Career Break? More Like Life Break--Part 1

The term "career break" is starting to become quite the buzz word in travel. What to some people might just be a buzz word, to many others is a movement that has slowly grown over the last couple years, and that has really taken off in the last few months. So much so, that the New York Times recently wrote an article about the career break movement, interviewing a couple friends and colleagues of mine, Sherry Ott and Michaela Potter, who are the founders of Briefcase to Backpack. The article discusses the career break movement and how more and more people are taking anywhere from a few months to over a year to quit their jobs and travel the world. This proceeded the first Meet, Plan, Go event in September, in which over 1,500 aspiring travelers met to listen and talk with other long-term travelers who had taken their own life/career breaks to travel. I myself am a career breaker, although I consider it more of a life break. I was in the midst of having to all but start a new life, as a result of bad personal decisions. I was living in a city that I hated and worked a job I didn't care for, so it was the perfect time for a career break. My story is different than many, as I have never been in a position to save money to travel the world, nor did I have an employer who would help support a career break (There are some employers that will help support a career break and hold your job for you, but they are few and far between). However, I did the only thing that I knew that I could. I took my experience and love as a former Travel Writer and Editor to become a Freelance Travel Writer, so that I could support myself while on the road. The money is nothing ludicrous, but it allows me the freedom to do the two things that I love the most: travel and write. I decided that I would rather do what makes me happy with enough money to support myself, than to have money, but be miserable. Now three months into it, it's the best decision I've ever made.

I want to reiterate something that I've stated throughout other blog posts, and that is that taking a year off of work to travel the world isn't for everyone. Some people travel only during holidays, others backpack, others are slow travelers, while others are using career breaks to travel. I'm not a backpacker and doing the 9-5 had grown wearisome and just isn't me, so I needed a change; therefore, this is what I chose, and I have no regrets.

Panelists from Meet, Plan, Go NYC.
Panelists from Meet, Plan, Go NYC.

However, what I do want to emphasize, is to not count out a career break because you don't have the money saved up or don't think you can find the means to pay for it. I'm a believer in the statement that if you want something bad enough, you'll do whatever it takes to get it. As Ludacris, in the song Money Maker, stated: "If you want it, come get it". Or a little more poetically, as Randy Pausch, in The Last Lecture, said:

Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people.

The choice to take a career/life break was an easy one for me. My two greatest loves are travel and writing, and I decided to combine those things when deciding what my career break would consist of. Most importantly, no matter where you're at with a career break, whether just thinking about it or currently making arrangements, you should start planning now. While the time between quitting my job to actually traveling was relatively short, I had been planning for months. There are resources available to help you start planning.

Jeff Jung, of Career Break Secrets, is one of many professionals that are helping people take career breaks. Jeff and his team offer video travel guides, articles, and resources to help people go from the thought of taking a career break to actually being on the road of your sabbatical or gap year. There's a new opportunity for potential career breakers that I'm especially excited about from Meet, Plan, Go. On December 8th, people considering a career break can sign up for MPG's Career Break Boot Camp, which begins January 9th. The boot camp is an eight-week online course and learning community that will help take people's career aspirations from a dream to a reality. They are offering a special on Wednesday, the 8th, in which the first 20 to sign-up will receive a $100 gift certificate for any Unconventional Guide product from one of my favorite authors, Chris Guillebeau.


I've had the opportunity to meet and develop relationships with some great travelers along the way. One of which, is accomplished writer, Abby Tegnelia, who is currently Editor-in-Chief of Vegas Magazine. She hit the road to travel for a couple years before recently coming back to the United States to take her current position at Vegas Magazine. I recently caught up with Abby to ask about her experiences. I asked Abby if a career break had changed her perspective and this is how she responded:

I feel like it's "Abby 2.0" time, that everyone must reinvent themselves at a certain point in order to achieve your dreams. After the darkest moments of my life, losing my job, going into debt, not knowing where to go, I somehow landed here? I would say that I now feel like I can handle anything -- and that's true. But I feel like WE can handle anything, that the new people I've met during this adventure, my long-term friends, my family... we can get through anything, and life has a funny way of putting us back on our chosen paths. I feel so stable and trusting now, way more than before all of this. I am so grateful for my two years of travel. I learned so much about myself and gained so much emotional maturity.

Just a couple months into travel, Abby harps on something that has been one of my biggest takeaways. I feel like in just a couple months, I've learned more from traveling, than if I were staying in the same place, working a 9-5 job. At times it's been overwhelming to think about how truly blessed I am and how big the world is and how small I am.

One of the biggest questions and concerns I hear from people that are considering career breaks is whether or not they'll be able to find work and transition back into somewhat of a normal schedule once they return. Since this is my first career break, I can't talk from experience, but I asked Abby about what the transition was like for her. This is what she had to say about coming back:

I knew there would be some transition, but it was different than I expected. I was so thrilled to be back at a job I was excited about, that getting back into the "9 to 5" schedule was nothing. I had no problem getting up in the mornings and going to the office and doing what work was needed at night. In fact, taking a break gave me renewed energy for my work. Also, I feel more balanced. I can focus more easily and my emotions are in check. It's a great place to be. I feel like I've matured so much as an editor and as a boss -- but I did it via traveling!

One of the great things about career breaks is that it has grown so much recently that there are so many resources to help you make an informed decision. You're not alone, but there are many people who have either taken a career break, are currently on a career break, or considering a career break, and can help you make an informed decision.

Check back soon for Part 2 of our career break series when I interview another career breaker. What's one thing about life that travel has helped teach you?

**Disclaimer: This was not a sponsored post for Meet, Plan, Go, Career Break Secrets, Briefcase to Backpack, or anyone else mentioned in this post. Neither money, nor link juice was exchanged for writing positively about these organizations. Sherry Ott, Jeff Jung, and Michaela Potter didn't DM me on Twitter and ask me to retweet one of their blog posts because it wasn't getting much traffic nor have they ever made any similar requests. If they read this, which I hope they do, this will be the first time  they even knew I was writing about them. I thought about emailing them, but I decided to rather leave it to chance. I believe that if something is good enough, then it will find its way into the hands of the right people without telling them to read it or share it. I did, however, contact Abby Tegnelia, as I'm not a mind reader, and it was necessary that I contact her in order to extract the answers from above. One eggnog latte and a stuffed pizza pretzel was consumed during the writing of this post, however, it was not complimentary. I actually felt a little stiffed, despite the cashier informing me that I could have saved $.65 if I was a Barnes and Noble member. I didn't respond by telling her that I would have save $3.25 if it was a New York City food truck. Now if this isn't an appropriate FCC disclosure, then I don't know what is.

Meet, Plan, Go photo courtesy of Jodi Ettenberg.