How I Took A Month Off To Travel

How I Took A Month Off To Travel
by Erin Doherty
Photos Anette Roqueta | February 18, 2015
CC CONTRIBUTOR ERIN DOHERTY FOUND HERSELF IN A TOUGH SPOT WHEN SHE (UNEXPECTEDLY) LANDED HER DREAM JOB JUST MONTHS AFTER BOOKING THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME.
I graduated college in 2011, with no idea what I wanted to do. From law school to journalism to marketing, a lot of ideas bounced around in my head—but I had no actual plan.

On the one hand, I was paralyzed from nerves and unsure of how to go about finding a job. But, if I’m really being honest, I also wanted to travel. More specifically, I wanted to backpack through Europe.

I had never been out of the country and it had been a dream of mine for years. I had tried and failed many times to get a trip together. Whether it was finances or timing—and a significant lack of both—something always held me back. By the time I’d graduated, I was tired of waiting. I needed to go.

I read travel books (Delaying the Real World and The Lost Girls) and followed numerous travel bloggers for inspiration (shout out to Alex in Wanderland, Curiosity Travels, and Young Adventuress). I asked friends, researched constantly, and started making a list of the places I wanted to go. Finally, I found a friend who wanted to join me and we booked our tickets.

We would leave for Paris in nine months.

AN UNEXPECTED OFFER

I can’t say the timing was ideal. I didn’t have a steady job. I had been working a retail job through college and stayed there for about seven months after graduation, until I  realized that I’d been working the same job since I was 17 years old. The only difference between then and now was that I now had a college degree. That lit a fire underneath me. I switched it up and got a temp job, thinking that I could add a few skills to my resume for the next nine months until my trip began.

It was a good plan in theory, but the temp job was horrible—not in the brutal hours, pay your dues kind of way, but in the verbally abusive and racist and misogynistic atmosphere sort of way. I’ve never been one to quit—as evidenced by my previous veteran status at a retail establishment—but the environment was one that repelled me to my very core. Good lesson there, my fellow career women: there’s a difference between paying your dues and knowing your limits. Don’t let anyone put you down.

My plan was again unclear, just months before I was supposed to leave for my trip, when I got a phone call from a company I had interviewed with a few months prior. I hadn’t been a good fit for the position at the time, but they called back to offer me another position as a writer. It was the perfect first job for me, as a content writer for a marketing firm. But I still had my six-week—way longer than the standard American company’s vacation plan—trip booked.

I was torn. I immediately assumed I couldn’t take the job.

“That’s insane,” I thought. “Who hires somebody and then gives them a six-week vacation?”

What would they think of me? What would my new coworkers think?

I found myself between a rock and a hard place: either refuse my first dream job or cancel my trip. But when would I ever get another opportunity to do either?

ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT

I decided I couldn’t miss out on either one, so I took a chance. I asked if I could accept the job, then take a six-week vacation. I explained that I would love to take the position, but that I had a already booked this trip in the fall. And to my complete surprise, not only the hiring manager, but the CEO said…yes.

I started working at my dream job the following Monday and worked through the fall. In September, I packed a backpack with my two best friends from college. We had a ticket to Paris and no agenda other than being in Amsterdam in six weeks. With our backpacks (and a more than a few glasses of wine), we trekked through France, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Austria, and the Netherlands.
And to my complete surprise, not only the hiring manager, but the CEO said…yes.
And I returned to my job happier than ever after the trip of a lifetime.

It was the first time I realized the power of asking for what you want. And how so many people, including myself, hold back out of fear or discomfort. Granted, I had great bosses—and that won’t necessarily be the case for everyone. But I worked hard leading up to and after the trip to be a valuable asset at my company.

The simple lesson of asking for what you want has served me time and time again, whether it was asking for a pay raise, addressing an uncomfortable issue at work, or going for a promotion. It’s cliche, but true—the worst you can hear is no. Plus, if you’re an awesome employee with valuable skills (as I know you all are), they’re less likely to say that.

YOU CAN’T HAVE IT ALL, YOU CAN HAVE WHAT YOU WANT

I don’t think it’s about having it all. That phrase is a fluid, obscure concept that means different things to everyone. It’s about identifying what you want, working hard for it, and following up to ask for what you deserve.

You want that promotion? Take on extra projects at work. You want to switch careers? Learn new skill sets to make yourself more marketable. Want to focus on your family? Ask for a more flexible work schedule, or make the switch to freelance work. These changes don’t happen overnight, but if you make daily decisions that are focused on a bigger picture—then vocalize what you want—you will inch forward slowly and have the personal and professional life that you desire.

It’s not easy. It’s difficult, nerve-wracking, and uncomfortable to ask for a job, a raise, or time off. But when you back it up with confidence and a stellar performance, asking for what you want isn’t abrasive or disrespectful—you are simply reaping the rewards of the work you sowed in the first place. 

Have you ever taken a chance and asked for something unorthodox? How did that pan out? Tell us in the comments!