Why ex-travellers are not always the best employees…

feetSpeaking from personal experience, it can be hard coming back from an extensive period of travelling and trying to get a job. Travellers might be cultured, open-minded, used to acting on initiative and great in a blackout thanks to months of sitting round campfires playing guitar, but they’re also a free spirited bunch unused to deadlines and rules.

They will never be on time

Time had no meaning on their meaningful journey and an ex-traveller has been well-taught that the sun, moon, planets and the whims of dodgy visa agents control all things. They know full well that in the end, we will all simply burst into stardust and they therefore see nothing wrong with a three-hour lunch break if it’s sunny. An ex-traveller knows that when you’re sitting at a desk you can’t lie on your back and dip your toes into the sky. And that’s more important than a conference call, isn’t it?

They can’t commit

An ex-traveller may well have the best of intentions in the interview and fully mean it when they say they want to work for you, but in the back of their mind they are still toying with the idea of heading into the Congo for a month with that bloke they met on the yacht, or building a wagon for Burning Man, or taking that placement on the orangutans-with-Alzheimer’s retreat in Borneo. The truth is, like everything else in their life, your job is just a whim; a fleeting thought that brings them joy, but will very soon come to pass.

You will always be second best

No matter how great your job is or how suitable you think your ex-traveller is for it, your job will never be their life’s focus. Sure, they’ll play along for a while but they will never really view their impressive global rolodex of contacts as anything more than a series of sofas they could sleep on, should they visit someplace new. Likewise, an ex-traveller will do anything for the likeminded people they meet on their spiritual paths so don’t be surprised if they “can’t come in today because Galapagos Gillian/Buenos Aieres Bob is in town with an iguana flu/empanada craving dilemma.”

They’ll eat weird things at their desk

An ex-traveller sees nothing strange about dining on a chopped tomato and a sardine, topped with that weird green powdered superfood they picked up from a drug lord turned good on a Colombian market stall. They’re happy sprinkling bee pollen on their organic granola, or even eating cereal with chopsticks. They will do this at their desk and think nothing of it because when you live in hostels and dine on cross-country buses for an extensive period, you make do with you’ve got, you feast on the knowledge of fellow nomads and that’s just the way it is.

They’ll talk about things you don’t know

An ex-traveller might be sitting in the same meeting as you, but chances are they’re only half there. While you command an opinion on a client’s request, or on which new brand of stationary to order from the Staples catalogue, they will seize the opportunity to inform you of their days spent searching for tigers in Nepal, or starving themselves willingly deep in the Amazon on the ayahuasca camp when they communicated only in a new form of hieroglyphics and couldn’t go to bed without a moon dance. You know, the things that actually matter?

They’ll smile when you’re serious

Bad weather, the price of double glazing or the latest eviction from Celebrity Big Brother barely register in an ex-traveller’ existence. They managed without all that, shivered in a hammock for a month, battled with mosquitoes the size of bees, evicted themselves from an ashram after the space invaders got too touchy-feely and quite frankly, they feel much better for it. An ex-traveller will rain on the parade of a colleague’s trivial water cooler talk and probably not even know they’re doing it. Asshole, or living in sweet oblivion? Both could get annoying.

If you hire an ex-traveller, watch out. But be kind, be gentle, help them with their transition and who knows, you could be the next big adventure they’ve been looking for. Maybe…


Check out my travel memoirs here (HarperCollins Australia)