Part-Time Travel Warrior: Erin of Alpaca My Bags

It’s been awhile since I’ve interviewed a bomb ass traveler that’s balancing a career on top of their travels. So I’m going to start by saying that if you are interested in being featured in this series, please reach out!

Anyway, let me introduce you to Erin. Erin and I met through our podcasts as she was starting her podcast, Alpaca My Bags, around the same time I was starting mine, Somebody Date Us. We later met at a podcasting conference, and since then, our worlds keep colliding and you can catch my episode on Alpaca My Bags on Apple and Spotify (or wherever else you listen to podcasts) now.

Erin is a travel addict like myself, she’s a proud cat mom, lover of plants, and a writer. She is based in Toronto, where she works full-time. In her free time, she puts a lot of energy towards her creative outlets like her blog, Pina Travels, and her podcast. She’s also a co-editor of a Toronto-based independent magazine called Pressed.

I had a chance to chat with Erin on how she balances it all on top of traveling, and here’s what she had to say…

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

I work on the marketing team of an e-commerce solutions company. That’s my full-time gig, but on the side I do freelance copywriting and strategization for travel companies and Toronto-based agencies. I also occasionally serve in a hipster Toronto bar for some extra cash. Work hard, play hard they (and I) always say.

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

I do. I consider myself incredibly lucky though – I have 5 weeks off a year which is significantly more than the average Canadian (especially this early in their career). The company I work for puts a lot of effort into work-life balance and company culture, and this is why they provide so much PTO to their employees.

P.S. catch me on Erin’s podcast, Alpaca My Bags now! Find the first part of the episode here, and the second part here.

How often do you try and travel within a year?

Since working in a career oriented position, I usually travel internationally twice a year. I’ll mix in a couple short trips around Canada and the USA in between. Last year, for example, I made it to Jordan, France, Italy, Nevada, and British Columbia.

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

In my current role I don’t, but this is because I have lucked out with a lot of PTO. When I had only two weeks off a year, I felt incredibly limited. It was tough for me to balance using my time off between visiting family, relaxing, and traveling.

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

No, I don’t. I am strict with myself about checking work emails while traveling. I usually will keep up work on my creative projects while away, but because I am so passionate about them it doesn’t bother me to do so.

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

I actually was always on the nonchalant side of “having a career.” My career became more important to me as I became older and realized that some stability in life is nice. Travel has been a life-long passion of mine, and so despite hopping on the career train, I have made concerted effort to continue exploring the world despite time restrictions. Nine month long backpacking trips and working abroad in hostels are unfortunately a thing of the past now, but I’ve come to deeply appreciate the fact that I am privileged enough to be able to travel at all.

What inspired you to start a travel blog?

I have a lot to say when it comes to travel and I had dabbled in writing throughout my life. My educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, followed by a Master of Arts. Both degrees honed my writing skills and I was already publishing critical essays here and there. I had always thought about starting a travel blog casually, but the real inspiration came from my friends and family. Knowing that there’s already folks who would like to read your travel writing is a great motivator.

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

Always know what your priorities are. Travel is mine, and because of this I have actively sought jobs that support this priority. When I am negotiating for a role, I emphasize how important PTO is to me. My second bit of advice would be to own the limitations that you have. If you’re limited to time off, plan trips around statutory holidays to take advantage of those extra days off. If finances are your limitation, opt for more affordable destinations: travel within your own country (or state/province!), or to nearby countries. For example, I find Central America is the perfect destination for Canadians who work full time. It isn’t absurdly expensive to fly south and because of proximity you do not have to deal with time change, making your return to work much easier.

You can follow Erin on Instagram and Twitter at @PinaTravels, you can also follow her podcast in the same places at @AlpacaMyBagsPod.

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