You’ve seen them on Instagram. The digital nomads who are #blessed because they took a leap of faith and quit their full-time jobs to follow their dreams and travel the world. No doubt you’ve longingly pored over their perfectly styled feeds while sitting in your cubicle and thought, “If only…”
But the truth of the matter is that not everyone can just quit the ol’ 9-5. And that’s okay! That doesn’t mean you can’t travel. Hoard those vacation days and use three-day weekends to your advantage. Traveling when you can doesn’t make you any less of a traveler.
I have a full-time job, and I carefully plan out my vacations to maximize my time in any given place. While I certainly see the appeal of throwing caution to the wind and embarking on an unpredictable adventure around the globe, there is something to be said for the security and stability of a full-time job with paid vacation and a 401k.
So how can you feed your wanderlust while working full time?
- Plan Ahead
I know that every year, I’ll have 23 vacation days. In addition to these vacation days, there are several three-day weekends that I can use to pad my vacations. If I plan ahead of time, I can make sure that my vacation time is noted in the company calendar months in advance.
I also like to use Scott’s Cheap Flights to find…well…cheap flights. If you’re not familiar with Scott’s Cheap Flights, you’re missing out. It’s an e-mail subscription service that alerts subscribers whenever the service finds cheap international airfare. For example, in July, I received an e-mail from them about flights from Seattle to Dublin, Ireland in the $400s. Not one to pass up a good deal, I jumped on it.
The thing with Scott’s Cheap Flights is that you have to be somewhat flexible. You input your desired departure cities—in my case Seattle and Portland—and then you get e-mails about cheap fares originating from those departure cities. As long as you’re pretty flexible about your final destination, the subscription is well worth the annual membership fee.
- Weekend Adventures
Not every trip has to be an exotic, international holiday. There are plenty of options closer to home that would make excellent weekend destinations. Domestic flights may even be a little cheaper, and in some cases, you could even road trip.
Here in Seattle, I could take a weekend and make the 3 hour drive down to Portland. Alternatively, I could venture to the coast and see Ruby Beach. I could even venture up into Canada. Pack up your car, grab a buddy, and hit the road.
- Create a Detailed Itinerary
When I have such limited time to explore a new place, I actually find it helpful to have a pretty detailed itinerary already in mind. I try to schedule as much as possible ahead of time—taking into account routes and travel time between sights—and I use an itinerary mobile app to make sure I stick to the plan.
That doesn’t mean I can’t be flexible. During my trip to the UK, I fell in love with Edinburgh and ended up staying an extra day. This did cost me Oxford, but I have no regrets because Edinburgh was amazing.
As much as I admire people who can just roam the world with seemingly no strings attached, that’s not my reality. But while it may take some creativity and planning, it’s not impossible to make travel a priority while working full-time.