One of the biggest conundrums of my early 20s was how to take advantage of my wanderlust spirit, but also make money and have a career I enjoy. It seemed like every job required so much of you and that taking time off was a thing you had to earn after proving your loyalty for many years first. As an impatient young adult, I wasn't sure I wanted to wait to be able to travel.
Millennials are least likely to take their vacation days, according to a recent study, which means many of us are overworked and not able to live our best lives because we feel guilty about being away from work. But how does this make sense when, more than ever, human beings are able to work from a laptop and not be chained to a desk? With remote jobs becoming more popular, a shift in the workplace is happening. Doing 100 percent of your job via the internet makes it possible that, if you have the right skills, you can make your income doing while completely location independent.
A couple of years ago, I started off working for a social media company that boasted their generous holiday time policy. However, by this, they actually meant "you can ask for permission to work from other places occasionally." But this was perfectly fine with me because I made sure I showed them I could work on my travels and succeed.
When 2017 started, a goal of mine was to make it to as many countries as possible that were available to me based on my paycheck-to-paycheck income (and however much my boss would allow me to take away from the office). In March, I snuck away for a long weekend to my home state of Washington to visit family and friends. In April, I took a two-and-a-half week trip to Southeast Asia and crossed Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam off my bucket list. And in May, my birthday present to myself was to take a weeklong trip to Europe to visit London, Paris, and Scotland.
But things changed at my job. They weren't so keen for us to work away from the office any longer, and this adjustment didn't exactly sit right with me. I had gotten too used to sleeping in on Fridays and working from home or being able to just send a quick email to my boss to ask if he was OK with the dates I was taking away from our Manhattan headquarters. I needed to find something that was remote 100 percent of the time. There were months and months of job searching that seemed to lead to dead ends.
But then in June, my luck changed. I landed a full-time remote job at a travel company, which meant my status as a digital nomad was finally real. To know my coworkers encouraged exploring the world and living as expats was the best gift I could ever receive after working so hard to achieve this life. At first, I could hardly believe my luck, but then I remembered that it wasn't luck at all, but a combination of being extremely ambitious and not stopping until I reached my goal.
To kick off this newfound freedom, I booked a trip home to spend some time in the Pacific Northwest and enjoyed a gorgeous Summer away from the humid East Coast. Because of my flexible schedule, I was able to invite my sister to return with me so I could play tour guide with her as she experienced New York City for the first time. With an office job, I never would've been able to host her like I did without taking time off work, which I didn't have to do because I could work around our daily sightseeing activities.
In September, I set off to Europe again to spend a week in London and a week in Lisbon. This was my first test trying out working on the road full-time and dealing with the unfortunate things that came along with it. From spotty WiFi to timezone problems, I worked my hardest to complete my duties and see if this lifestyle was for me. While I learned that perhaps a full-time digital nomad life wasn't exactly the best for me and my homebody temperament, I could do it part-time at least.
From London, I flew to Laguna Beach to join my company retreat. It was a great chance to meet my boss and coworkers and spend some time in this beautiful location I had never been to. I also took the train down to San Diego to spend some time with family before heading home. At three weeks of living out of a suitcase, I was starting to get tired and antsy to return to some familiarity that I had originally tried so hard to get away from.
November brought the best adventure of my life. My boss was so generous and gave me two weeks off for my trip to Japan and China. After not having a real vacation in years, I was so thankful and happy to actually have some time abroad without having to be on my laptop the entire time. A quick layover in Beijing was perfect for visiting the Great Wall of China, and Japan was a dream to explore.
Back in January, I had bought tickets to the opening of Hamilton on the West End in London for December and wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it, but because of my new job, I was able to take a week away to my favorite city (for the third time this year) and see my favorite musical. Some people called me crazy for going back so many times within a 12-month period, but I was like, "Why not?" Some people spend money on concerts and sports events; I spend my money on plane tickets.
At the end of it all, I visited nine countries (with six of them entirely new to me), took almost 30 flights, stepped foot on three continents, and saw over 25 cities. People think it's difficult to get in lots of travel if they work full-time and always ask how I do what I do. What I tell them is if you put yourself in a position to make use of vacation days or find a job that lets you work on the road, you can make it all over the world. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but if it's a priority for your life, you can make it happen.
Never feel like asking for your allotted holiday hours is a sacrifice for your workplace, because you are owed at least that. And if you have a skill set that can be done entirely online, then start searching for location-independent gigs, and then working from a beach in Bali can start to become more of a reality than you ever realized. We live in a new world where you can mold your life into anything you wish it to be, and if that's to fulfill bucket list items while also having a career, it's possible.