There are a lot of reasons that people don't join a work and travel program, but they all come down to this: fear.
If you’re a location independent worker, interested in travel, or have even the weakest of pulses on the internet over the past year, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard about work and travel programs. You’ve read the reviews of these organized experiences for professionals who are able to work remotely, scrolled through their stories of life-changing moments with their community, and immersed yourself in their images of far-off cities around the world.
After devouring so much content about how transformative work and travel programs are, you may be asking yourself, “Hold up, is this real?” There’s no way that everyone loves work and travel programs. There have to be some negatives to this experience… or at least that’s what you’re telling yourself to tamper down your inner FOMO.
The truth is this: there are some downsides to these life-changing experiences that people don’t really talk about.
They just might not be what you think they are.
Ugh, meeting new people really is such hard work. Who wants to grow their circle to include people from dozens of countries, when it’s so much easier to remain closely connected to the same group of people for your entire life? Why would you want to learn from diverse perspectives and make memories with people who have the power to change your life? If deep connections and experiencing new things with people from around the world just don’t do it for you, you might as well stay home.
Before, when people asked you where you’d been, you’d be able to rattle off a few states or countries and tell a memorable story or two. After going on a work and travel program, you’ll start these conversations with a question: “How much time do you have?” How will you ever keep your travels straight when you’re moving to a new destination each month? Did that mountain climbing story take place in South Africa, or was it Colombia? Did you have an epiphany in a temple in Malaysia or were you in Japan when your inner fire flickered to life? You just can’t remember! And don’t even get us started on how annoying it is to fill up an entire passport with stamps...
What will you do with all of your extra free time now that you aren’t spending it on a bus or train or by yourself in bumper to bumper traffic? Trading in that long commute in a moving metal car will have a serious impact on your life. Are you really expected to walk to the workspace along tree lined paths in Buenos Aires or up the hills of Lisbon? Now that you think about it, you can’t remember the last time that you exercised that much...
Sure, travel is in your long term plan, but you just can’t afford it right now. Your paycheck can’t cover your current lifestyle, how would you ever be able to make a remote work and travel program work? No, it’s too much of a hassle to reallocate your budget. Although, on a work and travel program, you wouldn’t be on the hook for your current rent, utilities, or car payment anymore… That might actually make the price of the program comparable to living in a major city - but with a lot better views.
Wait, what?! You won’t get to work in your corporate office anymore? Well, that really seals the deal. Why would you ever give up your cubicle, those fluorescent lights, and the stale cake that’s left over from someone’s birthday earlier in the week? Why would you willingly submit yourself to sundrenched, inspiring coworking spaces equipped with consistent WiFi and private call booths if you could just stay where you are right now?
Participants of work and travel programs find that they are often more productive and creative while on the road than they were back home, which can lead to improved performance, raises, or even a promotion. All that time you’ve spent complaining about your job? You won’t get to do that anymore. Who will you even be if you’re not calling your friends every week to lament about the latest drama in the office?
You already have one or two hobbies, why would you want more? With so many interesting, dynamic minds on your program, it’s inevitable that you’ll be exposed to something new - like vintage comics or cooking Southeast Asian cuisine - and might even want to dive deeper into the topic. You might even fall in love with it! Who has the time to learn something new every day??
It’s called a comfort zone for a reason: it’s very, very comfortable in there. It’s like waking up in the morning in a bed that’s the perfect temperature - why would you ever want to leave? The only thing that can happen if you leave your bubble is that you’re exposed to new ideas and new opportunities that would not have presented themselves otherwise. Doesn’t sound too enticing, does it?
After years of telling yourself that it isn’t the right time to travel the world, to start working remotely, or to make a major life change, you would have to do a complete 180 and accept that maybe you’re wrong. Maybe there really is no “right” time, so the right time to do anything is now. Who likes admitting that they’ve been living their life based on the wrong idea this whole time? Might as well keep doing what you’re doing to avoid that realization.
If you are happy (or at least, you know, okay) with the person that you are right now, why would you want to put in the effort to make a change? Your life’s fine as is, and you just don’t see how traveling the world while working remotely could make it better. Except that you’d finally get out of the routine that’s been weighing you down… but never mind that.
You can’t go on a work and travel program because you’d miss your partner. Or your dog. Or your best friend’s birthday. You can’t leave your life behind because you’d miss local food. Or your gym membership would go to waste. Or because your parents would worry too much.
If you went on a program, you might have to look at yourself in the mirror and have a moment of honest truth-telling: those aren’t the things that are holding you back from packing up your home and hitting the road. You’re afraid. You’re afraid of living a life that is different than the one that you’ve gotten used to. You’re afraid of meeting new people and, perhaps, meeting your true self for the first time.
You’re not blocked by external forces. You are the only thing that’s holding you back from living a life that you’re meant to live.
But who wants to hear all that? 😉