Mel Schaffer: Working on Animated Movies Full-Time, Traveling Part-Time

Melanie Schaffer is a part-time travellers and a full-time 9-5’er working as a production manager for a 3D animation studio. In her spare time (as if she has any), she runs a travel blog called BRB Travel Blog. Her blog was created for wannabe nomads, and for those that want to explore the world but still maintain their full-time jobs and “real-life” responsibilities. Since Melanie is limited to her vacation days, she likes to show people how to do it, even when limited.

Tell me a bit about what you do for a living.

I’m a production manager at a 3D animation studio. I’m currently working on an animated TV-show for NBCUniversal/Dreamworks. In the past, I have worked in movies like Ballerina (Leap! in the U.S.). My day-to-day consists on managing 50+ artists and making sure we deliver the project on time as well as on budget. Client communication is also a key task in my daily activities. My favourite part of working in an animation studio is to be beside very talented artists and to see all the beautiful things they draw, animate & light. I love to see the whole process coming to life on a day-to-day basis and see how we can go from an idea on paper to character moving in 3D.

Do you have a certain amount of vacation days per year with your job?

Usually, in Canada, we have two weeks of paid time off per year. However, I have successfully negotiated one additional week. I really enjoy paid time off to travel! It feels like all your hard work you have put on your job gets compensated in these weeks of excitement and adventure.

Also, I manage to do some overtime hours here and there during the year. These overtime hours get banked in exchange for days off. Most of the time, I am using these hours for longer weekends or to add them towards a longer vacation.

How often do you try and travel within a year?

I do a mix of long weekends and weeks of vacations. Long-ish vacations are great because you can travel to the other side of the globe. For example, without my three weeks of vacations, I wouldn’t have been able to go to Greece neither to Bulgaria. I also can get creative with three or four day-weekends. I sometimes tend to leave early on Fridays during a statutory holiday so we can travel for four days in a row. For this year Canadian Thanksgiving, we went to one of Canada’s wine country, Niagara-on-the-Lake which is seven hours away from Montreal, by car. In order to enjoy the break at its fullest, I took that specific Friday afternoon off and I combined it with a Monday off as well (which was the statutory holiday). Therefore, I had plenty of time to enjoy the weekend.

Do you ever feel limited to how often you can travel because of your job?

Yes and no. I think that I am travelling way more often that most of my colleagues. Would I like to travel more? Yes! However, travelling is not just a time restriction: it is also a budgetary constraint. Travelling from Quebec can get very expensive. I think that if I was living in Europe, where you can fly for $20, I would travel even more often!

Also, I kind of enjoying being home and binge-watching Netflix or going out with friends. Having a routine also works for me! Travelling requires a lot of energy. I don’t think I would be able to travel every weekend and highly perform at work.

Do you find it hard to unplug from work while traveling?

Luckily, we don’t have many life and death situations at work. I leave everything accessible to my team before I go on vacations. Thus, my colleagues do not need to call me during my time off. I also tend to always pick the right time to leave on vacation so I won’t be bothered.

Why is it important to you to have a career but also incorporate travel into your life?

I don’t believe that you need to jeopardize one or the other. I do love my job and I believe that having a career that you like can be very gratifying. As for the rest, travelling is almost like a reward you have earned by doing all of this hard work. I believe that I would find traveling a little less special if I didn’t have to work hard to travel.

What inspired you to start a travel blog?

Traveling has always been one of my passions. I like to try all kinds of food and learn about different cultures. Since I am travelling a lot, people have always asked me about travel tips and recommendations. Therefore, travel blogging was an easy choice. In the past, I’ve found myself wondering “is there more to see in that city than what I have just seen?”, “I’ve tried two crappy restaurants in this destination, I’m sure there must be a good one nearby, but which one is it?” In my blog, I am thriving to answers those questions for future travellers who might find themselves in similar situations. As for my new content, I will start adding more tips on how to travel and keep your day-to-day job since many people ask me those questions too.

If you had a piece of advice for someone that is trying to maintain a career & also see the world what would it be?

Use your vacation days: don’t be afraid to use them! My second suggestion would be to negotiate, with your boss, an extra day or week of vacation.

You can follow Melanie on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Pinterest, or read her blog here

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