How I Make It Happen
By Anna Rice
Being a young professional and finding the time and money to travel might seem impossible, but it’s not.
My senior year of college I visited eight countries and quite a few US states – and it was a total blast! But once I graduated and dove head first into the workforce, my travel plans came to a screeching halt. Until I figured out how to strike the balance, that is!
There are two things that stop young professionals from traveling: money, and a lack of vacation days.
I feel you on both counts. When I moved to New York City to start my job in fashion PR, an industry notorious for low salaries, I had to say goodbye to Free People shopping sprees and hello to writing a check to my landlord every month for more than half my income. I also had no time to travel -– even though my company offers unlimited vacation time, my workload was so intense that I felt like leaving for even a day or two would cause the world to end.
While I wasn’t going to let my busy professional life get in the way of seeing the world, I’m also not one of those people who plans on quitting my career to travel full time. I actually enjoy my job as a fashion publicist, except for the occasional Devil Wears Prada moment (nope, that movie was not all lies).
So how can you manage to find the time and money to travel while also focusing on your career? While there’s no “one size fits all” answer, here are my tips:
- Get a side job. Sorry to break it to you, but there’s no magic way to make money appear in your travel fund. If your day-to-day salary doesn’t allow you to afford the trips you want, find a way to earn extra. I set aside money I make from blogging, freelance writing, and consulting but there are a million things you can do to earn on the side. If your schedule allows it, a part time job is great but unfortunately that doesn’t work with the round-the-clock mentality of my career. So instead I find plenty of work I can do remotely or on the weekends. I’ve worked as a virtual assistant, I’ve handed out samples of food at the grocery store, and I’ve even been one of those girls giving out free promotional drinks at the bar. Don’t judge me: These jobs pay well!
- Start an automatic savings plan for travel. So, I know you’re contributing to your 401k automatically (right??), but as the saying goes, travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer. Start a separate savings account just for travel, and have an amount automatically deducted for each check. Even if it’s just $5, there’s some amount you can put toward your dreams of seeing the world.
- Be flexible with where you want to go. A romantic week in Paris or a beach getaway in Fiji might sound like a dream, but at least for us USA residents, destinations in Eastern Europe, North America, and Latin America are more realistic. When you find a good deal on a flight, don’t think – book!
- Maximize your weekends. Pull out a map (or head to Google maps) and take a look at anywhere you’ve ever wanted to go that’s relatively close to where you live. For example, Toronto is only a two-hour flight from New York City. Perfect weekend getaway! And did you know that a direct flight from Boston to the Azores islands in Portugal is only five hours? Talk about the perfect destination for an exotic but short escape. It’s much easier (and less stressful) to take off a Friday and/or a Monday than it is to do a whole week.
- Travel by yourself. So, you’ve finally managed to carve out some vacation time and pull together a travel fund… and no one else can go with you. Don’t let that stop you from getting out there. You must have a friend, an old roommate, a relative, even a third cousin living somewhere you want to go. Look them up and mention you might be in town – you’d be surprised how eager they probably are to host you! Another option is to sign up for group trips, such as those offered by The Trip Tribe. Group trips with other solo travelers provide the perfect opportunity to leave your comfort zone and make some new friends.
- Travel with your parents. Often the only time we have off as young professionals is the holidays, so you’re left with a tough choice: go home and spend time with your family, or take that trip you’ve been dreaming about? If you’re lucky, you can do both if you convince your parents to go with you. While it means you probably won’t be going wild à la spring break in college, it’s better than staying home. Plus you won’t have to feel guilty about skipping family time. Three years ago I went to Puerto Rico with my parents, and two years ago I was with them on my first trip to Morocco.
- Check in to a nice hotel. This might seem counterintuitive after all that budgeting talk, but you have to remember to treat travel as a vacation. Professional life can be stressful, so when you’re out of the office, let yourself check out for at least a little bit. I love hostels for their sense of community and their affordable prices, but I try to check in somewhere nice for at least one night of each trip. In some countries, such as Morocco, it’s not too hard since luxury accommodations can usually be found for $100 to $150 per night. After all, there’s nothing worse than coming back from a trip and being so exhausted that you need a vacation from your vacation!
About Anna Rice
Anna Rice is the writer behind The Blonde Banana, a style-focused travel blog written for those who suffer from both a lack of closet space and incurable wanderlust. A fashion publicist by day, Rice spends her spare time exploring her home base of NYC and planning the next chic escape. You can read more of her travel tips on her site, or follow her on Facebook.
This piece was originally published April 2014.