Ever thought about quitting your job to travel for an extended period of time?
We’ve all sat there at our desks in the middle of a workweek and wished that we were roaming the world.
Well, we’ve done more than just contemplate this. We’ve actually done it. We’ve taken the plunge.
In the spring of 2015, we did something that on paper was really stupid. We quit jobs that paid us well and that we both liked. No alternative or backup plans. We were quitting our jobs to take six months to travel the world.
There were reasons to take the trip. We had a lot of airline miles and hotel points due to expire. We had a growing list of countries we were craving to visit. #wanderlust had set in. The time was as right as it was ever going to be.
There were a LOT more reasons to not go on the trip.
We were putting an irrevocable multi-month hole in our resume, a hole that was certain to prompt awkward questions for at least the next five years of interviewing.
We were leaving great jobs at influential companies in our industries.
We were making a horribly irresponsible financial decision.
These thoughts weighed on us. But after completing the trip and having a few months to reflect on it, we have no regrets. The trip broadened our perspective beyond our wildest expectations, refreshed our outlook on life, gave us time to think, and allowed us to deepen our relationship (we were each other’s best possible travel companions, but that’s another story).
We’ll go further, though: a period of extended travel should be viewed as strengthening the resume, giving hiring managers an extra level of confidence in a candidate.This is what we experienced on our return. Getting roles at companies that we were excited about was not a problem. Extended travel teaches you a unique set of skills that are directly applicable to a business context:
- Balancing short and long term priorities. Balancing the effort that goes into planning what you’re doing that morning versus what country you’ll be in next week versus what continent you’ll be on in a month is great preparation for today’s jobs. The need to find this balance is perpetual too, as each day brings a new adventure to plan and a new wrinkle in your longer term vision. This type of prioritization is critical to the job of all young professionals and managers across industry and function. Our experience traveling sharpened this skill in a way that no work experience ever could.
- Next-level self-reliance. You’re put in situations in which you need to thrive where the language and alphabet are completely foreign. You’re alone, with no data plan, no connectivity, and no clue. If you can survive in that environment, what setting at work can even come close? Your literal survival while traveling is a strong signal to potential employers that you are extremely capable, self-reliant, and up for any type of challenge. It’s unlikely your employer will be able to put you in a situation where you’re not able to succeed.
- Creativity & comfort with uncertainty. Your solution set is literally the world. You have the time to go anywhere and do pretty much anything. You need strategies for blue-sky brainstorming and a tendency to buckle down and plan. Beyond that, though, you need to be comfortable with uncertainty, trusting in yourself to come up with the best answer. In today’s workplace, uncertainty is everywhere and an experience traveling allows you to embrace it with confidence.
- Maximizing, on a budget. Most jobs require you to operate within a budget, delivering outcomes that make your team, company and customers happy. Traveling for an extended period of time on a limited budget forces you to make the most of extremely limited resources, prioritizing experiences, making hard decisions, and trusting your instinct on opportunities that come your way. These mental gymnastics prepare you in a unique way for a project management role or P&L responsibility.
- A global perspective (and the ability to offer endless travel recs). In an increasingly global business world full of increasingly well-traveled people, being well-traveled yourself can be a huge advantage. You gain perspective on countries that set you apart from your peers, and the ability to offer recommendations to colleagues, clients, and potential customers on a half dozen different bucket list trip destinations is another differentiator. Having a passport packed with different stamps is a great asset in today’s business world.
So go ahead, take a risk and take the trip. You’ll be out in the real world learning skills you need for your office job, improving your job prospects, and spending money on something that can never be taken away from you — your happiness. The job will be there when you get back.