Yes, you can have a full time job and still see the world (here's how I do it)
Over the past 6 years, I've traveled to 40 cities in 17 countries, several more than once. And I did it all while holding down a demanding, full time, normal office job with as little as 2, sometimes 3 weeks of total paid time off per year.
But I spent several years before that without traveling at all.
I'm an army brat, so I grew up constantly on the move. As a kid, I lived in Germany for five years and saw most of Europe's famous museums and landmarks before I was old enough to really remember them.
So I was bitten by the travel bug from an early age. Then I studied for a semester in Florence, Italy during college. But once I returned, and for several years after, I was paralyzed by all of the reasons I thought I couldn't possibly travel now.
I graduated from college in 2008, at the height of the recession, with a degree in the very unmarketable field of fine art with a major called Drawing & Painting. Yet somehow, I landed a job as an executive assistant in Austin. I graduated on a Saturday, moved 3 hours south and was working at my new job by Monday.
I had my head down, my nose to the grindstone, and I was determined to afford a life of independence - my own apartment, my own cat, my bills, my car, my life. Before that choice, I had considered all of my options: go into debt to go to grad school in another country? Travel the world with zero money, working at bars and restaurants along the way? Neither really appealed to me in that moment.
Instead, I made the conscious decision to go the stable route, to get a job and develop the experience and skills that would carry me forward professionally for years to come.
It was the right choice, and one I do not regret. Today, I am where I am because I started building a career and a professional reputation at an early age. I learned how to pivot between careers, and how to use my creative skills in an applied business environment. Today, I have built a career I'm proud of and one that does not hold me back from my travel dreams.
But in the earliest years of my normal, 9-5 career, suffocation gripped me. I only had two weeks of paid vacation per year, and I never really felt like I could take any of it. In fact, I don't think I really did. Maybe a Friday here and there, giving me several random three day weekends but no real break - no real adventure. After all, I was pretty laughably broke. And I didn't have anyone to travel with. And I wasn't sure I was brave enough (or that I even wanted) to go alone. I figured - I'm young, I have the rest of my life to travel (not: I'm young, I should travel now!).
Meanwhile, all day I prepared travel itineraries for my boss, who was constantly on the go, traveling around the world to exciting locations in Europe, Asia, and Africa. If there's a job that dangles your desperation to travel in your face more than that, I don't know what it would be.
It was only after I learned about travel hacking that everything changed and I started taking my travel dreams more seriously. I had never heard of travel hacking before reading Chris Guillebeau's blog in 2010. I devoured his advice with gusto, and before long had enough points and miles to take me anywhere I wanted to go around the world, twice over.
(Oh, and I could write a whole ebook on travel hacking, but I think Chris' guide is the best there is, so why compete? You should check out Upgrade Unlocked here. If you buy it, I'll get a cut, but it's no extra cost to you.)
Taking these steps finally forced me to get out of my comfort zone and realize my dreams of seeing the world.
Finally, I saw that I was the only one getting in my way. With the cost of the flight - typically the biggest expense of a trip - covered, I had no real excuse financially.
So I stopped wasting my vacation days. No more bullshit 3 day weekends in which I just sat around my apartment and didn't leave town. No more extra padding around holidays just to use up the days. It was time to put my vacation days where my mouth was - to make my paid time off actually reflect my values and my priorities.
I started taking all two weeks of my paid vacation at once, and then padding it with the weekends surrounding.
The result: annual 17 day vacations in which I could reasonably squeeze sometimes 5 or 6 different places in 3 different countries. If I didn't have my full two weeks, because I needed an extra day for a holiday or family event, I would arrange my travel around a holiday, so that was one less vacation day I needed to spend.
And once I started doing this, all of my other excuses fell away.
Work? They could survive without me, perhaps even more so because I didn't spread out my absence - I consolidated it and then adequately prepped everyone to cover for me while I was gone. No one to go with? Turns out it's far easier to make friends and meet new people while traveling if you're flying solo (and that it's safer than ever to be a female solo traveler).
With those big mental blocks eliminated, suddenly all of my other fears and concerns became far less important.
I went from, "There's no way it's possible for me right now" to "I can totally figure this out." Don't let anyone tell you (even yourself) that travel is too difficult or too expensive. That you can't get away from work long enough. That it's something you'll do later... whenever that is.
You absolutely can see the world, while you build a life and career that supports all of your goals and dreams. It's possible, because I've done it and I'm still doing it.
I know it's one thing to hear this and another entirely to see it. So I put together a free downloadable PDF outlining every one of my international trips, where I went, how much I spent on flights and hotels -- and how I strategically managed my paid time off to see 40 cities in 17 countries since 2011. Get your free copy below.
DOWNLOAD THE FREE PDF:
How I Travel the World With a Full-Time 9-5 Job
Get an inside look at my international trips, including how much I spent on flights and hotels - plus how I strategically used vacation days to see 40 cities in 17 countries over 6 years.