"Quit your job and travel the world".
I admit, this thought has, and still does come across my mind.
Many of us dream it (quitting), but few actually do it.
The reality is, you need money to travel. And to have money? Well, unless you're your in MLM, or those internet marketing stuff, you need a real job, and even more so, an actual career (unless of course you have a rich dad).
Because I actually do travel pretty often (4 trips between 9 - 18 days per trip) while holding down my full time 9-5 job, I do get to scratch the travel itch often enough to be comfortable. So how am I doing it? Read on and you'll see.
The following 12 points are based on myself (The Bald Guy), so you'll have to tweak it a little according to your own job.
1. Breakdown Exactly How Much Time Off You Can Get
Zanzibar, Tanzania; East Africa
If I were to ask you, how many days out of 365 days could you possibly be away from work? I'm betting you probably don't have an immediate answer, because its very likely that you never gave this serious thought. If you're like most Singaporeans, you just plan for that one big trip a year, and use the rest of your leave on an ad-hoc basis according to what comes up.
That's not the way to do it. You need to know exactly how many days you have.
For instance, in my case, I have;
a) 24 days Annual leave
b) 11 days of Public holidays (in 2019)
c) 52 Weekends, (52 Saturdays, 52 Sundays)
If you add all these up, I could be away from work for a maximum of 139 days!
Out of 365, 139 days is 38% of my year away from work! Surely I can see quite a bit of the world with 139 days? Of course, I know I can't be flying to Switzerland with just a 2 day weekend, so this logic is partially flawed. But what I'm getting at here is;
a) You have a lot of time away from work if you choose to.
b) You need to know how many days you have in total so you can plan your vacations right.
2. Set Up A "Travel Account"
Kazebegi, Georgia; Former Soviet Republic
I have an "account" that's solely meant for travel.
When I receive my monthly salary, what I do is simply channel the odd amount (not odd numbers) in my salary into this "travel account". Eg; if I earn $8,888, I would transfer out $88.
Trip Left Overs
As far as any left over money from previous trips is concerned, I don't convert it back to SGD. Instead, I just dump it into this "travel account". For instance, I had around $200 USD left over after my trip to Central Africa in March. No prizes for guessing where that went.
Every morning, I head down to the nearby coffee-shop for breakfast. I already know what I'm getting and it's sort of a routine everyday. I take out a $2 note and buy a "Kopi O Peng" (iced black coffee) for $1.40 and get back $0.60 change.
Next, I head over to another stall to buy a curry-puff for $1, but that $0.60 I have left over from the coffee isn't enough, so I have to take out another $2 note to pay for my $1 curry-puff. This way, a total of $1.60 constantly goes into my car's "drink holder" every the morning. At night, I have another jar for left over coins accumulated over the course of the day.
So I have 2 "collection centers", my drink holder in my car, and my jar back home. Every month, all these go into my "travel account"
And if I add up my "odd amounts", "trip leftovers" and "loose change", I actually have set aside enough for a European vacation at the end of a year! So yes, start your own "travel account".
3. Don't Be Afraid To Take Leave
"The Girl" Sky-Diving in Byron Bay, Australia
I'm lucky to have always had bosses who weren't opposed to my habit of clearing every single day of leave a year.
While not everyone has an understanding boss, annual leave IS an entitlement.
In most instances, it's about our own mindset. Everyone is so wary about "what will my boss or colleagues think if I keep taking leave". While impression management is certainly important, it shouldn't dictate the way you live your life.
And as long as you have a "work arrangement" to have a buddy covering you while you are away (and you for them of course), and you do your job well in the days you're at work, and you clear up any backlog before you go on leave, no boss/colleagues should have too much resistance to your clearing of every single leave day.
Oh, and if you're saying "I keep leave for emergencies", well, go check your HR policy. Many companies allow time off for emergencies or compassionate reasons. Keep a few days yes, but it shouldn't restrict you much. You have 139 days remember?
4. Don't Be Afraid to Go Alone
Solo trip to Paphos, Cyrpus
Many Singaporeans keep on delaying their travel plans because "so and so can't make it on this date".
Why is there a need to keep waiting for somebody and end up paying overpriced air-tickets because you waited and waited and ended up booking too late? I make my own travel plans, then ask who wants to come along. If my friends can make it, we travel together. If no one can, I go alone as planned.
For instance, in March, I had 3 friends who were sporting enough to travel together with me to Uganda, Rwanda and the DR Congo even though they had never been to Africa before. There were also times when everyone's schedule simply couldn't coincide. On those instances, I travel alone, like I did on my trips to Cyprus & The Middle East.
Have you read: A Vacation In The DR Congo!?! Like Seriously???
I do agree, everyone needs to put in some effort to compromise and make travel plans work, but you have to have a deadline. If a specific date can't be agreed upon, or a compromise can't be reached on group travel plans, just travel alone. What's stopping you? Feeling insecure if you have to travel alone? Lack of ability/lazy to plan your own trip?
You, are what's stopping yourself. You, are your own wall. Break that wall down.
Have you read: Here's Why Most Singaporeans Should Travel Alone At Least Once.
5. Use Layovers, They're Free
Mud Volcanoes, Azerbaijan; Former Soviet Republic
Many airlines don't charge for layovers in their "home country". Some will even give you complimentary accommodation or even free layover tours.
Layovers are a great way to see a new country, enjoy a different experience and it certainly beats waiting in the airport.
Check out these airlines for potentially free layovers!
Air Canada, Qatar, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines, Finnair, Air Portugal, Ethopian Airways, KLM, China Southern, Air China, Japan Airlines, Icelandair
6. Visit Countries Near You
Luang Prabang, Laos
I used to have this "in your backyard syndrome" when it came to visiting countries. Somehow, visiting far flung places seemed a lot more interesting than visiting places closer to home.
In my case, I always wanted to visit Europe, Africa, or anywhere but Asia because well, I'm from a part of Asia. Similarly, there are many Americans who don't travel to Canada or Mexico or English who don't make visiting Northern Ireland or Ireland a priority because it's just right beside them, or "in their backyard".
All these years, I put off visiting Asia, until one day, it was getting a little too difficult to visit a country I hadn't yet been to (difficult not just because I've visited many countries, but because some countries are just too far and some cost too much for me to afford). But Asia was great. I enjoyed my time in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and the like even though I initially thought I wouldn't.
Have you read: So you've visited most of South-East Asia? Well, I bet you forgot about LAOS
So yes, not every trip has to be Europe or the USA. Countries near you can make a fun and interesting vacation destination. Sometimes, we think we know what to expect in that country and because of what we think we know, we discount it totally. I did at first, and today, I'm glad I spent quite a lot of time visiting countries in Asia.
7. Visit Countries Close Together
Orhei Vechi, Moldova; Former Soviet Republic
A vacation doesn't have to be just one country, and yes, I'm sure what you're going to say next is "why squeeze so many in just to check them off the boxes and rush?"
Well, here's my answer.
Visiting a few countries in one trip doesn't always have to be a rush. Neighboring countries can offer a very different experience (fact) even if they are just a couple of hour train/bus ride away. When I plan a trip, my thought process is this;
a) Which other countries can I visit at the same time if I visit "country x"?
b) How easy/difficult is it to move from country x to country y?
c) Is it worth it? Will it be a rush?
d) Is this country one that I can see/do what I want to do in a few days or will I have to spend at least a week or 2 here to really experience this country for real?
When I decided to visit Georgia, I decided to add in Azerbaijan and Armenia in. When I made plans to visit Belarus and Ukraine, I added in Moldova. When my priority was the DR Congo, I managed to visit Uganda and Rwanda at the same time. Of course, there were times where I spent a lot of time in just one country because I felt there was way too much to see and do. Morocco had plenty I wanted to see, so I spent over a week just in Morocco alone. In Nepal, I spent a week and a half. On my most recent trip to the Middle East, I spent 8 days in just Oman.
Have you read: Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia; A 10 Day European Vacation Under 1.8k SGD! (Including Airfare!)
In my above experiences where I combined 3 nearby countries, not once did I feel rushed, nor did walk away feeling "damn, I hardly got to see anything". If any, I actually loved what I experienced in these countries and it left me an appetite for more.
8. Pay More To Save Time
The Glasgow Necropolis & Cathedral, Scotland
Some people think of me as a "budget traveller", but "budget", isn't my travelling style at all. I believe in saving on unnecessary expenses (such as a nicer bed, since I'm out the whole day) and paying to save time (like hiring private cars).
When I was in Lebanon, I could get to the attractions of my choice and back for under $2 by public transport. But there were so many things I wanted to see, and I simply couldn't afford to waste time changing buses or waiting for more people to board before the bus moved. I paid 150 Euros for a private driver (because you wouldn't self drive in Lebanon's traffic) and I got to see everything I wanted comfortably. It wasn't a rush at all.
If your willing to spend money, don't spend it unnecessarily on fancy hotels. Spend it on time. Spend it on experiences.
9. Stop Visiting The Same Places Again & Again
The Azure Swimming Pool, Chernobyl, Ukraine.
I'm cool with Bangkok and J.B, I like to visit those places as well and I do drive in to J.B for supper occasionally. But would I waste leave to revisit these places? Maybe not. Or even if I did, I would allocate perhaps 3 of my 24 days leave and combine it with the weekends.
The world is so huge, I'm not wasting majority of my leave seeing and doing the same things over and over again. What happened to new experiences? Even if you like chicken rice, you mean you're content to eat chicken rice for breakfast lunch and dinner? (and don't tell me about marriage, that's a different constant in life).
Have you read: My Trip To The Most Radioactive Place On Earth; Chernobyl
Allocate your leave days properly and don't overdo the short trips. If I wasted my leave returning to Japan (been there twice, I love Japan), or Bangkok, or Paris, I'd never have gotten to visit Chernobyl, Ukraine (in the picture above), never swam in the Devils Pool in Zambia, never climbed the Nyiragongo Volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo and seen the worlds largest lava lake. And the list goes on.
Have you read: Visiting The Devil's Pool? I Suggest You Read This First.
How do you expect to experience more of the world by visiting the same places over and over again? Unless of course your sole aim in life is to find a constant in everything, then please don't let me stop you, go use up your leave on Bangkok.
10. Don't Quit, Take a Sabbatical
Ruhengeri, Rwanda; Central/Eastern Africa
Alright, this is something I've been constantly telling myself I will do. I've been in my current role for the past 3 years, and as much as possible, I hope to stay long enough to hit the 5 year mark. That'll mean I get to keep my career intact and be eligible to take a 3 month sabbatical.
If you've been working in the same company for a long time, why not check with your boss? Most companies these days do offer a sabbatical of some sort. You get a well deserved break and it shouldn't set you back too much. Just 3 months of current expenses + 3 months of future travel expenses is all you need; but of course, you get no salary for the next 3 months.
If you've an emergency fund of at least 6 months (which everyone should aim to have), a 3 month break shouldn't be too far fetched. I don't know about you, but this is definitely in the works for me.
11. Extend Work Trips
Lake Ohrid, Macedonia; Former Yugoslavia
During my days as a banker, I used to go on 2 to 3 incentive trips a year. I would then use the opportunity to extend my stay. Since I was already there, it was the perfect time for me consume my leave. I remember being in Greece for work back in 2014. I managed to visit neighboring Albania, Montenegro, Croatia and part of the Balkans in Europe. By doing this, I saved around 2 days because I was already in that region and settled in.
This works for short trips as well. If your business trip ends on a Friday, why not ask your boss if you can fly back on a Sunday instead? You could top up the slight difference if any and not even need to consume an extra day of leave!
12. Combine Them All (Leave + Public Holidays + Weekends + Work Trip)
Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
First, you need to know when the public holidays are. If you plan it right, 5 days of leave could turn out to be 10 days of vacation, 10 days could be 18 days, etc.
Step 1. Fly on a Friday evening
Step 2. Choose a country with the "right timezone" where even if you depart Singapore at 11pm, by the time your holiday destination, its still early Saturday morning. You still have a full Saturday!
Step 3. Pay more for direct flights to save time.
Step 4. Make sure there's a public holiday somewhere in between.
Sat + Sun + 5 Weekdays + Sat + Sun + Monday = 10 days!
Step 5. Combine the above with a work trip and you get a crazy number of days off!
Of course, only this works if you aren't bothered by Jet-lag. I'm used to arriving back home at 8pm on a Sunday and starting work at 9am on a Monday.
Using this method, I've been able be away from work for for almost a month! Checkout the post below!
And yes, this wasn't the only trip I took that year. I still had enough leave for another 2 long vacations.
Eilean Donan Castle, Scottish Highlands.
Many people tell me, "How I wish I could travel the world like you & "The Girl" do, BUT......"
And here's the trouble, there's always a but.
BUT my career. BUT I have no money. BUT I don't know how to get started.
But and more Buts.
When we were younger, most of us had grand plans and dreams of how we wanted to live our life. And for most of us, life didn't turned out the way it we had envisioned it to.
If your dream was to see the world and travel more (like mine is), don't let your job stop you. Don't let your fear of disrupting your career hold you back. Don't look for reasons why your dreams have to remain dreams. You CAN travel & have a career. Yes, you don't have to quit your job.
Instead of simply reading this post and dreaming about what life could have been. Why not actually execute it? You've just read 12 ways how you can.
For More Updates On Travel Tips & Experiences, Follow Us & LIKE Our Facebook Page!