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How to: Get Back to Work After Traveling

by Claire Moss Aug 19, 2009
Traveling may not damage your career, but it can have an unwelcome effect on the way you feel about your job. Here’s how to get back into a good work flow.

When I returned from a long travel break, my initial enthusiasm to get back to work faded around the time I landed myself a shiny new job. It was much more prestigious and better-paid than the one I had given up to go traveling, but once the novelty of it all – wearing a suit! Drinking vending machine coffee! Free email without a two-drink minimum! – wore off, I found myself unable to get motivated.

This is not an uncommon reaction. Many people can’t take reentry into a work routine and end up leaving the country again within a few months. But if this isn’t a desirable or viable option, don’t despair. Your travels have not rendered you terminally unable to hold down a job. Here a few steps to help get your head back into your work:

Swear yourself off travel for a year.

Don’t plan another sabbatical. Don’t even plan a two-week vacation. A long weekend here, a week’s trip within your home country there, is fine, but nothing more ambitious than that. It’s important to get focused, and stay focused, on where your home is.

Make a five year plan.

Don’t worry if this does not center wholly, or even mainly, around work. It’s fine if it involves more travel or another sabbatical. But it will show you where your current job fits in with your wider plans and, hopefully, make it seem worthwhile.

Ensure you have a life outside of work.

If friends have moved on while you were away and your social world is no longer what it was, work can take on a disproportionate significance in your life. Get out there and meet like-minded people, just as you did when traveling, and you’ll soon end up feeling refreshed and looking at your job with new eyes – even if it’s just as a way to pay the bills.

Keep the souvenirs at home.

Resist the temptation to decorate your office with that Thai wooden fish mobile or use a shot of yourself scuba diving as your screen saver. It will not – and believe me I know, because I tried – motivate you, inspire you, or help you concentrate.

It will merely distract and depress you, and will serve as a talking point to every visitor to your desk – which will result in you spending every coffee break chatting about what you could be doing if you hadn’t come back home and got a job.

Who’s the new guy?

After you’ve settled into your new job, or settled back into your old one, take some time to assess what skills or qualities you now have, which you didn’t before your travels. Then work out how you can employ them in this post to ensure you do an even better job than you would have before. It will make you see travel less as something you do instead of, or as an escape from work, and will help you start to knit the two aspects of your life together.

Community Connection

For more on long term travel and how it can affect your career, check out How to Make Travel Look Good on a Resume.

For those interested in making a career out of travel, please visit MatadorU.

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