“Then there is the most dangerous risk of all– the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” — Randy Komisar, The Monk and the Riddle
One of the top 3 questions that I get when we talk about the trip is "what about your job?" (specifically, my mom asks me this a lot). She doesn't like my answer that I'm taking a Career Break, which is probably why she continues to ask me this question over and over again.
Fortunately, I work in a field that is project-based, meaning that my professional life has a cyclical nature. This makes it relatively easy to take time off of work - I can finish one project, take some time off to travel, and then come back to the next project. Of course, this is just a working theory up to this point - our upcoming trip will be the first time we put this into practice (hopefully it won't be the last time...)
Taking time off of work has always come with its share of challenges. Besides the obvious impact to your income, the prevailing wisdom is that gaps in-between jobs on your resume showed that there's some sort of "issue" with your ability to hold down a job. Therefore, leaving a job to travel (or do something otherwise non-job-related) was a potential negative for employers to identify as they reviewed your resume.
What we are seeing now is the start of a movement towards taking a "Career Break". Similar to a Gap Year for students (which is much more prevalent in Europe and Australia than the US), a Career Break is an opportunity to take time off of work (think "sabbatical") for any number of reasons, some of the most popular of which are for travel and volunteer work.
Taking time for yourself (or your family) gives us the opportunity to reflect, to learn new skills, to share our experiences, to give our time to something that is important to us. While most all of us need to work in order to keep on top of the mortgage etc, I would wager that almost all of us would not list "going to work" at the top of the list of things that we want to be spending our time doing.
You're right though, these are tough economic times that make it difficult to contemplate doing something other than working. Anne and I have been thinking about, discussing, and planning this trip for a couple of years now, so although the timing around the job market doesn't seem optimal right now, it's not going to stop us. Besides, we're both lucky to have built very strong networks that we are looking forward to leveraging when we come back to Seattle and get back into our professional careers (if we choose to).
I've been happy that the Internet has made it possible to have found a strong community of other like-minded Career Breakers. There are a number of people who are dedicated to helping people like me (and you) dream, plan, and take a Career Break. Meet, Plan, Go! has some great resources (and is also a fantastic bunch of people); same with the Career Break Secrets site. A quick search will net you a ton more sites.
I admit - getting ready to spend 13 months on the road is both exciting and scary, and I will be quite interested to see what it will do to/for my professional career. I do know that I fully agree with the following quote though -
"Nobody will say on their deathbed: 'I wish I had spent more time in the office'."
- and gauging by the interest and feedback we've gotten from the people that we talked about our trip with, we're not alone. One of the many outcomes I hope for from our trip is that someone else might be inspired to take a Career Break of their own. Why not you?