Choosing between a Career or Travel?

Something I hear many fellow twenty-somethings struggle with is their career. Because, if you just go out there and travel for an unknown period of time (we are not talking about single gap years here).. don’t you just waste your career? Isn’t your twenties thé time to figure out what you want, who and what you want to work for and make a solid ground for your future your career path?

And if you just ignore that all and go traveling instead, what happens with ‘the gap’ in your resume? What employer is going to want you if you have a resume filled with countless small jobs that don’t really add any knowledge or experience to your field of study? By the time you are reaching the big three-zero you might know a bit of organic farming, bartending, teaching English and making a stove from a beer can. But how is that going to help your career?

Shouldn’t you just.. get a REAL job?

What is a career?                                           

When people talk about getting ‘a career’ it always seems to be connected to some kind of fulltime job – ‘A Real Job’, where you can develop yourself and build up more knowledge about your profession. When I look around, I see tons of people around the same age as me looking for this kind of job. Many don’t even find a job and are wasting a year or so working in a supermarket. Others find jobs they don’t like or do a poorly paid internship instead. All in the hope of finding that one and only perfect job that is going to help them establish a secured future.

However, when looking to the definition of a career, my good friend Wikipedia tells me that a career is: ‘a person’s course or progress through life. This includes an individual’s life, learning and work.’ In this case, everything you learn and establish adds to your career.

career or travel

Do I want a career?

Honestly? If my career entitles working fulltime, doing a job I hate – no thank you. In that case, I really don’t need a career. But as said before, together with tons of other twenty-somethings I still struggle with this as well.

I want to develop myself, learn and provide value. Exchange the value I can add for something different. In our current society the norm is to exchange your time for money. To get a job and let others decide over how you spend your time, in exchange for money to support yourself and your family. It basically means that you sell yourself to your boss.

A ‘real’ job seems to be the most secure and safe option to support yourself and function in the system we live in. But is that true? In most of the jobs you do the same thing over and over again, and once you get fired – you only know that specific thing and it might be hard to get another job. In where you will again – exchange your time for money.

I like my time and I prefer to decide myself how to spend it. Yes, maybe I would get a job to earn quick money, but I really don’t see myself working fulltime for someone else’s dream over a long period of time. I want to pursue my own dreams. Besides, I have way to many interest to dedicate my life to a certain job field. ;)

Not ‘A Real Job’

Why do most people get ‘A Real Job’? I think the answer is quite simple: to earn money and be accepted by society. But you can earn money in different ways. You don’t always have to exchange time – you can provide value. And of course, you don’t always need money. You need food, water, a place to sleep, some stuff.. Things that are valuable to you. So instead of exchanging time for money, think about it as exchanging the value you can add for something different that is valuable for you. Money is not more then a tool to define value.

Finding a way to provide your best value to others – that is the challenge. A challenge I am standing for right now. It doesn’t mean that I should get a job. There are numerous ways to earn money without actually having ‘A Real Job’. Point is, that it is not always seen as acceptable by society to do so. But well, I think I have let go of the idea of being accepted. I don’t want to let others rule my life any longer.

Anyway, for now I am looking into passive income, freelance work and starting my own business. Because, well, I don’t really want A Real Job.

Do you choose between having a career or travel? Are you combining them? I am really interested to hear your experiences on this topic! 

For more inspiration, I recommend you to take a look at the ‘why don’t you get a real job?‘ series by Jamie from GreatBigScaryWorld! They really inspired me :)


  1. Teresa Almeida9 April, 2015 at 20:26 Reply

    This is so true. I really believe in what you say. It reminds me of the film “Into the Wild”- this guy takes a degree and then decides that society is not what should define his life and he goes on living life in the way he thinks is better. He often finds people who tell him he should get a real job and build a career but he doesn’t want it. At this point I don’t know what I want… I know I want to be happy but no idea in what to do. “Money is just a tool to define value” – this is such a right statement! I just wish we could still live in the era of exchange where we would exchange things for things… It’s sad the world we live in nowadays.

    Anyway, thank you very much for writing this. It’s nice to know that I am not the only one or we are just a few going through this.

    I wish I could live on working and travelling. That was always my dream job since I became aware that I should start thinking about a career. I hope that I find a way to make this dream come true! Work should be living and not dying.

    Teresa, Portugal.

  2. Cecile10 April, 2015 at 17:52 Reply

    I can totally relate to this!
    That’s why I chose to be self-employed and work from home (I’m a translator). I’ve been doing it for 5 years and it allows me to: a) live wherever I want (I live up in the mountains while some of my clients are based in Paris), and b) organise my time as I want (so I can always find some free time to go skiing or hiking when the weather’s good).
    Now I’m taking this even further: I’m currently selling most of my stuff (all of my furniture, lots of clothes etc, everything you pile up over the years when you stay in the same place), I’m giving up my apartment in a few weeks, and I’m going travelling around the world. As long as I have an internet connection I can keep my job, except now I won’t have a rent & bills to pay, so I can work a lot less. My plan is to use volunteering systems like Wwoofing, HelpX and Workaway. The adventure starts in Italy next month – I can’t wait :)

  3. lynn10 April, 2015 at 17:53 Reply

    I’m so glad that I’m not the only one! Most people don’t understand me when I talk about this stuff which they think unrealistic and unrealiable. What can a Twenty something, fresh grad do? I am lost.
    Does money really define value? I often find the career I wish to go for doesn’t get me a big fortune, yet a high paid job doesn’t make me happy. I’ve been struggling what I really want in my future, did I make a right choice, or will I?
    Then, I let my coin decide. The time I’m flipping the coin, I suddenly realized that what I’m hopping which side of the coin would decide for me. Deep down in my heart, I know what i want, but I choose to let others confuse and question myself.
    I’m going to working holiday soon and I hope I can figure out the life I truly want with no doubt after I back.

  4. K Lewis10 April, 2015 at 21:35 Reply

    For the first 20 years of our married life we travelled all over the world. At the end of that time we had three doctorates and a world of experience in our chosen careers of medical research. Our resumes, work experience and world wide contacts and referees by then was such that we could get any job we wanted. But we had seen the world, including 2years in England, two years in Europe both working in Germany and traveling all over Europe, two years driving through Africa, backpacking all over Asia. When we reached 40 we were broke, decided to settle down, our son arrived. With good jobs in USA we soon caught up, bought a house and began to lead a more conventional life. But with three weeks vacation each year, we have taken our son to all our old haunts throughout the world. Hard saving for our retirement soon and guess what, we will be traveling again! It can be done.

  5. Ivana10 April, 2015 at 23:53 Reply

    I liked that movie Into the Wild until it ended. then it all that seemed very stupid and not well thought through. it costed him his life. i’m sure somewhere “up There” he doesn’t regret one thing, but i can’t help feeling it was all a mistake.
    i guess it is very hard to make that step especially when you are aware of all the things that could go wrong. so you stay at your job, real job, go to work every day, do the same things,and earn money that assures you don’t have to sleep in a bus and eat mooses, or something, and eventually get into to big trouble because your stuck in the middle of nowhere. of course traveling and working wile traveling is the ultimate dream!!! :)

  6. Marcello11 April, 2015 at 04:03 Reply

    I couldn’t agree more with this article. This is exactly the kind of question that I’ve been asking myself for the past years. It doesn’t matter how hard I try to convince myself that getting a ‘real job’ and having a ‘normal life’ in my city will give me the things I need, my brain just can’t seem to understand.
    For some people I’m living in a dream and I really need to wake up, but the things is… I don’t want to wake up. I want to keep traveling, seize my youth and continue to grow as a person. Of course I’d love to work, but on something that will make this life worth it. Why would I want to spend my youth working on something that would only kill me slowly? I might be able to earn a lot of money by the time I get old, but then again, for whom? This is my time, my life… Society, I’m really sorry to disagree with you.

    Marcello, Paraguay

    • Kim12 April, 2015 at 20:32 Reply

      Love your message! Very true. We should love our own live, follow our path and not let ourselves be drawn away from it by others (distractions).

  7. Noel Nyemo11 April, 2015 at 12:11 Reply

    There is no’real job’, the ‘real job’ does not exist!
    And that goes for the most secure and safe option to support yourself.
    No, no!

    Instead of choosing an carree, choose a life.
    I’m 62 now and I wish a had known better when I was your age.

    Be young, be wise,
    be yourself, be unique!
    All of you!

  8. Imene Boudali11 April, 2015 at 19:22 Reply

    This is what i’m actually going through for the last year ! Why should the word “career” be always related to horrible bosses and horrible jobs ? I want to have a job where i can earn enough money to live and be happy about what i’m doing. Life is not all about money and better chairs and offices at work, it’s about finding something you love and stick with it, no matter how much money it provides for you. The choice is hard to make, but it’s worthy !
    Thank you for this excellent article !

  9. Rosanne11 April, 2015 at 20:08 Reply

    Your article is very interesting and hits the core of many thoughts that people are dealing with when they are faced with duties, responsibilities, obligations. However, there is no right or wrong way because in the end, we all would like to meet each other in a field of freedom. How to be free when we are supposed to live in a society that has created certain patterns that we need to follow if we want to survive the rat race? Traveling is a wonderful experience. Even a few days in a different country, in a new culture, surrounded by nature,.. can be such a profound experience which can change you and bring you closer to your inner self. In the end, we all look for meaning in life and all the decisions that we will make are just variations towards the one and only origin: death. This is not negative, because the movement is such a beautiful opportunity for us to discover ourselves in our own light and in the light of other people. There is only now, so worrying about the future will take away a lot of energy. We fail to capture dreams most of the time and we thrive on imagination, what ifs and illusions. Not cogito ergo sum, but fallor ergo sum. And let this failure be embraced over and over again because in the end it will teach us how to love more profoundly instead of sticking to a reality that is based on rationalism and narrow-mindedness. Yes, I am a believer. Yes, I see poetry in people, in certain moments, even in daily routine and in things that I don’t like. But each person has to walk his or her own path before serenity can be reached. Even if this serenity is temporary. It is a way, a movement towards an excess of meaning because one specific meaning is never there in the end. There are thousands of different meaningful things that are ahead of us. And yes, we reflect, think, doubt and worry. We even regret. But I do believe that in the end it is all worth it as long as you don’t let your head overshadow your heart. Just close your eyes and listen to your inner voice. But remember: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

    Thank you for sharing your words, they resulted in this rather idealistic (but not necessarily untruthful) piece of writing. Haha.

    All the best & keep on growing

  10. r14 April, 2015 at 09:28 Reply

    Well, yes. Because of my constant urge to travel, I usually take up about any job I can get during the winter or a few months before hitting the road. Currently I am stuck in an office situation, and, well, it sucks. How do people get tricked to even consider this? There is no future. You get paid to barely stay alive, have a place (“home” where you actually just sleep in between useless working days) and continue working. You can hope for a stressful two-week vacation sometime in the future.

    So now I am just using up all my patience to get through this and then get paid, quit and go living the real life on the road with some budget. Until the next year and next shit job. Well, I guess I have to work something out.

  11. Brandon14 April, 2015 at 14:10 Reply

    Thanks for the article. Very poignant!

    My dilemma is that I have a job that I actually kinda like (i’m a 33 year old tenure track assistant professor in the US) that gives me lots of flexibility and autonomy, but doesn’t satisfy my need for adventure and diverse experiences, at least not at a rate that I think I need for my own personal development at this point in my life. And I have student loan debt out the wazoo. There are things I like about this ‘real job’ and things I don’t like, but I think I’d benefit more, personally, from traveling the world more than I will from this job. If I leave, I feel like there’s a good chance that I won’t get another job like this in academia (tenure track), but I might be wrong about that. Anyone have a similar experience or help talk some sense into me?

  12. Indigo_budapest14 April, 2015 at 17:26 Reply

    Both the article and the comments are food for my thoughts and could not be more timely. I’ve finished my studies 2 years ago at the age of 22 and I’ve got a job opportunity in a financial company. I’ve started the company-girl life with late-night working, struggle with life-work balance etc.etc. I always knew that this is not a lifestyle of me, I never cared of a career. I am a true adventuress, I’ve always been. I just didn’t have any better idea after graduation.

    I’ve just decided to go back to school for a master degree, and I am gonna spend my freetime and little money to travel as much as I possibly can. But reading a lot of travel-articles recently, got me thinking a bit of this „what society wants me to do” thing. Because travelling is also a quite „cool thing to do” nowadays and I felt sometimes that society wants me to travel.

    Don’t you think that being a traveller (I mean a person who gives up a normal life and just travels for months or years) is just a wanted position for us? I mean to belong a group of wanderers, or refers yourself by society as adventuress or a person who was brave enough to do it? I don’t now if anybody understands my messy thoughts, I just want to say, that sometimes the so-called society is just envy of those who do it.

    All in all, I admit: I am gonna travel the world, spend a year in Asia, go a road trip in the USA, do voluntary work in Africa etc., because I would like to see every corner of the world and experience a lot, to be a better person and to fill myself with adventures for the normal adult life. BUT I also travel because I want to be the cool girl who travelled the world alone for all of my life.

    From some perspectives it is also because of society that we want to quit a „normal” life and join the subculture of travellers.

    Csilla, Hungary

    • Kim14 April, 2015 at 17:49 Reply

      Interesting message Csilla! Really gave me some thoughts :) I would say, the ‘general society’ is still the 9-5 working thing, but it is changing. So many people don’t want it anymore. Some just want to work freelanche and have more freedom, some because they want to travel. The travel community is growing and maybe inside that community, its expected to have a travel life, but I would say they are still the ‘underdog’. Altho its nice to have a community now, especially thanks to internet, where people support each other and show that different ways of life are possible. Anyway, I would say its very personal to choose the kind of life you want. Follow your heart, do it in your own pace and how you like it and don’t listen to people who tell you to do otherwise because some group of people say its suppose to be that kind of way. ;)

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