5 Ways to Make Purposeful Travel Happen with a Full Time Job

Going on a quick vacation to get away from the office is one thing — after all, the cruise lines will set it all up for you. But what happens when you want more? When you want your vacations to mean more than just a mental break from the daily grind?

It can seem impossible to immerse yourself in a new culture and make an impact on the world when you have a full time job. Trying to do it all and travel with a family? It’s overwhelming. Fortunately, we’re here to tell you that 8 days is enough to have it all. 8 days on a volunteer vacation, wildlife adventure, or cultural exploration trip will truly feel different than your typical 8 days off and help you get into the right mindset in plenty of time.

Making purposeful travel happen with a full time job, however, takes some creativity. To get the time off you need and to make the most of your experience, consider the following:

1. Ask your HR representative or boss about volunteer travel perks

You may be surprised to find that your company offers special perks (or will make an exception) if you need time off for a good cause. It never hurts to ask if the company has any options for those looking to make an impact. For many companies this comes in the way of a stipend, which can help cover your costs if you have to take unpaid leave, or extra vacation days, oftentimes called “volunteer days.”  

Also keep in mind that sabbaticals are not just for teachers anymore. While still somewhat rare, some companies offer sabbatical time off if you have worked with the company for seven years. Again, if no one in your company has taken advantage of this opportunity that doesn’t mean that your company won’t honor this time-off option. Ask well ahead of time and let your boss know of your plans, and see if you can come to an agreement.

Regardless of which route you choose to take, always create a reason that the time off you will be taking will enrich your life and improve your performance with the company long-term. To give you a head start, read why time off matters to your career here.

Hint: If you’re on the fence and need some convincing for yourself, NBC reported that people who do not take the time off they need are “23 to 27 percent less likely to receive a promotion and 78 to 84 percent less likely to receive a raise or bonus compared to those who do take their deserved time away.”

2. Plan your trip around the holidays

Many completely discount the idea of traveling during the holidays because there are always holiday plans with the extended family. This is especially true for families with younger children. Who wants their kid to miss out on Thanksgiving dinner?

It’s important to get yourself out of this mindset. Missing one Thanksgiving at home with the extended family will be worth it if it means creating once-in-a-lifetime meaningful family memories eating the local cuisine in a new culture with your family. The break from the traditional that volunteer vacations offer will last a lifetime, and remember that you only have a short time to offer these kinds of memories to your children.

On the fourth of July, for example, many companies will give two days off. This is a great way to get away for at least 8 days. You can see a few of the Discover Corps trips that are 8 days below.

3. Pitch a “betterment” program to your boss

Piggybacking off of idea #1, instead of inquiring about your options for volunteer vacation and seeing if you can come to an agreement, actually spend your time-off creating a full fledged plan. Many companies offer what are called “betterment” bonuses where each employee is given a small stipend and an extra week of vacation each year, but only to do something impactful. They then have to present to the company what they spent their time doing and why it mattered; thus creating a culture of giving back in the office. Sitting at a beach at a resort or on a cruise ship won’t cut it.

Find companies that offer this perk, and present this to your boss and your HR department as something you would like to implement and give reasons why it is beneficial for employees and the company alike. Here is a great company located in San Diego, California pioneering the way. If your boss still isn’t convinced, remind them that they’ll even earn a tax break.

4. Be transparent and plan for unpaid time off if you can

Galapagos Islands – Family on a Discover Corps trip getting up close to wild giant tortoises at a tortoise reserve.

This should always be a last resort, but it’s something to also plan for in the back of your head. Create a world where a volunteer vacation is more important than getting paid for seven days — by planning. Serious planning. You might be surprised at just how much you can save to make something like this happen for you and your family. It will take longer to get there, but this is an option that your company will almost always approve. Keep in mind, however, that you should be transparent with your company and let them know that this is your ultimate plan. Who knows, maybe with enough time to think about it and watch your dedication, you may catch a break.

If this isn’t possible, following idea #2 and taking paid time off will be the way to go — and that works just as well!

5. Unplug. No working remote!  

One of the most common things that people with full time jobs will try and pitch is a working-remote situation. While this can work in some cases, this will likely not allow you to really immerse yourself in purposeful travel. The idea of purposeful travel is to spend your time working on an ongoing project the helps a local community and/or its wildlife. Even on a cultural exploration trip with Discover Corps, for example, you still have one main purpose for being at each location. You can learn more here.

If you plan to spend this type of volunteer vacation with your family, working remote can be even more of an issue. While many think this is the only way they can make a 10 day vacation work, it’s important to tell yourself this is non-negotiable and focus on one of the other points on this list to reach your goal.

Andahuaylillas, Peru – Discover Corps traveler partaking in a traditional Peruvian ceremony with shamans.

Discover Corps Trips Great for Those with a Full Time Job

Discover Corps offers 8-day trips and 10-day trips, and those have been called remarkable by plenty of our travelers, almost all of whom had full time jobs. If you are able to get more time off of work and are interested in an extension, that’s an option as well. Visit the “Our Destinations” tab above to see what is offered.

A few notable trips designed for those with full-time jobs or children in school:

8-Day Trips

Costa Rica: The Sea Turtle Initiative
Galapagos: Family Volunteer Vacation
Cuba: Building Bridges (note: all Cuba trips are 8 days or less!)
Belize: Caribbean Wildlife Adventure

10-Day Trips

Thailand: The Elephant Conservation Expedition
Kenya: Safari & Conservation
Peru: Children of the Andes
South Africa: Wildlife Volunteer Adventure

How have you made purposeful travel work with a full time job? Were you given any benefits for traveling with a purpose? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comment section below.

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