We've Traveled To Almost 50 Countries Despite Working Full Time 9 - 5. Here's How You Can To
(Disclaimer: This post is obviously not referring to those who have to work a few jobs just to provide for their family, those who have to kids/elderly to care for, or those unfortunate enough to have the minimum of 7 days of leave; but rather, at those who claim they love traveling but because their job doesn't allow them to, or that they need to focus on their career. Here's a news flash; it doesn't have to be career or traveling. It can be career AND traveling)
Big Game Parks, Swaziland
If you've been following "A Girl & A Bald Traveller", you'd know we uploaded a 95 picture album; "Travel While Working 9-5" sometime last Sunday. (A summary of our travel destinations and experiences over the past 2.5 years in pictures)
Since then, we've been flooded; practically swamped with messages/emails asking us how we did it without quitting our jobs.
Just in case you haven't heard of us, here's a little bit about ourselves. We both work 9 to 5; or more accurately, 9am to 8pm five days a week. And yes, we're running the rat race like most other Singaporeans out there, trying to climb as high up the corporate ladder as possible in the hope of a "supposedly more comfortable life".
She (The Girl) works as a product trainer in a financial institution, and I (The Bald Guy) used to be a banker. (I have since taken on a more motivational role)
Kotor Bay, Montengro
So now that we've established the fact that we aren't a couple of "freelances" or "MLM guys", let's get on with it.
A Girl & A Bald Traveller has SEVEN Tips for traveling the world even if you work 9 to 5 and yes, you don't have to quit your job. Traveling is important, but so is having a career, yes?
Extend Long Weekends & Use "Off" not "Leave" for Short Getaways
(Obviously, take turns with your colleagues because everyone wants to make the most of a long weekend too)
We NEVER, and mean NEVER, waste a single day of our precious leave on short getaways.
Bintan, Bangkok, Batam? Yeah sure, we'll visit these places too; as long it can be done without using official leave like over a long weekend. Fly on Friday, back on Sunday. They aren't worth wasting even a single day of leave.
Most companies can let you accumulate "off days" in addition to your official leave. Unlike leave, off days AREN'T an entitlement, and is approved at the discretion of your boss; who usually won't make things difficult for you unless you've been a less than desirable employee.
Tip: Basically, "Off days" for short getaways and "official leave" for REAL Vacations
Maletsunyane Falls, Lesotho
Allocate your leave correctly during long weekends and you could visit more interesting places.
3 days worth of public holidays/weekends this coming week? Just throw in a couple days of leave to make it 5 days away from work, and you'll be able to visit neighboring Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines or even the Maldives. (also known as a Singaporean's typical honeymoon destination)
Going On A Business Trip? Add On A Few Extra Days
For those of you lucky enough to be sent overseas on business trips (that aren't to Malaysia; because it's so near Singapore), ask your boss for a few days of extension.
For instance, if you were flying off for a company event to say Taipei from Monday to Wednesday, i'm sure your boss wouldn't begrudge you clearing another two working days of leave. Add in the weekends, and you've another 3.5 days to visit Okinawa, Japan. Different country, different experience and more enjoyable business trip.
You may want to read: So Cheap?! Taiwan + Japan Multi-City Airfare From 369 SGD?! (Including Taxes)
In 2014, I flew to Greece to attend a conference for a week, which was part of my company's incentive trip. Since I was already in Greece, I extended my "company trip" by almost 3 more weeks!
For details of this trip, you may want to read: 27 Days In Europe "COMFORTABLY" Under 2.8k SGD or 1.8k Euros! (Including Airtickets)
In 2015, I was in Poland for another week to attend another conference/incentive trip"with my company. This time, I extended my "company trip by another 2 weeks.
For details of this trip, you may want to read: Impossible! Just 800 SGD? For 19 Days in Europe?
Use "Religious Beliefs" to "Psycho" Your Boss
Rocket Steamer, Bangladesh
Alright, I'll be honest with you. I've yet to try this one out yet. But logically, humanly, it doesn't make sense for your company to reject you.
I know I couldn't reject my staff (as long as they have a good working attitude and job performance/vintage) if they suddenly "discovered the need" to take a "religious trip" or something along those lines.
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
If you're Christian/Catholic, go to Israel for a 6 month bible study course or something. In the meantime, visit Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the like. Africa, The Gulf, and Europe is pretty much at your doorstep.
Similarly for other religions (there are too many to list down) If your a Buddhist, go to Tibet, Muslim, to Mecca. Explore the neighboring countries while your at it.
Ask For A Sabbatical (even MOM endorses this idea)
Tanna Island, Vanuatu
Most companies nowadays have some form of sabbatical leave as long as you've worked for at least 2 to 3 years. In case you have no idea what a sabbatical is, it simply is a "Career Break Leave", which is usually unpaid in most instances.
Note: Some companies offer paid sabbaticals if you undertake a course/skills upgrading as part of your sabbatical. Time to drop your HR department a call soon!
If you've saved up say $10,000 (and you should have that if you've been working for 2 to 3 years), what's stopping you from packing up and going off on a 6 month trip? (assuming you don't have kids of course)
Even our MOM, (Ministry of Manpower) believes in Sabbaticals and offers them to staff for a healthier work life balance!
Stop Following Travel Trends & Start Visiting Exotic Countries
Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Singaporeans are a nationality who "fear" stepping out of their comfort-zone. To a Singaporean, exotic usually means "Dangerous". Oh, other terms such as "Dirty" or "Nothing Interesting to See" are also associated with exotic.
A typical Singaporean's idea of a holiday usually revolves around expensive countries/cities, Paris, Rome, Tokyo and the like. Singaporeans also usually have no mind of their own. They enjoy following trends and traveling to places their friends travel to; which are usually expensive ones. (Because their friends don't know any better either)
Tagaytay, The Philippines
Most exotic locations are somewhat CHEAPER than the usual places Singaporeans deem fit for a holiday. Oh and Iceland ISN'T exotic, it's COMMON; the same goes to Turkey and Egypt as well. If you really wanted "exotic", you should have visited these countries 10 years ago. It was cheaper then.
Same country, cheaper price. Why wouldn't you visit Iceland 10 years ago, when it was cheaper with lesser tourists? The reason? Singaporeans probably didn't know Iceland existed; not until people started posting photos on Facebook that is. Typical.
Tip: Here are couple of posts you should check out if you'd like to increase the number of vacations you take in a year without depleting your bank balance too much. You'll free up a good deal of cash so you can enjoy a European vacation TWICE a year instead of ONCE every two years.
Stop Visiting The Same Places Over & Over Again
Lake Ohrid, Macedonia
Seriously, how many times do you have to visit Bangkok? Yeah I get it, Bangkok has cheap massages, cheap shopping, cheap food, cheap sex, and is really near Singapore. But if you're going to be wasting your already limited leave visiting cities you've already visited over and over again, how much more of the world do you expect to see?
For overseas readers, here's how a typical Singaporean's (those who claim to love traveling) three year travel itinerary looks like.
Year 1: Bangkok, Bintan, Tokyo, Batam
Year 2: Bangkok, Europe (Paris, Rome, London, Zurich, Barcelona), Taipei, Bintan
Year 3: Bangkok, New Zealand/Australia, Batam
Rila Monastery, Bulgaria
We NEVER, and i'll say it again; NEVER go to the same city twice. Don't get me wrong, it's perfectly fine to want to visit the same country over again because you love it, as long as they are different cities offering different experiences. For example;
Year 1: Tokyo
Year 2: Osaka/Kyoto
Year 3: Hokkaido
Nothing wrong with this, other than the fact that being so fixated with one country simply means you don't have enough leave left to visit others. It's like being content with eating sushi (and claiming Steak doesn't taste great) because that's about the only thing you've ever eaten.
Spend Not More Than 50% Of Your Monthly Income
Accommodation near the Yasur Volcano, Vanuatu
With the income I make, I could easily opt for a night at the Ritz Carlton without breaking a sweat. Instead, The Girl and I spend our nights in hostels, preferring to meet up and exchange experiences with travelers all over the world.
The trouble with most Singaporeans, is the need to "showcase" an opulent lifestyle. 5 Star hotels (minimum of 3 stars), recognizable landmarks, expensive cities, and lots of shopping. Is it any wonder why most Singaporeans are ill prepared for retirement?
I'd suggest NOT spending anything more than 50% of your monthly income on a single holiday. Yes, not even on a European vacation. Don't worry, you'll still get to visit Europe. We usually don't exceed $2.5k, and on this budget, we don't exactly rough it out as well.
Kemi Snowcastle, Finland
Limiting yourself to not more than 50% of your monthly income should free up cash for you to hopefully take more vacations in a year. If you think that's too tough, just remember, even i'm doing it. There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to.
So there you have it. If I could think of one thing that makes this post a little "less relatable" for Singaporeans, is the amount of leave I had.
24 days of official leave and at least another 12 - 15 days of "incentive trips"/business trip leave a year. Add in public holidays/long weekends, I had an insane amount of leave for a Singaporean.
At this point you can choose to do two things.
1. Throw your arms up in the air and say,"Chey, so many leave, of course can la....."
2. Actually recognize that leave aside, you really can add to the number of trips you take in a year if you apply these tips correctly.
Besides, no one is stopping you from making a mid career switch to some other role. (oh, I can already hear the excuses rolling in....."Easier said than done. Blah Blah Blah....". Typical of Singaporeans, what's new?) Want more leave? Go be a teacher, you get March, June, September, and December holidays. (hope your principle doesn't call you back early though)
0.30c dinner in Goa, India
To put it bluntly, it's all about how much wanderlust you have within you. How much of the world do you plan to see? Or are you content with seeing just Paris and the like?
Wanderlust IS NOT about enjoying traveling. Wanderlust is about having the urge to explore the world. To explore, is to uncover the UNKNOWN. Visiting the same countries over and over again ISN'T Wanderlust. Neither is following travel trends and going wherever is in fashion at moment.
The word Wanderlust is like a prostitute; used over and over again by everybody. C'mon, give Wanderlust a break, even prostitutes get paid.
I'd suggest this post be read together with with a couple of others. Take it as a 10 year series travel guide for Singaporeans. Or travel for dummies.
Manang Village, Nepal
If you'd like to follow us, just LIKE our page. If you don't, it's not surprising, we'll never have any Paris or Rome blog-posts for you to checkout. Go follow some other typical Singaporean travel blogger (many of them out there) who blogs on the latest travel trends, that certainly won't be us.
A Girl & A Bald Traveller