Two Months, Not Two Weeks: Setting Up Some Serious Vacation Time

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Friday 15th October 2010
In this article
  • Why an extended vacation can make you a better worker.
  • How to sell the concept to your boss.
  • What to do if your boss says no.

So you earned a college degree, found a decent job with better-than-average benefits, and after several years are now earning a respectable salary. Heck, you may even be one of the lucky SharpMen who managed to keep his job.

Everything seems to be going great, but there is one little problem that just keeps nagging you every month when you go to the mailbox and see that those shiny new adventure travel magazines. Your problem is wanderlust, and unfortunately, there is only one true cure.

"We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money in order to able to enjoy life. This is what life means and what life is for," said George Leigh Mallory, Everest climber and mountaineer extraordinaire.

Your benefits might include high-quality insurance, company-matched retirement-fund contributions and a whole host of little perks that really make it a great job, plus you even get two weeks of paid vacation every year. It’s hard to complain.

But what do you do when the travel tiger roars too loudly? Maybe you’ve dreamed about hiking the Appalachian Trail, but your vacation time hardly allows six months. That African walking safari requires five weeks and trekking around in Nepal can take a month or more.

Basically, you have two choices: you either do it or you don’t. Easy choice: you’re doing it. Now, the question is how, without, of course, giving up everything you have worked so hard for. Check out these SharpWork tips:

Get a Plan, SharpMan

Whether it’s Cambodia, Katmandu or some other remote corner of the globe, the first step is to decide on your destination and then determine what season is best for traveling in that region. For example, hiking the Appalachian Trail is generally a March-to-September excursion. On the other hand, the four to six weeks needed to climb Argentina’s Mt. Aconcagua, the Western Hemisphere’s highest mountain, would be best planned some time between December and February. Or, maybe you want to avoid crowds, so certain times of the year may be better than others. You may also find the "shoulder-" or off-seasons are much more reasonably priced.

After you have figured out the where and when, next figure out why. What is so special about this trip that warrants an extended time off from work, and how will you (and your company) benefit from your time away?

Sometimes the answer is simple. For example, if you have your heart set on Japan and your company often courts Japanese clients, simply including an intensive, immersion Japanese-language program in your itinerary may be a wise move to ensure that you are an even more valuable asset after your return. Sometimes you have to get a little creative with your reasoning.

If You Don’t Want an Answer, Don’t Ask

Research. To pitch your plan to the boss, begin by doing some research. Ask a few of your company’s "old-timers" about previous extended travel time taken by others. You might just find that Alice in accounting took four months off to sail the Caribbean or Steve in shipping escaped for six weeks to climb Kilimanjaro. Ask them how they did it.

If you work for a larger company, find out which person you need to talk to about extended vacation policies. Sometimes it’s the personnel department, or maybe it’s your direct boss. The better your preparation and the more valuable an employee you are, the more likely you will get the time off you need.

Pitch. Depending on the amount of time you need, asking for the time off that you need may be as easy as adding up personal days. If you’ve got two weeks of paid vacation, but need four, an employer may be inclined to provide those two extra weeks by using up your sick days, personal days, and any other "off" days available. Other employers may want you to make up the work during subsequent weeks. For longer vacations, such as those lasting several months, the most likely scenario is a leave of absence, where your job will hopefully be waiting for you when you return, but the time away is unpaid.

Check-up. No matter what plan you are able to use, be sure to check on the status of your other benefits. Sometimes a leave of absence cancels your group health insurance — not a good idea if you are traveling to an exotic country where exotic diseases are easy to catch. As for your retirement fund, be sure to check with human resources and your accountant.

SharpAlternatives to Find the Time

In a perfect world, you’d have no problems getting the time off for your extended adventure, but life doesn’t always work out the way we hope. Even if your boss shoots down your plan, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your trip is out of the question. Now, it’s just a matter of priorities.

Take This Job and…The first thing to ask yourself is how badly you want to take this trip. If this is something you have been dreaming about for years, it might be time to quit the grind, pack up and go. Ask yourself, how much is your job really worth? Would a leave of absence allow you to rethink your route and get a more suitable "career" job when you return?

Sacked. For others, getting laid off is a great opportunity to recharge on an expedition of a lifetime. If finding a new job right away is tough at the moment, the job market may be substantially better after your trip. Plus, you’ll have that extra resume credit. Many employers don’t frown upon time away for personal enrichment, and again, coming up with a creative rationale for the trip relating to your profession is a good idea while preparing for interviews.

In-Between Jobs. If you’ve been laid off from an industry where your skills are in high demand, go ahead and sign up with your new gig and negotiate a start date several months down the line. This will give you the best of both worlds — a new job and sufficient time for your extended vacation.

Post-College. Finally, some people are just at a time in their lives when it is quite feasible to take a break. The "Gap Year," the rest of the year following college graduation, is one of the most popular times for globetrotting. Backpacking across Europe is a common post-college adventure. After several months of living in hostels, sleeping on trains, and having the time of your life, you will return to the corporate world armed with a college degree as well as an entirely new perspective on the real world.

Go For It

Travel offers an unusual freedom — the opportunity to experience unusual foods, unique customs and fascinating people. We learn many things during our travels, but most importantly, we learn about ourselves and what we are capable of when we follow our instincts and ambitions. As German author Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe once said, "Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

This article last updated on Friday 15th October 2010
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