Taking a break from work without consequences. If you’ve been feeling stuck in a rut at work lately, like you’re living the same day, week, and month, over and over again, it might be time to mix things up with a career break. Long gone are the days when gap years were reserved for students only! Taking a break from work is now more popular and acceptable than ever before. You’re never too old, or too far into your career to take a career break and interrupt the boring routine.
Contrary to what you might fear, a career break doesn’t have to put your career on hold. Instead, see it as a way to add extra skills, gain a new perspective, and spice up your life if it’s gone a little stale lately. Maybe you’re totally burnt out and ready to change your career completely, or maybe you still love your job but are feeling a little unfulfilled. There are many reasons to take a career break.
Taking a career break or adult gap year is nothing to fear and there are many programs and organizations out there that can help you have the time of your life. There are no limits to what you can do on your career break: volunteer with animals, teach your skills to others, learn a new language, or start a business—the choice is yours.
A well-deserved break from your career will benefit your health, spirit and even your employer. Take a step back from the noise and busyness of the modern working world and jump into your career break adventure, no matter how high up the career ladder you’ve climbed.
In this article, we’ll show you how to break free of the 9-to-5 grind with some incredible career break ideas.
Career break travel FAQs
1. When can I take a career break?
In your 30s or 40s, you’ll most like have already gotten into a groove in your career and might feel less comfortable taking a career break or that it’s never the right time. If you’re worried you missed the gap year train back when you were fresh out of college, then don’t worry, you can take a break at any time in your career. The biggest mistake people make when it comes to career breaks is not taking one at all and missing out on the experience of a lifetime.
For a long time, gap years were reserved for youngsters, fresh out of high school or university. But with the job market and education landscape changing dramatically, it’s not the case anymore. Employers value life experience, language, and problem-solving skills, all of which you can learn on a career break abroad.
If you’re taking a career break at 30, you could still be eligible for a working holiday visa in Australia, Canada, or other countries. Working holidays can be a great way to help finance your gap year and explore a new country at the same time.
Taking a career break at 40 is just as feasible as during your 20s. You might just have to take a little extra time to prepare. It might even be easier to take a career break, because your employer already values and trusts you and might even hold your job for you if you just need a temporary change. Of course, those in their 40s will have more responsibilities, but none of these should stop you from taking a career break. Houses can be rented out, cars and belongings can be sold, and pets can be looked after by friends and family when taking a break from work. Don’t let these ‘obstacles’ hold you back.
2. What are the benefits of a career break?
Here are some of the biggest benefits of taking a career break at 30 or later:
- Travel!! Of course, you could decide to take a career break and stay at home, but where’s the fun in that? Career breaks are the perfect opportunity to fit a bit of adventure and travel into your life and shake up the routine. You can choose to travel to one country and really immerse yourself, or to travel around a few countries for a few different projects—it’s totally up to you.
- Give back! One of the major benefits of taking a gap year a few years into your career instead of right out of college, is that you’ll have a lot of skills and experience to offer. It gives you the chance to give back. Taking a career break at 40 means you can use your years of work experience to help people and organizations in a meaningful way, giving back to communities and using your leadership skills to create change and make a difference.
- Learn new skills. Just because you’re taking a break from your usual career, doesn’t mean you won’t be adding skills to your resume. Travel is one of the most transformative experiences in life and you will learn so much about yourself and other cultures and communities, as well as gaining new hands-on skills that will make your resume stand out from the crowd. New languages, volunteering, or teaching experience are all highly valued skills in the job market.
- Gain fresh perspectives. Working life with all its responsibilities can be stressful, and burnout is a reality for people throughout the career ladder. So, use this as a chance to get a fresh perspective! Nothing will refresh you and give you a new perspective on your life and career like taking a career break abroad. Immersing yourself in new cultures, meeting new people and crossing a few major items off your bucket list will re-energize you in no time and bring the excitement back into your career again.
3. What are popular career break ideas?
When it comes to picking your career sabbatical, you’re spoilt for choice with all the options available. Most adult gappers have the drive to explore, learn and give back to others in common. Whether it’s teaching English in Korea, joining an archaeological dig in Italy, or preserving rainforests in Costa Rica, the possibilities are endless and the right program for you is out there. Taking a break from work has never been easier (or full of more fun possibilities!).
Volunteering has long been a popular career break option, and for good reason. Giving back to others can add a lot of meaning to your career break and the skills you learn will look great on your resume. Stepping out of your comfort zone will make you grow as a person and professional. Volunteering can also make taking a sabbatical from your life much more affordable, as many programs offer you room and board in exchange for your help.
Fancy a bit of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ during your career break? Why not step into Elizabeth Gilbert’s footsteps and spend part of your gap year learning a new language amongst locals? If you’ve always dreamt of learning Italian in Rome, or Spanish in Argentina, now’s the time!
Learning a new language is fun, challenging, and definitely takes you out of your comfort zone. And while you might not get completely fluent during your career break, adding some new language skills to your CV will impress future employers and can even open up whole new opportunities. Spanish is among the most popular languages to learn during a career break as you can use it in so many different countries. Other popular languages are Mandarin, Japanese, and Arabic, but the choice is yours and you can learn a new language in every country in the world.
If your budget is limited and you can’t take a whole year off to travel, learn or volunteer, don’t despair. There are a ton of short-term jobs abroad that you can use to supplement your travel fund. A popular option is teaching English abroad, and there are lots of programs out there for older gappers. Make sure you talk with your teaching program before you book to find out about age restrictions in different countries.
4. What are potential career break pitfalls?
Before blindly taking a break from work, there are of course many things to consider. Adult gap yearers tend to have more responsibilities than their college or high school counterparts. Do you have a family, children, a house, or a mortgage? Don’t worry, there are programs out there that cater to any type of career break, and many people have successfully taken their kids and partners along on their sabbatical break too.
Here are some of the most common worries amongst adult gappers and how to avoid or overcome them:
Financing your life sabbatical
The number one thing that prevents adults from taking a career break is the worry of how to fund it. Understandably, financing your career break will be of concern, but money should not hold you back from living your dreams. As we explored above, there are many different takes on career breaks, and working abroad is a great option among them. Leaving your stale 9-to-5 behind to move across the world and take a different job does not mean you’re not doing it right. In fact, many people get restless after a few months of ‘just travel’ and crave finding meaning in work, which could be on a volunteer or paid basis.
No matter whether you’re planning to work during your career break or not, you should definitely make a budget plan to avoid having to return after a few months because you’ve blown your budget (it happens!). Depending on how you design it and which program you pick, career breaks for adults can be costly, so it’s important to write down exactly how much you’ll need every month and add a buffer for emergencies and special occasions.
The key to financing your gap year is to plan ahead and start saving as early as possible while you’re still in your 9-to-5 job. Write down what you spend your money on every day, week and month and then find clever ways to cut down your costs. Do you really need Netflix, Hulu, and cable? You’ll probably want to downsize before taking your career break, so start sorting out the stuff that you don’t need anymore, then sell it and add the proceeds to your travel fund.
Not every career break has to cost the world, but start saving early, look for a job abroad if necessary, and choose a country where the economics fit your budget.
Impact on your career
First off, a career break absolutely doesn’t have to hurt your career and, if done properly, can actually be amazing for it. Before you quit your 9-5 and jet off into the sunset you should really get clear on why you want to take a break, what kind of experiences you’re after and what you want to learn and add to your skillset.
Travel teaches you a whole host of soft and hard skills, and you’ll certainly strengthen your resilience and problem-solving skills. Talk to your employer about whether they offer a sabbatical program that would allow you to take a year of unpaid leave and guarantee that you could return to your job after the break.
To make sure you keep in the loop during career break travel, you can subscribe to magazines or journals in your field and stay connected with your network via LinkedIn while you’re abroad. You could even attend networking events in your new destination during your career break to grow your professional network in your field.
Lack of planning and direction
One of the big dangers when taking a career break is to not plan it properly, get lazy and then not make the most of it. While it’s tempting to take the chilled approach, if you’re after a life-changing experience and an adventure that will add some pizazz back to your life, you can’t just wing it. Taking a year off to catch up on sleep, binge watch The Simpsons reruns, and hang out with your mates is neither going to re-energize you nor impress any employer. A certain amount of spontaneity is great, but you should always have a plan in place to help you avoid wasting your year on meaningless activities and chores.
You can avoid wasting precious time on your career break by making a list of all the experiences you’d like to have, skills you’d like to learn or different ways you’d like to push yourself. Have you always wanted to hike the Inca Trail in Peru? Why not combine that with a language course in Lima and volunteering in a rural school? If you’ve become a bit too comfortable in your 9-to-5 routine, write down five ways that you want to really step out of your comfort zone, like moving to a country where you don’t speak the language or working with people who are completely different to you.
Most-loved locations for career break travel
When pretty much the whole world is your oyster, deciding where to travel on your career break can be quite a big task, and you might find yourself wanting to go everywhere! Most people pick a destination that they’ve had on their bucket list for a while, but you should also take into account the type of career break you’re looking for, as well as visa requirements and budget, because some career break travel destinations are much more affordable than others.
Thankfully, you can find programs that will help you get set up in almost every country in the world, so get your globe out and pick your dream location.
Here are some of the most-loved destinations for 30-something travel:
The land of smiles is high on many travelers’ bucket lists and is also one of the most popular career break destinations. There are countless opportunities in Thailand, from conservation work to teaching English. Expect warm and friendly locals, and a rich and fascinating culture alongside turquoise seas and delicious food. Thailand really does have it all, along with an incredibly affordable price tag.
- Greenheart Travel is on a mission to make the world a better place by placing dedicated people with a spark of wanderlust in meaningful projects around the world. From language immersion to volunteering, teaching English to environmental awareness campaigns, Greenheart has projects in over 30 countries.
As far as career break destinations go, Peru really has it all. A rich and fascinating history, breathtaking landscapes, welcoming culture and even llamas. And, of course, a trip to Machu Picchu shouldn’t be missed on any career break in Peru.
- Love Volunteers connects passionate volunteers with communities around the world. They provide some of the most affordable volunteering opportunities available by working closely with local organizations and making sure the money goes where it should. From Albania to Argentina and Palestine to Peru, Love Volunteers has the right program for you.
Ah, Bella Italia for a career sabbatical! Who hasn’t dreamt of spending a summer in Tuscany eating pizza and pasta while learning Italian or volunteering at a vineyard? Everything’s possible on a career break in Italy and it’s also a great jumping off point for exploring the rest of Europe while you’re there.
- Geovisions offers excellent au pair programs in Italy—if you love kids or want to become part of a family, this job’s for you. Their programs are open to American, Australian, Canadian, Kiwi, Irish and British participants, and salaries and stipends vary.
Your career sabbatical is just around the corner
Use your career break travel to re-evaluate what’s most important to you in your personal and professional life, then refocus and get excited about new opportunities. You deserve to take a break and make the best out of your life. So, take the time to explore this beautiful world, destress from your regular work, and get a new lease of life.
Hopefully, your wanderlust has been stoked and you’re ready to take a break from the same old daily routine of your 9-to-5 job with a career break adventure of a lifetime!