Exactly How a Work + Travel Lifestyle Changed My Life

A few years ago, I didn't know what a work + travel lifestyle was. I didn't know that there were really cool opportunities all over the world that allowed to you work in exchange for travel, work while you travel, or even move abroad.

I had never considered it.

Why? I thought you had to work-work-work-save and then travel and then go back and do the cycle all over again. Rinse and repeat.

Never did I ever think I would land multiple international travel jobs in Europe and Asia that would allow me to see the world in an entirely new way, make new friends, meet people from all over the world, and have the time of my life.

Here's a timeline of exactly how I went from dreaming of traveling to traveling for my job over the past couple of years:

My travel obsession began at age 19. Little ol’ me went overseas for the first time with 70 other college students to Florence, Italy. It is a popular city for study abroad students, but I was oblivious

I wanted to be on a boat on the Mediterranean Sea, feeling free, with others who had the same mindset as me. I didn’t want to settle for a bland life with a bland job in an industry I wasn’t even sure I wanted to work in. I didn’t want to look out the office at the grey skies and see the same thing every day when there was a whole WORLD out there to be seen… 

...all I knew was that I needed to get back to Italy, where I studied abroad two years prior, and explore more of Europe. I didn’t have money to go backpacking. I didn’t have much of a plan. So I decided to look for jobs in Europe that would pay me to travel. I stumbled upon a travel guide position in Florence. There’s that phrase “it just takes one moment of insane courage” and just go…

…’This is impossible.’ ‘Only if you believe it is.’ (Alice in Wonderland) so I landed the travel guiding position in Florence :) This was taken on my first day back in Italy, looking out our apartment window.

I didn’t wait for “more” money. I didn’t wait for a “better” time. Any time is as good as any to go after your travel dreams. The longer you wait, the harder it gets. Go now

...I was living in this Italian dreamland. Even though the apartment was kind of crappy, even though I was jet lagged AF, even though we didn’t really know what we were doing at first...we figured it out. I didn’t care that I wasn’t staying in some 5-star hotel on a luxury vacation. The experience - even the challenges - were raw, real, and exciting. I got to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a local in a city that is entirely different than the rainy suburb I grew up in, and it was…

…amazing. Back on the last night of our study abroad, our group all agreed that we’d make it back to Italy in 2013 during the program’s 50th anniversary. While I heartedly joined along and said “YES” to our little pact, in the back of my mind I didn’t know if I would actually end up doing it. But I did. I was amazed at the fact that I actually made it back to Italy in 2013. I was amazed that someone like me could actually go back to Italy, nonetheless land work over there…

…”If it is important enough to you, you will find a way. If it is not, you will find an excuse” ...

...I was literally living my dreams. I turned my dreams into goals into reality. I was on a boat, with cool people, working a really cool job, feeling the late summer sun on my skin with a salty breeze in the air…

...when this is your “office” for the weekend, can you really complain? ;) …

...Nope, you can’t. Visiting places you’ve never imagined you’d ever see is perhaps one of the best feelings in the world. Just about every day was an adventure working in Europe. And when Mollie and I went to Istanbul, we were traveling outside of our travel job, which is incredibly cool…

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...When people back home asked me, “Oh, so are you doing a gap year or whatever it’s called? Which full-time jobs are you going to apply for when you get back?” I kind of thought that was what I had to do - go back home and apply for corporate jobs, even though I just wanted to see the world....

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...Before I got my Italy job, I was so focused on getting back to Europe that I barely even considered traveling to other places.

The summer prior was spent working in DC with awesome international students from all over the world, and while I thought it would be cool to see the countries they came from, I never really thought about it seriously until a few of our friends said they were moving to Thailand.

They were going to backpack Southeast Asia with Bangkok has a home base: Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia. They talked about the beaches and how it was actually a really popular region for travelers.

I had never considered it.

How many other places in the world hadn’t I considered?!

The travel list began to significantly grow...

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...but when I got home to the States I realized I needed to save up some money. I started looking for some full-time jobs but couldn’t stand living in Seattle because of the constant grey skies. Soooo I moved to Arizona. I knew that if the #pnw weather was dragging me down, it was only up to myself to make a change.

Sometimes you have to make a choice to take a chance if you ever want anything in life to change...

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...after a few months back in the States, I was just itching to get back out in the world. The whole work + travel thing worked out great in Italy, so why not look for other international jobs? I took another chance to apply for a 2-week contract position in Europe and ended up landing it...

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...but when it was time to start my full-time job I was torn between the thought of having a stable routine aka a “normal” life, versus living the #TravelLife. Even though I had a job, I could still travel, right?!! When I went to Istanbul we were traveling outside our travel job, so wouldn’t I be able to travel outside a regular job?

Then I saw my welcome letter: 10 days of vacation per year.

You know what?

Challenge accepted.

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...I took eight vacations over the past year, all while working full-time in a non-travel job. No, that’s not a typo. I took eight vacations. While seven of them were mini vacations lasting 3-4 days each, it was entirely worth it while working at a rewarding position during the week. If you want it badly enough, you’ll come up with strategic ways to make it work.

The biggest accomplishment of 2015? Landing a 2-week position in China, all-expenses-paid in exchange for work. I took vacation and didn’t spend a dime, and came back home to my job which was still there.

That’s why a work + travel lifestyle is amazing.

That’s why it can work for any situation.

Think you “can’t” travel the world? Think this lifestyle “doesn’t” work for you?

I dare you to challenge me.

If I can do it then anyone can…

...if you’re reading this and the life you want to live doesn’t match the life you’re currently living, then you’re already on the right path. You already recognize that there is something out there waiting for you.

The whole world is waiting for you with open arms, and it’s just up to you to run - not walk - to it.

I’ve shared my story with you over the past couple of weeks. Now it’s time for you to create yours.

If you’re looking for a sign, this is it. Don’t just turn your dreams into goals. Turn those goals into a reality.