Benefits: A New Era of “Retirement”

[singlepic=1119,250,,,right]There are numerous benefits of taking a career break – most of which can only be measured by you. Whether you are looking for an opportunity to reexamine your life goals or time for self-discovery and inner growth, cultural career breaks give you the chance to get out of your element, which greatly helps in the process. By visiting other cultures and opening yourself to new experiences, you can learn so much about yourself – thus giving you insight you might not have gained from remaining at home.

When Sherry Ott grew tired of her corporate life, she decided to pack her bags and hit the road for 16 months. At the end of that journey, she learned new things about herself, which helped her in developing new life goals – which included saying goodbye to corporate life as she knew it. Among her goals listed were taking ESL classes and staying in the US no more than 6 months out of the year. And within months of her return, she was on her way to Vietnam to live and teach English.

[singlepic=1120,250,,,left]When Michael Bontempi hit an impasse in his job, he finally caved into my pleas to travel before moving on to another job. Unlike Sherry, upon our return he was excited to pursue another corporate job. However, the break and travel experience had made him more energized than ever to finally pursue his career goal of growing into a COO role. Without the break, he would still be at his old company in the same role.

But perhaps one of the biggest benefits of taking a career break is the chance to move a part of your retirement up in time. The definition of retirement as we knew it is gone. There is no longer security in Social Security, pension plans, or 401Ks. And more and more adults are having to work longer than they had ever anticipated. As stated in an article from Msnbc: “In 1985, some 15 percent of men and fewer than 8 percent of women remained in the workforce after age 65, according to a paper by Georgetown University demographics professor Murray Gendell. By last year (2007), 34 percent of men and 26 percent of women had a job or were looking for work. The same pattern holds for workers 70 and older.”

Michael had managed to put aside any fears of our break by rationalizing it as a mini-retirement. “This is the first time I am traveling for an extended period with only a personal agenda. Some will see this as the act of a burned out employee. I see this trip as a chance to experience a portion of my retirement 25 years earlier in my life.”

[singlepic=1121,250,,,right]And even if you did “successfully” retire when you were 65, you may not be able to take advantage of opportunities you could have when you were younger. Perhaps the best statement I heard regarding this was from renowned travel writer, Rolf Potts. At a book reading he was asked why he started traveling. He stated “because retirement doesn’t always reward you with time to travel.” This was in reference to his grandmother, who had waited for retirement to travel but was struck with an illness and unable to do so. This ignited a fire in Rolf to travel while he could. And he’s become quite the expert on long-term travel. In fact, his book Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel is a great resource for anyone starting out on a new adventure.

Career breaks, also known as gap years, are very common in other countries, but Americans think of it as a concept out of reach. It’s easy to be afraid by the thought of a career break. But a career break is just that – a break. It’s not an end – in fact it’s just the beginning of a new era in your life.And why wait until later in life to “enjoy” it?


And now is a great time to think about taking one, according to an article in the NY Times. “A report on adult gap years released in July 2008 by Mintel International, a market research company, described the potential American market for gap years as a ‘sleeping giant.’ And now, with job cuts on the rise, the newly unemployed may find the timing for a gap year to be ideal.” (Click here for the full article)

So why don’t you discover on your own the benefits of a cultural career break?

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Have you already taken a cultural career break? Please share with us what you learned and gained from the experience. Share here.

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