I’m currently freelancing and doing remote work, so I can book tickets and pack my bags at almost any time. However, this wasn’t always the case. I had a full-time job that I loved in the corporate world. Although it’s a current trend to quit location-based jobs and just embrace a digital nomad lifestyle, this isn’t the reality that many people can afford. But it is definitely possible to travel while you have a day job. My first trip abroad happened while I was a team lead. My next international trip was with my family, and I was still holding the same role. I don’t have to tell you why traveling is good for you. I’m pretty sure that you’ve experienced the high in one way or another.
For readers who are not from the Philippines, it’s quite a challenge to travel, whether domestic or international, when employed in a 9-5 job here. It could be the limited vacation time, expense, other familial responsibilities – the list can go on. Unlike many countries, it is uncommon for us to take paid vacations in “bulk” or longer periods like four to eight weeks at a time. Not many companies would even offer that number of vacation leave credits. It’s no wonder that it’s easier to upgrade to the latest iPhone model or buy branded luxuries.
How was I able to spend 10 days in Thailand, another 10 days in Taiwan, and five to seven days in various local destinations without losing my job or be able to afford it? Besides these, I also had quick getaways in neighboring islands or cities. Here are five ways to travel with a 9-5:
1. Learn how to maximize your time
One of the things I had to consider when traveling was the number of days I would be out of the office. With the kind of responsibility that I had, I couldn’t afford to be careless with my timetable. I dislike rushed trips, so I prefer holidays for at least five days, and I try to work with that. Here are a few examples:
- Workaround your rest days. Your days off can be used to extend your travel time without consuming all your leave credits.
- Plan your itinerary carefully and strategize the places you’re going to visit. For example, while I was planning my Bali itinerary, I had to look at the map instead of just the tourist places, so I can go from south to north and lessen commute times.
- Consider flight times. Besides being cheaper than others, flights at night, midnight or at dawn are ways to maximize your time. Of course, you’ll have to think of the flight duration and your airport transfer options at your destination.
2. Go when others don’t
Flights and accommodations are more expensive during peak seasons. This is the fundamental law of supply and demand. For example, most people enjoy summer breaks during April and May where it’s really sunny, and beaches are bluer than ever. Instead of planning my trip to Siargao on those months, I went a little early and booked my trip during the first two weeks of March. Some advantages of traveling off-season:
- Cheaper hotel, flights, and other transportation rates
- Less crowded attractions
- See more destinations with the same budget
- More opportunities to get the perfect shot for your Instagram
- Friendlier and more laid-back locals
3. Save leave credits
In a system where paid holidays aren’t abundant, one thing that allowed me to travel more extended periods was because I was able to save my leave credits. I knew some colleagues who took time offs to “rest” and lounge at home. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but that’s what your rest days are for. I definitely know how it is to be stressed at work, spend 12 hours in the office instead of eight, and just feel like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders. However, I never took paid vacations for rest. I always saved them for travels, even quick getaways. Here’s what you can do to lessen stress and not result in consuming all your paid vacations on Netflix at home:
- Sleep more hours whenever you can. If work is exhausting, sleep a couple of hours after dinner instead of playing mobile or computer games until midnight or wee hours in the morning. You might think that the games are de-stressing you, but too much of it is only adding to how bad you feel because you lack sleep.
- Go on a quick escape to nature. Go to the nearest beach or go for a hike on your rest day. Recharge your mind and your body, not just your phones.
- Catch up with friends. I was blessed enough to build strong friendships at work. I could call on them to watch a movie, eat dinner, and enjoy the company outside of the office. You don’t have to spend time with friends at work; it could be with those you haven’t talked to for a while.
- Find a hobby. I knew people who’d use their day off to train in martial arts, learn new things, do some art, or study specific skills. Have an outlet where you can release your pressures and unleash your creativity.
4. Always find ways to save money
If I were completely honest, I’m not the best person to give this advice! The reason why I want to plan things ahead and in detail is so that I can save better. The sooner it is for me to make plans, the sooner I start saving specifically for a trip. By the way, your general savings should be different from savings for a travel fund. Some costs that you can cut expense from:
- Expensive coffee. Opt for free coffee from the office, or just cheaper ones than Starbucks or some other café.
- Bubble teas. I know people who don’t buy expensive coffee but are weak in the knees for milk tea.
- Junk food and other cravings. Stress or hormones cause cravings, but feeding those cravings actually don’t make things better. Drink more water and choose healthier options instead.
- Clothes and shoes. I am easily tempted by both, so I exert more effort in avoiding impulsive buys. When I started to tell myself that I had no more space for more clothes, Nikes, or Keds, I had more money to spend on trips.
5. Hustle hard
‘Hustle’ is an overrated term. However, I prefer to use it compared to ‘work hard’ because the former denotes more aggression compared to the latter. And this point, ladies and gentlemen, is my favorite tip. Why should you hustle hard? To earn more? Sure. To get recognized in what you do? True. But this was my best weapon that allowed me to travel.
I worked so damn hard to not only to meet deadlines but also do more in a day. I did the best that I can in whatever task I had. I tried to do more than what was expected. I knew my numbers and data to answer to my team’s performance. I mastered what I could in the business, so I had valid insights. I sucked it up when I found myself crying out of stress on my desk. In return for my performance, it was easier to get my time-off requests approved. My managers better understood why I needed the breaks to recharge. I was not accused of spending time off to escape responsibilities. Nonetheless, I am not saying that you hustle merely to gain your manager’s approval. Instead, I say hustle so that they see what you need and deserve, and that your time off is reasonable.
Don’t be discouraged to travel when you have a full-time job. Many people, including myself, was able to make it work. And I have no doubts that you can too. Learn to plan, prioritize, and work with dedication, and you’ll surely find yourself catching more flights and ticking off that travel bucket list.