When I left on my around the world trip in 2017, I had every intention of getting back to my career as a journalist when the trip was over.
Of course, one of the biggest worries I had—as did my parents—was whether or not I’d be able to land a job after taking a year off to travel.
What would employers think of my trip around the world? Would they scrutinize the gap year on my resume? Would they be OK with the idea of a sabbatical?
The U.S. isn’t as forthcoming to travel as places like Europe or Australia, where I’ve heard that students are encouraged to travel before starting college. Instead, American culture pushes us to dive headfirst into college whether or not we know what the heck we want to study.
Before I left, I had spent three years working for business newspapers in Miami, during which I established a positive relationship with prominent editors and writers in the industry. Still, I had no idea if the industry would welcome me back after a long trip abroad—especially since I was moving to New York, one of the most cut-throat business hubs in the world.
Well, I have good news: Traveling around the world didn’t hurt my ability to land a job in New York! I actually feel that it enhanced my chances.
I landed two interviews within three weeks of applying for reporter positions in New York City. And just two months after returning home from traveling, I started a new job.
I’m here to share how travel makes you a better job candidate—and how to represent travel experience on a resume and cover letter.
How To Make Travel Look Good On Your Resume or Cover Letter
Taking a sabbatical to travel is no easy feat. Only those who have actually traveled for a long period of time can understand the time and effort that goes into planning a trip around the world.
While abroad, you have no one to rely on but yourself. You’re in a foreign country every single day, where you don’t understand the language and probably aren’t too familiar with the destination’s culture or customs.
Yet you have to figure out a trillion things on a daily basis: Where to find food, what restaurants to eat at, the currency exchange rate, where to get cash, how to get to your hotel, whether public transportation is safe to use, what’s the crime rate here, how to call your family back home… the list goes on and on and on.
These daily experiences help you establish a roster of skills that are unique to long-term travel, which in turn, make you a better job candidate.
How To Translate Travel Skills Into Professional Workplace Skills
Here are eight skills I developed while traveling that I can bring to a professional working environment—including the language I use to make travel look good on a resume or cover letter.
- Traveling around the world carrying nothing more than a 40-liter backpack required a heightened level of organization. Not only did I have to learn how and what to pack for a yearlong trip abroad, but I also had to unpack and repack this bag every five or so days. This meant being acutely aware of every single item I packed for this trip and coming up with an efficient organization strategy that eased the frequent packing process.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
- Traveling long-term usually means booking hotels, flights and transportation on the go—and as a budget traveler, I quickly learned to identify red flags in either category. I learned to efficiently sift through dozens of hotel or bus reviews on a weekly basis to ensure I was booking the best fit, a task that has greatly refined my attention to detail.
- Planning for a backpacking trip around the world is a colossal undertaking. I tackled the task as a project with several pillars, including the project budget, a project timeline and a project itinerary. [If applying for a project management role, you could create a cover letter around this theme.]
- One of the most important aspects of planning a trip around the world is coming up with a trip budget. My overall financial plan involved saving enough money to meet that budget, as well as planning an itinerary that would allow me to stick within the budget. Plus, tracking daily expenses was key in remaining within the budget, which I can happily say I was successful in.
PROBLEM-SOLVING IN A HIGH-PRESSURE ENVIRONMENT
- Sometimes I’d find myself in situations that required quick but smart decision-making. For example, I was once stranded at a bus terminal in Quito, Ecuador due to a nationwide transportation strike. The situation was getting more chaotic by the minute, and I had a limited amount of time to get to my next destination. So I had to find a quick solution: I negotiated a private cab and split it with fellow stranded travelers.
- I traveled around the world with my boyfriend, which required teamwork on a daily basis. In order to successfully travel long-term with another person, communication and flexibility is necessary, especially on days where one person is feeling ill or emotionally burned out from all the traveling.
- I started a travel blog and Instagram account while traveling abroad. This meant finding time to blog and edit photos while also juggling the myriad of daily tasks at hand, like planning out each day of activities and booking hotels and transportation.
- Well-traveled employees can bring a unique perspective and fresh ideas to the table. Traveling opens your mind to cultures and customs different from your own, giving you the opportunity to view a single subject from a variety of perspectives. That’s an invaluable skill that you won’t gain in an office.
Still doubting whether or not travel makes you a better job candidate? I hope not!
Tips For Including Travel In Your Resume and Cover Letter
While you probably don’t want to include every single skill I mentioned above in your resume or cover letter, you do want to highlight the ones that matter most for the job.
If you’re applying for a project manager role, for example, you can represent your travel experience in your resume and cover letter by saying your trip helped refine your project management skills, attention to detail and organization.
If you’re applying for a finance position, you can delve into the financial planning process of the trip.
For me as a journalist, I would focus on organization, attention to detail and the ability to operate in a high-pressure environment, three skills I see as beneficial in a fast-paced newsroom.
When I applied for the restaurant reporter position I was hired for in NYC, I chose to focus on the food experiences I had on my trip. Below, you’ll have the chance to view the exact letter I sent in. You’ll notice that I highlighted both my trip and my past work experience as a real estate reporter to show that I have skills gained outside of travel, too.
|PRO TIP: Always, always, always include a cover letter with your job applications, especially if you’re applying for a job after taking time off time to travel. A letter gives you the opportunity to tell your story to the employer—and odds are they’ll be curious to learn more about your incredible trip!|
Another tip to better represent travel on your cover letter is to include an anecdote that demonstrates one of these skills. To explain how traveling long-term has given me the ability to be quick on my feet, I could talk about the time I had to figure out a way to leave Quito, Ecuador during a transportation strike.
My final tip is to write your resume as you would before you left on your trip, without necessarily including the gap year above your most recent position. Instead, include a note in the “Objective” section of the resume saying that you’ve recently returned from a “X-month” trip abroad and are looking for job opportunities in “X” field.
This is when a cover letter comes in handy. In your cover letter you can explain that the gap in your resume is due to a trip you recently took, in which you visited “X” amount of countries in “X” amount of time. This will hopefully pull the reader in and keep them engaged enough to read through the rest of the letter, where you’ll spell out how the trip helped you build the above skills.
Below, see the cover letter I wrote for the restaurant reporter position I was hired for in NYC. Click here to download a PDF version.
If you found this post helpful, you may also enjoy:
- The True Cost of Backpacking Around The World
- How To Plan A Trip Around The World
- The Ultimate Around The World Itinerary