Caitlin Nguyen currently calls New York City home. She is a full-time actuary and lives in the Big Apple with her husband, Fausto. Although it’s been important for Caitlin to grow her career, it’s also been important to her to make use of her vacation days, weekends, etc. to see as much of the world as she can. I caught up with Caitlin to find out how this actuary, traveler and blogger of lifeafter9-5.com to see how she finds a balance for all her passions in life.
Tell me a bit about what you do for a living.
My husband and I are both health actuaries. Not a lot of people know what an actuary is, but it’s basically a person who calculates and manages risk and uncertainty using mathematics, statistics, and financial theory. It’s definitely an exciting time to be in this field with all the changes in health care reform going on.
Do you have a certain amount of vacation days a year at your job?
I get 24 vacation days each year. It’s probably a lot more than most people get, but sometimes it still feels like it’s not enough. That’s why I always try to combine my vacation with the national holidays to maximize my time off.
How often do you try and travel within a year?
It depends on the year and how many travel deals we find online. We never hesitate to book a trip when we find something good. One year, we booked a long weekend trip to Tokyo over Thanksgiving! Mostly we plan about three to four trips a year, usually a few short week-long trips over Memorial Day or Labour Day and a longer trip towards the end of the year. Last year we spent 2.5 weeks in a camper van traveling across New Zealand, by far the most memorable trip to date.
Do you ever feel limited to how often you can travel because of your job?
Definitely, I never feel like I have enough time at each place. Sometimes I want to go on a six month trip around the world, but obviously that’s not going to be possible with a full-time job. But I also feel lucky that I have a job that allows me to travel and see so many beautiful places around the world. Having a job means more financial freedom to do what I want to do outside of work. It’s always a balance between time and money and my husband and I always make it a point to make sure that we fit travel into our lifestyle.
Do you find it hard to unplug from work when traveling?
I always try to keep my work separate from my life, but sometimes it’s difficult to make that differentiation, especially when there are some urgent issues that come up. I remember the time when I was away at a small lake-side cottage in Ireland when I had to call into work. My husband on the other hand has a really hard time unplugging from his work.
Why is it important to you to have a career but also incorporate travel into your life (instead of one over the other)?
Travel is an outlet for me. Seeing the beauty of the world and experiencing different cultures allow me to center myself and re-energize me to work harder. As I mentioned earlier, having a job gives me more financial freedom to pursue my other dreams. It allows me to do activities that are more expensive like skydiving. But I’d be lying if I said I never thought about traveling full-time. The grass is always greener on the other side, and ultimately I like having a home base and a career.
What inspired you to start a travel blog?
I started my blog lifeafter9-5.com as a way for me to document my travel adventures and to share the stories and pictures of my trips with friends and family. It evolved into a platform to inspire people with a full time job to get out and explore the world, to show that it’s possible to do both. My blog focuses on exploring local places as well as exotic locales with useful tips and insights to help people plan their own dream trips.
If you had a piece of advice for someone that is trying to maintain a career, and also see the world, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to take time off. I read somewhere that a lot of Americans don’t take their vacation time. I think it’s the corporate culture that make us feel guilty when we take time off. But we’ve earned the time off and it helps us recharge. Be on the look out for cheap flight deals and be open to travel opportunities that come along, don’t just wait around for the perfect opportunity. For example, we didn’t have any plans to go to Rio, but when a cheap deal came along, we jumped on it and made it work.