The long anticipated and seldom actualized career break. How many of us in the work obsessed United States actually take one?
I’m not talking about that measly one week look over your shoulder excuse for a break many of us are accustomed to. I’m not even talking about a two-week hiatus where you start to unwind, only to be tethered to your cell phone and email. I’m talking about the kind of break where you step away from your job or ego defining career and experience life on your own timetable. Waking up without an alarm clock, when your body is ready. Having no plans for the day, other than those you manifest along the way.
The kind of break where you remember what it’s like to just breathe again, to experience whatever hobbies and passions make you a creative human. You start to feel refreshed, and filled with that childlike energy and sparkling eyes which you thought were a long forgotten thing of the past.
A large majority of people understandably value ongoing stability and are very risk averse. The pain of their current situation has to be strong enough, to want to change. Many people inherit the logic of their peer group, family and societal conditioning, never questioning if it’s the right path for them. In the past I’ve seen people who chase their dreams labeled as deluded, selfish and unrealistic in wanting to experience a fuller, more exotic life.
It’s easier to critique others, than to turn the microscope inward, and face yourself. It can be very uncomfortable. In many cases, I defer to a line Gandalf uttered in Lord of the Rings.
Keep it secret. Keep it safe.
There is strength in silence. Until a person is really certain of their decision. Until they are resolute, keeping their big life plans quiet can help build momentum, instead of fighting off negativity. Whereas, finding a peer group who is already doing what you want to do, can help put things into perspective.
Recently, I went to a local event in Orlando, FL. from the website Meet Plan Go , founded by Sherry Ott. The purpose of the event was to hear the experiences of a panel of interesting people who found ways to take an extended career break and travel extensively.
To some that meant using their existing location independent skills, like a digital marketing expert, copywriter or web designer, work/travel arrangements. Others sold their home, cashing in on retirement and traveling the world with their three teenagers.
There are always excuses like….
“I don’t have any money saved.”
“But I have kids.”
“What if I can’t get another job upon return.”
“Be lucky just to have a job, in this economy.”
“I’m too old.”
There are always ways to make it happen!
There is always a choice. Life is short. These are valid concerns, however calculated risks are sometimes necessary.
Cut down your bills. Get a side job. Learn a new skill. Take up less expensive hobbies. It really is possible. Get rid of stuff.
Check out Meet Plan Go, their site gives some good tips for the various planning stages necessary and connecting with others who have conquered the same questions, it’s inspiring.
Considering the value of personal time is not as high in the U.S. , we need to make it happen. Waiting for the elusive days of retirement, may never come to fruition. We could be dead by then.
I don’t know about you, but for me a one week or two week vacation is far from sufficient. I refuse to resign to the idea of working until death with a short break here and there.
There is always a choice.
In fact, many countries in the world provide an extensive amount of time off:
Austria: Statutory minimum of 25 days for vacation and 13 days off for public holidays.
Brazil: Statutory minimum of 30 days for vacation and 11 days for public holidays.
France: Statutory minimum of 30 days for vacation and 10 days of public days off.
The point being, many of us live the deferred life plan (to quote Tim Ferris), waiting diligently for that elusive “someday” to travel and do the things you really want.
And let me tell you Jack, someday may never come.
It was inspiring being around other like minded people and hearing their stories, challenges and how with careful planning they just “made it happen.”
It seems to me, the only way to truly take a decent break is to carefully plan and quit your job, or to build skills that transfer to the online world, providing a hybrid work/travel situation as a digital nomad. I understand many people have 2 cars, a mortgage, kids, tax bills, elderly relatives to care for and social obligations. Modern life is a never ending list of responsibilities that will almost never disappear, unless you’re willing to take drastic steps. With diligent planning a several month or even year break is possible, if that’s what you desire. For example, checkout this couple who travel around to 20 plus countries with their 5 years old at Soultravelers3.com.
I feel pity when overhearing people talk about never missing a day of work in x amount of years, wearing it as a badge of honor. Your life is ticking by while you pledge your allegiance to an employer who can terminate you at any given moment. Of course, we all need to eat and have bills to pay. It’s how we choose to eat, what bills we choose to accept and how we spend our free time that can make all the difference.
Ask yourself every day if this is really the life you want, and if all the material items requiring work to maintain are really necessary for your happiness. It’s a good exercise and practice to get into. Consider learning about minimalism and the benefits it brings.
These have been difficult questions for me personally, but the more I downshift possessions and increase travel time, the happier I become.
On your deathbed, would you rather recall your perfect attendance record, or reminisce on the fantastic adventures you had?