Anyone with a passport and a healthy bank balance can spend a week or two traveling across Europe. There are a select group of people, though, who decide that a week or two isn’t long enough. These hardy citizens of Planet Earth pack up their entire lives just to go travelling. You probably knew a guy in college who spent his summers backpacking across South America, but long-term travelers can come from all ages and backgrounds. It’s an inspiring idea. Some would even call it romantic. But it’s not for everyone.
You Need Flexibility
Many of us are alternately comforted and annoyed by a routine. Stability can be both nice and a little frustrating. On one hand, you have a house and a job and health insurance. On the other hand, the water and the mountains seem to be calling you by your first, middle, and last names.
Travel isn’t cheap, though. People who can drop everything to go explore Asia usually have jobs with a large amount of flexibility. They can work from anywhere with a stable internet connection. They’re generally either freelancers or people who have a very understanding boss. You may be tempted to drop everything and go ask your boss for permission to do work from a yurt in Kyrgyzstan. It probably won’t hurt to ask as long as you phrase it right, but don’t be surprised if your boss laughs and turns you down. There are many reasons that office jobs are the backbone of white-collar work in the United States. Some of the reasons are better than others, yes, but companies like predictability. If you’re honest with yourself, it’s probably going to be a little tricky to get those monthly sales reports in on time if you’re not even sure what time zone you woke up in that morning. If your boss has a question about the Keller project, he wants to be able to shoot you an email or call you into his office. He probably doesn’t want to wait for you to find an Internet cafe in Indonesia.
In some cases, you may be able to take a sabbatical from work to travel for a few months. Those are more common in academic settings, although there are companies will grant sabbatical to their longest-tenured employees. It’s hard to overstate the value of knowing your job will be there once you get back from Iceland.
You may also decide that the best way to travel is to ask for a temporary transfer. Not every company offers those, but some places can ship you out to a new city or country for a set amount of time, like a few months to a year. They may even provide you with a corporate apartment while you’re there. Once your assignment is over, you’ll return to your home office. While you can’t make your company transfer you to Paris if they don’t have an office there, a temporary transfer still gives you a way to experience living in another part of the world.
You Need Awareness
American travellers don’t always have the best reputation overseas. Unfairly or not, they’re seen as clueless and entitled. It’s up to you to not be either. Take time to research your destinations. Learn about the local etiquette before you go storming into the nearest shop demanding a Big Mac (actually, that’s a rude thing to do even if you’re in America). Travel can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but you have to expect that things will be different. The food won’t taste the same, and you should be OK with that. While no one expects you to become fluent in the country’s native language within a few weeks, it’s not that hard to learn a few key words and phrases. Planning to live in Thailand? Great. Once you’ve located lodging on a site like Bangkok Finder, buy a book designed to teach you basic Thai. Show the locals that you’re trying, and they’ll be more likely to view you in a favorable light.