Many dream of taking off to faraway lands to travel for an extended period of time. Once the seed has been planted and travel lovers find out that extended travel is possible, that dream starts turning into reality. You realize that you, too, can travel the world, and you don’t have to be rich to do it!
Once people accept that long term travel is possible, they get a plan together and start researching. By this stage in the game, you’ve probably looked into costs of doing a trip like this, assessed your financial situation, and started looking at possible routes.
But what about work? For some, this part is easy. If you’re one of the many people using this trip as a way to get out from underneath a career you hate, then you simply quit. But what if you like your job? What if you actually want to come back to it when you return from your travels? What if you really want the security of employment in these uncertain times?
You do have options when planning for your RTW trip. Even in a country like the United States, where the economy has largely been crap since 2008 and the idea of RTW travel and career breaks aren’t nearly as popular as other parts of the world, you may be surprised at what you can work out with your employer.
There’s a misconception out there that all long-term travelers are running away from something, and that something is typically a bad job or career. While this is a reason some take a trip like this, it’s certainly not the only one, and there are plenty of people out there traveling who actually love their jobs, plan on returning, but simply wanted a break. If you are one of these people, then it’s time to start planning how you can keep your job while still traveling the world.
Ask for a leave of absence
There aren’t many benefits to a crappy economy and a poor job market, but one highlight is the fact that companies don’t like to lay people off. By volunteering to leave for a certain amount of time – whether it’s a few months, a year, or more – you can actually save someone else’s job (maybe even your own). There are a lot of companies and businesses looking to downsize, and you never know if your boss is going to be secretly happy about you volunteering to leave while times are bad. It buys them some time, and hopefully by the time you get back, things will be on the up and up, they will need another employee, and you can jump right back into your old job.
Obviously this is a risk. People leaving the States in 2008 hoped to come home to a better economy in 2009, and here we are in 2013, and while it has improved, it still isn’t what it once was. In the last few years, many people who struggled with whether or not to leave their jobs would have gotten laid off anyway, so you never really know what’s going to happen, and you can never plan for every single situation.
Take a sabbatical
You would be surprised at how many companies actually offer sabbaticals after being there for a certain number of years. It might not be something that’s promoted, so if you don’t know, it doesn’t hurt to ask. And even if that’s not something they do offer, maybe you can be a trailblazer for the company. Americans are going to realize sooner rather than later that our frenetic work pace doesn’t exactly make us better, smarter, or more productive.
For more information on sabbaticals, be sure to read the following articles:
- How a Career Break will Shape your Future in the Worlkforce
- Taking a Sabbatical vs. Quitting Your Job
- The Art of Negotiating a Sabbatical: How to Quit Your Job Temporarily
- How sabbaticals benefit companies and individuals
What if you can’t keep your job?
It’s important to be optimistic when planning a trip and lifestyle change like this, but it’s also important to be realistic. There are plenty of employers and bosses who simply aren’t going to go for the sabbatical or leave of absence route. They know that there are plenty of people out there looking for jobs, so why hold one if they actually do need the employees?
This is a legitimate concern, and even if an employer does agree to a leave of absence, it better be in writing to make it official. If you do have to just outright quit your job in order to travel the world, then make sure you don’t burn any bridges while doing so. Even if that boss is unsupportive and just doesn’t get it, it pays to remain cordial. A job may be open when you return, and if not, you are probably going to need him or her as a referral.
If you don’t have anything lined up for when you return, that’s okay. It can be stressful, yes, but if you know this going in, you can plan and make sure you have a little nest-egg for when you return (which is something you should have regardless of your employment situation). Your trip is going to give you a whole lot of newly found confidence, which is something that will benefit you greatly in your return to the job search.
Jump in to something new
There are countless career break, RTW travelers who left their jobs to travel the world only to find a new love while gone. Typically people who are willing to quit a job to travel the world aren’t meant for the formal, cubical setting of most corporate jobs. Traveling the world gives these people a chance to take a step back from life to really asses what it is they want to do.
It’s a great opportunity to reflect on your life, your decisions, and what you have done up to this point. Since time will be on your side during a RTW trip, take advantage of that time to dip into your creative side. If you liked write during a former life but found you didn’t have the time during your hectic life, then pick it back up on the road. If you like drawing, then draw. Like practicing yoga, then take yoga classes. All those things you have always said, “I’d love to do that, but I just don’t have the time.” Do them! You never know what you may be able to build a career out of.
- Read about Keith, who has given up his old career to build another one around travel.
- Read Why a Travel Break can be the Best Career Move You’ll Ever Make
Resources to help
There are plenty of resources to help when trying to figure out what to do about your employment situation, along with everything else you need to think about when planning a career break or RTW trip. Meet, Plan, Go! organizes meetings around the US and Canada to try to persuade other travel lovers to take a career break to travel the world. Their site and their national events are all fantastic resources for anyone looking to break away. You can meet other like-minded people who have done it before, and you can get some fantastic advice and hear their work and career stories.
Deciding what to do with your job, arguably the most important thing in your life since you got out of school, is a challenging thing to think about. But realize that not only do you have options, but you also have support. There are tons of people out there who have gone through the same exact things you are going through right now. So reach out, join a new community, read advice and tips, and let other’s experiences help put you at ease when making a decision as difficult as this.