Picture this: you’ve been in education since you were a little dot, and now you’re fully settled into your 9-5 career. Sounds like most people, right? So how can taking time off of your career actually help make you a more employable person? Well, I was one of those people; in a 9-5 job with all the evenings and weekends that go along with it, plus commuting every day into central London, face firmly planted in someone’s armpit on the tube, non-existent lunch breaks and never-ending overtime.
Of course I’d heard all the comments to dissuade me from taking more than a few months off work; “you wont get a job when you get back”, “people don’t take career breaks seriously”, ”you’ll look like you’re not committed” and so on. One day I decided that all the places I wanted to travel to weren’t going to see themselves, and no, Indonesia couldn’t wait. I handed in my notice and a few weeks later I was on a plane heading off to the unknown, thinking about not only the weird and wonderful countries I planned to visit, but also what on earth was I doing with my life and my career.
You learn more than just how to stay attached to your passport and how to rectify things when you miss a plane or end up in a weird situation when you’re travelling. You learn how to interact with real, inspirational people. You learn about culture. You experience mind-blowing moments, achieve things previously thought unachievable, and most of all how to appreciate the small things, like a working shower! It becomes the perfect time to use all that positivity to reflect on what you really, really want from life.
If the daily grind is for you then go for it! Some people love routine, but if you’re not loving it, perhaps it’s time to get creative and work on your craft. For me, it struck one day on a beach in Fiji (no, not a coconut to the head) that I could do whatever I wanted. Why did I have to be restricted to one job, or any job at all on one particular day? This is where my freelance journey began.
When you start freelancing from a completely different career (yes, it sounds ridiculous and impossible) you need to call in ALL the favours! Those people you met wondering around a temple in Cambodia or on top of a mountain in New Zealand may come in handy – everyone brings something to the table, even if it’s a tiny bit of advice or introducing you to a new way of thinking. Another thing I learnt is the strength you gain from hearing success stories – there is nothing more powerful than hearing that someone else before you has done it, and it all worked out.
You would be surprised how much travel is valued in the creative community. It adds knowledge and breadth to your work, fuels interesting and exciting ideas, and a relaxed, happy person produces higher quality work. The main thing I wish I’d known are the opportunities that a freelancer can utilise when it comes to travelling; you can take your work with you so exploring can be mixed with a job AND can be a positive influence on your career – what could be better than that? If you’re into the digital nomad life, the main hub for creatives seems to be Bali. I’ve heard it described as ‘Hackney-on-Sea’ as freelancers flock there to set up businesses, network and live the beach bum life with a laptop. With all the positive vibes and business opportunities that mixing travelling and work can bring, what’s better than combining your work with your passion?
So no, you don’t necessarily have to drop your whole career to go travelling if you’re freelance, you can mix the two, and yes you will gain skills that will help you gain clients and hone your craft. So drive across America if that’s what you really want to do. Climb Kilimanjaro. Visit the water temples in Indonesia. But whatever you choose, and however long you go for remember that the biggest challenge is to ignore that doubting voice in your head telling you you can’t – grab your laptop and enjoy the adventure.
Follow Alice’s adventures on Instagram @aroundtheworldinfiveflights