Travel v Career? How to decide...
Everywhere you look there’s another post, article, or vlog, on a graduate or 40 something, who just shy of exhaustion related breakdowns decide to quit their jobs and travel. The graduate bemoans the cost of education, wondering why they should spend their best years working for the man. The 40 something donates their Ted Baker Peacoats to charity, regretting the fact their best years have been spent climbing the corporate ladder. Graduate and 40 something alike are becoming the most cliché of things, a ‘free spirit’.
The graduate, who already has a mountain of debt, maxes out their Aqua credit card on round the world flight tickets. The 40 something drains their bank balance converting a barge which had previously been a shipping container into an eco-friendly, sustainable, mindful, retro camper van. Career trajectory be damned, getting on to the property ladder, who cares? Pension pot, pish tosh! They’re off around the world to love, laugh, live and discover themselves.
There are those that read such stories and think ‘one day I’m going to do that’. There are others that think ‘fools, they’ll soon run out of money and come home to nothing’! And therein lies the question, should you put travel before your career?
We tend to view travelling the world through an idealised lens, but as with anything there’s a sacrifice to make. If you’ve just graduated and are weighing up whether you want to be a high or frequent flyer, there are things to think about. Yes, you’ll build character, end up wiser, meet people and see things that will change you for the better. However, while you’re flooding Fakebook and Snap-Numpty with ‘contemplative at temple’, ‘serene at sunset’, and ‘me eating grasshoppers’ posts, most of your peers will be making strides professionally.
They’ll become accustomed to the work place and its politics and be bang up to date with any changes in your chosen industry. Boring as it may sound your contemporaries will have a years’ worth of wages and savings on you, and as you’re heading to ‘Angkor Wat’ your peers could be heading towards their first promotion, that’s some head start.
Travel vs Career…
There is also a growing trend for those that are a tad longer in the tooth to suddenly develop a ‘It’s Now or Never’ mentality and take a travel sabbatical, but is taking a career break aged 30, 40, or 50 ever a good idea?
It can be done, but the older you are the more there is to think about. If you own a home, will you sell it or rent it out? Will you rehome your pets or kennel them? If you’re a couple with kids how will you educate them while on the road? If you’re divorced with kids, well that’s a minefield, and so the list of obstacles goes on. At a certain age you’re simply not going to want to rough it in hostels, sofa surf, and eat nothing but street food for months on end. So extended periods of travel for those up there in years has some serious financial implications.
You bank on the fact your years of work experience, which let’s be honest is what employers’ value most, will land you another job when you return. Even better, the company you currently work for will hold your position open for you, and you’ll slot back into place without so much as a ‘bye your leave’. I’m afraid for most it’s never as easy as that, the reality is many find themselves hitting some major roadblocks on their return.
Once you’ve lived life on your own terms, no boss, no grey office walls, no deadlines, no punishing commute, you may find you’ve no appetite to readjust to all that. You won’t be up to date with the changes in your industry, and a whipper snapper could be doing your job for far less money. You may be deemed feckless, non-dependable, a flight risk, you may simply be seen as too old to be starting again. All of which adds up to not being able to find a position or having to take something entry level at some place new and claw your way back up.
You can choose a nomadic lifestyle or the stability of a 9 to 5, you can attempt to do both, you just have to figure out if you’re a tourist or a traveller. Tourism is commercial, and while you get to experience different things during your two weeks in the south of France or on your 3-day city break, you never truly leave your comfort zone. Travel is epiphanies, immersion, exploration, and time, its rewards are exponentially higher. If you do choose long term travel over career, you'd do well to remember, that once home your memories of water repelling in Rishikesh and freedom camping in Utah, as wonderful as they are, won’t swell the pension pot or pay the bills!
By George Carter