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Career Break 101: How to Plan for Long-term Travel


Sabbaticals offer some lucky workers opportunities for extended travel, but that’s not the only option for those in the workforce craving more time away than a simple week’s vacation allows for. A career break can also come in the form of a leave of absence or simply time between jobs. Think of it like a gap year—breaks from studying, long popular in Europe—for grown-ups.

"The average person changes jobs every five years, why not consider that an opportunity to start taking your retirement in pieces?" says Michaela Potter, co-founder of, a website devoted to getting a career break on everyone’s resume. Just like any trip, you probably already have an ideal long-term travel dream, from studying languages abroad to voluntourism to multi-continent adventures. And while the focus is often on packing light and establishing a budget that works for a month to a year or more, it doesn’t necessarily mean backpacks and hostels either. Read on for our career break 101 tutorial to help you make those long-term travel dreams a reality.

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Who and Why?

Major life events and transitional times are often the inspiration for extended travel, but sometimes it’s just a realization that there’s no need to wait for retirement to start checking items off your bucket list. And while Eat Pray Love inspired many solo travelers, career breaks can also be for friends, families, and couples—like New Jersey-based career breakers Heather Molnar and her fiancé at the time (now husband), who enjoyed a one-year hiatus from the corporate world in 2009, while in their mid-thirties, to head out volunteering around the U.S. and in Central America.

Do you want to focus on reconnecting with personal interests or loved ones, getting away from technology or back into nature, or volunteering and giving back with nonprofit work, like Heather and her hubby did? The benefits aren’t just limited to re-prioritizing one’s personal life while away. Real-world experience, reduced stress, and new skills like languages can actually benefit your future work life upon your return.

Where to Go?

Because many career breakers are traveling for longer than a typical American one-week vacation, consider more affordable destinations such as Latin America—where Philadelphia-based Susan Kuebler took a budget-friendly "hiatus from life" to spend five months volunteering and traveling in Costa Rica, solidifying her interest in nonprofit work (and, ultimately, a career change when she returned home)—or Asia over, say, Western Europe. But since there’s also a trip-of-a-lifetime element involved, feel free to think big, whether that means finally splurging on that African safari or going all out with a round-the-world (RTW) plane ticket.

How to Make it Happen?

One easy step to kick-start your dream: Open a career break savings account. With a few simple clicks online you can automate how much you want to deposit and how often. Michaela Potter knows that "finances are the number one concern for potential career breakers." She recognizes the importance of a realistic travel budget and also saving for "a three-month re-entry period so you can be able to choose the next right job for you."

Sites MeetPlanGo and Reboot Your Life have great planning information to get you started. As Susan Kuebler discovered when planning her trip, "most paid volunteer opportunities require a minimum one-year commitment," but she found great opportunities on IFRE Volunteers Abroad; Heather Molnar used Help Exchange, which she describes as a "Craigslist of volunteer-travel opportunities."

Next, get inspired by keeping up with Fodor’s Blog, researching Travel Destinations Around the World, reading (and maybe starting your own) personal travel blogs, and finding like-minded travelers. Once you find that one (or more) dream destination, use that enthusiasm to plan out all the details for a career break that’s right for you.

Photo Credit: Traveling by Train via Shutterstock

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