A version of this was published on the Huffington Post on 02 Feb 2016.
Reader Question: Dear Trisha, today I woke up and said, “I can pull off a Trisha.” I was convincing myself that like you, I can also do a 6-mo to a year sabbatical and discover more of the world. I am not like you though — I love working in the office and having a career (a steady 9-5 life). I am very happy with my current job but these days, I am feeling like I need a break. I will talk to my boss about it in the hopes that (a) I will be approved to travel for 6 months; and (b) still keep my job despite of the 6-mo leave. I don’t know if this is possible (or if they will allow me) but it’s worth the shot, right? Some of my workmates agree it’s a good idea but I need to convince my boss that it will be worth it! I like to stay in this company for long. What advice can you give? How will I approach my boss? — Pamela, Singapore
I cannot relate much on working in an office environment because I only did it once in my life but let me tell you a story about me applying a job after traveling for a long period of time. I do not have any school credentials nor any office experience yet I dreamt of working in a big fashion magazine in the Philippines. Unlike most countries, the Philippines require an impressive school record and a diploma. It is your ticket to big and multi-national companies and your credibility is based on this.
I chose not to be one of those people. I chose to believe I am successful in my own way.
On the day of the interview, I sat down and the Human Resource person looked at my resume and slowly turned her head to me: “If you were not working, what were you doing for the past few years?” she asked. “I was traveling.” She can see that clearly because it was all over my CV. I think she was also puzzled on how animated my resume was.
I am not sure if she was convinced with my answer. She wrote something on my resume and said, “what’s the earliest date you can start?” I cannot believe what I heard. The interview wasn’t long. That’s the only question she asked and I got hired right away. The next day, she was telling everyone about my blog and why she thinks I am a very good addition to their creative team.
Reasons why travellers make the best employees
So Pamela, if you have doubts on how to ask your boss for a ‘short’ leave, I will give you a few reasons why you should point that travellers make the best employees.
1. Travellers are always willing to try new things and step out of their comfort zone.
This is the main factor for everyone who likes to travel. You think this is an overrated skill but this, unfortunately does not fit everyone. Traveling is not for everyone, too! If you are one of those people who have the urge to travel, congratulations, you also belong to the group of the brave. Having the initiative is the first step in changing the way you live and how you look at things. Getting out of the comfort zone can be as simple as booking a ticket to somewhere you’ve never seen before and boarding that flight. Again, not everyone have the courage to do this. This makes travellers pitch creative ideas in the workplace — ideas that only them have experienced.
2. Travellers have more confidence and independence.
Employers, I am sure you see this whenever you interview someone for a job. Travellers are very confident and independent because they are now more comfortable of who they are. They present themselves well and they are always up for any challenges given to them in the workplace. Sometimes, they even go overboard and they do things beyond their capacity. This is very obvious most especially to those who travelled by themselves. They’ve been challenged. They’ve been tested to their limits. They’ve lived life over the edge by traveling and they always feel that they can do anything. Nothing can stop them from doing what they want!
3. Travellers are people people.
They’ve met a lot of people from different parts of the world which opened their minds to possibilities and new ideas. They are not shy being around other people even if it’s a culture so much different from them. Their sense of empathy and the ability to understand others are honed. With full confidence, they can speak to any kind of people you ask them to. If you are a multi-national company and you ask your traveller employee to present something in an international meeting level, they will do it. They can do it.
4. Travellers can work under pressure, with grace.
They barely panic because when they are traveling, they are often faced in situations that they need to solve on their own. Whether it’s navigating the metro system in Singapore, crossing the borders by land in Argentina and Uruguay or the need to hitchhike to go from point A to B, they’ve been in that situation. This is not different from situations in the workplace.
5. Travellers love learning.
As time goes by, travellers’ goal go deeper into learning how a culture cooks, eats and sleeps. Through time, they even ditch the required tourist spots to visit because they are eager to learn something more. Their brain activities never stop. They always have the urge to know. This love for learning also leads them to being self-taught. In my first and last office job, I was asked if I know how to use Adobe Pagemaker. I said “not really but I can try.” I realised saying “I don’t know” is a dead-end and there is no such thing as “I don’t know.” Of course, we know! Some are just too lazy to Google and learn it themselves. But travellers? They are always willing to learn new things. They have the initiative and you will never find this in another employee.
What I highly recommend to employers
Change the way you run the workplace. Companies who are willing to experiment in terms of hiring are the ones who thrive. It’s 2016! More and more people are liking the idea of travel but their jobs make it difficult for them. Why not try to give your employees a travel vacation for a month and see what it gives you? Or if you can afford it, give them a paid vacation! If you are worried who will take their place while they are away, figure it out. Maybe you can hire another person on a short-term employment as long as it won’t affect your company’s productivity.
I make it sound really simple but I think it is really doable.
Are you a frequent traveller who has a full-time job? Has traveling helped in making you more creative and productive in the workplace? Leave your comments below!