5 mins

Career breaks: why you should take one!

If you've had enough of austerity measures and relentless bad news, perhaps it's time to take a career break. But there are plenty of reasons not to... Liz Cleere reasons with the nervous traveller

Got an excuse on why you shouldn't take a career break? You won't for long... (Dreamstime)

1. I'm too young and need to establish my career before I can break it

Taking a year off after A levels or university is considered a rite of passage for many young people. Supported by parents, or by using their own savings, late-teens and early 20-somethings travel for fun, adventure or as part of a volunteer programme. If they are lucky they find all three. Occasionally the gap year becomes a full time career in travel or working abroad. Instead of regarding travel detrimental to careers, many employers prefer candidates who have travelled or volunteered overseas.

2. I've got pre-school children, it just wouldn't be practical

The paraphernalia of travelling with infants can be daunting, but take your home with you in the form of a camper-van or boat and you don't have to worry about travelling light. Children become used to changing horizons early on in life, and their senses are introduced to all kinds of new stimuli. Parents are free to enjoy adventures on the road (or at sea) without the worry of finding suitable facilities for their family.

3. My children are at school, I'll wait till they've finished university

That might be a long wait. Parents who want to lead a roving life, whether on a boat or on wheels, have the option to home-school. With a daily routine in place, it can be an enjoyable experience for the whole family. Children usually spend the morning “at school” with parents and the afternoon exploring a new destination.

Contact your local education authority for advice and browse through specialist websites for a fuller understanding of what home education entails. It is vital parents pay attention to the wishes of their children; as they get older some teens prefer to attend a traditional school to study for important exams and to mix with their peers.

4. I'll retire in 15 years, that's when I'll do all the things I've wanted to do

Who knows what the future will bring? By assessing your assets it might be possible to start earlier. Are you prepared to downsize? Could you take a sabbatical or re-train in some other field to make the leap? A qualification in teaching English as a foreign language abroad could take you all over the world; volunteering with an organisation like VSO, where they actively seek people with years of experience, could mean being paid to work in unusual places.

5. I'm too old

Septuagenarians and even octogenarians are still sailing their boats, and there are plenty of 'elderly' travellers with itchy feet out there combing the globe for new experiences. Age is a state of mind; with good health and careful planning it needn't be a barrier.

6. I can't afford to lose my contacts and skills by giving up work

If your job relies on strong personal contacts (eg sales) then leaving for extended periods could make it difficult to get back into the market at the same level. Similarly, if your career is in a constantly evolving field, it is likely you will soon be out of touch with the latest advances.

To safeguard your job, perhaps you could negotiate a year's sabbatical with your employer. If you are prepared to consider volunteering abroad, your employer may be more sympathetic, or even take an active role through sponsorship.

For a more long-term solution to the travel bug, consider making a radical change to your career: re-train in a profession which is useful for picking up work on the road like hairdressing, teaching English or mechanics; move to contract or temporary work, allowing you to set your own travel periods; look for a job which enables you to work remotely from the office.

7. I've got a mortgage

Sell the property and get rid of the mortgage, or downsize to somewhere with no (or a low) mortgage, and live off the income as you travel.  If the idea of selling your home is too drastic, find out its rental value, and if it generates enough money to cover the mortgage with something left over for daily expenses, you'll be able to keep it and travel indefinitely.

8. I take long holidays, that's good enough

Extended career-breaks and the challenge of open-ended travelling are not right for everyone, both require a fundamental shift in lifestyle. You have to be content with the idea of owning fewer possessions and having a 'lower' standard of living than you may have been used to. If you are happy at home and have no desire to make such permanent changes, you only have to browse through the Wanderlust website to see there are few places left on our planet inaccessible to adventurous holiday-makers.

9. “You're so lucky, I wish I could do what you do.”

When you've set off on your new path and people tell you how lucky you are, remind them that luck had nothing to do with the decision you made to change your life.

If they really want to, so can they.

Liz changed her life in 2004. She says that taking the initial mental leap was the most difficult part of her decision, but after that everything else fell into place. By December 2005 she, and partner Jamie, were living permanently on their yacht in Bodrum. Over 10,500 miles later they are getting ready to set sail from Kerala to the Maldives in February 2013.

You can read about Liz and Jamie's adventures on www.followtheboat.com. Liz is also editor of the Itinerant Writers Club, www.lizcleere.com/writers-club/

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