Yes, there are days when we want to quit our jobs instantly and leave our cubicles behind. But with some advance planning, would you go ahead and do it?
If you seek to find your way in this world, while fulfilling a dream of seeing it, consider taking a career break or sabbatical. Recently, I had a virtual Q & A with Sherry Ott of Meet Plan Go – a leading career break movement in North America – on planning and taking this time off and about their upcoming conference in New York City.
How did Meet Plan Go start?
The idea for a career break resource came into my mind when I was initially planning my trip in 2006 because I struggled – a lot. There was no information out there about how to do long-term travel or an adult gap year from the American perspective. I found a few books from the UK but it wasn’t the same. I was really frustrated and nervous about taking the leap but felt very alone. I mainly used the only resource out there to help plan at the time – Bootsnall.com.
Meet Plan Go actually started when I met (co-founders) Michaela Potter and Michael Bontempi in New York City after they had also recently finished a three-month career break. We decided to take our passion for the benefits of a traveling break and create a website. It started as Briefcase to Backpack and launched in 2009 and has taken off since then. Via our website and events, you’ll meet like-minded, supportive people, get tools and tips to plan your career break travels, and find inspiration to go by hearing/reading other career breakers’ stories.
How does taking a career break help a person?
Career break benefits are numerous. Most importantly, getting away from of our day-to day-routines is essential for effective thinking. Combine your career break with travel and reap even more benefits. Exposure to cultures that function differently from our own – from language to social customs to public transport – awakens the brain, alerting it to a much broader range of possibilities for being, living, and creating. You will come back to the workforce with skills other peers won’t have.
What factors should a person put into planning a career break?
That’s different for every person. But one of the first things to consider and figure out is budget. Figuring out how much you have to spend or how much you want to spend sets the other decisions in motion; where to go, how long to go, what to do. Next you’ll want to consider what you hope to get out of your break. Are you looking for time away to contemplate a career change, want to knock things off your bucket list, travel before you settle down, etc. All of these things are factors.
We have articles about the various planning choices, a free online 30-day course, and an in-person workshop on September 20 in New York City. But be careful to not get too caught up in planning. We normally recommend that you plan the first third of your trip, then leave the rest open so you can take your temperature and see what it is that you want to do next. Often when people get on the road, their desires and needs change so you need to leave things open to accommodate those changes.
The current economy might make people hesitant to leave their jobs. Why would one still consider taking a career break?
Look, there’s never going to be the perfect time to leave your job and take a risk. Never. So stop waiting for one. You either have the desire to make change and travel or you don’t. If you have that desire, then you’ll want to check out Meet Plan Go, as we are good at fueling it. But if you want warm fuzzies and security in your decision all I can say is that I’ve NEVER talked to anyone who regretted their decision to take a break and travel – NEVER.
I recently wrote an article about how a career break actually enhances your career and learned a lot by interviewing people who used their break as career defining. You can use the time to figure out a career change or focus, or simply revitalize. You will come back with additional skills and you will stand out in a crowd of applications as someone who isn’t afraid to take risks and someone who knows what they want.
What issues might someone face when taking a career break and what can they do to handle and avoid them?
The big fear is always money. But you don’t need a lot of money to travel. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Traveling long term is actually cheaper than living day to day in our current lifestyles. And it’s certainly cheaper than taking vacations. If you don’t have much saved up, then you explore ways that you can work on the road – which can be a really rewarding cultural experience. You can teach English, consult, teach yoga, work at a farm, house sit, and even be a tour guide. Anything is possible, and by traveling slower and more locally, you’ll keep costs down and meet a bunch of people who will connect you to opportunities to make money if that’s what you are looking for.