deciding

“What are you going to do when you get back?”

Written By: jeff

Posted On: December 3rd, 2012

Copyright ACoupleofTravelers.com

Today we have a great guest post from career breakers Dave and Vicky who are currently traveling the world. When planning our breaks, there’s a natural concern by others around us about what we are going to do post-career break. We career breakers aren’t immune from this concern, but we figure it out and come to peace with a bit of uncertainty that exists when thinking about the re-entry phase. Dave and Vicky share their experience and put that uncertainty about the future in perspective.

“What are you going to do when you get back?”

I get asked this question all the time. I usually want to say:

“Honestly, I’m way to busy planning this trip to even think about what I’ll be doing two years from now.”

But that might come off as a bit rude, so I usually tone it down a bit and unenthusiastically list off a few things that I could potentially do two years from now. Find a job or go to graduate school usually suffice.

But actually, that I’m too busy planning my trip isn’t 100% honest, because even though we ARE too busy planning this trip, I do think about what I’ll be doing two years from now. It’s a legitimate question, and I probably think about it daily, and usually with a bit of anxiety (OK, a lot of anxiety).

And today I had an epiphany.

I think I understand the source of the anxiety, and it’s not what everyone probably thinks it is. What most people think is that we’re going to come back broke. We will have been out of the workforce for two whole years. We’re not going to know what we want to do next. We will probably be living in someone’s basement (most likely chez parents). Above all, this will be 100% because of our decision to travel. If things don’t work out, travel will be to blame, and we’ll be back at square one. Worse, square zero.

Now it’s true we’ll probably come back broke.

It’s also true we’ll have been out of the workforce for two years.

We hopefully won’t be living in our parents basement, but you never know.

Is it crazy that none of this really concerns me?

What concerns me is simply not knowing what I’ll be doing two years from now – general uncertainty of what to be doing with your life and less and less time to figure it out.

And I realized that this doesn’t actually have a lot to do with travel. Actually, if you asked me today what I’d be doing two years from now (if we weren’t traveling), I wouldn’t know. And if I decided to continue working for two more years, and you asked me two years from now what I was going to do next, I probably STILL wouldn’t know.

In fact, I can’t remember the last time I knew what I was going to be doing two years from now and whenever I thought I knew, it never ended up turning out how I pictured it. When I went to school to become a physicist, did I imagine that I’d graduate and have my first employer be a major, financial services company (doing anything BUT physics)? Nope.

So either way, travel or not, I still have this general anxiety. Moreover, I actually feel a bit more comfortable knowing that we’re traveling. Frankly, after two years of work, I don’t feel any more prepared to answer the question regarding my future than I did two years ago. I also think, with two MORE years of work, I’d be marginally more prepared to answer that question, but basically in the same spot.

However, through traveling, connecting with other people, learning more about myself, and finding out what life is actually like “out there”, I feel like I might be setting myself up to answer this question after all. This is how it was back in college when I was preparing to become a physicist, but ended up as a business analyst. I was simply preparing myself to be marketable to a whole bunch of job fields and to naturally go where the tides took me after graduation. So right now travel is about as good an idea as any I’ve thought of, and in light of this, traveling actually calms my nerves about what I’ll do “when I get back.”

Sure, if I wasn’t traveling, I’d certainly end up with a lot more money two years from now, but what would I do with it? I certainly can’t buy myself a career or some sort of future, so forgive me if I don’t regard it very highly. Power isn’t in small amounts of money, but in large potential value that can be exchanged down the line.

So at the end of the day, while traveling certainly prompts a lot of questions about what you’re going to do afterwards, it really shouldn’t be the focal point of the conversation. In fact, I could probably ask most of the people who won’t be traveling what they’re going to be doing in two years, and I don’t think too many of them would know, but nobody is asking that question, are they?

Author Bio:

Having spent 2 years in the working world, Dave and Vicky are ready to exchange their briefcases for backpacks, dress shoes for sandals, and beds for sleeping bags. In September they set off on a 2 year journey across Asia and Europe. You can follow along at A Couple of Travelers.

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5 Responses to ““What are you going to do when you get back?””

  1. Dave says:

    Thanks for letting us guest post!

  2. Great post guys! It is true the number one question we get is “what is your plan” – which is entirely too vague… our plan for what?! Ha – it drives us crazy too!

    We’ve realized how comfortable we have become with uncertainty and not having a “plan” – and are shocked with how many people are unable to handle uncertainty!

  3. Heidi - For Travels Sake says:

    I am slightly older than you guys and I get asked that question ALOT as well. I totally agree with you on things never turning out how you thought they would anyway.

    I think it’s great, and who knows what doors travelling will open up, you may not even come back broke!

  4. Nico says:

    It’s quite a traditinal view of things that stopping your job for any length of time is part of a career break. True, you won’t receive a regular salary, but it’s actually more than possible with the Internet to run a business or hold a job from almost anywhere in the world. It just depends if you want to define your career as turning up to an office every day.

    Anyways, two years of travelling! Sounds like you’ll have an amazing experience.

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