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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

How to Make Travel Part of Your Career (No Matter What You Do)

woman traveling for work
Tom Merton/Getty Images

You’ve probably heard at least one of your colleagues talk about “ditching it all” to travel the world. I know when I ask people what their dream career or lifestyle is, many will say it involves travel of some kind.

And while I love dishing out advice about how travel and culture can become part of your life, I wanted to share some fresh perspectives of other travelers who love it just as much as I do. This week, six very unique women share how they made globetrotting part of their career, why they decided to make the leap into a life of travel, and their best advice for how you can do it, too.

Jeannie Mark

Founder, Nomadic Chick

How I Made Travel Part of My Career

I started as a junior project manager at an engineering firm, but felt passionless about my work. What always shone through for me was travel, though, so I began taking short solo trips and discovered a world I never knew existed—one where I could think outside the box and truly become me.

Because of those experiences, I began Nomadic Chick as a source to help women live an adventurous, creative life—which can be centered on travel or not. (That’s the beauty of life—it’s full of choices!)

My Advice to Professionals Aspiring to Travel

Dreaming is wonderful, but the first step is being honest with yourself about what it means to actually leave the cubicle. Often, people do it without understanding why—but deep unhappiness is a huge ball of yarn to unravel. Once you’ve gotten real about why, the next step is to figure out the “how.” Start a budget to move money toward your dreams. Network with like-minded people who can offer support and ideas, whether in-person or online, and finally, find an emotional support system—people who will never tell you your dreams are crazy, because they aren’t.

Beth Santos

Founder, Go Girl Travel Network

How I Made Travel Part of My Career

Go Girl Travel Network had an interesting start. The idea came about in 2009, when I was living on the small two-island nation of Sao Tome and Principe, off the west coast of Africa. I started writing about being a woman in the world and living locally, and the website grew.

In 2011, I moved to Chicago, where I worked at Rotary International as a grant officer, providing funding and assisting with the development of service projects in the Caribbean and Latin America. It was fun to balance the international nonprofit world with my pursuits at Go Girl, but eventually I had to make a tough decision, because my hobby was really becoming a job. I was working eight hours a day, then coming home and working another five or six hours into the night. It was the right time, and I’m so glad I did it.

My Advice to Professionals Aspiring to Travel

If you’re looking to make travel a part of your career, you don’t have to leave your job and start a new business; sometimes you can find travel right under your nose. (When I worked at Rotary, for example, I was always traveling and loved it.)

That being said, if you have a passion that you’re not fulfilling because your job is holding you back, my advice is to start crafting your exit strategy. Sit yourself down and make a savings plan so that when you leave your job, you’ll have a little cash to fall back on. I’m always one to encourage people to go for their dreams, but make sure you also do it responsibly. Take small steps in the right direction before you take a blind leap, and you’ll be better off for it.

Gillian Duffy

Founder, One Giant Step

How I Made Travel Part of My Career

I have always wanted to live a life less ordinary. There’s a saying that you will make the change when the pain of staying where you are is greater than the pain of changing. That’s what happened—the fear of staying and continuing on became much greater than the fear of stepping out to see if I could do it.

Now, my partner Jason and I run a travel blog and an affiliate-based travel book site. We’ve also released a book How to Find the Perfect Vacation Rental and plan on two more this year, and we do some freelance writing, too. We currently do a mishmash of things to keep a sustainable income and hope it will evolve in the coming years into a more definable model.

My Advice to Professionals Aspiring to Travel

One way to overcome fear is to face it head on. Describe exactly what you are fearful of and determine what you would do if the worst case scenario actually happened. Often, it’s not that bad and there is a way to manage it. The safety net of experience, knowledge, and education stays with you—honestly, the worst case scenario is probably that you’d have to come home and go back to your old job. Not that bad, right?

Then it’s just guts, gumption, and hard work to keep it going. The biggest lesson we learned is to trust ourselves. We may have left our careers behind, but we didn’t leave our education, experience, skills, knowledge, talent, and success behind. We lean on it and add to it every day as we move forward on our projects.

Stephanie Denzer

Program Manager, Spark Ventures
@SparkVentures | @SADenzer

How I Made Travel Part of My Career

Learning Spanish in middle and high school at immersive summer camps helped pique my interest in cross-cultural experiences. Later, when I lived in Argentina during college, I worked with a social sector organization and realized I could combine my strong interest in developing innovative solutions to poverty with my willingness to have an open mind to new cultural contexts. From there, I knew international development was the right career path for me.

I found the perfect balance for me at Spark Ventures. We partner with grassroots organizations in the developing world who are providing nutrition, education, and healthcare to kids. We help these local organizations become financially sustainable by jointly launching for-profit businesses.

My Advice to Professionals Aspiring to Travel

Take advantage of your vacation time to step out of your comfort zone. At Spark Ventures, we offer Partnership Trips—volunteer travel opportunities that meld giving back with the opportunity to build lasting relationships with the communities we work in. Take a trip that gives you a taste of the kind of travel you might hope to make a part of your career. It will either confirm or refocus your desire to make it a bigger part of your life.

Brooke Roberts

Founder, Yoga Travel Tree
@YogaTravelTree | @thenewdorothy

How I Made Travel Part of My Career

I was actually pretty lucky to realize early on that travel and international experiences would be important factors for any career I chose. Since I studied abroad so many times during my undergraduate studies, it was a natural evolution that I decided to make international education administration my life’s work. My international experiences played a profound role in my academic and personal lives—it was only natural that I wanted to continue those experiences (and help even more people have them!) part of my professional life as well.

In the last year, I switched to an entirely different industry, but it was important to me to maintain that connection to international travel and experiences. Now I run my own company where we help yogis find meaningful yoga experiences all over the world.

My Advice to Professionals Aspiring to Travel

My path was a little different, since I didn’t leave a career to go travel the world; international travel has always been a huge part of every job I’ve had. However, leaving a job to start the entrepreneurial journey was definitely a big leap of faith.

My advice is to sit down and make a plan. I’m a numbers person, so it’s really helpful for me to understand how much savings I have, how much it’s going to cost me to live month-to-month after I’ve left my job, and how I can use the skills and resources I have to earn a steady income while my company is growing.

I also suggest looking at paid opportunities abroad such as teaching. This is a great way to get to know another culture, provide a launch pad for mini trips in the region, and give you time to build up your new business while you’re still earning some income.

Samantha Kelley

Co-founder, Atlantic Impact

How I Made Travel Part of My Career

I was at a point in my life when I was searching for a job opportunity, when I was presented with the idea of starting an organization that makes international travel a reality for underprivileged youth. I’d always had a passion for experiencing new places and cultures, and I loved the idea of allowing young people who don’t have that opportunity to be able to do so.

It has been a roller coaster ride for sure; there have been incredibly high highs and incredibly low lows. But what got us through was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel: the vision for what Atlantic Impact could be, how significant travel experiences could be for youth, and how we fit into it all.

My Advice to Professionals Aspiring to Travel

Ignore the naysayers. If you want to do something different from the societal norm, there will likely be people around you who don’t understand and try to discourage you. Try to find a community of people who do understand and will be supportive. That’s what will get you through the tough times, when you’ll question whether you’re taking the right path. Remember the big picture and why you decided to take this path in your life and career.