I like to think of travel as a close friend. Someone I look forward to spending time with…and can’t wait to see again soon! Many have asked me how I’m able to travel the world like I do. So, I thought I’d share my journey. If you want to travel the world…you can do it! You don’t have to have a certain background. Just a belief in yourself, determination, faith and a sense of adventure.
Most of the time, I’m asked “What do you do?” It’s an innocent inquiry as to how I am able to travel to so many places. I’m always so tempted to answer by saying “I’m an adventurer, explorer & globetrotting travelista!” But, while I consider that WHO I AM, it’s not the job title on my business cards…yet 🙂
So, what do I do? I am responsible for compliance for a global company. I know that seems really general but it isn’t really important as to WHAT I do…but more importantly, HOW I was able to transition from a job with absolutely no travel into finding one that allows me to explore the world.
I started out working in the legal department of a credit reporting agency. I did absolutely NO TRAVEL. Well, I did get to drive 23 miles from Atlanta to Alpharetta. Woohoo! Four years into this job, my mother suggested we do a family trip somewhere overseas. We decided on Italy, booked the trip and headed off. For those of you who have read my Roaming Thru Rome post, you know that is how this blog started. That is when I caught the travel bug. I had such a phenomenal time. While the post focuses on a lot of the hilarity that ensued, it wasn’t until my brother and I were walking around the Ponte Vecchio in Florence that I stopped and said, “I need a job that will pay for me to see the world.” I realized then that I had been missing out on so much.
After my trip, a friend suggested I read The Secret. This book really helped me to shift from viewing my current circumstances in a negative light to clearly identifying what I wanted to do next and speaking that into being. I can be Debbie Downtrodden, Negative Nancy & Pissed Off Patty all rolled into one sometimes. I figured it was time for a change 🙂 So, I created a vision board with photos of international cities I wanted to visit and words that described my wish to find a job with overseas travel.
My desire to see the world was born in Florence. That was July 2007. In October 2007, I received a call from a recruiter asking me if I’d be interested in a compliance audit position. I had absolutely no audit experience. However, the company was looking for someone with a law degree to focus on certain legal-related audits and felt that I could easily pick up the audit piece. To be honest, I wasn’t all that interested. Then, the hiring manager called me and told me he had just gotten back from a month-long trip overseas to Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, France, Ireland, etc. At this point, all I heard was “international travel.” I was sold! A few weeks later, I was offered a job with my current company.
It didn’t start out with the international destinations that I dreamed of. Here I thought I’d be flying off to the French Riviera. When, in fact, during the first 2 years, my only “international” trips were to Mexico City and Toronto. Mostly, I had to travel to places like Louisville, Mississippi since my boss called dibs on all the interesting foreign destinations. I was not feeling that.
As planning was underway for the 2010 calendar, a few things happened. First, my boss was promoted out of our group and into another business. Second, I spoke up and became aggressive about being assigned international audits. Everything then fell into place. I spent 70% of my time in 2010 in the UK and Europe.
At that point, I realized that I needed to figure out how to become a specialist in compliance areas that would require international travel. It takes time but those baby steps help build the foundation to get you where you want to go.
But the best laid plans sometimes have unforeseen pitfalls. My company sold its European business in 2012 and I was then promoted into a compliance position within a business. While the business segment had a sub-business that had international offices, I was assigned to the domestic sub-business. Which meant ZERO international travel. I was devastated. I didn’t want to drive around the southeast to mills! But, I dusted myself off and put together a new plan.
That meant talking with sister companies that had international offices as well as having a frank conversation with my new boss. Sometimes, you just have to put it out there and tell them what you want. I was clear that I wanted to focus solely on international-related matters. Not just because I love travel, but because I’m intrigued by international business. The nuances of laws and regulations between different countries keeps me on my toes. Turns out, my new boss didn’t care for international travel so I was blessed to be able to shift into a new position where I am now responsible for compliance for our international business.
So, how do you get to travel internationally for business? Here’s a few suggestions:
- Work for a global company. This will allow you the opportunity to gain access to the international offices. Think about joining a capability group (i.e. compliance, IT, law, etc.) that will allow you to work across the organization with multiple business lines.
- Work for a consulting firm. This could be a law firm, forensic accounting…whatever firm offers services to companies. Companies hire consulting firms to conduct investigations or independent audits in various areas (i.e. anti-corruption, data privacy, antitrust, anti-bribery, anti-money laundering, etc.).
- Research job qualifications on LinkedIn. This will help you to figure out what skills are most often listed for positions that have international travel.
- Leverage your transferable skills. This will allow you to change careers. Maybe you are in IT and know a lot about data privacy due to the various restrictions that need to be in place when setting up email accounts for international employees or transferring data to the U.S. from other countries? Look to join a company in their Privacy group.
- Become an Agent. If you have a background in sales, this would work for you. Typically, Agents sell goods on behalf of a company. Find a global firm and talk the hiring manager into letting you handle a foreign market.
- Be fluent in another language. You will see that most international positions prefer to hire someone with language proficiency in the countries they will be interacting with. Knowing another language gives you a competitive edge! Companies will see that they don’t need to pay for an interpreter to go with employees or consultants to foreign countries.
These are just a few suggestions to get you started. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to surround yourself with positive people who can encourage you when you start to doubt if it will ever happen. Think optimistically and know that you will find a way to travel the world. Create a vision board; tape Post-It notes with motivational quotes next to your computer screen; and start living like the job is already yours!
If you have more advice to add to the list, I’d love to hear it! Thanks for reading and good luck!