Wow, what an amazing thread - it's truly inspiring! There are a lot of good tips and resources in here, thank you all!
I'm in the same boat, I want to take a year off to figure out whats next in my career. I'm 33 years old and from Denmark, but moved to Seattle almost 3 years ago, to pursue a life long dream of working for Microsoft. While this as truly been a great experience for me and pushed my boundaries and limits both personally and professionally, I find myself in need of a change. I find myself in an office with no windows for 10 hrs a day. Heck, I don't even know if it's rain or sun outside, but being in Seattle, my bet is on rain
Having spent my time here and fulfilled my dream of working here, It's time for me to think ahead and do something different. Working for Microsoft is not as glorified as it once was, after all, it's just another job. I guess it's just one of those points in life where I'm more aware of the future and what I wan't to achieve in life, and it's not my current path/job. After all: "No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time in the office."
One of the things I have really enjoyed working here for Microsoft is all the amazing people I have worked with from all over the world. I'm curious by nature and love having lunch with my co-workers from all over the world, hearing stories about their home country, culture, people etc. I makes me wanna go out and explore the world!
Being an ex-pat, I feel as if I have already taken a big step in moving from Europe to the US, and it's been the best experience for me on many levels. I wish I had done it earlier in my career! I have grown so much as a person from living here 3 years, to the point where I don't even recognize myself from my days in Denmark. I see this when visiting and talking to old friends back in Denmark - I have changed tons, they haven't changed at all. Not that change is for everybody, but I just get goosebumps thinking about who I would have been if I hadn't been so lucky to have this experience in my life.
A recent spontaneous trip to Hawaii snapped something in me, a longing for freedom and basic things in life. I was watching the surfers BBQ in Kapiolani park after a perfect day surfing on Waikiki beach, smoking ganja and listening to loud reggae music, while enjoying time with their friends. Running on the beach, smelling the tropical flowers and feeling the warm sun. It's probably the biggest contrast to my life here in Seattle. I do realize and appreciate that these are all normal feelings after a great vacation, and that a vacation settings is different from living there for sure. But still, it sparked something...
Now I'm thinking about going to Hawaii for a few months on a tourist visa, maybe working (if possible? anyone knows?) at a restaurant. After that, travel through South America and possibly Asia/Australia, before ultimately (if I don't end up doing something different on my trip) move back to Europe.
I think it's key what was said earlier in this thread, that If you don't know why you are traveling, what the purpose is, then It will be hard to return to your old life. For me, I'm at a point in my career where I'm either going to completely change path, or build my own company within the IT field. I'm hoping to get some insight into this while traveling.
I do have some questions also, I would love to hear about:
How much money do people roughly budget for to leave for a year? I would like to travel light (backpacking) and live simple and cheap places. I would even love to stay a few months in a city and get a temporary job (waiter etc)
Preliminary travel destinations?
Do people plan destinations ahead or just go with the flow? I'm particularly thinking about budgeting for transportation between destinations etc?
Is traveling alone safe in South America or is there anything I should be aware of?
South America, Asia, Australia?
Any key insights on these countries/regions that is worth considering before leaving there?