How to travel even when you’re broke and work too much

by Scott Moses

One of the biggest challenges that all working people face is how to find a balance between the need to work and the desire to travel. For many people, the long hours in some crowded office building are only justified by the opportunities to escape into the freedom of a backpacking trip into the mountains, a weekend getaway to Cancun or some other tropical beach, or a weeklong excursion into an exotic culture on the other side of the world.

The problem, of course, is that travel requires money, and money comes from work. Too many people, in an effort to climb the corporate ladder or prepare for retirement, voluntarily withhold vacation time and never take advantage of the opportunity to explore the world around them. On the other side of the coin, there are those of us who often find themselves constantly searching for jobs because the boss wasn’t exactly pleased when we perpetually miss Mondays because a weekend away turned into a three-day trip.

Here are a few suggestions on how to get the most out of your explorations of this great world we live in while still maintaining a steady income.

The ideal: the digital nomad

Office work used to be confined to a stuffy cubicle on the 12th floor of some window-less building where you would labor for long hours for some corporate CEO pulling in a check that was at least 250 times larger than yours. The advance of globalization and technology, and, as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman puts it, the “flattening” of our world, has offered an escape route to those of us incarcerated in the world of office cubicles.

There is a burgeoning world of work available for freelancers who, with a little bit of innovation and research, can become their own bosses and work from the comfort of their own homes, and anywhere in the world with a decent Wi-Fi connection. Whether you are a freelance writer, photographer, website developer, online marketer, or any other profession that works from the freedom of the web, there is no better way to best combine travel and work into one lifestyle.

The digital nomad is the person who not just earns a living on the internet, but is situated to work from anywhere. Armed with little more than a laptop and a travel backpack (I recently did a survey of the best travel backpacks for the job), the digital nomad travels the world like a backpacker, but isn’t on vacation. For them, the line between work and travel is blurred as they explore the world while working.

Take the planning process seriously

Imagine the following scenario. You are stuck in a job that only offers you 12 paid vacation days each year. This year, six of the days were eaten up by attending your sister’s wedding and obliging your parents by going to the 50th family reunion. You’ve got six days left and have been planning a trip to some tropical locale where you want to do nothing more than sit on the beach, drink cocktails, and watch the sunset every day. You book the cheapest ticket you can find and the cheapest hotel, too (who doesn’t want to save on travel expenses, right?) and take off.

The trip to your tropical paradise ends up being 15 hours of mostly sitting in crowded airports. When you finally do reach your destination, your third floor hotel room has a wonderful view of the alleyway and the next door brick building. Little did you know that it was monsoon season where you were headed, and the four day vacation you had been dreaming of left you sitting in the hotel restaurant watching the rain fall steadily on the empty beach.

Travel needs to be a rejuvenating and refreshing experience, and to achieve that goal, you need to your research. If you only have a few days of vacation, spend a little extra on your travel budget to get where you need to go in the shortest amount of time as possible. Make sure you read reviews about the place you’re going to find out when it rains and when it shines, and other little things that can help you avoid pitfalls. A well-planned three-day vacation is much more rejuvenating than a six-day fiasco.

Take advantage of the weekends

Unless your job requires you to work 6 and 7 day workweeks, you have 2 days every week that essentially can be mini-travel opportunities. That’s close to 30% of the week! If you can arrange to get off work early on Friday and travel to wherever you’re headed, you have a solid two days to rest and relax while on a mini-vacation.

You don’t have to travel far to enjoy yourself. Do some research on some beautiful places within a 200 mile radius from your house, and make sure to check out those cheap airlines who often have flash sales where you can get cross-country airline tickets for the price of a night out at the local bar.

If you make it a priority to take at least one weekend travel trip each month, your actual travel time will significantly increase while not abandoning your work responsibilities. Ask your boss about putting in some time on Saturdays to see if you can get a Friday or Monday off once in a while to turn a two day trip into a three day adventure.

Get out of the routine

Too many people get stuck in the daily grind of the 9 to 5 job where, when the weekend finally does roll around, they want to do nothing more than snuggle up in front of the TV and enter into a mini-coma. Extracting yourself from that routine through taking several shorter trips will allow you to find the joys of travel while still maintaining a healthy balance with your work life.

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