things back, I flew out on a three-month trip. While I had specific destinations in mind, I knew I needed to be somewhat flexible to make decisions on places I wanted to go. All in all, I went to six countries during that time. Some countries were ones I revisited, and some were completely new.
Now, you may be thinking I can’t just quit my job and travel! I totally get that. Remember, I had no bills and no kids. But you might be able to do this too. Ask your company if you can take a short sabbatical. Even a month is a great start. If approached in the right way, you might be surprised at how many places are willing to let you have unpaid time off. They would much rather you take off for a month or two than have to hire and train a whole new employee, especially if you are a well-liked and reliable employee.
As I had not been working since June 2017, I really needed to start working again. However, my focus has changed. I eventually want to be one of those “digital nomads.” However, my idea of nomading is more like move somewhere for a few months and then come home and then go somewhere else. In the meantime, I need to make some money and rebuild my savings.
For now, I am doing many things. I started taking on clients for digital marketing and SEO services in January and began working at Starbucks! Also, I am now working at Medium remotely, which I hope will help in my goals to nomad later. I have no idea how long it is going to take to begin my full-time travel dreams again, but if I can wait three years for an overseas job, then I can wait out this dream as well.
I hope this answer some questions and gives you some ideas. What else would you like to know?