Stories Beyond the 9-to-5: How These Women Travel More While Maintaining Their Jobs (Episode 3)

Rachel Off Duty: Stories Beyond the 9 to 5 - Episode 3

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Welcome to episode 3 of Stories Beyond the 9-to-5! Each month(ish), I interview 3 women from all over the world who are maximizing their travel adventures, all while holding down a career that generates sustainable income. You’ll hear exactly how other real women prioritize their travels, how they save for trips, what their tips are for finding balance, and how they combat negative stigma for taking time off.

I hope that by sharing these stories, you will find possibilities and inspiration to incorporate into your own life, whether you’re looking to break free from the corporate climb or simply incorporate more freedom and adventure into your life without sacrificing your ambitions.

In Episode 3 of SB95, you’ll hear from 3 women based in California, Ohio, and Massachusetts. Each of these women has a location-dependent job, but in the past year alone, they’ve managed to travel as far as Indonesia, Italy, and Estonia. This episode is dedicated to the big dreamers, those who are looking to better prioritize things that matter, and those hoping to avoid burnout along the way.

Feel free to skip down to the good stuff (the interviews!) or read on for the backstory on how SB95 came to be.


RELATED: If you’re new to Stories Beyond the 9-to-5, catch up by checking out Episode One.


Why Stories Beyond the 9-to-5? Don’t Most People Quit Their Jobs to Travel the World?

I get asked these questions all the time – how do you manage to travel? Don’t you have a job? How do you balance it all? If there’s one thing I became painfully aware of as I joined the working world after college, it’s the tenuous line between “work and play.” Most of us call this work-life-balance. And for many of us, the idea of work-life balance feels like an impossible one to achieve. There are several reasons for this that I’ve encountered personally: 

1. Limited vacation days (the standard base vacation package in the US starts at just a mere 10 days per calendar year) 

2. Money and/or financial obligations 

3. Negative stigma surrounding taking time off 

4. Lack of time in general

5. Stress of maintaining, and growing, a career and achieving success

If you’re reading this blog post, I’d like to guess it’s because you are the kind of go-getting woman that wants to travel the world but isn’t as convinced about halting your career goals or losing a salary.

Maybe you do already travel a decent amount but you’re hoping to go even further.

Maybe you work at an office that won’t budge when it comes to granting time off, and you’re feeling stuck.

Or maybe, you own your own hustle but have a hard time disconnecting from work and focusing on taking time for yourself.

If you’re any of these women I just described, I am incredibly excited. You’ve come to the right place!

Why? Because no matter who you are or what situation you might be in – whether you are a woman in a new job with no vacation time, or a freelance entrepreneur struggling to find balance, or a full-time traveler looking to start a career without stopping the adventure, I can tell you that you are not alone. And that navigating your career or personal ambitions while prioritizing travel is an achievable, 100% respectable pursuit. 



But don’t just take it from me. Take it from everyone else – keep reading!

How These Women Travel More While Maintaining Their Careers

EPISODE 3

Rachel Off Duty: Stories Beyond the 9 to 5 - Episode 3 - Lana Nguyen
Rachel Off Duty: Stories Beyond the 9 to 5 - Episode 3 - Sarah Dandashy
Rachel Off Duty: Stories Beyond the 9 to 5 - Episode 3 - Keri Underwood

1. Where are you based, OR if you’re nomadic, where are you currently?

Lana: I am based in Boston, Massachusetts!

Sarah: I am based in Los Angeles, California!

Keri: I am based in Columbus, Ohio.

2. 9-to-5 hustle, self-made business grind, or somewhere in between?

Lana: 9-5 hustle, in a corporate company

Sarah: Somewhere in between! I do work at a hotel... so I have to clock in a few days a week. But my business [as a content creator & vlogger] has now grown to the point that that I'm traveling for work--and getting paid to create content! So that is exciting!

Keri: 9-to-5. I work from 5:30AM to 2:30 PM most days. It gives more time for adventures in the afternoon!

3. What compelled you to make travel a priority?

Lana: My grandparents are travelers, and being the first grandchild in the family, they took me everywhere – seeing the world, learning cultures, and continuously reminding me there's so much to see. Traveling is a priority to not only keep on the tradition but to also inspire and spread knowledge so that others can do the same. 

Sarah: Travel has always been a part of my DNA. I'm half-Lebanese so my family lives all around the world. My first flight was when I was 3 weeks old, and I lived in Saudi Arabia. Fast forward to being an adult, I worked in hotels. In fact, I didn't really travel much for the first 10 years of living in LA (I've lived here 14 years now). I was so worried about missing something, and I had a boyfriend that kept me in town. I started developing my vlog towards the end of my relationship, so when that ended, I threw myself into really growing my vlog and brand into a business. Now... five years later, it IS a business, and I get to travel all the time! I didn't create it as a means for travel, travel was just part of it. For me, it became a way to do my day job through fresh eyes... and it happened organically. Plus I really wanted to LIVE and experience every moment. It's been a few years of saying YES to most opportunities, and it's been incredible what I've been able to experience!

Keri: I have always been a bit obsessed with travel. When I was a kid, I would research international places. When I finally made it out of the country at 19, I knew I wanted to see as much of the world as possible. Travel teaches me more than staying put, and I don’t see me slowing down any time soon. 

4. On a monthly or yearly basis, how often do you travel? How do you navigate taking time off from work to travel? 

Lana: Every year, I try and travel as much as work will allow me to. I try and save as much PTO as I can for flight-based trips. In the meantime, between those trips, I try and drive to different states on the weekends!

Sarah: By July of last year I had already been on 15 trips! This is the first time my schedule has been as such, so I'm still feeling it out. I try to add a buffer day or half-day where I can. But truthfully, the hustle is still real. Here’s an example of a particularly crazy schedule: I might fly back to LA from the East Coast, land at 10 am, got to work at the hotel at 2:30 pm, and work until late. Then, I work again at the hotel again the next morning and head straight back to the airport. Now... this isn't the norm, but sometimes you gotta just do it. Hustle isn't sexy. But creating a life and business that is your own is.

Keri: I usually do two or three big international trips yearly. I try to visit a new place in the U.S. every month or two. I save up my paid time off. I will never use PTO just because I am tired or don’t feel like working. I also work a lot of overtime, which I can then flex to use less PTO. It is a skill to be sure, and I have never used leave without pay! 

5. How do you finance and save for your travels?

Lana: Haha! I don’t. Most of my trips are all an impulse "throw it on the credit card, worry about it later" kind of thing. I feel like most frequent travelers are all in some sort of debt. I do use the Chase Sapphire Credit Card which helps a ton on traveling! You get double the points on travel and dining and redeeming your points for travel significantly decreases the price of your flight or sometimes even pays it off fully! 

Sarah: I really rely on credit card points for my personal travels. And when I can, I try to add on days to a trip that work or a job might be paying for. It's possible to travel and afford it, you just have to be smart!

Keri: I tend to live below my means, which means I don’t spend on things I don’t need. I am good about dividing up my paycheck and only giving myself a certain amount to spend and save the rest. I have multiple high yield bank accounts and I invest a little bit in stocks. I also utilize the rewards on my credit cards (and always pay them off in full). When I travel, I give myself a budget and try to stay under it, although I would not consider myself a budget traveler. My financial advice to anyone is to always make sure that your money is growing, not just sitting still, and every time you spend money you are getting something back (like points or miles). 

Rachel Off Duty: Stories Beyond the 9 to 5 - Episode 3 - Sarah D.
Rachel Off Duty: Stories Beyond the 9 to 5 - Episode 3 - Keri U.

6. What’s your biggest tip for balancing work and travel?

Lana: Every company is different, but my biggest tip is to save your days for travel! Try not to take time off unless it's absolutely necessary. If I miss a couple of hours of work, I stay late to make up that time, so it's not taken from my PTO. 

Sarah: Don't worry about balance. Worry about prioritizing. If it's a priority, you'll make it happen. I think too often if people focus on "balancing," and quite often, there isn't a balance. Then what? You hold yourself back? Hence - it's about prioritizing. You want to do it, you figure out how to make it happen. You work more, you take a red-eye, you do what it takes... and it'll happen!

Keri: I completely detach myself from work when I travel. I use work to my advantage when it comes to planning travel, because my work schedule is a bit flexible, which allows me to stay late or work on a weekend to make up for time instead of using PTO. My job cannot be done remotely, so when I travel, I don’t have to worry about it. Thank goodness!

7. What’s your biggest tip for working while on the road (if you do)? 

Sarah: Have what you need to get work done whenever, wherever. Wi-fi. Chargers. Cameras. And then... time-blocking.

Keri: I don’t typically work while on the road. I will do some blog maintenance here and there and I try to keep up with social media so that my audience knows what I am up to, but as for my 9-to-5 I leave that back home!

8. Do you ever get any negative reactions to your travels from friends, coworkers, or loved ones? How do you navigate that?

Sarah: Nope, everyone is supportive. But they see it is about work. Plus, I keep all my promises and commitments. So establishing that type of integrity, anyone that I am close to understands me and my goals and dreams.

Keri: Everyone is very supportive of my travels. Mostly people ask how I manage to travel so much, and how I choose my destinations. I frequently hear people say that they wish they could travel as much as I do. Sometimes people get a bit tired of me talking about travel, in which case I just talk about something else (even though it is hard because I love travel)!

9. Do you have a go-to travel partner, or do you prefer solo or group travel? 

Lana: My go-to travel partner is always my boyfriend! It's nice to travel with someone who has the same views, thoughts, and wants to share the same experiences with you. It makes travel fun and easy!

Although, I recently went on a Contiki group travel trip for the first time and it was the most life-changing experience! I would totally do it again and recommend anyone and everyone to try it out if they haven't yet!

Sarah: I MUCH prefer traveling WITH someone. I'm all about the shared experience. I once got to have an amazing tour of a chocolate factory in Paris and a behind-the-scenes tour of Versailles [by myself]. I had three cameras in hand and was documenting everything so I could share it... but most of all, all I wanted was to share that experience WITH someone. So I have a few friends, fellow content creators, and family that I love to travel with.

Keri: I have a few people that I like to ask to travel with me, but I like to travel solo as well. I haven’t tried out group travel yet, but I would love to!

10. Any can’t-put-down reads (or podcasts) about either travel, career, or personal development that more adventure-loving women should know about? 

Sarah: I love to watch the videos that are put out by Brene Brown, Gary V, Simon Sinek, Tom Bilyeu... they offer great insight on life in general. But specifically for women, I love to follow and support fellow female content creators. They inspire me, and I love rising the ranks together while on our own unique journeys.

Keri: One of my favorite personal development books is You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. It’s the book that inspired me to start my blog when I was feeling really bogged down at work with no creative outlet. I am so glad that I did!

I also always recommend that people read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. It is his autobiography and it will have you crying and rethinking your whole life by the end. I cannot recommend it enough. 

11. Where in the world are you heading next?

Lana: I’m heading on a 9-day trip to Costa Rica with Contiki!

Sarah:  I head to India at the end of March, but my schedule changes on the weekly! I share all of my latest updates on my social media :)

Keri: My last big trip was last Fall when I visited Germany, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, and Sweden. All in two weeks! You can see the world with a full time job, you just have to make it work for you. I am still posting about that trip on my blog.

At the end of the year I tend to slow down and spend a lot of time with my family in Tennessee. So there was some domestic travel, but nothing crazy. I truly love Tennessee, though. I currently do not have any travel plans! It is weird for me, but I have a few potential ideas that I am holding on to.


New Year Bonus Round!

12. What is your mindset going into 2020? What’s one intention or goal you’ve set for yourself this year?

Lana: Stress less! My mindset for 2020 is to stress less about the stuff that doesn’t matter. My intentions are to meditate for at least 20 mins a day to focus, read more, and to practice more yoga.

Sarah: My mindset is... "I am ready." There has been a lot of preparation leading up to this moment, but this year I am ready to take a few big leaps (leaving my "day job" being the biggest one). My big goal is UPGRADING. I'm really focusing on playing bigger, living better, and really, really leveling up my business. Personally, I'm aiming to wake up at 5 am daily and incorporate daily mediations into my life.  Baby steps!

Keri: I am going into 2020 with more of a self-care mindset. I tend to overwork to the point where I become an anxious mess and just stop doing anything. It is not productive at all. So I am going to pay closer attention to what I need and make sure that I am taking more time for myself this year, and hopefully make it a habit that I can continue moving forward.

My number one goal this year is to make a career change. I am ready for something new. Wish me luck!

13. What advice would you give to someone when they feel burnt out or overworked?

Lana: Rest! Your body needs to rejuvenate and reenergize. If you find yourself feeling burnt out or overworked take a step back from it all. Understand that your body is trying to tell you something. If you’re not getting enough sleep you're literally running on empty. Our bodies are machines and we need to maintain them. That means to exercise, eat well, and meditate.

Sarah: Feeling burnt out and overworked is a cyclical feeling for me. I get energized, I work really hard, and then I burn out. It happens about 2 - 3 times a year. It's just how I operate. That being said, I have a lot of great tips for how I deal with those feelings. First, I prioritize sleep, fitness, and eating habits. Then, I make time to connect with friends and do things that feed the soul, like fun dinners or mini shopping trips. And third, I make time for nature. I go on hikes, listen to music, and just allow myself to switch gears for a bit. Most of all, I acknowledge what I'm feeling and know that I need to nourish myself. Like everything, there is an ebb and flow, so I don't fight it. I lean into it, reflect, recharge, refocus... and when I'm ready, I dive back into life!

Keri: As someone who overworks and feels like they always have to be doing something productive, I can totally relate to burn out. Starting my blog helped with it for a while, but then I started overdoing that as well. Seeing a pattern?

For me, I have found that I feel the best when I am with friends and family. I know this sounds so obvious, but when you are focusing on work or a project or meeting deadlines, the people who are close to you tend to see less and less of you. Make time for them! If you are panicking about not having time for meeting with your loved ones, you probably need to make time, stat. I also love reading for fun. Do not go for self development books or anything like that. Pick up a mushy romance, or a fantasy adventure book and just fall into it. Trust me, it helps. Separating yourself from your work can actually help you do better work in the long run.


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Rachel Off Duty: Stories Beyond the 9 to 5 - Episode 3
Rachel Off Duty: Stories Beyond the 9 to 5 - Episode 3