Stories Beyond the 9-to-5: How These Women Travel More While Maintaining Their Jobs (Episode 5)
It’s been a weird couple of weeks. Hasn’t it?
The coronavirus pandemic has altered life, and work, as we know it. On the one hand, the world has never felt more strange. But on the other, more people than ever before are getting their first taste of a real, full-on work-from-home scenario. And for some, that shift has been liberating. I know working from home, whenever I’ve been able to, has definitely had that effect on me.
While the world figures out how to cope, and the job market restructures itself to keep up, it’s worth realizing that there really are so many different ways to create a career that allows you to live a lifestyle that suits you. If a more flexible, more on-your-own-terms, more travel-friendly lifestyle is what you’re after (once it’s safe to travel again, of course) you’re not alone.
This month’s SB95 features 3 women with pretty unique backgrounds and career paths. From a 9-to-5 life with international work travel, to owning her own business (a cake business, to be exact!), to recently quitting the corporate world to freelance full-time, these scenarios couldn’t be more diverse. But one thing they all have in common: a deep love for travel and the ability to explore on their own terms, multiple times throughout the year.
Sound good? Keep reading (& skip ahead to the interviews if you’ve read previous episodes of Stories Beyond the 9 to 5!).
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 a 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 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, 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
1. Where are you based, OR if you’re nomadic, where are you currently?
Livia: I’m based in London. I moved here from New York about a year ago because my visa was up (I’m from Germany) but I am already thinking of where to go next! I’d love to live in Austria, New Zealand and Bali for a few months at a time and then eventually have a home base so I can finally get a dog (I’ve been dreaming of getting a Golden Retriever), but no idea where that will be yet!
Erika: Boulder, Colorado.
Hailey: I am based out of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
2. 9-to-5 hustle, self-made business grind, or somewhere in between?
Livia: I am a full-time freelancer as of April! I started working freelance in December but have always dreamed about ways to leave the corporate world because it’s just not for me. I now offer copywriting, social media, content strategy, event, community management and general virtual assistant services and I am excited to see where it leads me! It’s a scary time to be going freelance but I’m a firm believer that things will always work out one way or the other.
Erika: Consulting life – my hours are unconventional and random and completely depends on whether I’m working for a US East Coast vs. West Coast client or a global client in Asia or Europe; hence my work hours adapt based on that. It’s flexible but also fast paced and unpredictable, which I love!
My travel has ranged from traveling every week, Mon- Thur, for a period of time; taking 2-4 random quick 1-2 day trips/month across the US, working internationally 1-3 weeks at a time, or when not traveling working from home.
Hailey: More like all of the above! I am the General Manager of a donut shop, I own a custom cake business, have a travel blog, and just became a travel agent!
3. What compelled you to make travel a priority?
Livia: I was really fortunate to go on lots of family vacations when I was younger and I think that instilled the curiosity to see more places from an early age. The travel bug also runs in my family. My sister is a flight attendant and my dad loves doing cruises now that he is retired. I’m a really curious person, love to learn and see new things. Even if I don’t have any travels planned, I try and go to new places in my city. You don’t have to travel far to experience something new! Nothing gives me as much happiness and a feeling of being alive than travel does, so it just became a priority naturally.
Erika: Travel has always been a big part of my life, but it wasn’t until I started working that I was able to make it a lifestyle – integrating work and play while on business trips or having the flexibility to work remotely while traveling the world.
Hailey: When my boyfriend and I traveled to Italy and Germany in 2017. It was my first time out of the country and something just clicked and I knew traveling had to be part of my lifestyle.
4. On a monthly or yearly basis, how often do you travel? How do you navigate taking time off from work to travel?
Livia: It really depends! I always thought that month-long travels would be my dream, but after spending almost a month traveling through Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia last fall, I realized that I like coming home to a base. I’m definitely a homebody when I’m home, but I get cabin fever after around six weeks, so I try and book a weekend getaway somewhere in Europe if I don’t have any bigger travel plans for a while. I like going on bigger trips (more than seven days) 2-3 times a year!
Erika: That’s so hard to define! Every month is different and most months, I have no idea where I will be. I travel anywhere between 90 – 200 days/year, business and personal combined. Sometimes, I tag vacation trips on to the end of business trips and other times, I work remotely and take long weekend trips. With my job, I’m always connected so it’s hard to take off completely even when I am away, but I try to make sure I have one 2 week vacation where I’m completely off the grid.
Hailey: Lately, it has been about once a month, but it is normally around 3 times a year. I work a ton so my boss is very open to giving me time off when I plan for it.
5. How do you finance and save for your travels?
Livia: I don’t have a special savings technique other than trying to not spend much money in general. I rarely drink alcohol or go out to eat and I don't like owning a lot of things. Keeping my possessions to a minimum can sometimes become a bit obsessive but I’m constantly thinking of new places to move to and so with every purchase, I debate whether it’s really worth getting since I’d have to move it with me down the line.
Erika: It’s all about tracking miles and points! I have an excel spreadsheet that maps our expenses to different rewards credit cards, and most, if not all of the time, the points and miles cover the bigger expenses like hotels, airfare, etc. Jake (hubby) and I also set up separate “funds” for things like travel or house projects, that way we are saving for the experiences we value year round. Sometimes, we also Airbnb guest rooms in our house which we put that income towards our travel fund.
We stopped Airbnb recently due to Covid but have used our extra space to help our Maryland friends who are in between renting and moving into their new place - quarantined with them and their pup has been a lot of fun!
Hailey: I save all of the cash tips I receive from the donut shop since its not "planned" money. I also auto-transfer a portion of my paychecks into a separate savings account. It adds up quick when its money you don't necessarily think about.
6. What’s your biggest tip for balancing work and travel?
Livia: I think it’s important to set boundaries. Let your vacation be a vacation and don’t bring your work computer. If you do have to work, set clear boundaries around available hours with your team and clients. Now that I’m self-employed, I have yet to test the location-independent bonus of this lifestyle since I am confined to working from home at the moment. If I were traveling though I’d want to get my work done first, that way I can go about my day without having to worry about deadlines.
Erika: I have been really fortunate to have a lot of great travel experiences through work. Whenever I travel abroad for work, I always identify a trip to tack on to the beginning or end (or sometimes both!) of that work trip. I make travel a priority and always try to plan out how it fits into my work schedule at the beginning of every month.
Hailey: PLAN. That is the biggest thing. Plan your trips ahead and get everything approved and organized.
7. What’s your biggest tip for working while on the road (if you do)?
Livia: I haven’t needed to work in the car yet, but I get really car sick when looking down, so that might be a problem!
Erika: I have two:
Working on airplanes! If I’m not sleeping on planes, you will find me heads down finishing a deliverable before we land. That’s how I maximize my time in a new place.
I always try to plan ahead for the place I’m going to be working from. I start by making sure I will have good WiFi and cell service. Then I figure out which hours I will be working while there. I try my best to work Mountain time, so for example, when I go home to Slovakia, I work 4 PM – 11/12 PM to make sure I’m online and available for my team. This helps me plan my trips and activities around those hours and sets the expectation that for those hours, I’ll be focused on work.
Hailey: Wake up early and get some work done before you start your day. It's really hard to stop during the day or come back from an adventurous day and have to work.
8. Do you ever get any negative reactions to your travels from friends, coworkers, or loved ones? How do you navigate that?
Livia: Overall no, but my mom is traditional and doesn’t understand that not working in an office setting can be a career, too. She really wants me to move back to Germany and always tries to lure me back with arguments like it being cheaper at home, having someone to do my laundry or take care of me when I'm sick, or having a free babysitter nearby for my future kids (which is so NOT on my priority list right now). Both my mom and dad sometimes feel like I’m running away from responsibility by wanting to move around and travel so much, but they’re slowly coming around to the idea of location independence after seeing how much research I’ve put into it.
Erika: I’m really fortunate to have people in my life that are supportive of my desire to travel and that encourage me to make the most of the opportunities that I get. Sometimes it’s hard for some of my friends and relatives to grasp my lifestyle because of where they grew up or how they live their life, but most of the time it’s a curiosity rather than a negative reaction.
Hailey: I haven't really had negative reactions. All my employees are normally trying to push me out the door because I work so much.
9. Do you have a go-to travel partner, or do you prefer solo or group travel?
Livia: It depends! I’ve had great solo traveling experiences in Iceland, Portugal and Cartagena (Colombia), but some places are just more fun with someone else there. I’ve always wanted to go dog sledding in Lapland with a boyfriend - and I did this past February! Road trips are also more fun with friends in my opinion. If I know I’m staying put in one place, I quite enjoy doing that solo. I also get social anxiety sometimes, so forcing myself to join activities in hostels is a fun challenge and often times leads to the best and unexpected travel experiences!
Erika: It’s a good mixture of the three. Jake and I both love to travel so we always plan a few adventures together every year. Often when I go on business trips I travel solo. And recently I’ve done some amazing group trips with my friends and running group.
Hailey: My boyfriend Kyle or my best friend Morgan are both amazing travel partners. I love group travel as well though!
10. Social media creates a world of 'perfect travel moments' online. What do you wish more people would know about what goes on in your life and work behind the scenes?
Livia: How much work it actually is. I’m nowhere near where other creators are in terms of content creation for partnerships, but I did my very first hotel and tourism board collaboration for Finland a few months back and the email conversations, negotiating and contract creation took a few hours alone. Add the actual photo shoot, editing and summary of deliverables to the client and it’s easily 10 hours of work for two Instagram posts. The photo that ends up on a blog or Instagram is only a tiny part of this whole process and consumers not involved in or familiar with the space often don’t realize that.
I know that a lot of influencers working with big brands don't actually get to experience a destination because their itineraries are jam-packed with different locations they have to shoot. They rush from one location to the other, change in taxis and rush back to the hotel to get everything edited and uploaded. In my opinion that mitigates the whole point of traveling because they don’t actually see and experience a place. In my ideal world, I’d like to travel on my own terms, immerse myself in a destination and work with brands that understand that.
Erika: I post more Instagram stories than Instagram posts and a majority of those are on top of mountain peaks, running trails, or outdoor adventure travel in general. When I go on business trips, I post a lot about where I’m staying or what I’m eating.
It’s easy to think, “Oh wow, there she is again in a fancy hotel or resort or eating foodie meals,” but those are my work perks and what goes behind the scenes includes lots of late night working. I definitely put in my time but a lot of time it doesn’t seem like it because I love what I do.
I truly have a work-hard play-hard mentality. I’ve always lived life excited about each adventure, but what that means is that I also tend to be ‘Go, Go, Go!’, and that combined with working hard can lead to exhausting burnouts. So many times I’ve had crazy adventures followed by weeklong crashes of sleeping 12hours/night and napping.
Hailey: I wish people saw all the planning for the trips and the research that goes into it. I research for weeks and plan and re-plan everything so that I can make sure I get the most out of my trip. I plan and outline blog posts before I leave. All of this is done while having a full-time job as well. A lot of late nights and early mornings are involved, but I love every second of it.
11. What has been the biggest sacrifice you've had to make in order to travel?
Livia: Savings. Hands down. I know savings are important for the future, emergencies and the like, but I have a hard time passing up on a great travel opportunity or cheap plane tickets. Probably not the wisest of decisions, but when else am I going to be this young, independent and flexible to go wherever I want other than now? I believe that money will always come one way or the other. Besides, when will you find yourself regretting a trip you’ve taken?
Erika: I’d say building a community and strong relationships – a lot of times at the beginning of my career travel kept me away from my family and friends, so it was tough to connect with them with the limited amount of time that I had.
Hailey: I've had to sacrifice going out with friends and doing other things to save money for my travels.
12. Any can’t-put-down reads (or podcasts) about either travel, career, or personal development that more adventure-loving women should know about?
Livia: I really loved Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. It's a great book about self-development and follows a college student on his self-growth journey while being mentored by someone he met at a gas station. I’m not doing it justice with that terrible summary, but I felt my entire mindset shift and noticed my thinking patterns change as I went through the pages. I’ve read a lot of articles and books about mindset and the subconscious mind and even though I registered that information in my brain, it didn’t quite “click” - until this book. I can’t recommend it enough! They also made a movie but do yourself a favor and read the book - the movie doesn't do it justice.
Erika: The Road Back to You – if you haven’t read this! Highly, highly recommend and it’s what started my Enneagram obsession and opened my eyes to how I see the world in a particular way as well as how other people very unlike me see the world. Also, an amazing podcast on personal development that I love is The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown.
Hailey: Her Life by Design podcast is amazing! Christina Galbato is the ultimate girl boss and has so many amazing guests on.
13. Since we can't currently travel, how have you been keeping busy?
Livia: I've tried and embraced slowing down as much as I could. I've been doing lots of skincare, reading and started getting into plants! I have a small patio I ordered some flowers and plants for and I can't wait to make it nice for better days.
Erika: I have had a lot more time to read. I recently started the Harry Potter series.
Hailey: I’ve been keeping busy working on my blog, reading, and hanging out with my dog!
14. What is your number one tip for working remotely/ working from home?
Livia: I'm still working on a routine that works for me. When self-isolation started, I was employed full-time and had regular meetings that kept a nice structure to the day. I am now self-employed and don't have many meetings to hold me accountable and work much more on my own deadlines, so I'm trying to find a structure and routine that sticks.
Erika: It’s crucial to set blocks of time for meetings and blocks of time for “heads down” creating work; otherwise if you have meetings scattered throughout the day, it leaves little room for flow state and creativity without distractions.
Hailey: My number one tip for working at home is to have a routine. I still wake up early and eat breakfast and start working.
15. Where will you go first once we can travel again?
Livia: No idea yet! I'd like to go home to Germany for a while where my parents still live since I am spending isolation away from them in London. I was supposed to go to New Zealand in October but I am not keeping my hopes up for that to still happen. I'd like to explore more in the UK though, where I am based, once restrictions loosen and people get better.
Erika: Domestically, California and Hawaii. Internationally, back home to Slovakia.
Hailey: My first international trip once this is over will be Italy. I will most likely be taking a trip to Florida before that to have a girl’s trip before my best friend’s wedding.
16. How can others follow your adventures?