How You Can Turn 5 Days Of Paid Time Off Into A Lifelong Vacation

by Rachael Thatcher

The days of resort vacations and high-speed highlight trips are getting left behind. OK, obviously nobody is going to say "no" to a week of laying on white sand with included cocktails if it's handed to them, but a new kind of travel has taken route amongst Millennials.

In an age where student loans are our demise and travel is our ultimate goal, we've had to innovate. Slow travel is the idea of living in another country for an extended period of time by working or volunteering for the sake of truly delving into the culture, rather than relying on the fast-paced checklist of tourist attractions. Slow travel allows for an entire lifestyle change, rather than five days of PTO. Usually, it allows you to sustain yourself through making money (or at least not spending money as quickly).

You're not just there to "ooh" and "ahh" at the monuments and sights, snap some pictures and move on to the next place in the hopes of filling up your passport as fast as possible. Instead, you're befriending the locals, finding your personal favorite spots and dining at uncovered eateries. The purpose is to form a true connection between yourself and the place, as well as its people.

Slow travel has taken on the forefront of our generation, and has paved a new path for cultural exchange and touring the planet. If your priority is to become a citizen of the world and get to know the way people truly live in other places, you should live in one city and uncover the true beauty and secrets behind it.

It's no surprise that this is the most popular mode of travel among the generation that is -- for the most part -- done with school, but not yet holding the responsibility of having a family. There are virtually no barriers holding us back from spending long periods of time abroad, if that's the path we so choose.

OK, Rach. We get what it is, but how do we do it? Well, I'm glad you asked:

1. Work abroad.

There are tons of different options within this sphere. Au pairing (which I've done) and teaching abroad are amongst the most popular ways to do this. If you're a native English speaker, you're in high demand simply for that reason. Get yourself a college degree and a TEFL certification, and you should be good to go almost anywhere.

If you're qualified, you can also find careers in other fields abroad. The challenging part that turns up is the visa situation. It's possible to attain a work visa, but you are limited in the initial application process when it comes to this.

In an ideal situation, the employer hires you and helps you along the visa process. But often times, this is too much work, and the employer will end up hiring someone he or she doesn't need to go through the trouble with.

This situation obviously varies vastly through different companies, opportunities and positions. The price of getting a job through an agency that will take care of the visa is high, but they can be found. Another way to find jobs abroad is through BUNAC.

The other work abroad option is this: If you can work solely from your laptop, you can take it anywhere you go. You may need to be wary when it comes to taxes and other financials, but if you're able to transport yourself and your job while abroad, it's worth looking into. Believe it or not, there's money in blogging.

2. Volunteer abroad.

Sites like WWOOFHelpx and Worldpackers connect hosts who need help in finding volunteers who want to slow down their travel experience. Typically, they provide housing (and sometimes food) in exchange for work. There are countless different types of hosts who want volunteers to help with farming, running hostels, acting as tour guides and more.

There is also the opportunity to volunteer for a cause through programs like IVHQ and Cross Cultural Solutions. They set you up with everything you need, and you can choose your volunteer program and make a difference in places that need it the most.

Although you're serving as a volunteer, the prices of these programs can add up fast. By going through a program like this, you're going to pay more. But depending on the kind of experience you're looking for, it may be a viable option.

It's important to do your research because there are so many different programs that offer these services. You should make sure you're using one that is just trying to cover your costs and use the money in the right way.

3. Study abroad.

Rather than packing up with students from your current school and going with them to tour a country -- which is why I hesitate to use this as an option -- you can go and actually attend a foreign school, make foreign friends, learn the language and experience the way education works in that country. In some cases, study abroad can be a big vacation and a way to show off on Instagram. If you want a real “slow travel” experience, I would suggest an exchange program and living with a host family, or applying for and enrolling in a master's degree program at a school abroad.

Let's say you want to have the benefits of slow travel, but simply don't have the time. You can participate in your own version of slow travel by spending your week in an Airbnb or by Couchsurfing. Both of these services are very affordable -- Couchsurfing is actually free -- and the host is normally an automatic local connection. This way, you'll be staying in a legit home instead of a hotel, and you'll have the opportunity right off the bat to submerge into the culture. You can also do a short-term volunteer stay somewhere, and still take that VIP backstage pass into the behind-the-scenes culture.

In short, I'm not saying you shouldn't enjoy a true, state-of-the-art “vacation.” I'm certainly not trying to put down sightseeing either.

There is something magical about seeing the glorious monuments and landscapes that you've only seen in textbooks, and you shouldn't have any shame in your tourist game. I'm simply explaining that, if you are looking to escape the usual hot-spot destinations, sustain yourself for an extended period of time and have a unique experience like none other, slow travel is the answer.

This article was originally published on Crumbs On My Map.