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This is a guest post from Christy at Ordinary Traveler
This may sound normal for those of you living and working in Australia or Europe, but for the US, this is not as common as it should be. Scott and I want to keep our jobs for the time being to pay off some bills, but we also knew we wanted to take an extended period of time to travel, and still have our jobs waiting for us when we got back. Sounds selfish, right?
Well, we want it all. And I’m accustomed to thinking that we CAN have it all. Scott was a little more hesitant than I about the likelihood of his employer agreeing to giving him this much time off. Originally we started with 3 months. Which worked itself down to 6 weeks, a compromise to our employers.
I have to admit that I do have a pretty lax boss. He lets me come and go as I please. But… I also have to say that I’ve made this a priority in my life. I’ve decided on a particular line of work that gives me flexibility. I’ve also built up a trust with my current employer for the last 4.5 years, which has helped my cause. For those of you who are wondering, I’m a part-time bookkeeper. I’ve found that bookkeeping allows me to choose my clients, and it is always in demand.
Scott, on the other hand, works 40 hours per week. He is also a key employee at his job. This is one of the reasons he felt it would be tough for his office to get by without him, unless they hired a temp. However, hiring a temp would be close to impossible since it would take weeks to train somebody to even come close to filling his position.
Scott saw this as a hindrance. I saw it as an opportunity because in order for this to work, I think you need to first have a reputation of being a loyal, hardworking, invaluable employee. You need to have a good rapport with your boss.
Another thing to consider is to give your employer plenty of notice. I would say about 4-6 months for most employers. Our original plan was to leave in late December, so that we could go to South America and enjoy their summer and good swells.
Scott didn’t ask his employer until October. When he asked, they said they would need until April to prepare. This led to us changing our plans to travel to Southeast Asia instead, because waves are not as good after April/May in South America, and it starts to get cold.
How do I ask?
Well, this is what worked best for us. We asked in a way that was nonthreatening. I think it’s pretty obvious that you don’t want to say… “If you don’t let me have this time off, I’m going to quit.” Even if that really IS your backup plan.
Here is what we said to our employers:
“My job is very important to me. I don’t want to jeopardize my position in this company. This is something I have been wanting to do for years, and I don’t want to miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity.” If you start with this approach, you are showing your employer that you really do care about their company. If you feel comfortable with it, you can add that you are willing to spend some unpaid time training your temporary replacement.
If your employer does agree to hiring a temp while you are gone, it would be wise to make that transition as easy as possible for your employer. I would suggest organizing a binder of step by step instructions of your daily responsibilities. It’s very likely that your temporary replacement won’t remember everything, and you don’t want to get constant calls or emails while you are on your trip.
In Scott’s case, his employer said right away that it wouldn’t be a problem. After giving it some thought, they decided to hire somebody in his department to help out while he was gone. They were planning to do this anyway to help with his workload, so it just gave them the nudge they needed to get it done sooner. And the icing on the cake is that Scott got a raise! They realized how much they were going to have to pay the new guy, and how much they were underpaying Scott for all the work he does.
Even though my boss is very lenient, I still got nervous when it came time to ask. But he was understanding, and assured me that my job would still be there when I got back. Also, about two weeks after I came home, my boss gave me a substantial raise. My time away showed him what an asset I am to the company. (His words, not mine.)
I would say too that after you go, you should plan to continue to work there for at least 6 months to a year, out of respect for your boss. If your plan is to quit right away after you get back, then what would be the point of asking to save your job?
If taking an extended break from your job in order to travel is important to you, then there are always ways of making your dreams a reality. When people say to me, “My job is different than yours, I’m not as lucky as you to have such an understanding employer.” My reaction is this; “Anything is possible in your life if you make it a priority.”
If you work for an employer who would laugh at your dreams, and doesn’t care about your happiness, then why are you working there? I have worked for a couple people who didn’t treat me with the respect I deserve, and I walked out after I realized it wasn’t going to change.
You first have to give respect to your employer by being a dependable worker. After you have proven yourself, if you don’t get the respect you deserve in return, there is nothing wrong with walking away.
As with most things in life… it doesn’t hurt to ask. And like us, you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Christy and Scott started Ordinary Traveler to inspire others to take life by the reins and fulfill their dreams of travel. They share budget tips, unique photography and entertaining stories. You can follow their journey at Ordinary Traveler or their San Diego Food blog and visit their fan page.