What’s the Right Amount of Time on the Road
When I first started backpacking nearly 20 years ago, I never heard about gap-years, or for that fact, career breaks. I was traveling as a college student, adding to my education by backpacking through Europe and studying in London. That experience led me to realize that I wanted to incorporate travel throughout my life – whether it was three months in SE Asia or two weeks in Ecuador.
And during the majority of my travels, the Internet was not a prevalent part of my planning until the past few years. So I was unaware of any other people outside of my circle taking sabbaticals or career breaks to do extended travel.
But since co-founding Briefcase to Backpack, many more career breakers and RTW travelers have come on my radar. And sometimes it seems like many feel that they need to travel for at least a year or more, and in some cases, sell all of their belongings to do so. But in my experiences, I don’t feel that that is always necessary. Yes, there are many fascinating places in the world to see, but is it really necessary to check them off all at once?
I’ve found that I much prefer taking shorter breaks (a minimum of two to three months) every few years – focusing on a certain area of the world. And knowing that that is how I prefer to travel has also made it easier to incorporate those breaks throughout my career – utilizing time between jobs to travel. And personally, I really look forward to returning home.
My most recent career break was only just three years ago (my fourth), and I’m continuously asked when my next break is going to be. And I thought that it would actually be at the end of this year, when I celebrate my 40th birthday. I’m not sure if it is the milestone birthday or the “pressure” from writing and editing other people’s career break stories – or a combination of both – but my recent vacation made me realize that I may not really be ready for a break. I’m very happy building a business and living with my husband and two cats in New York City.
I think that because of my early travel experiences I have learned how to really make the most of my vacations, using the week or two to also experience new cultures while enjoying the time off. Michael and I just returned from 10 days in Panama, where we took in the diverse neighborhoods of Panama City, experienced the Canal from various vantage points, visited the Pacific beaches on the Azuero Peninsula, and enjoyed the seclusion of the San Blas islands. It was during that vacation that I realized it’s not the length of the trip that is important – it is what you do with your time that is. And that is something I learned from my various career breaks.
Of course RTW trips are an amazing opportunity for many people, and I don’t discount them. I just know that that style of travel is not for me. Nor is the nomadic lifestyle of my business partner, Sherry Ott.
In fact, when we first started Briefcase to Backpack, we didn’t want to tell people how to plan their own career break, because we knew it is a very personal experience. But by featuring the experiences of others, you could find a variety of inspirational stories and then decide what would work best for you. I just want people to also realize that a career break and extended travel doesn’t have to be a one-off experience – it can become a part of your life moving forward.
So in planning your own career break travels, really think about the amount of time and experiences you want to take in. Don’t necessarily worry about keeping up with the Joneses of the RTW travel community.