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It seems every week there’s another story of someone who quit their job and flew off to some far corner of the globe to spend the next decade, or the rest of their life, “on vacation.” As tempting as those stories may be, they can also be unrealistic, overly idealistic and sometimes dishonest.

Many of these stories are of people who have simply moved and are living as expats in foreign countries rather than people who live “on vacation.” Others are of people who are traveling and supporting themselves through gigs and odd jobs. By now, we’ve all heard of the couple that quit their jobs to travel the world – and found themselves scrubbing toilets and spreading cow manure in exchange for room and board.

By all means, these are all great ways to see the world and truly experience a country. However, any number of obligations and responsibilities can keep you from quitting your own job and booking the next one-way ticket elsewhere. Don’t let these realities hinder your wanderlust. You don’t have to quit your job to travel. Travel can, and should, be incorporated into your life and doesn’t necessarily need to be an escape from it. Below are 5 tips to achieve a well-balanced, well-traveled life:

Take Vacation: This is obvious, but statistics tell us that about 40% of American workers do not take full advantage of their company’s vacation policies. Corporate vacation policies are the result of lobbying and the science-based recognition that the brain needs moments of learning, moments of productivity and moments of rest and recess. Work-life balance, like productivity, simply requires employees to take a break. Whether it is one pre-dictated week or four flexible weeks, the best way to incorporate travel into your already busy life is to use as much as your paid vacation leave as possible.

Utilize Existing Public Holidays: Even if you don’t have a generous vacation policy, chances are your employer recognizes about ten public holidays annually. Because it can sometimes be easier to get away during your employer’s pre-approved holidays, one of my favorite “vacation hacks” is to request additional days off around existing work holidays. Providing almost a dozen similar, albeit shorter, breaks throughout the year will allow you to travel without feeling as though you are constantly away from the office. For example, taking an additional two days off around Labor Day weekend can turn a long weekend into a five-day vacation – all without the requesting a full week off.

Travel Near As Well As Far: The extraordinary benefits that travel provides – empathy, rejuvenation and cultural education – are not exclusive to travel to far-flung destinations. Consider destinations nearer to home for weekend and long-weekend travel. In fact, there are likely a number of places close to home that will provide you with the change of pace and scenery necessary to break routine. Some examples: A quick, spontaneous trip to Quebec City from New York or to Mexico City from Los Angeles will stir up mundanity and allow you to experience different cultures without the expense and time of getting to the other side of the globe.

View Everything As An Opportunity: Certain obligations – conferences, weddings, visiting family – often require travel but don’t always allow for much personal time. Using obligations as opportunities, however, can change your outlook, turning these trips from chores into chances. After traveling to Chicago for the third time in a four-month period, I finally decided to explore the city on my own terms. I planned my own walking tours of the public art and wandered downtown for hours. I researched and found new restaurants in young neighborhoods and suggested them to colleagues. Once done, I started looking forward to the same trips I once loathed and the trips started to feel slightly (just slightly) more like a vacation.

Request Flexibility Whenever Feasible: When it comes to achieving work-life balance, requesting flexibility is key but not always feasible. Flexible work schedules, permission to work remotely from locations around the world and generous paid time off policies remain the holy grail for employees with wanderlust. While negotiating job offers, salaries and promotions, depending on the company and the corporate culture, is often the easiest time to request an additional week of vacation or permission to work remotely a certain number of days.

Striking balance between the personal and professional remains one of the biggest challenges of modern-day employees and professionals. Given the popularity of the work-life balance conversations and the prominence of benefits that promote flexibility, corporate culture is changing. Here’s hoping that we will all soon have the opportunity to cultivate the lives we desire, balancing our work and our wanderlust.


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