Lonely Planet Writer

Travel vs career: does it have to be all or nothing?

Travel can be wildly intoxicating, there's no doubt about that. And the comedown, that return to 'real life' can be conversely depressing for most.

But maybe you're happy to get back to work - or at least you feel you need to come home in order to have a satisfying career.

It's a tough balance to strike - travel vs 'real' life. Is there a way to have it all or is that just a pipe dream? Does it really have to be all or nothing? And does it get harder to breaker away from work the more established (and older) you get?

This is a concept our travel-loving forum members grapple with on a regular basis.

Are you a sucker if you're working?

Yep, we've all met those 'free spirits' who make you feel like a real Dilbert because you're racing to a train to work while they're just hanging out in your city, going with the bare-footed flow. It can set off panic alarms in your head, worrying that time's slipping by and you're not out there seeing as much of the world as you should. But world travel doesn't come free...

In a great post on the issue, one forum member recently noted:

Lately I've noticed an attitude amongst travelers where, if you are not living in a 3rd world country on $5 a day the second you save enough money to quit your job when you are able to, then you're a sucker for not doing so, and I find this incredibly pretentious.

I LIKE my job. I compromise so I will probably never go out traveling for more than a few months at a stretch but make sure I can take those stretches along the way. I think people lead a sad life who only view work as a way to save money to travel.

Does saying goodbye to home mean saying goodbye to a career?

Another consideration is how long-term travel can interrupt or derail the trajectory of your career. Would you be willing to gamble with your ambitions in order to travel?

What would you do if you had planned a big trip, only to be offered a promotion? Take it and postpone your travel (when you can do it P-Diddy-style) or turn it down and hit the road with a jaunty 'que sera, sera'?

Can you have it all - career and travel?

Hey, it worked for Richard Branson, surely it can work for us too? A lot of people thrash around trying to bundle travel into their working lives - either by volunteering or trying to transfer their skills to another country.

To some this might seem a viable option. For others, the sheen might wear off quickly when they realise they're working a crummier job than if they were back home, just under different skies. But perhaps those skies are worth it.

So what do you think defines the smartest travel attitude? A bit of column a, a bit of column b?

Well, wherever you are in the world right now, at home or in some gnarly jungle, just remember this piece of forum wisdom:

'Hey if we were all huge travelers then who would stay at home for the rest of us to visit 'em?'

Let's hear what you think!