5 Things I've Learned from 5 Years of Living a Work + Travel Lifestyle
Over the past five years, I've been living what I call a "work + travel lifestyle."
A work + travel lifestyle is where you travel at least once per year internationally, and work while traveling in exchange for a paycheck and/or compensated amenities, such as housing.
In brief, here is exactly what the past five years have looked like for me in terms of my career and work + travel lifestyle:
2013: Graduated college, worked in DC and NYC for the summer, moved to Italy to work for a European travel company for six months
2014: Came home from Italy job, worked in DC, started this blog, worked for an international education conference in Europe for two weeks, moved and got a full-time job
2015: Used vacation time from full-time job to work + travel in China plus take other smaller trips
2016: Used vacation time from full-time job to work + travel in Europe, then left that job to move to California and work online as a "digital nomad"
2017: Traveled to multiple countries across Southeast Asia, New Zealand, and Australia while working online (freelancing), and landed a new full-time job toward the end of 2017 in the travel industry
2018 (so far): left that full-time job after realizing my heart was set on my creative projects and what I was doing previously, went back to focusing on online client work + blogging full-time
“The first step in creating the life you want is to get rid of everything you don’t.” - Joshua Becker
Woahhhh. This quote hit me hard.
Here’s the thing: as humans, we are constantly evolving.
We are continuously changing and growing into the person we are meant to be.
Sometimes you go through a phase in life and you outgrow it.
This could be natural, like graduating from school. Or it could be due to lack of interest, or a change in heart.
Sometimes you have to change course and get rid of the things you don't want, in order to create the life you do want.
I have something to tell you…
...about six months ago?
I decided to take a break from the digital nomad lifestyle and go back to working a full-time job in an office (I know, I know, how dare I?! Haha) since the industry was in travel - a passion of mine.
I also didn’t structure my days very well as a digital nomad and missed being in a social environment most of the day when I wasn’t traveling - I loved working from home/wherever, but sometimes it got lonely! I’ll admit it!
Well…over time…I realized this new job wasn't for me.
I became increasingly busy, and not in the healthiest way.
I held onto a freelance client of mine since I enjoyed the work and it was doable outside of my 45-hour-per-week work schedule.
Then I added two other short-term clients, and then another long-term one.
I realized that my mornings, lunch breaks, and weekends - the time I allocated to client work and personal side projects (like scheduling #MotivationMonday emails, writing my book, editing Instagram photos) - were what lit me up.
I noticed over time that I became more excited doing my work outside of work.
And it wasn’t the culture of the job or the people, that was all fine.
I realized that what I spent most of my time doing wasn't fully aligned with my passions or life purpose.
It wasn’t the job, it was me.
On top of that, I was absolutely exhausted.
Since I first created my work + travel lifestyle after graduating college years ago (living in Italy while working for a travel company), I've held two 8-5 "corporate" (office) jobs back home.
Working 8-5 Jobs vs. Working for Myself
The first one was my dream job at the time: working as an Admissions Counselor at a university. This allowed me to work with students one-on-one, answer questions, do a LOT of public speaking, and work events. I loved a majority of my tasks at work as well as the team I worked with.
On the side, I started Go Seek Explore and worked for the international education conferences (Europe and China) on my vacation days.
However, I eventually hit a ceiling in terms of growth, the company culture/team morale took a wrong turn, and I had the opportunity to move to California.
So I made the leap to move to California, took on some freelance clients, ditched my job search, and lived the digital nomad lifestyle.
First order of business? Working online while traveling to Asia & Oceania! It was great.
But then I had an itch to try working in an office again. Only if it were in education or travel, had a good company culture, and many other things on my long list of what I was looking for if I were to work in an 8-5 again.
When I landed an opportunity that was almost perfect on paper, I decided to take it.
Though like I mentioned earlier, something in me was holding on to that lifestyle I had before.
Something in me wouldn't let go of my creative outlets and side hustles.
So after putting my all into the job, and hitting burnout along the way (ugh), I decided it was time to go back to what I was doing previously.
I wrote in a previous blog post, "You can't crush your goals if you're running on empty," and I was definitely running on empty.
I'll admit that it was really tough to change course AGAIN.
To work in an office, then switch and work for myself, then try working in a corporate job again, only to realize my heart was elsewhere.
If you're similar to me in the sense that you've tried many career paths and feel like you may grow too fast to stay in them...I want to say: it’s okay to change course.
It’s okay to try something new.
It’s okay to try going back to something more “familiar” and realizing it may not be the right path long-term!
I’ll be the first to admit that I can be hard on myself.
I make mistakes all the time.
I make choices that I later realize aren’t aligned with my life purpose or passions.
I’m working on shifting my mindset. I’ve come to realize that your "bad" choices are rarely mistakes - they’re lessons.
Your "bad" choices are rarely mistakes - they’re lessons.
Every decision you make, every place you end up - that’s all steering you along the course of what you are REALLY meant to be doing.
So if you feel stuck or like there is something in your life that doesn’t fully “click,” know that wherever you are now is gearing you up for what’s ahead.
You are learning every single day.
So what am I doing now?
Right now I’m diving back into online client work and some other VERY exciting projects for Go Seek Explore. I can’t wait to share more with you.
But first? I am taking a much-needed BREAK.
I’m allowing time this week to sleep in, do yoga overlooking the ocean, exercise outside, focus on creative projects for fun, and work on creating a little garden on my patio!
I'm still working on client work, blog posts and emails, etc., but I'm trying to not dive in head first right away as to avoid burning out again.
You can’t crush your goals if you’re running on empty.
Long story long, here are five takeaways I've come across after living my version of a "work + travel lifestyle" over the past five years:
1. What success really looks like
That "What you think success looks like vs. What success actually looks like" post you've seen all over the internet couldn't be more accurate.
As you can see, I've been all over the place - traveling, working, starting jobs, leaving jobs.
I've had successes, I've had setbacks, but I've learned from everything I've done which has only forced me to grow and help others in the process.
2. Just go for it
When you find a work + travel opportunity that really resonates with you to the point where you can't stop thinking about it, take that as a sign.
When I came across that job in Italy before I graduated from college, I couldn't stop thinking about it. It was scary at the time to think about moving to a foreign country where I didn't know anyone or speak the language, but something in me couldn't shake it.
I just said, "Screw it," applied, had my interview and upon receiving the offer, booked my flight to Italy the following week.
Read: 8 Reasons to Move Abroad
3. Get creative with how you travel
You don't have to save for years to take a short luxury vacation.
You don't have to wait to travel until you retire.
How can you travel now? How can you get to your dream destination? Can you find a work opportunity that will take you there? Is it really that far out of your budget?
A lot of the time you may ask these questions without doing the research.
Google is your friend. Look up how much flights cost. See how many vacation days you have at your job and how long you could travel for. Research work + travel opportunities and consider doing that instead.
4. If you are creative, have a creative outlet
I love to write, share ideas, take and edit photos, videos, you name it.
Basically, I really enjoy the process of travel blogging.
While I do earn money through it now directly (my book, courses, sponsored content), and indirectly (as a portfolio for landing freelance clients), I'd do it no matter what.
This blog has led me to challenge myself on both the creative side as well as the business side.
If you are creative, find time to create.
You never know what will come of it, be it new business ideas, opportunities, or simply a way to release your creative passions.
5. We are all one
Working with people from all over the world, teaching to students in groups from 40+ countries, and traveling to 26 countries across four continents has allowed me to see and experience how other people experience life on earth.
At the end of the day, we as humans are the same. We all need to eat, sleep, breathe; we want to love and be loved and want the best for ourselves and our families.
How we go about our day-to-day lives may be different, but at the end of the day we all are the same.
We all are one.
Living a work + travel lifestyle has taught me so much.
I know I've learned much more than what I summed up above.
In the end, like the quote from Joshua Becker says, the first step in creating the life you want is to get rid of everything you don't.
You will change over time as you grow and evolve into the person you're meant to be.
Travel has been one of the biggest factors in my life that has steered me toward the person I feel I'm meant to become.
My question for you is this: how will your work + travel lifestyle contribute to your purpose and goals?