"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.