Do you love your work but do you also love to travel for longer periods of time? Is it possible to combine the two? What about having to quit your job – will you find another one on your return? Joost and Marijke are among the overlanders who have found a way to perfectly combine their careers with months-long overland journeys.
The easiest is (or may seem) to be your own boss although that doesn’t mean you can just quit any day, go on a journey and expect your clients to be applauding you. But it is possible, Joost shows in the interview below.
Many who do work for a boss don’t have a hard time getting a sabbatical from the employer, guaranteeing them to have their job waiting for them on their return, which is Marijke’s story.
Marijke and Joost are happy with four months of travel, others get six months or even up to a year. Sometimes the sabbatical is (partly) paid, e.g. by using the days-off you have saved up over a period of time. Others get unpaid leave but with a job guarantee.
I am wondering if this is particular of the Netherlands or if this is common in other countries as well? (let me know in the comment section below!)
We met Marijke and Joost in Bishkek. The capital of Kyrgyzstan is a pleasant city to stay for a longer period of time (here are tips on what to do and where to relax). Some do because they are are in a need of a break from their travels while we did a Land Cruiser overhaul there.
However, staying in an Airbnb does close you off from kindred spirits that you otherwise meet on the road or in guesthouses.
I sent out messages on Social Media that we’d love to meet other overlanders and we received a stream of visitors throughout the summer. One evening we had a full house with Els and Merijn on their motorcycle trip, Michel and Renee on their big overland trip, as well as Kiki and Sebastiaan who had just bought a Lada to drive to the Netherlands with (read their interview here), and Marijke and Joost.
We had been in contact with Marijke and Joost through Social Media about their upcoming journey to Central Asia for a year or so, and so it was great to share an evening over a meal and the wine they brought as a gift. Both have ambitious careers. And they love it. At the same time, they love to travel. Long-distance, long-term, but not forever.
It was a joy to be listening to the passion with which Marijke and Joost enjoy life. Whether that’s in their careers, going for a luxurious vacation in Spain during winter to play golf, or roughing it in a Hillux during a four-month overland journey to Central Asia and back.
I know that many are wondering how to combine the two: a career and long-term (overland) travel. Please meet Marijke & Joost and listen to what they have to say about what they do and how they manage to get the best of both worlds.
Please tell us a little bit about yourselves, your work and journeys
Joost is working as an independent interim program manager for large IT-projects. Marijke is a strategist with the business intelligence team at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce.
Our motto is: Work hard, play hard.
We love to work and enjoy intellectual challenges but enjoy traveling as well.
After a taste of offroad driving in a Landrover during a Botswana safari holiday in 2006 and in a Hilux during our backpack trip in Chile in 2007, we bought a Landcruiser HZJ75 in 2009 and started traveling 4×4.
Our first big trip was in 2011, to South America for 6 months.
We loved the Land Cruiser but decided to buy a car that better suited our wishes: a Toyota Hilux with an Exkab camper unit. A big bed, better seating inside for bad weather, and a detachable unit so we could use the pickup on its own.
With this setup we had a great trip 2016 for 4 months through Iran, Georgia, and Armenia. And we just finished another wonderful trip through Russia and the Stans for again 4 months.
Yes, traveling has become addictive! And we have so many places we still want to go to.
How do you find a balance between work and long-term travel?
We try to make a big trip every three years now, for four months. For us that seems to be the right balance between work and travel. It gives enough time to prepare and anticipate the next trip.
During four months you can see a lot and not become too detached from work and social networks. Every time it is amazing to experience how quickly we are back into traveling, but also back into work.
Marijke, how did you get 4 months off with a job guarantee? Were there any conditions in that agreement? Tips to share?
Joost decided to become independent for the sake of traveling. In his line of work it appeared to be too difficult to take a long time off. Now, he takes on projects for about 1 ½ – 2 years and we anticipate a ‘natural’ moment to leave when a project finishes.
Tips to potential travelers: Spread the word, talk about your ambitions a lot so there are no surprises for your clients and colleagues. Explain that traveling is part of your life, it’s not a holiday.
Marijke starts discussing a sabbatical at least two years in advance. Make sure you secure a written agreement. Keep in mind that your superiors need time to get used to the idea that you will be absent for some time. Work hard in the meantime, save your days off, book results, and think with them to take measures for your absence.
There is no guarantee, however, that they will grant a leave this long every time, although in many sectors taking a sabbatical becomes more customary. When you have no children you can always try to use the maternity-leave argument 😉
Let’s talk about your trip. How was your vehicle holding up? Would you have prepared it differently with the knowledge you have now?
In the Hilux setup we used many lessons learned from our previous car (Landcruiser HZJ75) and several offroad trips. The Hilux was almost completely prepared by 4x4Valkenburg. Every time we experience problems or are in doubt about what to do, we can contact them.
That said, traveling lots of kilometers, sometimes over very rough roads, no car is left undamaged. Even though we take care not to take unnecessary stuff, the car is heavy and gets a lot to endure. That’s part of the game.
Fortunately, all our garage visits were about preventive maintenance. The Hilux is a beast, it never let us down.
What planning did you do? And, in retrospect, were the 4 months a good time frame?
Planning? Nooo, that’s what traveling is all about. We made only a very rough schedule this time: one month to Samarkand, two months in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and one month to get back home.
We try to travel slow although that’s quite a challenge. We are usually ahead of schedule, ha, ha. We traveled 23.000 kilometers and tried to interrupt the long distances with interesting stops that we got from travel blogs and guidebooks. That’s not always a big success as guidebooks usually describe cities only.
The decision to leave the end of April was a good one. We were glad to be back by the end of August because after that Russia becomes rainy and cold. As remarked earlier, four months is a good timeframe for us.
Click on the links to prepare your overland journey:
- The forum on Horizons Unlimited has been a longstanding source of information especially for motorcycle tourers but has a growing wealth for four-wheeled travelers as well.
- WikiOverland, help expand the special Wiki Overland pages.
- iOverlander is the place where overlanders share GPS waypoints on many things, among which camping spots.
- 4ever2wherever is a new site where overlanders contribute with practical information.
- Overlanding Facebook groups among which Overland to Asia.
What is the best thing you brought on the trip? And what should you have left at home?
For Joost the most important thing to leave at home is the ‘buzz’. No obligations, just do what you feel like doing for four months: enjoying incredible nature and people.
For Marijke it is very relaxing to leave the urge to plan at home. Just let the experiences come your way. Also, learning basic Russian for a year contributed a lot to this trip. Preparing for a trip is half the fun!
We both love the simplicity of traveling. Very little stuff to worry about. And a very comfortable car to live in and drive offroad at the same time.
What was your favorite country, and why?
This trip Tadzjikistan was definitely our favorite country. Amazing landscapes, extraordinary nature, friendly people and enough space to wild camp. Roads are rough on the car, but hey, that’s what we come for.
Surprisingly, we met a lot of travelers. So it’s not that remote and we hardly experienced any hardships in terms of scarcity of food, fuel, and water.
Check out the fascinating stories of other overlanders:
What was the biggest challenge you faced on this journey?
To slow down! We have a hard time traveling slow.
Secondly, we find it hard to exercise regularly. Distances are huge and so you are tempted to keep on driving. For Joost that often results in backaches.
Lastly, we feel there is a limitation on how much sightseeing we can do. After so many beautiful landscapes and interesting cities, we feel saturated and just drive past what may be interesting sites.
How does it feel to be back? Travel blues?
Planning the next trip is our best remedy.
Besides, we love to work too and be with our family and friends again, have a social life. Frankly, we enjoy alternating working and traveling, so the ‘blues’ never really kick in!
Tips to share on combining a career with long-term trips?
Just do it! Don’t wait for whatever reason. Take the first step.
That’s probably easier said than done for most people though. We are enormously privileged to be able to travel and work like this.
Where can people read your travel stories?
On https://joostenmarijkeopreis.nl you can read Marijke’s travelblog.
What’s Your Story?
Do you combine working with long-term overland trips? Or would you like to do so? What are your experiences/expectations? We’d love to hear about them.
Please share in the comment section below!
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