As many of you know, last April my wife and I left our jobs working at tech startups, moved out of our condo in San Francisco, and took some time off to travel around the country in an Airstream with our baby daughter.
Taking a career break to travel is something I recommend everyone do at least once. I didn’t even know there was a term for it — apparently it’s more popular in the UK and they call it a gap year. Needless to say, it was an unforgettable experience.
There are lots of great reasons to take a career break — today I’m going to outline why I did it.
To live more deliberately
The more my wife and I talked about the life we were living, the more we realized that we were just going through the motions. Our actual lives, the way we were spending our time, had just diverged too far from what we actually wanted.
I wanted to spend more time with my daughter, but my job didn’t allow that. I wanted to take a vacation, but I was spending so much in rent that I felt guilty about paying to stay somewhere else.
To regain perspective
As you may remember, the unicorns were flying high in April 2015. Companies were raising crazy amounts of money at sky high valuations. I was not immune to the koolaid, but I also felt like the growth-at-any-cost mindset had gone a bit insane and it had to slow down soon.
I definitely knew the rest of the country was not like San Francisco, and I was starting to feel like I’d been in a crazy bubble for so long that I was starting to believe it was reality. I thought seeing some of the rest of the country might help me to get re-grounded.
To bond our daughter with her grandparents
Neither my wife’s family nor mine live near us, and it just didn’t feel natural to us that our parents would come, visit for a weekend, and then leave. Our baby was changing by the week, and no trip that short could create the type of bonding and joy that we wanted our parents to feel for their first granddaughter.
We made sure to schedule at least 3 weeks to just stay put in each of our hometowns to get that bonding time.
To reset my career
I honestly did not love what I was doing at work. I just felt like there had to be something better, something where I could learn more, where I could work on things I actually cared about, where I was better positioned for future growth.
I am now working on reshaping my career to be more flexible, more dynamic, and more diversified in terms of income streams. Shameless plug — if you’re looking for adventure and you live in the Bay Area, you can rent our Airstream!
To take some bigger risks
There is never a time when taking a big risk makes me feel comfortable, but I suppose that’s why it’s a risk. Of course I was scared by the idea of leaving my job, my city and making a huge investment in a 45 year old piece of metal.
But ultimately, I realized that maybe I’d been playing life a bit too safely, and it was time to shake things up and see what I would learn from it. I’m also keen on maximizing ROI, and research shows spending money on experiences gives you the most bang for your buck.
No way I’d regret it
All these were big factors, but what closed the deal for me was the realization that I was never going to regret making a decision to live more deliberately, reconnect with the world, and help my daughter get to know her grandparents.
Once I had kids in school, it would only get harder. If I didn’t do it now, there was a decent chance I never would, and that I very well could regret. Ultimately, once the thought got into my mind, it just had to happen. Being practical just didn’t seem important to me anymore.
Have you ever thought about taking a career break? Or taken one? Does this resonate with you? Let me know if I can help you make the big leap!
(Originally posted on Medium, 3/3/2016)