How to take a Career Break to Travel the World

Have you ever dreamed of taking a career break? Audrey Chalmers from Gumnuts Abroad has some great advice on how to make your dream a reality.

Travel planning with a map, passport, wallet and sunglasses

Today’s guest post is by Audrey Chalmers from Gumnuts Abroad. Audrey is a coffee drinking adventurer who has spent the last 30 years travelling with her partner Andrew.

In 2017 they set off together on a 13-month career break to wander the world. She loves nothing more than helping others to follow in their footsteps. 

After years of slaving away at the same job, more and more people are escaping the 9-5 by taking a career break to travel the world. Similar to taking a gap year after college, taking a career break at 30, 40 and even 50 is a fabulous way to see what the world has to offer.

Whether you’re bored with your job, feel like a new challenge or just fed up with the humdrum of everyday life, a mid-career break can be the start of a whole new beginning. It gives you the chance to do something new and exhilarating that will blow your mind!

We know as we’ve done this exact thing.

Audrey and Andrew Chalmers from Gumnuts Abroad
Audrey and Andrew Chalmers from Gumnuts Abroad © Audrey Chalmers

Last year we decided to take a break from work to travel the world for 13 months. It was everything we hoped for, and we’ve returned home feeling relaxed and ready to face the “real” world again.

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Have you ever dreamed of taking a career break? Audrey Chalmers from Gumnuts Abroad has some great advice on how to make your dream a reality #travelhacks #traveltips #careerbreak

It’s a big decision to take a career break to wander the world. But once you make the commitment you’ll be reinvigorated to live life to the full. So here are a few tips to help you on your way:

How to Ask for a Career Break

If you’re like me, you enjoy your job and want to return to it after your break. This means you’ll have to ask your employer for time away from work, which can be tricky.

But while there’s no magic formula that works for everyone, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of getting that approval.

  • Be a good worker. Be someone the company wants to hold onto and not someone they’re happy to see the back of.
  • Check your employment contract and whether your company has a career break or sabbatical policy. Know what you’re entitled to ask for and any protocols you should follow.
  • Do you have any work colleagues that have taken a career break? If so ask them for tips on the best way to ask for one.
  • Timing is everything. Choose a quiet moment to bring up the subject in private. A hectic Monday morning isn’t a good time!
  • Be considerate and allow your manager plenty of time to prepare for your absence. It will make them more likely to say yes.
  • It also helps to be flexible. Your manager may ask you to change your dates to a more convenient time of year.
  • Show how your career break will benefit the company. Talk about the skills you’ll bring back and how you’ll be more motivated and committed to the job.

Although companies are becoming more open to the idea of career breaks, your request could still be denied. I hope this doesn’t happen to you, but if it does you could try negotiating with your manager.

Find out what’s stopping them from agreeing to your request. Would they prefer you to take a shorter career break? Perhaps they’re worried that you’ll fall behind and won’t be up-to-date with industry practices?

Do your best to meet their needs and address any concerns they have.

Failing this you’ll need to decide how important a career break is to you. Are you prepared to leave your job to do it?

A couple planning travel with a globe and laptop

Find your ‘Why’

It might seem silly but ask yourself why you want to do this.

Do you want to lie beside a pool sipping cocktails all day? Learn a new language? Take part in a volunteer program? Or perhaps you want to see the pyramids and go diving in the Red Sea.

Connecting to your ‘why’ will help you decide where to go and what to do when you get there. It also helps you stay committed to making it happen.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to planning a career break, and you’re likely to feel overwhelmed at times. But remembering why you are doing this will give you the motivation to keep going and make your dream a reality.

Choose your Destination and Leaving Date

Immerse yourself in travel books and blogs, buy a world map (paper is best) and brush up on your geography. Let your imagination run wild and have fun!

This is where finding your why helps, as it will dictate where you go, what you do and how long you go for.

Once you’ve chosen a destination it’s time to set a date. This is a big moment in the planning process, as setting a date will make your career break feel very real. It’s no longer a dream that’s going to happen at some distant point in the future.

This is really happening. And that will help keep you motivated to see it through.

A couple planning travel with a map and laptop

Work out a Budget and start Saving

Once you know where you are going and how long for, you can work out a budget for your trip. You’ll need take into consideration the type of traveller you are, and any activities you plan to do.

Be honest with yourself.

It’s no use saying you’ll be okay roughing it in dorm rooms if you’re going to be miserable the whole time. We’re happy staying in private rooms in hostels, but that isn’t for everyone and you might prefer a little more luxury.

The same goes for any bucket list activities you’d like to do. This may be your only chance to go on an African safari or cruise the Galapagos Islands. So whatever your dream is,  be sure to include it in your budget.

Do some research and work out how much money you’ll need. Then start saving by cutting back on needless spending. But don’t be too stingy or you’ll end up resenting your trip instead of feeling excited about it.

I know I would have been miserable without my morning latte when we were saving for our trip, so allow yourself a treat now and then.

Telling your Family and Friends

Telling family and friends about your career break is a powerful way to stay motivated. There’s no turning back once you’ve announced it as you won’t want to explain why it didn’t happen.

And having support from your family and friends will help you stay focused and inspired.

It can be the difference between giving up and making your dreams a reality.

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Have you ever dreamed of taking a career break? Audrey Chalmers from Gumnuts Abroad has some great advice on how to make your dream a reality #travelhacks #traveltips #careerbreak

Some Practical Tips

  • Tell your bank and credit card companies you’ll be travelling. There’s nothing worse than having your card blocked as fraudulent while you’re away.
  • Save money by switching to No-Fee ATM Cards.
  • Set up automatic online payments for recurring bills to make sure they don’t get missed.
  • Buy travel insurance. You never know what might happen and you’d be crazy to travel without it.
  • Check to see if you have enough validity – and pages – on your passport to last your entire trip.
  • Apply for any visas you will need in good time.
  • Check to see what vaccinations you need at least six weeks before your departure. This will depend on where you’re going.
  • Have a check-up with any health professional you regularly see before you go. And don’t forget the dentist!
Andrew Chalmers from Gumnuts Abroad, hitchhiking while travelling the world on a career break
Andrew Chalmers from Gumnuts Abroad, hitchhiking while travelling the world on a career break © Audrey Chalmers

Returning to Work after a Career Break

Returning to work after a career break can be stressful. So it’s important you give yourself some time to figure out what you want to do.

What was right for you before your career break might not seem so great now. And you may even want to change professions all together!

Think about what type of work you want to do, and don’t forget about things like location, hours and the workplace culture.

Naturally, potential employers will ask about your career beak. They’ll want to know why you took it, what you did and why you want to return to work. So be prepared and think about your answers prior to being interviewed.

Be succinct and don’t dwell on the fact you’ve been away. But don’t apologise either as it will send the wrong message, it’s better to highlight your skills and work experience instead.

The most important thing is to be confident in yourself and your abilities. Otherwise you risk undervaluing what you have to offer.

The thought of taking a career break or sabbatical can be overwhelming. But with proper planning and the commitment to see it through you’ll be heading off in no time.

And who knows, taking a career break could be one of the most life changing experiences you’ve ever had.

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