Some common questions and answers for anyone considering taking a career break and traveling
So you’re thinking about taking a career break and traveling but don’t know where to start or whether you can actually make it happen? There are many considerations for those considering a career break and traveling. Taking a career break does require some serious planning and it doesn’t happen overnight. At the top of the list of worries for most are quite simply finances, and concerns about career continuity.
When we started planning for our career break travel we felt inundated by the amount of information available online. What we were mostly looking for at the early planning stages was budgeting information and general information on taking a career break. There was an overwhelming amount information online, and after reviewing as much as we could handle we ended up doing our own budget estimate. However there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel – there are some amazing tools online that somehow we didn’t discover when we really needed them! We only started discovering them after we’d already set off on our journey.
Based on our experiences we have collated some information and common Q&A to help you get started. Don’t worry, eventually you will get to the fun part of planning your travels, but first things first – the serious stuff.
Q. The BIG QUESTION first. How much money do I need for taking a career break and traveling?
Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this. Everyone’s journey will be different and there are countless variables that will greatly affect your budget. Where you’re planning to travel to, specific countries, fast vs. slow travel, preferred type of accommodation, eating preferences, round the world tickets or book-as-you-go – etc etc.
The important thing to know is that long-term traveling can actually be surprisingly cheap. Let’s say that you only choose to travel in South East Asia and do most of your travel overland rather than flying. This type of travel can be achieved with surprisingly little money. If however your dream has always been a big round the world trip then expect to spend A LOT.
To make things a little easier, there are many helpful tools around the web for travel budgeting purposes. Numerous travel bloggers have shared fantastic resources and their actual travel expenditure which will give you some sort of an idea of how much you can expect to spend. Here are some great budgeting tools and information that we really like:
Helpful travel budgeting information and tools:
- Round the World Expenses details: Fantastic round the world (rtw) budgeting and actual expenditure details from the writers of ‘Married with Luggage’ blog. Note: this is a very lean budget and has been accomplished by a combination of ‘slow travel’, housesitting and ‘living like a local’ (i.e. staying and eating outside of tourist centres). If slow travel is not for you and you want stay right where the action is, you won’t be able to get anywhere near these kind of figures.
- A great excel tool for budgeting and also some excellent budgeting tips from Eliot Peper. Just download the spreadsheet and start budgeting away!
- Budget Your Trip: Average travel costs from different destinations around the world. Good for general travel budgeting purposes.
- Handy budget worksheet templates
- Lonely Planet’s info on how to budget
- Budgeting software from Mint.
Q: What about my career? Won’t taking a career break to travel look bad on my CV?
In most cases a career break can actually enhance your CV. Firstly – it will tell employers that you are a go-getter, a good organizer and planner, and that you are likely to be open-minded and curious. All fantastic skills and qualities to have as an employee. Secondly – depending on what you have been doing during your break, it is likely that you have been enhancing and updating your skills in one way or another, or learning something new. It might be through volunteering or studying during your travels, or for example through keeping a blog. Prospective employers are also likely to think that you are coming in refreshed, recharged and full of energy and ideas – again very desirable qualities.
Be upfront about your career break, what you have been doing during your break and how you feel it has enhanced or enriched your life. Angle it smartly in your CV and highlight any relevant skills you may have gained during your break.
As I am writing this (May 2015), I am just looking at starting to apply for a new job for our planned return to Sydney in August 2015. I have featured my career break right at the top of my CV, with some highlighted skills I have obtained during our break – including co-launching and authoring this blog.
Q: When is the right time to take a career break?
Again, there is no simple answer to this. For example if you have just started a new job that you like and plan on staying with it, it is probably not the best time to take a career break. Beyond that it really depends on individual circumstances. In most cases it never seems to be the perfect time – so it is best just to take the leap and go for it. Otherwise you will just keep postponing your break indefinitely.
If you would like to keep your current job, check if your employer has a career break or extended leave policy. Surprisingly many employers have formal policies and arrangements in place. Even if yours doesn’t have a formal policy, informal arrangements can often be negotiated, especially if you have been with your employer for a long time. The timing of your career break should then be negotiated with your employer.
If you are not planning to or able to take leave from your current employment but instead are planning to quit your job and look for a new one upon your return (as I did), the timing is of course much more in your control.
It’s important to note taking a career break/gap year is not limited to your younger years. Many people in their thirties, forties, fifties and sixties take career breaks.
Q: What about all my things and house/apartment while I’m away?
If you own your house or apartment, renting it out will of course help your financial situation during your career break immensely. Renting it furnished will not only fetch a higher rent in most cases, but also allow you to keep most of your things. We envy you!
If you’re renting (like us) or don’t feel comfortable having tenants use your things, think of going on your break and traveling as an excellent opportunity to de-clutter and downsize! Sell or give away things you don’t particularly love and put the ones you do in storage. We sold and gave away a lot of our things, but we kept all our essentials and some of our favorite furniture in storage. We agreed that we didn’t want to pay for more than one small storage container to keep costs reasonable. Weigh the cost of long-term storage against the cost of buying something new (or used) when you return.
Q: What about lost earnings during the break? Shouldn’t I worry about that too?
It’s of course true that in addition to saving up and setting aside a considerable amount of money to travel, you won’t be making an income (unless you’re one of the lucky ones on paid extended leave/sabbatical). If you add the cost of your travel and lost earnings together, the figure is substantial.
But whilst lost earnings is certainly a consideration, we rather blatantly chose to ignore this rather depressing fact. We knew we had saved enough money to go traveling and we knew we wanted to take this possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
So yes – the total cost of our career break including lost earnings is a considerable amount. It goes without saying you don’t want to go into debt or be irresponsible about your finances. But there is absolutely no way we could measure in monetary terms what we have gained. Rather than looking at lost earnings we think of our career break travel as an investment in ourselves and in our dream. How could you possibly put any sort of price tag on fulfilling your dream and gaining memories and experiences that will last a lifetime?
Q: Wouldn’t it be smarter to invest in something rather than spend a considerable amount on travel?
Well yes, if investing is your goal! However if your dream is to travel for an extended period of time, you should look at taking a career break and traveling as an investment in yourself. You need to budget appropriately and have a clear picture of your finances, however you also need to change your money-mindset in some ways.
There are many ways to spend money. Traveling is choosing to spend some of your money in gaining invaluable life experiences. For example we could have chosen to invest in property instead of taking a career break and going on our grown-up gap year. But we decided that gaining life experience was much more important to us than material things.
Q: Won’t my family and friends think I am irresponsible (and possibly crazy)?
Some probably will. But it is probably more likely that you get a lot of support, especially if you are at career crossroads, overworked, stressed out or have a project or studying in mind. Our friends were overwhelmingly positive and supportive when we told them we were going to take a career break and travel. In fact most said they would love to do something like this themselves. Our families were supportive too, although probably more worried about the financial side of things. At the end of the day it is your life and you should be able to make your own decisions without worrying about others, as long as you’re still fulfilling any obligations you may have.
Bonus Question: Why did we decide to take a career break to travel?
We both actually liked our jobs and were not over-stressed or overworked. For us it wasn’t so much about getting away from our careers. We were very comfortable and we could have easily continued going to work everyday. But we also felt like we wanted to be challenged in a different way, get out of our comfort zone, explore what we really wanted do in life and just generally travel, explore and see the world. We also wanted to spend time with family overseas (on two continents) and taking a career break allowed us to do that for an extended period of time. We also had some personal projects we had wanted to start but we never seemed to have enough time or be in the right headspace.
We also wanted to fulfill a dream of extended travel and possibly wind back the clock a little bit, since neither of us had the opportunity to take a gap year when most people do – i.e. before university. As we have discovered, it’s never too late to take a gap year!