How This Travel Influencer Gave New Meaning to ‘PTO’

Posted February 28, 2023 by in Career

When people hear the acronym “PTO,” their first thought is likely “Paid Time Off.” While the promise of getting a day to relax from the duties of work is certainly enticing, there is another meaning of PTO that is even more exciting: paid travel opportunities.

What are paid travel opportunities?

“Paid travel opportunities” is a term coined by content creator and Packs Light founder Gabby Beckford to describe the opportunities that exist to allow people to travel the world at little-to-no cost. These opportunities are available in countries around the world, allowing travelers of all ages, origins, nationalities, and walks of life to explore the world on their own terms.

Many people dream of traveling the world but think it is out of reach for them because they can’t afford it. “There is a common misconception that international travel is exuberantly costly and only for the upper classes,” says Beckford. “However, if travelers are smart about their spending and take advantage of these paid travel opportunities, there are very few locations around the world that you can’t go on a budget.”

Travelers can take advantage of various PTO, including funded conferences, internships, fellowships, grants, study abroad scholarships, and remote jobs. “Some of these opportunities are designed for young people or students, while others are more for established professionals,” Beckford explains. “Regardless of what point a traveler is in their life, there are opportunities if they look hard enough.”

Many people think of travel as a leisurely activity. And while it is indeed fun, it is also a way to be exposed to new cultures and ways of life. Beckford suggests new travelers begin by going to more popular, well-known destinations like Iceland, Canada, or Puerto Rico before going to a place around the world that can provide a more unique, enriching experience.

Beckford loves traveling as a learning experience because she believes people learn more by experiencing the world firsthand than any degree, class, or job could teach them. “Through your travels, you’ll be exposed to different perspectives that you might not have experienced,” says Beckford. “You’ll also learn how to rediscover yourself, learn that you’re stronger and more capable than you think, and how to take calculated risks and believe in yourself. Travel will open your eyes to an entirely different world than you knew.”

How to find paid travel opportunities

Although finding paid travel opportunities might seem intimidating, there are so many available that — with persistence and research — people will eventually find the opportunity that is right for them. “We are taught to think these types of programs are highly competitive, and while that is true for some of the more popular and higher-profile ones, it isn’t always the case,” Beckford explains. “With some digging, you can find programs that get fewer applicants, meaning you have a better chance of being selected.”

Packs Light offers a resource called the PTO Dashboard that aggregates paid travel opportunities so that travelers can easily apply for various scholarships, grants, internships, exchange programs, and more. “In addition to our PTO Dashboard, we offer a free PTO crash course and a PTO newsletter that informs subscribers about new opportunities every week,” Beckford adds. “We want to inspire people to seek risk, seize opportunities, and see the world.”

Still, finding the right paid travel opportunity is only the beginning of the process. “Making a big list of potential PTO means nothing if you don’t actually submit an application to them,” says Beckford. “You need to build a specific strategy when applying for paid travel opportunities. Learning how to properly write an application essay or video application can help actually win it.”

The truth of international travel is that many would-be travelers let themselves be limited by their lack of knowledge. “My goal is to empower and encourage people to seek opportunities to travel on their own terms without breaking the bank,” Beckford adds. “Many people simply don’t know about the paid travel opportunities out there, and if they did, they could better take full advantage of them.”

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