How a Career Break Changed My Life

August 31, 2011 24 Comments »

The day I departed from NYC on my career break in 2006

Five years ago today, August 31st, was my last day of work in the corporate world. I had a little box full of personal items from my desk, a big grin on my face, a bit of trepidation in my gut, and a one-way ticket to Africa.

It was supposed to be a career break of one year. However somehow one year has turned into five years. For the last five years I’ve celebrated this momentous occasion in places around the globe:

2007 – Delhi India volunteering
2008 – Puma Nepal trekking and volunteering
2009 – Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam living and teaching ESL
2010 – Brussels, Belgium housesitting
2011 – Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia after finishing the Mongol Rally

I don’t even think I knew some of these places existed or where to find them on a map back in 2006 when I left my office behind. And I certainly would have never expected that 5 years later I would still be traveling.

mongol rally

Me entering Mongolia during the Mongol Rally 5 years later

I don’t consider myself on a career break any longer; travel blogging and running Meet, Plan, Go! is now a lifestyle and a new career. However that initial career break from September 2006 to November 2008 changed my life in many ways…all for the better. It sent me on various different trajectories beyond the cube; but more importantly it changed me inside.

If you are contemplating a career break to do some extended travel, volunteering, or a long crazy adventure like the Mongol Rally then odds are you will experience some of these changes in your life:

Simplicity – a big salary, titles, and offices have little meaning to me any longer. Instead I value experiences. Even if I had gone back to a corporate job, I know for a fact that I value my happiness over a larger salary. I feel as if I’ve finally stepped off the ‘more is better’ lifestyle that we are all destined to live in the US.

Creativity – My left brain woke up on my career break. I thought I had lost my creative side for good after 14 years of conference room meetings, project plans, and bureaucratic corporations. I found new skills and interests in photography, writing, and art. I retrained my brain to make my own decisions and solutions instead of relaying decisions and solutions decided by ‘higher ups’.

Family – I witnessed family culture all over the world which has changed the way that I view my own family relations now. I see my family more often; I depend on them, and value them like I never did before.

Television/Hollywood – I am free from the shackles of living other people’s lives via television and celebrity magazines. I have cut back on the Hollywood hype at least 80%. Sure – I still watch TV, but much less than I ever did before my career break and travels.

Fear – I have learned how to face my fears and push myself beyond my self-imposed limits. The Mongol Rally is a great example of that. Instead of running from things, I face them head on. Life if short, there is no time to be scared.

Time – most importantly my career break gave me time to think. My prior life was full of commitments, meetings, projects, and plans. There was no time to actually rest, think, and evaluate my life and decisions. By stepping off the corporate track and away from what was familiar to me, it freed up my mind. You don’t have to take a long break to do this – but a break is certainly necessary. It’s natural and needed for your mind and body to slow down a bit and re-energize. A two week vacation is not enough time to do that; it’s simply an expensive diversion.

I can’t guarantee that you will have a similar experience as I did on my career break, but it will change you – that I know.

I recently did an interview with Lonely Planet about Career Break Travel Myths – check it out and be prepared to shatter some of the excuses you’ve been using on why you don’t think you can take a career break and travel!

And if you are sitting in your cube terrified by all of this talk of career breaks, but also intrigued at the same time, then be sure to check out my other travel business venture – Meet, Plan, Go!

At Meet, Plan, Go! we are leading the career break movement in North America; encouraging and teaching others how to travel the world and have it be beneficial to your career. We envision a world where the term ‘career break’ is a part of your overall career strategy.

The Meet Plan Go! website was listed recently as one of the best travel websites EVER from the Guardian online.  So be sure to check it out!

Meet Plan Go

Meet Plan Go on our Mongol Rally car in Kazakhstan

Plus, on October 18th, don’t miss our North American Career Break event about how to take the big leap out of the cubicle and onto the plane. We are holding the event in 17 cities staffed with career break and travel experts to inspire and assist you towards your own career break!

What are you waiting for…time is short and the world is big!

Have you taken a career break and traveled?  What did you learn from it?  Please share in the comments below!

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