You woke up this morning, washed your face, looked in the mirror and wondered, “How did I get here? Thirty-something, house, car, excellent job, by all measures “successful;” so why do I hate my life?” You’re not alone. I think eventually most people have the “Is this it?” moment in their adult lives where they step back and wonder if there’s more that they’re missing. The answer, most of the time, is “Yes! There is more, and you’re missing it!”
So what’s a tired ad executive to do when faced with his five hundredth gray Monday morning? Splash on some Old Spice, suck it up, and join the rat race one more time? Here’s a fresh idea: why not quit your job and do something that inspires you for a year. Step off of the treadmill and rediscover what it feels like to really live your life again. Yes, it can be done, it should be done, we’ve done it, and I’ll show you why.
A warren of grey half walls is a soul sucking way to spend the best years of your life. Stale air, co-workers straight out of the sitcoms, no exercise, no mental stimulation – you really are just like a rat in the maze, pushing the red button for more cheese. The cubical existence could be ruining your life, stifling your dreams, locking you into a hopeless future, and actually damaging your career potential.
Yes, you read that right, damaging your career potential. How can spending the best forty hours of every week in an environment that stifles creativity ever create the kind of visionary who changes the world or does something spectacular in the business sector? It can’t. You must escape the cubes and stretch your wings in the real world!
Reignite your passion for life (and work!)
It’s easy to get tunnel vision, to do the “next thing,” to follow the socially acceptable path from high school to college to climbing that career ladder. So many people do it without ever giving it a second thought, then they look up somewhere around thirty and ask, “What happened to my dreams?” They died, that’s what happened. Or at very least they were stuffed into a dusty box between your high school yearbook and your frat house memorabilia. Somewhere along the way it made perfect sense to trade what inspired you for what paid the bills, made the wife happy, or was “necessary” at the moment. Fair enough, it happens to most people. We forgive you. Now fix it.
“You can’t remember what you’re passionate about? That’s exactly why you need this year off…”
No one is suggesting you just quit your job on a random Monday morning; although that could work. Plan carefully, like the grown-up you are, and make your break strategically, but do it and resolve, from now on, to follow your passions. You can’t remember what you’re passionate about? That’s exactly why you need this year off, to walk a while, to travel slowly, to ruminate, to rediscover the depth of your own soul, and to rejuvenate your desire to work hard and change the world; only this time, your way.
Build your resume
Contrary to what the “nay-sayers” will tell you, taking a year off is not going to ruin your work potential, causing you to tumble loudly to the bottom of the career ladder. The opposite is often true. A strategically positioned “career break” can often be a resume builder and not a negative at all.
Perhaps you love what you do and you have no desire to “run away” from it all and reinvent yourself. That’s okay – you don’t have to storm into your bosses’ office and quit. Perhaps a leave of absence is possible? You never know unless you ask. And even if you do love your job, a year off could do more than just give you the breath of fresh air your creativity has been needing. It could actually make you more marketable.
Increasingly, employers are looking for world citizens with international connections who are savvy to the “rest of world” experience. That could be you, but not unless you’re willing to leave Idaho for a few months and branch out a bit. Why not consider a stint doing volunteer work with a reputable organization like the Peace Corps for a career break, a career builder, and the adventure you’ve been longing for all rolled into one!
“Increasingly, employers are looking for world citizens with international connections who are savvy to the “rest of world” experience.”
As with most of the life/work experience, it’s all about the spin. Are you taking a year off because you’re a lazy bum who hates getting up at six and pushing papers all day like he should, or are you taking a year off to “broaden your horizons and increase cultural understanding with an eye toward international business?” See what I mean?
A year off in the midst of a career can provide the needed time and brain space to learn something new. It’s often hard to work in “professional development” when you’re working 40 hrs a week and trying to keep all of the plates spinning at home too.
Why not give yourself the time to pursue what inspires you about your career path by taking a year to just learn. Better yet, go do it somewhere new and inspiring to get your creative juices flowing. Take a cooking class in Paris. Pursue restaurant and hotel management in Hawaii. Teach business English for a year in Japan. Learn Mandarin in Beijing. The possibilities are endless, and if your year abroad includes some serious work in professional development, this will only increase your marketability long term.
Become your own rainmaker
Perhaps, like us, you’ll find that your career “gap year” actually becomes your real life. Somewhere along the way we transitioned from temporary travelers to digital nomads and found that our new passion was for each other and the great big world. In the meantime, we learned to rely on ourselves to create the adventure instead of funding through a third party employer who had the option of saying “No” to our dreams.
We’re not alone, we’ve met loads of people just like us and they all have the same story: Once they climbed out of the box there was no way to go back, so they created ways to live their dreams.
It’s entirely possible, whether you’re 24 and a wildfire fighter in the summer so you can travel all winter, or you have four kids and the goat rodeo that goes with family travel. There are ways to make travel your life, if that’s your passion.
Life is too short to settle for less than your dreams.