We've Travelled To Almost 50 Countries Despite Working Full Time 9 - 5. Here's How You Can Too!

We’ve Travelled To Almost 50 Countries Despite Working Full Time 9 – 5. Here’s How You Can Too!

Having trouble choosing between career or travelling? Why not choose both? Learn how A Girl & A Bald Traveller visited almost 50 countries despite working full-time.

Contributed by A Girl & A Bald Traveller

(Disclaimer: This post is obviously not referring to those who have to work a few jobs just to provide for their family, those who have kids/elderly to care for, or those unfortunate enough to have the minimum of seven days of leave; but rather, at those who claim they love travelling but because their job doesn’t allow them to, or that they need to focus on their career. Here’s a news flash; it doesn’t have to be career or travelling. It can be career AND travelling. )

SwazilandBig Game Parks, Swaziland

If you’ve been following “A Girl & A Bald Traveller“, you’d know we uploaded a 95 picture album “Travel While Working 9-5” sometime last Sunday (A summary of our travel destinations and experiences over the past 2.5 years in pictures).

Since then, we’ve been flooded, practically swamped with messages/emails asking us how we did it without quitting our jobs.

Also read: How To Travel Frequently Despite Being Employed

travel full time workLijiang, China

Just in case you haven’t heard of us, here’s a little bit about ourselves. We both work 9 to 5 or more accurately, 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM five days a week. And yes, we’re running the rat race like most other Singaporeans out there, trying to climb as high up the corporate ladder as possible in the hope of a “supposedly more comfortable life”.

She (The Girl) works as a product trainer in a financial institution, and I (The Bald Guy) used to be a banker (I have since taken on a more motivational role).

Kotor Bay MontenegroKotor Bay, Montengro

So now that we’ve established the fact that we aren’t a couple of “freelances” or “MLM guys,” let’s get on with it.

“A Girl & A Bald Traveller” has SEVEN Tips for travelling the world even if you work 9 to 5 and yes, you don’t have to quit your job. Travelling is important, but so is having a career, yes?

Tip #1: Extend long weekends and use “Off” not “Leave” for short getaways

(Obviously, take turns with your colleagues because everyone wants to make the most of a long weekend too)

Transylvania RomaniaTransylvania, Romania

We NEVER, and mean NEVER, waste a single day of our precious leave on short getaways.

Bintan, Bangkok, Batam? Yeah sure, we’ll visit these places too; as long it can be done without using official leave like over a long weekend. Fly on Friday, back on Sunday. They aren’t worth wasting even a single day of leave.

Most companies can let you accumulate “off days” in addition to your official leave. Unlike leave, off days AREN’T an entitlement, and are approved at the discretion of your boss, who usually won’t make things difficult for you unless you’ve been a less than desirable employee.

Tip: Basically, “off days” for short getaways and “official leave” for REAL Vacations

Maletsunyane Falls, LesothoMaletsunyane Falls, Lesotho

Allocate your leave correctly during long weekends and you could visit more interesting places.

Three days worth of public holidays/weekends this coming week? Just throw in a couple days of leave to make it five days away from work, and you’ll be able to visit neighbouring Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines or even the Maldives (also known as a Singaporean’s typical honeymoon destination).

Tip #2: Going on a business trip? Add on a few extra days

Shangri-La, ChinaShangri-La, China

For those of you lucky enough to be sent overseas on business trips (that aren’t to Malaysia because it’s so near Singapore), ask your boss for a few days of extension.

For instance, if you were flying off for a company event to say Taipei from Monday to Wednesday, I’m sure your boss wouldn’t begrudge you clearing another two working days of leave. Add in the weekends and you’ve another 3.5 days to visit Okinawa, Japan. Different country, different experience and more enjoyable business trip.

You may want to read: So Cheap?! Taiwan + Japan Multi-City Airfare From 369 SGD?! (Including Taxes)

Marrakech, MoroccoMarrakech, Morocco

In 2014, I flew to Greece to attend a conference for a week, which was part of my company’s incentive trip. Since I was already in Greece, I extended my “company trip” for almost 3 more weeks!

For details of this trip, you may want to read: 27 Days In Europe “COMFORTABLY” Under 2.8k SGD or 1.8k Euros! (Including Airtickets)

In 2015, I was in Poland for another week to attend another conference/incentive trip with my company. This time, I extended my company trip for another two weeks.

For details of this trip, you may want to read: Impossible! Just 800 SGD? For 19 Days in Europe?

Tip #3: Use “religious beliefs” to “psycho” your boss

Rocket Steamer, BangladeshRocket Steamer, Bangladesh

Alright, I’ll be honest with you. I’ve yet to try this one out yet. But logically, humanly, it doesn’t make sense for your company to reject you.

I know I couldn’t reject my staff (as long as they have a good working attitude and job performance/vintage) if they suddenly “discovered the need” to take a “religious trip” or something along those lines.

Hill of Crosses, LithuaniaHill of Crosses, Lithuania

If you’re Christian/Catholic, go to Israel for a six month Bible study course or something. In the meantime, visit Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the like. Africa, The Gulf, and Europe are pretty much at your doorstep.

Similarly for other religions (there are too many to list down); if you’re Buddhist, go to Tibet; Muslim, to Mecca. Explore the neighbouring countries while you’re at it.

Also read: 20 Exotic Visa-Free Countries Singaporeans Should Seriously Visit

Tip #4: Ask for a sabbatical (even MOM endorses this idea)

Tanna Island, VanuatuTanna Island, Vanuatu

Most companies nowadays have some form of sabbatical leave as long as you’ve worked for at least two to three years. In case you have no idea what a sabbatical is, it is simply a “Career Break Leave”, which is usually unpaid.

Note: Some companies offer paid sabbaticals if you undertake a course/skills upgrading as part of your sabbatical. Time to drop your HR department a call soon!

Calcutta, IndiaCalcutta, India

If you’ve saved up say $10,000 (and you should have that if you’ve been working for two to three years), what’s stopping you from packing up and going off on a six month trip (assuming you don’t have kids of course)?

Even our MOM (Ministry of Manpower), believes in sabbaticals and offers them to staff for a healthier work life balance!

Tip #5: Stop following travel trends and start visiting exotic countries

Mostar, Bosnia & HerzegovinaMostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Singaporeans are a nationality who “fear” to step out of their comfort zones. To Singaporeans, exotic usually means “dangerous.” Other terms such as “dirty” or “nothing interesting to see” are also associated with exotic.

A typical Singaporean’s idea of a holiday usually revolves around expensive countries/cities: Paris, Rome, Tokyo and the like. Singaporeans also usually have no minds of their own. They enjoy following trends and travelling to places their friends travel to; which are usually expensive ones (because their friends don’t know any better either).

Tagaytay, The PhilippinesTagaytay, The Philippines

Most exotic locations are somewhat CHEAPER than the usual places Singaporeans deem fit for a holiday. Oh and Iceland ISN’T exotic, it’s COMMON; the same goes to Turkey and Egypt as well. If you really wanted “exotic”, you should have visited these countries 10 years ago. It was cheaper then.

Same country, cheaper price. Why wouldn’t you visit Iceland 10 years ago, when it was cheaper with lesser tourists? The reason? Singaporeans probably didn’t know Iceland existed; not until people started posting photos on Facebook that is. Typical.

Tip: Here are couple of posts you should check out if you’d like to increase the number of vacations you take in a year without depleting your bank balance too much. You’ll free up a good deal of cash so you can enjoy a European vacation TWICE a year instead of ONCE every two years.

Tip #6: Stop visiting the same places over and over again

Lake Ohrid, MacedoniaLake Ohrid, Macedonia

Seriously, how many times do you have to visit Bangkok? Yeah I get it, Bangkok has cheap massages, cheap shopping, cheap food, cheap sex, and is really near Singapore. But if you’re going to be wasting your already limited leave visiting cities you’ve already visited over and over again, how much more of the world do you expect to see?

For overseas readers, here’s how a typical Singaporean’s (those who claim to love travelling) three year travel itinerary looks like.

  • Year 1: Bangkok, Bintan, Tokyo, Batam
  • Year 2: Bangkok, Europe (Paris, Rome, London, Zurich, Barcelona), Taipei, Bintan
  • Year 3: Bangkok, New Zealand/Australia, Batam

Rila Monastery, BulgariaRila Monastery, Bulgaria

We NEVER, and I’ll say it again, NEVER go to the same city twice. Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly fine to want to visit the same country over again because you love it, as long as they are different cities offering different experiences. For example:

  • Year 1: Tokyo
  • Year 2: Osaka/Kyoto
  • Year 3: Hokkaido

Nothing wrong with this, other than the fact that being so fixated with one country simply means you don’t have enough leave left to visit others. It’s like being content with eating sushi (and claiming Steak doesn’t taste great) because that’s about the only thing you’ve ever eaten.

Also read: 5 Island Getaways in Japan You Must Go For

Tip #7: Spend not more than 50% of your monthly income

Accommodation near the Yasur Volcano, VanuatuAccommodation near the Yasur Volcano, Vanuatu

With the income I make, I could easily opt for a night at the Ritz Carlton without breaking a sweat. Instead, The Girl and I spend our nights in hostels, preferring to meet up and exchange experiences with travellers all over the world.

The trouble with most Singaporeans is the need to “showcase” an opulent lifestyle; five Star hotels (minimum of three stars), recognisable landmarks, expensive cities, and lots of shopping. Is it any wonder why most Singaporeans are ill prepared for retirement?

Shkoder, AlbaniaShkoder, Albania

I’d suggest NOT spending anything more than 50% of your monthly income on a single holiday. Yes, not even on a European vacation. Don’t worry, you’ll still get to visit Europe. We usually don’t exceed $2,500, and with this budget, we don’t exactly rough it out as well.

  1. 12 Days Finland & The Baltics @2.5k SGD Nett! (Including Airtickets)
  2. 18 Days Africa & Europe Under 2.2k SGD Nett! (Including Airtickets)
  3. A Girl’s Solo Trip. 10 Days in Kyoto, Osaka & Tokyo @$1.2k Nett! (Including AirTickets)
  4. 11 Days Luxury Travel In Africa @2k SGD Nett! (Including Airtickets)

Kemi Snowcastle, FinlandKemi Snowcastle, Finland

Limiting yourself to not more than 50% of your monthly income should free up cash for you to hopefully take more vacations in a year. If you think that’s too tough, just remember, even I’m doing it. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to.

In conclusion

So there you have it. If I could think of one thing that makes this post a little “less relatable” for Singaporeans, it’s the amount of leave I had; 24 days of official leave and at least another 12 – 15 days of “incentive trip”/business trip leaves a year. Add in public holidays/long weekends, I had an insane amount of leaves for a Singaporean.

Dubrovnik, CroatiaDubrovnik, Croatia

At this point you can choose to do two things.

  1. Throw your arms up in the air and say,”Chey, so many leave, of course can la…”
  2. Actually recognise that leave aside, you really can add to the number of trips you take in a year if you apply these tips correctly.

Besides, no one is stopping you from making a mid-career switch to some other role. (Oh, I can already hear the excuses rolling in… “Easier said than done. Blah Blah Blah….” Typical of Singaporeans, what’s new?) Want more leave? Go be a teacher. You get March, June, September and December holidays (hope your principal doesn’t call you back early though).

Goa, India0.30c dinner in Goa, India

To put it bluntly, it’s all about how much wanderlust you have within you. How much of the world do you plan to see? Or are you content with seeing just Paris and the like?

Wanderlust IS NOT about enjoying travelling. Wanderlust is about having the urge to explore the world. To explore, is to uncover the UNKNOWN. Visiting the same countries over and over again ISN’T Wanderlust. Neither is following travel trends and going wherever is in fashion at moment.

The word Wanderlust is like a prostitute; used over and over again by everybody. C’mon, give Wanderlust a break, even prostitutes get paid.

I’d suggest this post be read together with a couple of others. Take it as a 10 year series travel guide for Singaporeans or travel for dummies.

  1. 5 Dumb Habits Singaporeans Should Kick For Their Next Holiday
  2. How Much Do You Earn? Do You Really DESERVE A Luxury Holiday?
  3. Here’s Why Singaporeans Can’t Afford A Vacation Every 3 Months

Manang Village, NepalManang Village, Nepal

Happy reading everyone. If you’re not much of a reader, then just click on this link to visit our Facebook Page. It’s easier to view all the photos that way.

If you’d like to follow us, just LIKE our page. If you don’t, it’s not surprising. We’ll never have any Paris or Rome blog posts for you to check out. Go follow some other typical Singaporean travel blogger (many of them out there) who blogs on the latest travel trends; that certainly won’t be us.

Also read: How I Spent 49 Days in Nepal as an Earthquake Relief Volunteer


A Girl & A Bald Traveller

About Author

A Girl & A Bald Traveller
A Girl & A Bald Traveller

A Girl & A Bald Traveller is about the adventures of a Singaporean couple who attempt to travel the world without breaking the bank or quitting their jobs. They believe in "Exotic Travel" & hope to goad Singaporeans out of their "Herd Mentality" to see more than just the New York's and Milan's of the world.


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