When I first gave up my apartment to travel, I was scared my career would take a hit. The hours I'd spend flying on planes and searching for hotels would mean fewer hours to work. But those planes would take me places that would inspire my work, and in those hotels, I'd write things I wouldn't have thought of otherwise. I'd also meet people who would move my career forward in ways I couldn't have imagined. Travel can improve your work if you use it wisely, and the times you think you're spending away from your job may actually turn out to be new work opportunities. "I'm of the opinion that travel gives you not only a chance to gain different perspectives on the world, which you can use to get ideas and new approaches to your work, but travel can also give your mind rest from the daily grind," career coach Sara Young Wang tells Bustle. "And with rest comes 'aha' moments and amazing inspirations. Lin Manuel Miranda got the idea for Hamilton on vacation, and he attributes it to the fact that vacation allowed his brain to rest."
Here are some ways to not only stay productive while you travel but also come back from each excursion a step ahead in your career.
1Talk To Everyone
"Travel contributes so much to your career whether you work for yourself or not, because you can use every new experience as an opportunity to connect with people you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to meet," Nicole Faith, founder of 10 Carat Creations, tells Bustle. "You shouldn’t shy away from starting conversations with interesting people like your Uber driver, fellow hotel guests, or locals. Don’t seek out professional connections, but do stay curious and ask other people about themselves." You never know who your next collaborator, client, or mentor will be.
2Join A Coworking Space
Even if it's just for a little while, working from a coworking space can connect you with helpful people and resources. "I joined a coworking space in Ubud and was able to take (for free) some amazing classes taught by entrepreneurs I never would have had access to in the states," Alicia M. Butler, a digital nomad and blogger at NYC in a Day, tells Bustle. "I also met a handful of freelance writers who gave me tips on how to find work and which editors I should pitch for what stories. The thing about Bali is that it’s a small pond with a lot of big fish. There’s no way I would have had access to those people in New York."
3Set Up Networking Meetings
Every time I'm planning a trip to a new place, I write a Facebook post announcing that I'll be there and asking if anyone wants to meet up. Then, I email all the professional connections I have there and ask them to get coffee. I also search Facebook and LinkedIn to figure out who I know there, because sometimes I don't even know where people live! Since I won't be there for long, people have a sense of urgency and end up clearing their schedules for me more than they would if I lived there. Actually, if I lived there, these meetings might not even happen. "I'm going to be in your area" provides a convenient excuse.
To get valuable work experience while you travel, you can check out sites like Volunteer HQ, which lets you find and sign up for volunteer opportunities in different places. That way, you get to travel, help people, and build up your resume.
5Vacation With An Artist
If your profession is in the arts, you can find a mentor through the site Vacation With An Artist, which will connect you with an apprenticeship in an exotic location. You'll not only gain valuable skills and knowledge but also gain a new perspective on your craft.
6Trade Your Services
If you meet someone with a skill you need and you have a skill they need, ask if they want to trade services, and you may have a business partnership in the making. For Diana Keeler, a travel blogger at Faraway Places, volunteering her skills alone was worth it to form lasting work relationships.
"On my most recent trip — two months in Bali — I tried something I'd never done before: I volunteered my services as a former PR writer to anyone who could use them through a local co-working space," she tells Bustle. "I ended up working with almost two dozen entrepreneurs, counseling them for around an hour each on how they could earn publicity for their projects and businesses. I totally went into it with no expectations of being 'paid back' in any way — honestly, I just wanted an easy way to meet people — but as it turned out, they all had business ideas for me in return, ideas I would never have come up with on my own. I'll be partnering with a few of them in the future."
7Draw Inspiration From Your Experiences
How you do this depends what your work is, but nearly anyone can do it. If you're a writer, write about your trip. If you're a teacher, teach people about the culture you've seen. If you're an entrepreneur, research how people in another culture respond to your product. You have the opportunity to gain a bunch of knowledge, so use it wisely.
As all these opportunities show, you don't have to sacrifice your wanderlust for your ambition. You can travel to your heart's content and make your work even better for it.