The Great Escape
Written by Amanda Light
Sabbaticals: The perk gig workers use to see the world
The saying goes: invest in experiences, not things. In the United States, there is no federal mandate for employers to provide leave, but more and more workers of the growing gig economy are negotiating for time off instead of money.
Jeff, a dishwasher in the Cleveland area, never left the state of Ohio until he turned 50. For the past decade, he has been able to negotiate time off for the entire month of Feb. from his three jobs to travel across the world. Flying from country to country enables Jeff to spend about $2,000 or less on plane tickets to visit at least three different countries. He travels light, bringing only two suitcases and two carry-ons. His daily budget, excluding airfare, is $100 a day.
At this point, Jeff has his travel routine down to a science. He wants to see as much of the world as possible, so he typically chooses three distinct places on the globe and spends a week in each place. The final week in February is reserved to visit family in Los Angeles before he comes back to Cleveland.
On Jeff’s most recent travels, his journey began in Egypt, before departing to Thailand, and then Alaska before his final stop in California. Although some destinations are chosen by Jeff to see famous historical landmarks, like the Sphinx in Egypt, his other destinations are chosen based on the prizes in “The Price is Right.” “I figure if ‘The Price is Right’ will take you there it’s pretty safe to go,” Jeff said.
For Jeff, the planning process begins with selecting his flights nine months in advance using CheapOair. Jeff said that to get the best prices you have to take a variety of different airlines while undertaking international travel. Once he books the flights, he notices the trip becomes more real and six months before his departure he picks the hotel for his first destination and sequentially picks the hotel for his second destination five months out and so on. To get the full experience of a place Jeff stays in a variety of different accommodations, switching between hostels to nicer hotels. He also recommends breaking up lodging accommodations mid-trip to widen the amount of ground you can see from your starting place in the morning.
To streamline his travel, Jeff likes to book his hotels close to the airport. He recommends Booking.com because there is the option to make the reservation without having to pay until arrival. He values that flexibility. “I wing everything practically” he said. Jeff went on to say that he doesn’t really look at a map until after he books his hotel. He likes to use his lodging as home base, and for the most part restricts his sightseeing to a certain radius of the hotel. He appreciates that Booking.com provides flexibility to change hotels up to three days before his arrival once he’s had more time to learn more about the area in the months leading up to his trip. Even with a month to travel, to make it to three or four major cities, he roughly has a week to travel between and see each place.
Jeff touts the council of the concierge wherever decisions are made to stay and of the local travel agencies. “If you have an opportunity, spend that money and don’t worry about it,” Jeff said. “Pay ‘em and just keep moving on you know? Because you might look at it as a loss, but at the same time you’re getting what you want.” He emphasizes that a good tour guide is the one place you can’t afford to be cheap. He’d sooner relax in his hotel room for the day to save money than skimp on a guide because when you are a guest someplace these people are the ones who will keep you safe and make sure you have a good time. They can also give you the best advice on things like places to eat and shop. They are your support staff and that is vital for a solo traveler.
“I figure if ‘The Price is Right’ will take you there it’s pretty safe to go,” Jeff said.
Through the use of the concierge desk at his hotel Jeff was able to take a river boat cruise along the Nile his first night in Cairo to enjoy music, food and the belly dancers performing. Highlights from his week-long stay in Egypt also include an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riding in the desert, a guided tour through Luxor and the Valley of the Kings and seeing the pyramids and camel riding.
In Thailand, Jeff went on a late river boat cruise, a train ride over the river Kwai,which he followed by an excursion to The Temple of Dawn. He also made time to see The Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho and experience riding an elephant. Jeff enjoyed a river market where his tour guide steered him down a river where the vendors sat on the banks to sell their wares as he passed.
In Alaska, he traveled with The Great Lakes touring company and rode dog sleds through the tundra past Matanuska Glacier Park. While also making some time to see the new Harrison Ford movie The Call of The Wild which takes place in the Alaskan Yukon. The touring company provided all of the gear and snow attire Jeff needed, enabling him to live out of two suitcases for an entire month.
To end his trip, Jeff went to California to visit his family. Following tradition for the past three years, he secured tickets to the morning and afternoon filming of The Price is Right. He’s yet to be selected but holds out hope for his chance next year.