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How I Do: Balancing Travel & Career

I’m so late with this.

Since starting Parlour over five years ago the crew and I have managed to continue our lives of travel by visiting and living in over 15 countries between the three of us, all while working full time. At times I’ve given a glimpse of how we do it, but as fall and holiday travel approaches, it’s time to give up all the goods.

To introduce “How I Do,” a new series of travel features, I’m going to answer the number one I’m asked: How do you balance your full-time, crazy career and personal travel?

First, a full disclosure:
– I have no children or dependents.
– I am not married.
– My career (advertising) has a flexible PTO policy.

I have to be honest here, there would be NO way in could travel as much as I do if I had a husband/wife and children. I want to recognize the women who do manage to go at a moment’s notice while balancing motherhood, marriage and career because you are magical rockstars. With that said, having no dependents, a low financial overhead leaves me with plenty of time and resources to travel.

Here is how I do it:

1. Know And Use All Of Your Days
Vacation, or PTO days aren’t “just in case” days to hoard. They are yours and they are to be maximized. Instead of looking at them as just days to invest in ONE holiday, budget them as you would your money. At my agency I am given about 18 PTO or personal time off days, 13 company holidays and 3 summer days. This is 33 days off I can use in one year. Each one of these days is an opportunity to travel.
In order to maximize my days, rarely do I use them in chunks. The trick is to tack them onto already established holidays, comp days and weekends. For example, over the Memorial Day holiday, I attended a wedding in Barbados and managed to have a six day vacation while only using two of my PTO days. Here’s how I did it:

Thursday, May22nd – PTO/Vacation Day
Friday, May 23rd – Company Holiday
Saturday/Sunday, May 24-25th – Weekend Days
Monday, May 26th – Company/Federal Holiday
Tuesday, May 27th – PTO/Vacation Day

See what I did there? Why take off for one vacation a year when you can travel at least 4 times in a year? Federal holidays and weekends are your friends. A nine-day getaway in Capri is any traveler’s dream, but do you really need to spend all of your precious days on it when you could also go surfing in Southern Brasil or have a three day spa weekend in Sedona? Think about it.

2. Secure Your Vacation Times, Handle The Details Later
Because my time off needs to be approved, I’ve learned it’s best to get it out the way ONCE. Your supervisor will appreciate it. Every December I map out what my next year is going to be, keeping in mind the above tip and request my days off for the following year. I already know that I am taking time off to escape for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, my birthday and a major holiday like Memorial Day – so I take those chunks off first. After that, I work in smaller three/four day weekends based on one-off holidays (think President’s Day), annual events I like to attend (think Art Basel, Crop Over) plus a Friday or Monday off here and there. What I’ll be exactly doing those days I may not know, but when you have a busy career like mine, planning is everything. This way, I can manage meetings, events, shoots etc way in advance to leave me time to get work done and have some quality me-time. I do leave about 5-7 days free to actually be sick or spontaneous trips, but for the most part—get the day off first, figure it out later. You can always switch it up as you go.

3. Save For It. It’s a Bill That Pays You Back
So now that you’ve got the time out of the way, somebody has to pay for it. And that person would be you. I’m not swimming in money, but I have been able to figure out a great way to subsidize my trips using one of the oldest methods in the world: I save for them. In addition to my retirement and personal savings, I gladly and automatically “pay” my travel bill every month. It’s a small percentage of my pay and it’s been a literal lifesaver for me when planning trips. While I don’t use it to cover all of my travel expenses, having a dedicated travel savings takes a lot of the pressure off of travel planning so you can obsess about other things. My goal is to cash it out for my dream vacation, but if it can help cover a hotel stay or my pet-sitting/airport car fees, then so be it.

So no matter where you are in your career, keep these in mind when it comes to climbing up the ladder and adding more stamps to your passport. Never feel as if you have to choose one or the other, a life of travel and a great career are yours to have. Enjoy the world lovelies!

Last 5 posts by Shannon Washington

  • india

    Thank you for this article. I love this mag already! Being strategic about days off definitely pay off. I have to travel for work and have seen most of the US so I’m using my days off to leave the country. I may add a couple of days to domestic travel if I can swing another location like going to Portland for work travel and planning to see Seattle and Washington State.