Today we have a great guest post from Craig and John, a couple of experienced career breakers currently traveling the world. Based on their personal experience, they’ve got some great tips for finding out if a career break is for you and how to get started. They have an eye to becoming nomadic and give you an insight into their lives and what they’re going through as they make that decision. It’s a post that balances their personal story with great advice for anyone thinking of taking a break. I’m really thrilled that Craig and John took the time to share it with all of you.
Inspired to Travel Long-Term
In 2008 we took a vacation to Bali. At this point in our lives, we had about three luxury holidays a year, many to exotic destinations in an attempt to satiate our yearnings to travel. However, this turned out to be our last of such trips.
On this holiday we met a couple who had spent many years travelling around the world. They had both left their jobs years ago and had lived in the UK, Germany, Turkey, India and travelled the world extensively. Dave & Debbie were about the same age as us, but they weren’t exhausted from working tirelessly earning money to secure what maybe a better future. They were fit and active, and most importantly very happy with their chosen lifestyle. We asked ourselves, whether this was something we could do.
After being inspired by our new friends, we started to follow many travel blogs, researching others who had made this giant leap from a career to become a long-term traveller. What we discovered is that there aren’t that many people dismissing the virtues of taking a career-break or saying that their lives have been irreparably damaged from taking a few years off work.
On the contrary, the empirical evidence suggests that the majority of people who pursue their travel dreams benefit in many ways from starting such a journey. Always a bit sceptical, we needed to explore in detail the personal impact of making such a life changing decision.
The Career-Break Quandary: To Travel or Not To Travel?
We asked ourselves all the questions that any person considering long term travel and leaving their job would. Questions such as, can we spend so much time together as a couple, what happens if a family member gets ill, what will we do after the trip, do we have enough savings etc? I won’t go into the hours, days and years we spent discussing these questions and many others, but there are answers and solutions to all these quandaries. Travel websites, like Career Break Secrets, provided us with the knowledge to know it was possible.
Our problem was as soon as we answered a question, another would arise; maybe we just didn’t want to travel on a long-term basis enough. No, that wasn’t it, the more we learned the stronger our desire to travel became. We knew if we didn’t take a career-break, we would only ever be able to see a small fraction of the world, at the mercy of our annual leave entitlement from work. Even if we finished work in our 60’s (more likely to be 70’s with the constant changes in the age of retirement legislation) assuming we would live that long, there just wouldn’t be enough time.
We certainly weren’t running away from our lives, heck, we enjoyed them. We realised that we were frightened of our dream becoming a nightmare, and would be embarrassed to return after just a couple of months on the road, having missed our home comforts. We needed to try this out and see if we could hack it.
Try Before You Buy
We’d never had the privilege of travelling on a long-term basis, prior to or immediately after graduating from university, as we are both from large working class families and our first priorities were to pay off our debts and progress with our chosen careers.
We had nearly always travelled independently, unless we were doing an all-inclusive holiday to somewhere like Mexico or Goa. So we were pretty good at making travel plans and visiting several destinations in one trip. One thing we hadn’t done, for decades, was travel on a budget. We appreciated that it wouldn’t be financially sustainable for us to travel the way we’d travelled in the past. Not that we’d been totally frivolous, but as we both worked very hard, our leisure time together was of great value and so we placed a premium in ensuring that our holidays went smoothly. So we both decided to take three weeks annual leave, and travel around Morocco to see if we could stick to a tight budget and hopefully our plans of travelling around the world wouldn’t be shattered.
Travelling in Morocco we stayed at hostels, and budget accommodation using public buses and trains to get around. We ate where the locals ate or in budget restaurants, the food was amazing. One thing we did quickly realise is that we wouldn’t be staying in ‘dorms’ as we valued our space and privacy too much, to compromise on sharing accommodation. We managed to keep to a tight budget and thoroughly enjoyed touring around Morocco. To our relief and surprise we didn’t miss the little luxuries of chocolates and rose petals on our pillow, or spending too much time in the hotel/resort sipping cocktails. In fact, we felt we’d experienced and learnt more than on many previous holidays combined. This trip was our ‘eureka’ moment and fixed our conviction to take a career break. After this we developed our ‘flashpacking’ travel philosophy, for our around the world trip.
Making your travel dreams a reality
The first decision was when to depart and how to break the news. Once our employers had agreed to our exit (which wasn’t that easy) and suitable dates set, it’s explaining your decision to family and friends. We didn’t want people to think we were having some sort of mid-life crisis, well I don’t think we were, so we explained to people we were going flashpacking.
What’s flashpacking? Unless you’re a fully paid up member of the travel community you probably haven’t come across this term. If you haven’t, you can find out a bit more about flashpacking and us, in our travel blog. The reason we chose this way of communicating our decision, was it allowed us to answer follow-up questions and explain in detail our reasons. Therefore, people were aware we weren’t running away to join a commune or on the hippie trail, not that there is anything wrong with either of these choices, just not something we’d choose to do. Once all the tears had been shed, everybody was really supportive.
We started to deconstruct our lives, well possessions really. This takes a very long time, from selling everything, cars, properties, and placing in storage what you want to keep. The amount of administration is onerous, from changing addresses and cancelling direct debits.
It’s all pretty straightforward but don’t underestimate the amount time this takes, so start work on this as soon as you set a travel date. The whole process is very cathartic, and you begin to appreciate how much junk you’ve accumulated, and after over 20 years of living together you’d be surprised at just how much two people can own. We certainly won’t be purchasing any tourist souvenirs whilst on this trip! The hardest thing for us, was emptying our vast bookshelves, this proved quite an emotive process. To make this a little easier, we got an e-version of those publications available. However, being old romantics our books held memories more than just the words printed on the pages.
Life on the Road
We started our around the world journey in Melbourne, Australia and are currently in India. It was a bit scary spending our first month in Australia, as the Australian dollar was at an all time high and we completely smashed our budget. Although, we easily managed to recover these costs in cheaper destinations such as Vietnam and Cambodia. We especially enjoyed our travels around Cambodia, Japan and New Zealand. We absolutely fell in love with South Korea and would highly recommend people place this country on their travel itinerary.
We plan to travel to every continent on this trip and are looking forward to touring the USA in 2013.
We’ve not really experienced any problems whilst on the road. We do find ourselves replacing travel gear and gadgets now and again, as they really do get a hammering being used almost daily.
The experience has been exhilarating and we both feel more relaxed and healthier than we did working long-hours at home.
What does the future hold?
We’re enjoying ourselves so much, that we can’t see this journey ending anytime soon. If we reach a point when we do become a little travel weary, we’ll look at teaching or voluntary work in a foreign country. We’ve been amazed by the stories we’ve heard, whilst on the road, at just how viable long-term travel is, whatever your budget or finances. An example of one story, told to us by a Spanish couple we met in their mid-thirties, which has allowed them to travel for the last 10 years.
They take temporary jobs, preferably working in different countries to fund a minimum of 6 months travel every year. We met them diving in Gili Air, Indonesia, just before they were departing for Denmark to plant Christmas Trees. They have no savings or property, and most importantly no worries. They are one of the happiest couples we’ve ever met and have no plans to stop travelling.
Finally, I mentioned earlier about our friends, Debbie & Dave, who inspired us to travel. Debbie contacted us by Skype, when we were in Thailand recently, and informed us that Dave had been rushed into a Turkish hospital and was in a critical condition after suffering massive heart failure. Dave hadn’t been to a doctor in over 20 years and was in excellent health. Dave is now in the UK awaiting major heart surgery, and will hopefully make a full recovery, and no doubts, they’ll be back on the road again soon. For us, after our initial shock, it reaffirmed our decision to follow in their footsteps pursuing our travel dreams as you just never know what the future holds.
What we do know is, we are completely smitten with our chosen travel lifestyle. We don’t have any regrets, but if we had to have one it would be that we didn’t start our career break sooner. When the money starts to run out, we’ll look at a career that can incorporate our desire to travel and experience new destinations around the world.
About the Authors
Flashpackers, Craig & John, embarked on their around the world trip in December 2011. The couple of forty-somethings, agonised for three years before eventually making the decision to travel on a long term basis. Here they describe why they found the idea of taking a career break difficult, and how life on the road is for them now. The travel bloggers write about their around world trip and the destinations they travel to at FlashpackAtForty.com/