Wonder how I am able to travel so frequently? Curious how it is to have an international job? In this blog I will share some experiences on how it is to travel for work.
My motto is: work hard, enjoy travel harder!
I love traveling so finding myself an international job that allowed me to travel was a dream come true. Basically this can be anything from flight attendant to international truck driver to international sales manager. I was an International Sales Trainer for almost two years and travelled 175 days a year for business and fun! Traveling 70-80% for work is quite a lot, especially if you have a partner and/or children. Before I worked as an International Business Support Manager with a travel percentage of about 15%.
International jobs brought me to places I had never been before. From Dubai to Hong Kong to Johannesburg to Stockholm to Krasnodar. I have had experiences that I will never forget and made friends for life. The art is to make most out of your business travel. You might not be able to go sightseeing on every business trip, but if planned well, an international job should come with a lot of fun travel opportunity. Unless your manager sucks.
If you’re lucky enough, your employer may allow flying business class. Several companies allow this only when the flight takes longer than 5 or 6 hours and/or for senior management level only. This may seem more glamorous than it is in real-life. Believe me, I love the leg space, the champagne upon arrival and the better food and service. But often I cannot sleep during a flight, even not in business class. Traveling is tiring. After more than 12 hours of traveling, straight from the airport to the office in the morning, it is often expected but can wear you out.
Once you have enough points to get an airline’s frequent flyer status, for example KLM’s Flying Blue card Silver (15 flights p/y) you will get some extra benefits like priority boarding. This is great for just-in-time arrival yet fitting in your carry-on in the overhead luggage bin. Frequent flyer status is only valid for one alliance (Star Alliance, Sky Team, One World, etc.) so it gets tempting to fly with one alliance all the time, if possible.
Of course, like any other job, an international job comes with pros and cons. Here is my personal opinion.
- Make new friends, get to know locals and cultures and have lots of new, interesting experiences.
- Getting the chance to see a lot of the region under your responsibility, more than the average tourist.
- Opportunities to stay longer and extend your stay to go around on your own. As long as the flight does not get more expensive or cheaper, you pay for the extra hotel nights yourself and it does it interfere with your work schedule, it’s usually OK.
- Eat and drink what you want and sleep in classy hotels, all on the boss’ expenses. Saves at home too.
- Collect frequent flyer miles and hotel reward points, which you can also use for private purposes.
- Chill by the hotel pool after work. Or going for a swim before work is just an elevator ride away.
- The weather at my destination was often better than in rainy and windy Netherlands. Hello sunshine!
Yes, an international job is intense. But a regular 9-to-5 job, having to sit for five days in the office, seeing the same faces every day, going through the same stupid traffic jam every day, would get me crazy! It suits me.
Energy & exercise challenges
- Sometimes you are just happy to see your hotel bed and have no energy to go sightseeing at all. Long days. Late arrival, early pick-up. Hotel out of city center.
- Forget about your Monday boot camp or Wednesday yoga class. You will be abroad. Watching your weight and exercise is a challenge lots of international business people struggle with. It requires lots of discipline. Eating late, unlimited access to food, lots of sitting, no energy and/or time to exercise or no gym at all, not safe outside the hotel to go for a walk at night, etc.
- Having to travel a lot for work may discourage private travel at some point, as you are already away from home so often. You might have to make different destination choices, for example relax at the beach and reload for a couple of weeks, instead of an exciting roundtrip with lots of sightseeing.
- You cannot plan your weekend too full because the work week requires all your energy. Counts for regular job too, but international jobs in particularly. Your boss pays a lot for you to be there, you cannot be sick.
Not in the mood to go, but duty calls
- Frequently there is simply no time to see what you would like to see. The priority is work. Or you get fed up after the same destination for the 6th time in the last half-year.
- You might not think this could ever happen, but there will be Mondays that you do not want to travel for once. Like any other work schedule, you might not be in the mood to go to work. But it’s different than a 9-to-5 job, where you come home at night.
Private love & social life
- Everything will come to the weekend and the few weeks that you are at home (house hold, social life, etc.). If you are lucky enough to be at home in the weekends. Some jobs will require weekend traveling.
- Guilt. Your partner or children hate to see you go again. You might not be able to attend birthdays or other family/friend celebrations as you are out for work. Not be there to cuddle them when they feel bad.
Comfort & well-being
- Some locations and some hotels just really suck, but you cannot avoid them. I always take my own pillow!
- An international job can get lonely sometimes. Especially when you do not feel well and all you want is to be at home, under a warm blanket on your own couch. I always bring some tea bags as ‘a piece of home’ with me.
Consider or decided to look for an international job? Vacancies usually mention the percentage of traveling required, but not always. Try to find out how much freedom the job and traveling comes with, so you will get some opportunity to see something of the countries/cities you get to visit for work. Can you book your own hotels and flights? Is weekend travel compensated? International jobs are more common with large companies who sell products in many countries. Good luck!
One of my best friends used to work on expedition ships of National Geographic and a bunch of other shipping companies. This enabled her to travel the world while making seriously good money. No university degree needed! She started cleaning rooms and worked her way up the career ladder of the ship. She’s been to places that many of us can only dream about, such as Svalbard (Spitsbergen) and Antarctica. She came home a couple of times a year, meaning she lived with her parents until the age of 35. It did not make any sense to rent or buy a house for the short periods of times she was in The Netherlands.
A friend of my brother used to work as a walking guide, for example in Nepal and Tibet. Another guy I know used to work as bartender in a ski resort during the winter, and at a beach resort during the summer, and did that for many years. My brother worked as an entertainer in a hotel on Mallorca for five months without prior experience as an actor or dancer.
One of my cousins moved to Ibiza and initially started as a sales woman at the Hippie Market, and now she co-owns a company that rents out the most exclusive villas on the island! Another cousin moved to Mexico to start a fabulous hotel. And two other cousins of mine left New Zealand for their careers in London. Another girl I know worked as a nanny in the US for several years. So many ways to go to and see the countries of your choice! Hope these stories will inspire you to utilize more possibilities to travel and go for what you want to do.
Some type of profession do not require a fixed location. All you need is a laptop and a Wi-Fi connection. This allows one to be a digital nomad and earn a stable income while traveling the world. For example when I was working for this internet company in Amsterdam, one colleague decided to move to Australia. He was able to keep his job since he convinced our manager of the big benefit of him working at the other side of the planet: he could serve customers while other colleagues were asleep. One of my cousins also has an IT job and moved to Sydney without any problem. Just check on the visa rules!
Writer, photographer, programmer… there are different types of jobs that may come with the freedom needed for an existence as digital nomad. Just don’t think this will be easy. Especially if you work independently, it means you will become an entrepreneur. This will challenge you and appeal to your commercial, marketing, PR and financial skills, just to name a few.
Being a digital nomad does not come with a lot of security either: no pension, no social security should you become disabled or out of work, no house ownership, etc. Securities some people may find unnecessary or even oppressive. Pros and cons to consider, whatever suits your personality, talent and desires in life.