Tag: Backpacking

How to explain gaps in your resume because of travel

I have over 15 versions of my resume on my hard-drive. Being on-the-go full-time for 4 years was an incredible experience, but I am not independently wealthy. I had to work along the way to finance my travels. Many of those jobs were in the hospitality industry which exist worldwide.

My experience is all over the map. Depending on the job I was looking to get, I usually had some explaining to do.

Here’s a version of my current resume:

Resume Jillian Blog

As you can see, my experience is literally all over the board. It starts in Illinois, takes me to Hawaii (two different islands, now living on a third), back to the mainland in California, to Colorado and Wyoming. This doesn’t even account for a year I spent on the east coast in Philadelphia or my gap year where I traveled to Australia and Thailand.

Typical reactions I’ve received:

1. Why all the moving?

2. Hawaii? Why would you ever leave there?

3. What’s in Wyoming?

4. Looks like you’ve had a lot of fun! (This one I like!)

5. If I hire you, you aren’t just going to up and move again are you?

In my years of trying to get jobs and interviewing with every personality type you can think of, I’ve devised a way to make my travels work to my advantage. I want my prospective employer to see my frequent moves as as positive, not a negative.

Just to let you know, more than half the time, there is a stigma in the professional world when it comes to frequent travel. Some employers might let on that they think it’s cool and they wish they could travel. Some more positive interviews I’ve been on, owners and interviewers actually recount their travels with a gleam in their eye: they “get it.” I’ve actually got my job in southern California by just walking in the restaurant and handing my resume to the owner. My travels and world experience impressed him so much, he wanted me on the team. He was a world traveler himself and knew firsthand how travel makes you a more well-rounded employee.

I loved my bosses at my job in Southern Cali. I was able to taste and help order wine, eat cheese and photograph for the local newspaper!
I loved my bosses at my job in Southern Cali. I was able to taste and help order wine, eat cheese and photograph for the local newspaper!

More often than not though, people in the “real-world” are usually in a bubble. They can’t understand why you would choose to live in a jungle in Hawaii or still can’t comprehend WHAT, exactly, Wyoming has to offer. It becomes a little exhausting explaining myself to people, but hey, I DO need a job after all!

Many of my jobs have been “seasonal.” Many people I talk to don’t even know that seasonal jobs on the mainland exist. A seasonal job is one that lasts for just that, the season.A great resource for seasonal jobs is Coolworks.com. You work a summer in Yellowstone National Park, then the job ends. Then you work a winter in the Colorado Rockies at one of the ski resorts, then come April, that job ends. It’s a great way to see beautiful places all over the country while making money. It requires frequent travel, interviewing and job hunting for your next gig.

Why WOULDN'T I take a job in Wyoming where I can explore Yellowstone National Park on my days off??
Why WOULDN’T I take a job in Wyoming where I can explore Yellowstone National Park on my days off??

Making the leap OUT of the seasonal world causes you to encounter employers who don’t understand the seasonal lifestyle and wonder why you’re a vegabond that can’t hold down a job. For those people, you have your work cut out for you.

Here are some tips to get you through an interview where you have to explain gaps in your resume because of travel:

1. Make travel seem essential: When someone starts the conversation, “Why all the moving?” that doesn’t exactly sound like the most welcoming invitation to hear about my galavanting. In fact, it sounds like a threat, like they’re standing arms crossed waiting to judge my response. I found that the most effective way to soften up my interviewer is to make the strong argument that travel was essentially required for my jobs.

My response: Because the hospitality industry is world-wide, opportunities, often better opportunities, are presented to hospitality professionals who are willing to relocate. I don’t have any children and find it easy to take promotions and new positions in new locations. Plus, I have a Journalism degree, so on the side I’m a travel writer. I’ve been published in The Huffington Post, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and more. I wouldn’t be able to pursue my writing or advance my career if I didn’t take new jobs all over the country.

These publishing bragging rights didn't exactly come from sitting on my butt in my hometown
These publishing bragging rights didn’t exactly come from sitting on my butt in my hometown

2. Highlight the positives of travel and how it translates to “real world” experience: I always get the question in an interview along the lines of: “Tell me about a time where you couldn’t get along with or see eye to eye with a fellow employee. How did you handle the situation?” When you travel the country or the world, you’ve probably problem-solved your way out of some gnarly situations with all types of personalities. Use this to your advantage!

My response: (Start off with a specific anecdote). When you travel as much as I do, you are presented with unique problems in which you have to solve in order to survive. You meet a variety of different personalities from all over the world. I’ve become really good at reading people and getting along with others from all walks of life. Travel has opened my mind to different ways of living and respecting others’ opinions and ways of doing things. I believe my experience leads me to be an excellent team player with an open mind who is focused on nothing more than solving the task at hand quickly and efficiently.

3. Don’t be afraid to talk about your experiences: It’s pretty obvious that you’ve traveled based on your resume. There’s no reason to hide behind a wall of shame. You should be proud that you’ve been able to organize a life where you’ve been able to achieve individual goals. Highlight that. All travelers, especially solo travelers, are self-starting individuals who are smart, savvy and usually great leaders.

During my tenure as a hospitality manager at a tropical agriculture farm. I managed bookings, reservations, managed volunteer work shifts and more!
During my tenure as a hospitality manager at a tropical agriculture farm, I managed bookings, reservations, lead volunteer work shifts and more!

4. When in doubt, turn the conversation around: If the specific job you’re looking at doesn’t involve travel one bit and the person interviewing you is looking at you practically dumb-founded, chances are this isn’t the right job for you anyway. In order not to thwart an opportunity, take the time to interview your interviewer. A lot of people fall in the trap of thinking an interview is all about drilling a candidate. Make sure you ask questions and interview the company. You need to know that this is the right fit for you, after all. Here are some sample questions I like to ask when it’s time to take the focus off myself:

a. What is your company culture like here?

b. What benefits do you offer your employees?

c. How does your company invest in the health and wellness of your employees?

d. What do you like about working here?

Letter d almost always puts the interviewer and I on a level playing field. I love asking that question! It usually catches my interviewer off-guard and makes them ponder, usually rather uncomfortably, what they like about working at said company. I get to sit back, smile, relax and learn about their experience and gauge whether or not this company is the right fit for me.

Overall, I’m not afraid to ask the hard questions during an interview. I’ve had so many jobs that I know what I’m looking for in a position. Travel has led me to experience many different work cultures, some excellent, some bad, and I’m able to read a company’s vibe pretty well during an interview.

The point is, don’t be scared to interview just because you have a non-traditional resume. Chances are the right person will come along and see your world experience as a huge asset. That is the person you want to be working for anyway: someone who recognizes your talents and values that you care about personal growth and experience.

The cost of travel besides MONEY

I”m not shy about giving out details about my personal budget, because, believe it or not, just like you, I had to work for my money. I still work for money and I will continue to work for money.

So many people have it wrong. It’s not all about the money. Admittedly, I drained my bank account in order to finance my traveling lifestyle. Sure, I’ve created many a marvelous memory by not working and spending money, but that’s not the only cost to consider when choosing a traveling lifestyle. The other costs include:

1. Physical- This year alone, I’ve done so much flying that I’m exhausted. I’m truly suffering from burn out. That doesn’t mean that I still don’t enjoy flying off to new places, emerging from the plane bright eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for adventure, but it leaves your body physically exhausted. Jet lag is a serious concern. When I left Australia earlier this year, ready to engage in a 4 flight, 23 hour fly-a-thon back to the U.S., I left on Wednesday morning, February 29th, leap year, traveled for 24 hours straight and landed in L.A. Wednesday morning, February 29th. Believe me when I say it took WEEKS for my body to adjust to THAT time travel!

Tired.

My good friend the flight attendant is constantly on the go as well. One time I asked her what day it really is for her because of all of her traveling and time zone differences. She opted for “no comment,” saying that trying to figure that out would drive her insane. It would drive anyone insane!

The road burns your body out. Toting a 50 pound backpack after a shitty night’s sleep in a hostel isn’t for the faint of heart. Trying to sleep when others are partying is even worse. I combat this by trying to maintain a relatively normal sleep schedule (by normal I mean at LEAST seven hours/24 hour period), eating healthy and maintaining a healthy attitude.

2. Emotional- I’ve gotten good, I mean REALLY good at saying goodbye. That doesn’t mean I like to say goodbye, but I have to force myself in order to move on. Luckily it’s not goodbye, just see you later. Part of my goals when traveling the world have been to create contacts all over the world. As I start on that goal, I often grow close to and have to say goodbye to many people that I love. I love their generosity, their kind hearts, their laugh and their unique life perspectives.

My Hawaii friends, aka Family

I also have to deal with feelings of homesickness. Like every traveler on the road, the pangs of homesickness haunt you when you least expect it. You miss birthdays, graduation parties, engagement schindigs, holidays, you name it: any occasion where the family gets together to make mirth and merriment, it seems you’re sleeping in a tent 3,000 miles away. These are the sacrifices we make. 

Aloha until next time!

3. Mental- It’s no secret travel changes you. I’m dealing with this right now. I’m trying to hash out how my life goal’s have changed, how everything I’ve been spoon-fed growing up doesn’t exactly jive with my old interests, now that I’ve seen how other people live successful, happy lives alternate to the “American Dream.” I am dealing with how these differences are changing me as a person, how to reconnect with others who still might subscribe to my “old way” (not wrong, by any means, just confusing and different), and trying to explain my “gypsy” lifestyle to my parents. It’s an on-going struggle. I have to be an ambassador for my life’s decisions. If I won’t stand up for me, who will?

On my magical mystery tour

As a good friend told me, luckily you don’t have to figure it all out today, or tomorrow. The questions I’ve been asking myself are some huge, philosophical, transcendental questions about life, questions people don’t often ask themselves until their midlife crises. Thinking and obsessing over my observations and how they will manifest themselves in my future is unhealthy mentally.  I am prepared to think of life as a mysterious journey, and although I can’t possibly perceive my future right now, I think that through travel, my future will be a brighter place. Growing pains.

I will leave you with an Anthony Bourdain quote, one that describes how I’m feeling in this moment. Just because you can’t strike gold every day while blazing the trail:

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
— Anthony Bourdain

Essential Packing List- Australia

I’m in a wonderful and warm (warmer than Chicago, anyway!) Burbank, California. I’ll be in California for a week, exploring L.A., then flying to Sydney next Monday, January 30th.

As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, I’m backpacking through Australia. I hope to stay for a month (maybe longer?). Below is my essential packing list:

Bags:

65 Liter Field and Stream backpack

1 knapsack/purse/laptop carryon

Electronics:

Laptop

Digital Camera

Web cam

Cell phone

Ipod

Power plug for Australian outlets (Note: Oz outlets have a slanted 3-prong system rather than the U.S. 2. Also power outlets in Oz run on 240 V, rather than 120 V in the US. Check that your electronics’ tags say they are meant for RTW voltages. This info can be found on the tag or charger and read 120V~240V. If your electronic only reads 120V, you will also need a voltage converter. Available in most electronic stores)

All related cords/chargers

Clothes:

An array of tank tops and t-shirts

3 long-sleeved shirts (mainly for California. It could get chilly in January!)

1 pair of jeans

5 pairs of shorts (1 jean, 2 Nike workout shorts, 1 pair of capris, 1 pair sleeper shorts)

7 pairs of underwear

4 pairs of socks (2 black, 2 white)

Bandana

3 sun dresses

Bathing suit

2 pairs of sandals (one brown, one black), black TOMS knockoffs, gym shoes, flip-flops, black flats

Small black purse for going out

2 fashion belts, 2 regular jean belts

1 lightweight scarf

1 lightweight jacket (will probably leave behind in L.A. until I get back)

Miscellaneous:

Combination lock

Aluminum water bottle

Sunglasses

Compass

Flashlight

Address Book

Journal

Pens

Slim wallet with essentials (I.D., credit/debit card, health insurance card, Visa gift card- SCORE!)

1 book (will probably need to pick up another along the way)

Copies of EVERYTHING: My I.D., insurance card, passport, birth certificate, social security card, VISA card, flight information, hostel booking, ETA (electronic visa verification email).

Shower and toiletries:

1 bath towel (cute pattern, as to double for beach towel)

1 hand towel

1 washcloth

Travel sized shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, face wash

Toothbrush

Floss

Shaving Cream

Razors

Tampons (in case they don’t carry my brand in Oz)

Q-tips

Excedrin, Advil, Neosporin, Dramamine, Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kit

Sunblock (SPF 50. I’m a fair-skinned redhead!)

Tweezers, manicure scissors, nail file, nail clipper

2 deodorants (in case they don’t carry my brand in Oz)

Jewelry (earrings, bracelets, rings)

Makeup (the basics like powder, concealer, eye shadow and pencil, blush, mascara, chap stick)

Hair products: Straightener, hair ties and bobby pins, headbands)

Things still needed:

Bug Spray

Small bag for site seeing

Hat (mine got lost in transit)