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Juggling Travels, Family Time and Wanderlust

Durrah on holidays. Durrah Taqiah

Fitting travel and quality family time into only 21 days of annual leave.

If you’re just like me and live extremely far away from home, I’m sure the internal dilemma of “should I spend my days off and savings at home, or travelling to some place new?” exists. In fact, this concern holds pretty strong in our heads when we let the holiday fantasies spin around.

It all circles back to the same thing, trying to balance out the guilt of missing quality family time against the thirst to travel the world. After all, you only have so much time and money saved up, so it seems pretty unfair to spend it all on heading back to base.

I’ve spent about four years abroad now—two of which were spent as a broke student who had little money to travel and ample time to jet home over the summers, and two with only 21 days of holiday a year to spare. It is hard to navigate the time, but if you do it well enough, you might just be able to pull it off and have the best of both worlds at your feet.

Here are my tricks of the trade. 

Plan the year early

It helps to have a head start or a vision of where you would want to go. I usually aim for at least one big trip every year that’s a long-haul flight away—so that’s the trip I’d use the most number of days for. But that’s when the tricky part kicks in, having to eliminate almost the same number of days off for the long flight home.

Weekends and public holidays are your best friends on the calendar.

So remember to keep some days off, and use the remaining ones for ample "little trips" (preferably for an extended weekend). Weekends and public holidays are your best friends on the calendar.

Let your superiors know in advance

It's always good to have a chat with your employers early in the year to let them know that you’re in the midst of planning. There’s absolutely no need for concrete details; just a head's up that you’re planning to head home or travel. It helps to keep them in the loop so they, too, can plan the work around you. It’ll also ease them into the idea that you won’t be around, which hopefully prevents them from saying “no” to the plane ticket you’ve already secretly booked.

Managers appreciate having things planned early. Besides, I’m sure they know how foreign you are and how much you lack family time, especially if you work in an international office. If you don’t, it’ll be good to remind them of that fact.

Utilize public holidays

Stretch a long weekend with an extra day or two by having an idea when the long holiday weekends are in the year. Start planning trips around those days by adding an extra one or two remainder days of leave you have, and book them with your superiors early.

If you live in Europe like me, jetting off for a few days away from the cold into some sunshine could be a lot more useful than you think. Little breaks here and there are just as important to get you recharged!  

Negotiate with family (or insist they come and see you)

There have been years where I don’t feel a need to come home, because my family comes over instead. I urge (aka trick) them into plan a trip to over or to somewhere close where I can meet them. It helps because it usually saves me some money from the big ticket purchases, not to mention time and energy from the long-haul flights and using up precious leaves. This way, I get to go somewhere new and have it with the people I call home.

So if you can bring home over to you, it’s always worth a try to pick it in a place you’ve never been, killing two birds with one stone.  

Save as much as possible

Most people disregard how important it is to have some savings for a rainy day. You don’t necessarily need to have an aim for them—you just do for spontaneity, if not for security and comfort.

I save a fraction of my paycheque on a monthly basis so I could have a "travel fund" when friends invite me for a spontaneous weekend in Denmark, or a birthday party in England, or to enjoy some sun in the Azores just because! It helps when your bank account doesn’t hinder you from a good time and any opportunity to travel. 

Take unpaid holidays

That said, with savings in your account, you might be able to stretch your holidays by taking unpaid vacation. If the nature of the job allows you to do it, then do it! Many people worry about money loss when they’re away from the desk, so with this method lock and loaded, it would certainly ease the mind of your money woes.

While I do understand that many people may not lead an easy or carefree life with the ability to jet off whenever they want to, or stray from money-involved responsibilities, I do believe that a little moderation helps in most situations.

A wise person I met on my travels once said: “We’re all so afraid of losing money. You can always earn back the money you’ve lost, but the things your eyes have seen that’s beyond the screen, can never be recreated. Unlike money, it’s an experience that only you have, and no one can ever reproduce, or take away from you.”

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Durrah Taqiah

Stemming from Singapore, Durrah is a feisty graduate who is a freelance content writer. Her move to the west for a UK degree, then a career, was inevitably fuelled by a zealous diet of writing, culture and cheap biscuits.

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