Travel? Not sure? Take this advice

I get asked from time to time via my Buenos Aires blog for advice on Argentina, or travel plans in general. A recent exchange with someone who’s in their mid-20s, planning to go on long overseas journey,  inspired me to share some of my thoughts on travel.

On why

I’m in a big believer in people needing to travel, and live in new and different places, to get a better grip on life and a sense of perspective. When you travel, you don’t just learn about places you go to, the best part is actually you learn about yourself, how you react to situations, and people, how you make decisions.

Are there ways to make money while travelling?

Yes; but it requires a good effort and a lot of discipline. You can do jobs such as translating, copywriting, or anything digital (marketing, coding etc). The crucial part though is to have that organised before you go, and have the projects back in your home country lined up – it’s very hard to get a freelance gig while you travel. Not impossible, but usually comes from networks, and you don’t have those when you are new to the place. The dream that so many people have, of traveling and taking pictures and writing and getting paid to be a travel writer – unlikely to happen. So much stuff out there people post free. But keep your eyes and ears open to any opportunities, and mention to people that you are interested in freelance jobs. Never know! You can also come up with a purpose for your trip, and fundraise – I’ve heard even of people having projects on kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms for their trip, when there is a certain mission.

Is this a dangerous move career wise?

I wouldn’t say so. For me actually it turned out to be a great career move – I’ve connected with people based on my travel experiences when I was looking for jobs and even interviewing (apart from actually getting clarity on what I wanted to do). I’d say if you are travelling for about year or less, it is a good time period – employers (good ones) look at it as self exploration, makes person better equipped etc. But if it’s longer than that, and there is no specific purpose to it, just roaming around, then it might seem like too big of a gap to companies, how much you actually want to be working in principle. I’d say in any case have a story to your travel, something you can turn around and say ‘this is how it contributed to my career’.  In that way it presents not like a gap on your resume, but a development period.

On what to expect and on taking the risk

Travel with no expectations (which is different to low expectations). Our preconceived notions prevent us form actually seeing things as they are. The way a certain country is, is not good or bad per se – it’s just the way it is, and as a traveller, you take it all in. Things may or may not work out how you plan them, and there will likely be times when you’d be questioning what is it you are doing. But at the end, the experiences, good or bad, will be totally worth it. When you look back on your life 20 years from now, this time period you take out for travel won’t seem significant at all (even though a year at this stage might seem like a lot); you’d have 20 years of work, or 19 years of work and 1 year of travel. Which one has made you happier? We have all our life to work; and those experiences you have while traveling and living overseas, are invaluable.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain