Top 10 Reasons to Take a Career Break…and Travel

If you are thinking about splitting up your routine with an extended travel break, you are definitely not alone. Not only is this concept of a “gap year” for adults becoming more popular all the time, there are also more benefits and much more understanding out there than ever before. Here are ten reasons why this concept might be right for you.

Ready to start planning<br />
your career break?
Ready to start planning
your career break?

1. Laid Off? Don’t Make it Life Defeating…Make it Life Defining

the-great-wall-21With headlines reading “U.S. Initial Unemployment Claims Jump to 26-Year High” it’s no secret that the country is in an economic crisis. Have you found yourself to be included in these headlines? Don’t sit around and be just another statistic – take charge of your immediate future. With the job market heading in a downward spiral, you could spend months searching for a new job. Rather than waiting for things to turnaround, this is a great opportunity to do something different with your life.

You may find that it is actually cheaper to travel than it is to maintain your current lifestyle, especially to destinations like Southeast Asia. You can sublet your home and take off to a land where a dinner and a beer cost $4 instead of $20. Not only will you end up spending less money, but you can gain some amazing insight into other cultures and yourself. When you come back and look for a job, prospective employers will be impressed by your global knowledge and your ability to take smart risks!

>> Read about why it’s not crazy to leave your job to travel

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2. View Your Screensavers in Real Life

Do you feel like your cubicle walls are shrinking in around you? Has carpel tunnel set in to your thumbs from too much Blackberry-ing? Do you find your eyesight decreasing from staring at your computer screen too long? Sounds like a great time to take a break longer than a cup of coffee!

Think about all those times you’ve come back from another long meeting and found yourself mesmerized by the serene images coming across your screen. Now think about how much more mesmerizing those cascading waterfalls, coastal sunsets, and sky-scraping mountains could be in person.

3.  Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Think back to all of those dreams you had when you were younger. Maybe you were going to be an artist, a writer, a chef, a designer, or an actor.  Most of these dreams fade for us when we hit the responsibilities of adulthood. But it’s not too late to make them a reality.

If you think that you don’t have the talent to rekindle those old dreams, then give them a test run during a career break. You can take classes anywhere in the world for these skills and also have the added benefit of exposure to another culture as well as people that share the same interests as you. The most important thing is to get out of your daily comfort zone, where you are bombarded with responsibilities and naysayers. Taking a career break and getting away to explore your hobbies is a great way to reignite your dreams in a supportive environment. It may even lead to a new life direction!

>> Check out reasons to stop dreaming and start planning your rtw trip

4. Work Will Always Be There…But Some Places May Not Be

franz-josef-glaciernew-zealand1Sure, it may feel like your job is on the endangered species list these days, but eventually you will be able to find another one. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many of the world’s destinations.

With rising seas, warmer oceans, melting glaciers, and shrinking forests, many places that have been lingering on your “must see” list may not be there by the time you get around to going. Low-lying islands like The Maldives and coral reefs are popular with snorkelers and divers alike, but many are threatened by the Earth’s changing climate. In fact, scientists worry that the Great Barrier Reef may die in as little as 20 years.

Melting glaciers and snow are affecting the scenery and activities on many of the world’s mountains, including the Alps. The snows of Kilimanjaro are also threatened as the glaciers on Africa’s highest peak are rapidly melting.

So don’t let your dream destinations melt away before you get to visit them!

>> Check out some places and things to see before it’s too late

5. You can’t unplug from your job?

Does your Blackberry make you available 24/7? You no longer know the difference between your home and your office as they have morphed together? Is the line dividing work and play non-existent? Then go to a destination where there are no plugs.

It’s hard to believe that these places still exist; but they do. Imagine how wonderful it would feel to completely unplug from the constant ring of the phone and new message alerts. Imagine that your Blackberry and computer are no longer appendages to your life existence. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to witness it, does it still make a sound? If you aren’t available to answer a call or reply to an email, will life still go on? For both questions, the answer is yes.

So don’t be scared to cut off what you feel is a vital life-line. Plug in to a new existence by unplugging from the job.

6. Retirement Doesn’t Always Reward You with the Time or Ability to Travel

thailand-sunset1Have you ever really thought about the person you will be when you are 65? What will your health be like, what will your sense of adventure be like, and most importantly, will your health be able to support your sense of adventure?

What activities are you saving for your retirement – bungy jumping in New Zealand, climbing mountains in Nepal, hiking the Great Wall of China, or horseback riding in Mongolia? Will these things really be possible at retirement age? We spend all of our life waiting, waiting, waiting…until we are free from the shackles of work. However what if when we are unshackled, we can’t do it?

Consider taking a mini-retirement now, while you know you can trek the Inca Trail.  If people can have a mid-life crisis, then why can’t you have a mid-life retirement?

7. Relieve Yourself of the Crushing Burden of Thinking About Yourself

So often we feel like we are struggling and struggling and receiving nothing in return. We work 60+ hour work-weeks, but are only rewarded with more unfulfilling tasks to do. Volunteering is just the opposite, and with little effort you receive massive returns. So why not get in touch with your altruistic side during a career break?

There are many volunteer opportunities out there; opportunities that cater to a variety of abilities and interests. When you step outside of your busy life for a moment, you begin to see them. And the feeling of helping others can bring you more euphoria than buying yet another pair of shoes or sports tickets.

Volunteering is also a great way to see the world, experience new cultures, make an impact, and become a more knowledgeable person. The people you come in contact with are greatly appreciative of your help and simply love meeting foreigners and learning from them. There will be an outpouring of respect and friendships that are made for life. And at the same time, you are becoming a better global citizen.

8. Complete a Meaningful To-Do List

new-delhi-india-school1Are you buried in ‘To-do’s’?  Does your work to-do list seem never ending? Have you ever looked at that to-do list and thought, ‘what is this all for?’  So many times our day-to-day tasks seem so meaningless.  However we trudge through them to get a paycheck.

What about your life to-do list?  The book 1000 Places to See Before You Die is the ultimate to-do list for avid travelers.  I’m sure that you have a list of places you’d like to see, so why not start ticking them off your ‘life list’?  It will be far more rewarding than crossing off items on your work to-do list!    .

9. Cure your Hurry Sickness and Return to Simplicity

Many Americans are plagued by ‘Hurry Sickness’.  The more we speed up, the less we can slow down. Not only do we multi-task at work but we multi-task our leisure time as well – watching TV and surfing the web, or working out on the elliptical and reading a magazine. We are no longer capable of simply doing one thing and being happy about it.

This has also made us a very impatient society – some may even say rude. How many times have you pressed the “door close” on the elevator, even though someone else is trying to get on? And how often do you catch yourself tapping your foot and huffing away while standing in line for something? We always seem to be in a rush to get nowhere fast.

A traveling career break will force you to slow down and learn to be patient again. As you immerse yourself into other cultures you will observe simplicity and patience that Americans have somehow lost. Sure it can be a frustrating experience letting go of how you expect things to get done, but it will open up your eyes to how the rest of the world operates.

In the process you will actually have time to take it all in and appreciate a new, simpler way of doing things.

>> Learn more about slow travel

10. Become A Pioneer

batad-rice-terraces-philippines1America was built on the pioneering spirit; it’s woven into our culture deeper than you can imagine. Even though it seems like every corner of the world has been discovered, you can still become a pioneer in other ways…by helping us add “career break” to America’s vocabulary.

Are you desperately looking to leave your mark on this world, make an impact, be a pioneer? Then do something different, go against the norm and take a career break and explore. Your colleagues will be terribly jealous, and everyone you encounter will think that you are the gutsiest person around.  You will be lavished with “I wish I had the guts to do what you are doing.” Taking a career break brings instant admiration.

So if you want to do something different, then consider chucking it all in to be a real pioneer.

If you still need more inspiration, then visit Briefcase to Backpack:  America’s Career Break Headquarters to gather more career break travel advice and meet other people who have taken the career break leap! Or read more about career break and long term travel:

Leave a Comment

Older comments on Top 10 Reasons to Take a Career Break…and Travel

09 July 2009

There are many great reasons and opportunities to take a gap in life and travel – or do something you want to do that’s necessarily about career. And it certainly can be life changing and rewarding.. I hope that more folks see that it is possible.

For some of us however, we’ve found ways to have it all by combining travel with our careers via location independent professions. For instance, my partner and I travel full time throughout the US (for now) in a small solar powered travel trailer that serves as both our home and office. Using wireless broadband we have some amazing office views on a regular changing basis. We do various tech consulting. And because our expenses are so much lower than they were before we were traveling full time, we actually work less (maybe 10 hrs a week?) and can concentrate on work projects that are fun.

A technomadic location independent lifestyle is just another way of incorporating career and wanderlust.. one that doesn’t require putting your career on hold or on the line.

– Cherie /

09 July 2009

this is the exact scenario that is playing out in my life: I was laid off in February, my husband is under-employed and will be finished his existing contract in the next few weeks. both of us have been freelance workers for the past 20 years, but for the first time, there are no gigs on the horizon. our solution? take advantage of the gift of time we’ve been given and travel.

we’re renting out our house, pulling the kids (13 and 10) out of school and hitting the road for a year. we may never get an opportunity to take an extended break with our children again, so we’re going to make proverbial lemonade with the coming year.

so, Reason #11 for a career break is to re-connect with (y)our children, and to give (y)our kids the opportunity to learn and grow in a way that a year in school would never offer.

Michaela Potter
17 July 2009

I’m partners with Sherry Ott at Briefcase to Backpack and love the enthusiasm this article has inspired. We really hope to make the idea of a career break an acceptable one in America.

Technomadia – what you are doing sounds like a great lifestyle! Will definitely follow along on your adventures.

Travel-x-4 – I love that more and more families are doing extended travel together. I used to think I would have to travel as much as possible before potentially starting a family, but hearing about families like yours has opened up my eyes to a whole new world of opportunities.

In fact, we just highlighted a family of four who just returned from 9 months of travel:

And be sure to visit their site as they have highlighted several other families as well.

Dee Andrews
29 April 2010

We’re another family that made career breaks happen! We sold our house, cars, and stuff and moved to Spain for a year for our daughters, 6 and 9 at the time.

Letting go of the mortgage and lawn mowing was so freeing! And the whole process allowed us to consider what careers we wanted at this point in our lives and make them happen once we returned.

Check us out at

I too can’t wait for the day when more Americans realize the hurry sickness has a cure and simplicity is life-changing.

G. Michael Schneider
11 November 2010

On virtually all the travel blogs that I have read there is the assumption that to take a career break you must be:

1) unemployed
2) laid off
3) ready to quit a job that you hate
4) independently wealthy

Well, there is another group that would love to take a career break but which is unserved by these blogs. These are professionals, like myself, who love their job, love their home, and love their life, but would also love to take a short-term sabbatical just to get away for a short time to have a cultural immersion experience and try something different. However, we want to return to our life and job when we are done.

This is exactly what I have done 14 separate time, from Australia to Zimbabwe, Mauritius to Mongolia, never once reaching into my wallet and never once quitting my day job.

I invite you to check out my blog “On The Other Guys Dime” at to read about how any professional with a useful, marketable skill can do the same thing that I have done. I also invite you to take a look at my new book, On The Other Guy’s Dime: A Professional’s Guide To Traveling Without Paying (Itasca Books, ISBN 978-1-934690-40-6) for some how-to advice on doing exactly the same thing yourself.