World travel is far less valued in the United States compared to most other developed nations. We get fewer vacation days and have more financial obligations post-college (hello, student loans) so taking the time to do some serious traveling is not usually on our radar. Furthermore, it’s not generally respected by potential employers, who may perceive it as a sign of instability or lack of commitment.
As it turns out, these concerns are not only unwarranted, but they also cause companies to overlook some of the most amazing individuals out there who could really bring something unique to the team! After all, backpacking requires people to develop some skills that are essential to the workplace. So whether you’re an employer who wants to develop a more well-rounded workforce or an applicant who wants to play up your assets, here are 6 skillsets that backpackers hone on the road, making them excellent employees.
Although traveling often consists of last-minute decisions and spontaneity, there is still a lot of planning and research involved. Backpackers have extraordinary attention to detail because we analyze and compare the value of everything in our trip. This could mean anything from evaluating the cost to value ratio of several hostels or which attractions are worth our limited time in a given city.
Travelers are able to handle whatever is thrown at us. Delayed flights, undesirable hostel environments, and confusing metro systems are just a few of the unexpected situations we need to adapt to. We need to remain flexible because so much can change at a moment’s notice. This makes us great at working under pressure and dealing with last-minute setbacks.
3. Budget Management
Backpackers are notoriously skilled when it comes to budgeting. It requires talent to visit 10 countries in 4 months on $5k. In addition to our excellent planning skills, we are also great with negotiation. In many third world countries, prices aren’t fixed in the local markets. Personally, I’ve learned to love the art of bargaining and it has saved me a lot of money. We also occasionally barter our services, such as offering some copywriting help in exchange for accommodation.
Backpacking often requires living in close quarters, whether we’re staying in hostel dorm rooms or joining group tours. While this may drive some people crazy, frequent travelers learn to make the most of it and actually thrive in group environments. This leads to strong emotional intelligence, cultural awareness, and overall social networking skills.
On the other hand, we are also very independent and can work well with little guidance. There are plenty of situations where we have to figure everything out on our own, especially when language barriers come into play. My most difficult moment abroad was attempting to navigate the Vietnam public bus system when I first arrived in Ho Chi Minh. I had different people telling me different things until I finally just took a leap of faith and jumped on the closest bus. Luckily, I eventually got to where I needed to be. Overcoming these challenges takes our confidence to a whole new level. This means we’re ready to take on anything and step out of our comfort zones.
6. Large Worldwide Social Network
While this is not a skill or personality trait, it is definitely an asset. Frequent travelers have a larger network than you could possibly imagine. In addition to meeting the locals in our destinations, we also meet fellow tourists from every corner of the world. And we stay in touch. I have places I can crash all over the world and friends in all industries.