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“You’re not allowed to take a vacation. Only the partners can take a vacation,” he said a monotone voice that implied he was unmoved by the message he was delivering.
I blinked twice, shocked. It was a good thing we were over the phone, otherwise my face would’ve revealed how ludicrous a policy I thought that was. “But my days have been marked on the calendar for over a month now,” I replied, trying to be reasonable and simultaneously process this turn of events. It was Christmas Eve, and my flight home was set to take off in just a few hours.
“We didn’t realize you meant all day. We’re having a holiday party at 1pm tomorrow.” His voice remained monotone, no drip of compassion. He was my own personal Grinch, complete with a heart three sizes too small.
That used to be my life. Racked with $200k in student loan debt and grateful just to be employed, I worked tirelessly to make others money so they could go on vacation. I hated it. Even when I was upgraded from a newbie desk to a 16th floor office with floor-to-ceiling windows and views of downtown Fort Lauderdale, I was unhappy. I watched others live their lives on the streets below me and felt detached from the world, burdened by my financial responsibilities and professional obligations.
Then one day I was offered a position at a non-profit organization. The job involved a pay cut and undesired move across the state, but came with a significant increase in leave time and benefits. I accepted it on the spot.
Knowing this, what I’m about to tell you should come as less of a shock. I’m a solo female travel blogger taking 12 trips in 12 months while employed full-time. Ambitious, I know, but I have a lot of time to make up for. I made a decision before my 29th birthday that I was going to make the most of the year I have left in my twenties.
I’m now nearly halfway through and can proudly report that I’m pulling it off. What’s more, my circumstances have drastically improved from when I first started. I went from swiping right on Tinder and hoping my date would suggest something other than “Netflix and chill,” to rendezvousing with a Greek fisherman in the Cycladic Islands. I now have emails from lenders announcing that I qualify to take out a mortgage, whereas months ago I couldn’t get a bank to take me seriously.
Friends see my social media posts and refer to 2017 as the “Year of Jen.” I laugh because it is my year, but not by coincidence. I worked hard to create a life that makes me wake up every morning with anticipation, not dread.
Many people want to do the same, but aren’t sure where to start. You may not able to take 12 trips in 12 months, but you can certainly travel even while employed and financially strapped. Here’s how:
1) Take short trips abroad
People hesitate to go overseas for a long weekend. “It’s too far to go for so short a time,” they say reprovingly, unaware of just how much can be fit into one day.
Big cities make the perfect long weekend destinations, as there’s much to see and do in a compact area. I spent 48 hours in Amsterdam and saw the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum, Cheese Museum, Red Light District, toured the canals and even took a half day trip to see windmills outside the city. Take advantage of the boost of energy and excitement that comes with being in a new city and power through for a short period of time.
2) Make your money work for you
Utilize travel credit cards to make your money work for you even when you don’t have any to spare. Money you’re spending on groceries or gas could be going to earn points towards travel. Make your reservations with one site or brand repeatedly to maximize individual rewards and loyalty discounts. Sign up for cheap flight alerts so you’re saving on the most expensive portion of your trip—the flight. This is especially important if you’re planning for more than one person.
Capitalize off what you have at home as well. I sell unwanted clothing and accessories on Poshmark. Also, as if by fate, I found an online teaching position to supplement my income and help fund my travels. The extra income makes up for any corresponding lack of sleep.
3) Don’t aim for perfect
Everyone spends their life waiting for perfect–the perfect travel partner, the perfect vacation destination, the perfect savings account. But perfect is a high standard to set, and a near impossible one to meet. If you insist on waiting for perfect, you’ll miss out on all the unique and wonderfully imperfect things along the way. Maybe you don’t get the perfect trip to Rome right now, but you discover instead on an impromptu trip that Belgium has really delicious beer and waffles. Maybe you don’t stay at the Ritz Carlton when you’re in Paris, but your AirBnB host points you to a crepe spot that only locals frequent.
The most delightful part of any journey is the unpredictable twists and turns, and the only way you can possibly go wrong is by staying home.
Jen is a solo female travel blogger specializing in adventure and budget travel. Follow Jen’s journey to complete 12 trips in 12 months and visit her website at www.jenonajetplane.com!