Career or travel? Ditch the career and book that plane ticket now!
What are you waiting for? – that’s our tagline here at The Whole World Or Nothing, so that must be the advice you were after right?
Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Unless you are a multimillionaire with a steady income, then money and work are both going to be defining factors in how you map out your future. In fact unless you are a multimillionaire with a steady income, then the truth is it’s an absolute necessity to concentrate on your career.
You might be wondering what gives me the authority to answer questions on this subject. Well in my previous life I worked as a Human Resources Manager and specialised in recruitment. I did this for large corporate companies so know a thing or two about their recruitment processes and what they look for when they’re selecting candidates.
I’ve also made the decision to leave a successful career in favour of a life of travel, so I’ve got a unique standpoint having sat on both sides of the table. That’s not to say that there won’t be alternative views.
Realistically, you probably shouldn’t even be attempting to simply choose between career or travel. Instead you need to figure out a way to get your career and travel goals aligned.
Here are five questions you should be asking yourself instead of “career or travel?”.
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Should I Build my Career or Travel First?
If you’re fresh out of college or university then this is probably the question that is buzzing around in your mind. Travel enthusiasts often say that travel is the best education, but that’s not actually the whole truth. Yes, travelling around the world will allow you to learn many things and experience a huge amount of personal growth. But it sure as hell won’t qualify you to be a doctor, give you the skills to be a plumber, or even get you an interview at a big corporation.
Ask yourself what your career goals are first of all. If your ambition has always been to be a highly paid executive with a corner office in a fancy building by 27, then the quickest way to achieve that will be to get straight on the career ladder. But if you haven’t put those kinds of expectations on yourself and are willing to start from the same position as when you left, then travel shouldn’t be a barrier to you progressing.
Many people suggest that companies look favourably on a period of travel on someone’s resume. The truth is that most recruiters are simply looking for someone who has the ability to do the job and can demonstrate as much. The safest indicator a recruiter has that a candidate has the ability to successfully fulfil a role is whether they have done a similar role previously.
Having said that, if you are going into an entry level or graduate position anyway, some time spent travelling could well give you an extra element of interest. Travel is viewed like an extracurricular activity, so it could set you apart from other candidates if there is nothing else to separate you. But that will only be the case if you can show how it has benefited you in the context of the job. If you are invited to an interview and all you can say about the six months you spent in South East Asia is that it was great craic, then it won’t make the best impression.
Nothing much better in life that watching a beautiful sunset! Sx ???? #sunset #beautiful #stunning #silhouette #goldensky #explore #mrandmrs #couple #favourite #lifepassion #lima #peru #southamerica #travel #goodtime #coolclouds #travelphotography #travelhigh #love #loveeachother #bigworld #goexplore #letsgo #doit #whatareyouwaitingfor #thewholeworldornothing #travelblog #coupletravel #horizon
If you have studied something vocational and have a very clear path to follow then it will likely be a solid idea to establish your career before you travel. For example, if you have qualified in a profession where it’s necessary to continuously update your skills like nursing, it may actually be more difficult to get an entry level position after a period of long term travel. Why? Because everyone coming out of university will be freshly qualified with the most up to date learning, so it may mean that you find yourself at the back of the queue.
Equally, if like many recent graduates you have no idea what you want to do with your life, your education doesn’t push in any particular direction and you need some time to figure things out, then a period of travelling might just be the inspiration you need. Some of the most innovative travel related businesses have been created to this backdrop, check out the stories behind CabinZero, Icebreaker and BAM to see what I mean.
Will Travelling Affect my Long Term Career Prospects?
Of course long term travelling will have an effect on your career prospects. But it’s largely up to you as to whether that’s a positive effect or a negative one.
I’m assuming here that you already have a career, potentially one that you want to return to after travelling. There is an outside chance that some companies will view a travel break as a bad thing, but in my opinion that says something about the company. Personally I have always preferred to work within progressive, forward thinking businesses and any company that views travel as a negative is pretty archaic.
The crazy amazing view over Cochabamba in Bolivia! Sx ???????? #wow #vast #beautiful #bolivia #cochabamba #christo #bigcity #topoftheworld #whataview #canwegetmuchhigher #lookout #bighill #hotashell #bluesky #feelingsmall #citylife #climb #instacity #instashot #coolkid #thewholeworldornothing #southamerica
Experience is the most important thing when it comes to securing a new job. Any periods of absence from working will definitely be flagged up by a recruiter, but as long as you can explain them (i.e provide a reason that shows it was your decision and you stand by it) then they don’t have to be an issue. Some of the most successful appointments I made in previous roles were of people who had breaks in their CVs where they had travelled or focussed on other things that were important to them.
When you’re returning to an industry, it’s important to ensure that you are up to date with any changes that have happened within it since you’ve been away. This doesn’t have to be difficult and could be as easy as catching up on some industry magazines, signing up to relevant newsletters or speaking to people who are still in the industry. You won’t be expected to have a detailed knowledge of any changes, but if you can demonstrate that you’ve considered it and are committed to getting back up to speed then this will go a long way.
Can I Build a Career Travelling the World?
Yes! This is absolutely an option. And if you’re someone who doesn’t want to choose between travel or career, then it may be the perfect solution. If you have a career that you can take on the road with you then you’re well set already. There are plenty of professions that you can do all over the world which will allow you to travel at the same time.
The view from the North Peak of Hua Shan in Xi’an, China. This was our reward after 4 hours of hiking up a relentless 3600 steps! J&Sx #incredible #theviewthough #view #favourite #travel #hike #wanderlust #hiking #uphigh #mountaintop #ontop #huashan #xian #china #welovehiking #reward #hardcore #beautiful #stunning #lookslikeapainting #allaround #wow #thewholeworldornothing #adventure #intothewild
Teaching is a great one, particularly if you are fluent in English and can teach it as a foreign language. There are plenty of courses out there which, whilst not always necessary, will often help. TESOL, CELTA, TEFL are all good ones to consider and each have different benefits, but if you have a university degree it’s not always necessary to have one of these qualifications. In a lot of countries, particularly in Asia or the Middle East, you can earn a great salary and roles will sometimes include accommodation and other perks. We know dozens of people who teach all over the world, here are a couple that have some great advice:
If you have a career that is digital leaning, then it may be relatively easy to build a career travelling the world with it because you’re not ordinarily tied to a location. Anything like web development, programming, graphic design could work and we know people that travel and do these positions at the same time.
It’s also possible to make a complete career change and start something new. A travel blog is a great example and there are plenty of people who earn a living from it. If you have a way with words and a talent for writing then you can start a travel blog within minutes (that’s not to say that you’ll be a viral success overnight! It takes time, dedication and lots and lots of long hours).
With sites like Upwork it’s easy to get started as a freelancer and you may find something that matches your existing skillset that you enjoy. Once you’ve got some experience then you can quickly progress onto bigger and better things. Popular services on sites like this include Web, Mobile and Software Development, IT and Networking, Data Science and Analytics, Engineering and Architecture, and Writing.
Do I Want a Career Break Travel Adventure Instead?
Have you already built a successful career that you love and enjoy, but come to a stage where there’s a natural break? What better way to spend it than to cram a load of adventure into a short period of time!
Career break travel adventures are growing in popularity, as more people take opportunities to travel for a few months. This could be in the wake of a redundancy, at the end of a contract or in the form of a sabbatical. Whatever it is that leads to a career break travel adventure, rather than commit to a period of long term travel, it may be the time to take a complete break from work in order to enjoy a few escapades.
The summit of the Lost City Trek in Colombia! It was a relentless & gruelling 4 days through the hot & humid jungle being attacked by ticks & mosquitos but the views were well worth it. Big recommendation from us if you are over that side of the world. Sx ❤️???? #adventure #hiking #travel #wow #hot #relentless #gruelling #lovedeverysecond #theviews #doit #lostcitytrek #colombia #ciudadperdida #achievement #bucketlist #welovemountains #jungle #welovetohike #getthattickoffme #greenery #passtheinsectrepellent #thewholeworldornothing
This is a great compromise and could be the perfect way to fulfil your travel ambitions without letting go of your career aspirations. It will give you a chance to recharge your batteries and reassess your career.
From an employers’ perspective, a travel break adventure can really be a positive. If you are taking a sabbatical, they will likely have to cover your job role, allowing them to give someone else a development opportunity on secondment. If you are switching positions or companies then it may signify that you are ready and raring to give your all to a new position. As long as you don’t bore the recruiter in an interview with tales of how you “found yourself”, it’s a great conversation piece and will certainly make you a memorable candidate. If you’ve fulfilled life ambitions on your travel break adventure, like jumping out of a plane, completing the Inca trail or learning to scuba dive, then this can show that you’re a real go getter.
Is Taking a Career Break at 30, 40 or 50 a Good Idea?
There is an increasing trend for people to get to 30, 40 or 50 and develop a burning desire to take a career break and go travelling. Many of us see it as a case of now or never.
By this stage you’ll already have a good number of years experience behind you and be pretty clear on where continuing in the same vein may take you. In many ways it can be even scarier to consider taking a career break at this stage because it feels as though you have more to lose. But the fact that you want to travel probably means that you’re not satisfied, have suffered burnout or are looking a new and exciting challenge.
There are more ways of taking a career break to travel than jacking in the day job with no consideration for the future. Most large companies will offer sabbaticals of up to a year, particularly if you have been with them for a long time. Some sabbaticals will even allow for you to be paid a percentage of your wage.
Scuba diving off San Andres island is supposed to be one of the best places in the world to dive because the waters are so clear so we thought we’d give it a go! Sx ???????????? #sanandres #firstdive #scuba #scubadiving #clearwaters #swimmingwiththefishes #underwaterworld #surreal #bucketlisttick #travelexperience #thewholeworldornothing
There’s also nothing to stop you asking for a period of extended unpaid leave, with the guarantee that your company will hold your job open for you. It might sound fanciful, but put simply, if you don’t ask you don’t get. And if your employer values you and your experience then they are more likely to consider that request.
Whether you’re taking a career break at 30, 40 or 50, by this stage there may well be other factors to consider such as a mortgage or kids. But these should by no means put you off. You can always rent your house out to provide you with a bit of extra income for your travels, or even have it looked after by a house-sitter. Kids are extremely adaptable and may relish the opportunity to travel even more than you!
A large consideration will be what to do when you arrive back from your career break, and whether you’ll still be able to get a job. Don’t do yourself down! Good companies favour good experience over anything else. It’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of age when assessing someone for a role, and even if you suspect a company may do this, it’s probably not one you would want to work for anyway.
What are the Financial Implications of Quitting my Job to Travel?
It’s not really possible to dress this one up, usually they’re pretty dire! But life isn’t all about money and it totally depends on your individual situation. I’d never recommend just sacking off the rat race without thinking about it long and hard, and unless you have significant savings then it’s a good idea to build some up first. This doesn’t have to be as daunting as it may sound and can be done quickly.
And it’s important to remember, you can always make more money!
Do I have to Choose Between Career or Travel?
In short, no. You don’t have to choose between career or travel, and neither should you. What you must do is find a way to successfully merge the two.
Quitting our jobs to travel the world was the best decision we ever made, but we appreciate it isn’t for everyone and completely respect that many people simply aren’t able to.
But bear in mind that though we did quit our jobs to travel the world, we always imagined ourselves returning to them in some capacity. It was only once we realised we didn’t want our travel adventure to end that we prioritised finding an alternative. We’ve managed to build a career through travelling, and have found something that makes us excited to get up in the morning.
There are plenty of ways to have a successful career that you are proud of and enjoy, at the same time as fulfilling your travel dreams. It’s all about finding the right option for you.
Have you ever considered quitting your job to travel? Have you found a career that allows you to do both? Are you too scared to take the plunge? Drop us a comment down below and let us know.
Travel lover, professional writer and football (soccer) obsessive, James loves nothing more than getting outside and exploring little known corners of the globe. He’s also very partial to a drop of Guinness.