When my husband and I sold all our belongings and committed ourselves to traveling full-time, we were lucky. It was 3 months ago, and while the economy wasn’t great, we didn’t have to make our decision against the backdrop of an uncertain financial future. I just checked my retirement account (401K invested in mutual funds) and it has dropped 20%. I’m not worried, because I’m confident things will bounce back well before I need those funds and I’m invested for the long term. But it is a little unsettling. I had to wonder, if I was planning my trip now, would I still do it? The short answer: absolutely. If you’re starting to get cold feet on your next trip, (whether RTW or two weeks abroad) here are some things to consider:
1. You can’t control what will happen to you, even if you stay. You work 9-5, do a great job, and then get laid off. Or no raise for a year. Or added responsibilities to cut costs. If it’s going to be rough, there isn’t a lot to be accomplished by skipping your travel plans and sticking around.
2. This too shall pass. Remember 2001? We were all high on the dot com euphoria when suddenly you couldn’t get a job coming out of school with an MBA. Things got better overtime, and this crisis will pass too. Chances are you could return to a better job outlook than when you left.
3. Traveling is way more fun than hanging out in grad school. After the dot com crisis, everyone I know started polishing up their grad school applications, figuring that they could hide in academia until the economy turned around. Now armed with thousands of dollars worth of debt, and bleak prospects for PhDs, I wonder if they would have been better off hiding out in Thailand instead.
4. If you have planned financially for your trip, the market shouldn’t impact your decision to go. I’m making a big assumption here, that you have the cash in place or a plan to work on the road, but if that’s the case, whatever happens back home isn’t going to have much impact once you’re on the road.
5. Traveling overseas is often cheaper than living at home. If you did get laid off, living in another country is cheaper alternative to the high cost of the US.
6. You have a great excuse for gaps in your resume when you do come back. If the worse case scenario happens, then lots of people will have gaps in their resume as they try to find new jobs. I remember when my husband and I were both laid off in 2001, we were unemployed for 8 months (freelancing on the side). This was a non-issue when we tried to find work, as it was so common for folks in our age group to have similar experiences. HR folks get sick of hearing about lay offs, so they just stop asking.
In some ways, this is the best time to travel. Has the economic crisis changed your plans?