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Even when wanderlust backpackers manage to save enough money to hit the road, unappealing employment gaps often become a common concern.
However, traveling offers learning experiences that would simply not be possible while sitting at a desk all day. As a result, taking a gap year to explore another country might actually make backpackers more employable or offer them alternative career opportunities.
BTRtoday talks to Amanda Kendle, an avid traveler from Perth, Australia who has visited over 30 countries and has in turn developed a career as a travel blogger, blogging trainer, and social media consultant.
Kendle moved to Japan when she was 25 years-old to teach English, then moved to Slovakia and Germany to teach a variety of courses.
“I’d worked in the education area, but I’d never been a real teacher. To be honest, I just wanted to get out of Perth for a while,” she admits. “I really wanted to go anywhere I could, and that was one way I found to get out of Australia.”
During that time, she started her travel blog, Not A Ballerina, and was able to turn that into a career.
“If I was to be employing people, and I had two alike people–if their resumes were otherwise pretty similar but one of them had traveled a lot–I would be picking that person every time because I know that they’ve gone out there and seen the world and you can’t not learn from it,” Kendle supports. “There are so many skills that you get. I think it’s really hard to acquire the same skills just staying in your hometown and not moving around much.”
Research, Organization, and Planning
Traveling requires an immense amount of research, planning, budgeting, and preparation. If someone exploring does not know where they are going, they will easily become lost, which in turn wastes valuable time or money.
Figuring out how to fit everything into one bag is hard enough. If backpackers forget to pack proper supplies for weather conditions, hiking trips, or medical emergencies, they will be sure to face some inconvenient conditions at best.
Being organized, prepared, and detail-oriented are important skills, albeit in the professional world or while traveling abroad.
Money Management and Negotiation
With planning also comes budgeting. From booking flights and hotels, to choosing when to eat out or just eat a peanut butter sandwich, traveling on a budget requires being conscious of when to treat oneself and when to conserve spending habits.
Besides budgeting, travelers will also want to get the best bang for their buck by understanding conversion rates and learning to negotiate. From haggling with shopkeepers at local markets, to deciphering currency exchange rates and ensuring you don’t pay a ton of extra processing fees, budget backpackers learn to be conscious of even the smallest unnecessary charges.
Adaptability, Problem-Solving, and Decision Making
Of course, even with all of the planning in the world, sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes even the most punctual traveler will miss the last bus and need to find a new method of transportation or make a slight change to their itinerary.
If a traveler loses their wallet, it’s not the end of the world. It is an inconvenience, sure, but inevitably all part of the learning experience. One would need to figure out a method of having money transferred to wherever he or she is staying. Most banks are very accommodating when losing a credit card and can always ship out a new one.
No matter how prepared any traveler may think they are, sometimes they will still need to think fast and act on their toes. The decisions one makes can affect an entire trip, or in the job world, an entire company.
Communication and Cross-Cultural Understanding
Communication and social skills are often emphasized in job requirements as the ability to empathize with others and to work with people of diverse backgrounds. These skills are utilized when writing emails or newsletters, conducting conferences, and establishing relationships with colleagues and clients. Undoubtably, any backpacker who has survived sleeping in a packed dorm room has acquired this set of skills.
When traveling, wanderers are transported to a world entirely different from what they once knew. They will experience different behaviors, customs, societal norms, and languages. Travelers will meet and interact with people from all different walks of life on a regular basis.
“One really useful [skill] that I’ve definitely picked up is the ability to communicate well with all kinds of people, even if there’s a language barrier or there’s different cultural aspects or whatever, or just someone whose really different from you,” Kendle concurs.
“I think when you’re traveling you meet so many different kinds of people that you have to improve that ability to talk to anyone, and there are a lot of jobs where you have to talk to people who are different, so having that skill is definitely something that’s going to be beneficial.”
More than just communicating, being able to converse in another language is a highly valued skill in virtually any career path. Fluency in another language is a huge resume booster, and what better way to learn a language than to be surrounded by people speaking it, or trying to figure out train schedules in entirely different characters than you have ever encountered before?
Kendle admits that she did not know any Japanese prior to teaching there, but has fond memories learning how to read and write from a Japanese housewife.
“She really helped me learn a lot of conversational and written Japanese quite quickly,” Kendle says.
Through sightseeing, museums, art galleries, observing everyday fashion, architecture, and street art–traveling will inspire a nomad’s creative intuition.
Beyond just observing, creative projects such as blogging, video recording and editing, podcasting, or photography are fun to partake in while traveling and can really benefit a career path in various creative fields by building a portfolio and developing a diverse audience on the road.
“Some people prefer to write, so perhaps a blog is a really useful skill to practice writing and written communications along with all the other technical skills that come with it,” says Kendle. “Some people prefer to talk, and podcasting is a great way to do it as well.”
Independence and Confidence
Most importantly, travel will leave explorers with a heightened sense of self-sufficiency, especially when traveling alone. After being forced out of their comfort zone and required to discover a whole new world for themselves, travelers will realize that while it is nice to have other people come along for the journey, they are perfectly capable of fending for themselves.
Kendel agrees that confidence is the most beneficial skill she acquired through her travels.
“I left Australia knowing I could do certain things well, but when you have to travel around and you’re constantly confronted by new and different things, and you have to solve all kinds of issues that come up in the normal course of traveling, especially traveling independently and also working in a foreign country… I certainly learned that I could kind of deal with anything,” she says.
“The confidence I felt from that has carried over not only in my working life, but in all aspects of my life. Whatever issues I come up against, I feel completely, or nearly completely, confident that I’ll be able to deal with them.”
So stop worrying about your resume and go book a flight instead. As a result, you might even be able to make a career out of your adventures!