Like it or love it, most of us have to work for a living. This is the place to commiserate with other cube-dwellers and get tips from other business travelers. Talk about how the daily grind will one day allow you to realize your vagabond dreams. Share tips for turning travel you have to do into travel you want to do.

32 and taking a gap year. What's its like. Anyone?


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Holds PhD in Packing
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  • Added on: June 24th, 2009
heymikey wrote: I don't know -- I have so many issues with this. Two more years and I won't be qualified for a UK working holiday visa and I know I will regret this if I don't go. I'm just scared and the clock won't stop ticking. Sooner or later, I'll wake up to my 60th birthday and realize how much I wasted opportunities to go.

No, the clock doesn't stop ticking. Time is your most valuable asset. Mantras you should never say: I don't know. I can't. I'm not ready. Life is like a can burst and end at any time. Why live with regrets?
Compassion has no limit. Kindness has no enemy.


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Lost in Place
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  • Added on: July 12th, 2009
I lost my job last year in august, at 29 and decided to chuck it all and travel.I really and truly hated my job, and in the end I was glad that I lost it because I got to travel. I did a mini-RTW for three months and came back and went job hunting. I was lucky I came back before the whole economic crisis really hit hard in Australia (where I live now). It was probably the best thing I did ever, and I don't regret it. I plan to do it again in 2011, at 32 the age that you are now.

Given the current economy, if you have the money to do it, I would say do it now. Travel prices are at its lowest and because people don't have the money to travel there are less tourists. Also there's that whole feeling of being free, I guess.

I have left my life once before - I moved to Australia and eventually migrated at 26 - so to me, its not something I can't do again, start from scratch. It is very difficult though, so as long as you are prepared to deal with adjustment at returning to your country, getting a job,and perhaps while not missing out on the world, missing out on some opportunities you could have gotten if you hadn't left. I think tho, it all balances itself out in the end, so go for it!!!

heymikey wrote:"It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything." -- Tyler Durden (Fight Club)
Two more years and I won't be qualified for a UK working holiday visa and I know I will regret this if I don't go. I'm just scared and the clock won't stop ticking. Sooner or later, I'll wake up to my 60th birthday and realize how much I wasted opportunities to go.

I actually regret not coming to Australia sooner because I don't get to take the UK working holiday visa - I'm too old if I don't do it this year, and I can't afford it now - so I would suggest doing it while you still can!!! I am from an Asian background as well, and I know what you mean about expectations, and parental sacrifices. I have no mortgage and the thought would not have occured to me had my mother not brought it up. I think I am lucky though, that my parents while they don't entirely understand, accept that traveling is really what I want to do, so in that sense they've learnt to let it go. (Mum just goes to church all the time and prays that I stay alive!)


Holds PhD in Packing
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  • Added on: July 24th, 2009
Well, I've decided to postpone yet again my plans. I know, I know. The recession got me scared. I had already applied for my Youth Mobility Visa to the UK but have not submitted my biometric data which entitles me to a refund if I do choose to cancel it. I plan on applying again in March or April and by that time, it will be now or never. I did some research and I still have time to do both working holidays in Japan and Australia after living in the UK for 2 years so I guess the timing shouldn't affect my plans.

I just feel so lost. :(
"This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time" -- Fight Club


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  • Added on: November 3rd, 2009
I left my job, took a year-long trip.... came back, and here we are in a bad, bad unemployment situation.

Do I regret taking the trip? NO NO NO NO WAY. Not even a shred of regret.


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Holds PhD in Packing
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  • Added on: February 16th, 2010
I was 30 and my husband was 35 when we did our year-long RTW (just 2 months ago.. :( )

While my hubby was generally the oldest person at hostel gatherings, it totally didn't matter. We got asked all the time if we "had graduated yet" to which we both kind of laughed and said "yeah, something like that.."

Do it!!!

Michaela Potter

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  • Added on: February 25th, 2010
Planning a career break or gap year in your 30's does take a bit more planning and considerations then just being out of college. But if it is truly something you want to do, you can make it happen.

An important thing to consider is deciding "why" you want to do it. Trying to escape isn't enough when you have a career, home, financial obligations to consider. What do you want to achieve other than just lying on the beach for a year? Do you want to go back to your career? Then consider negotiating a sabbatical. Do you possibly want to change careers? Use the time away to try out new skills.

Definitely give some thought to what you want to possibly do when you get back (return to career, create an location independent lifestyle, etc...) and work towards those goals. And definitely build in a cushion for the time it will take to find a job.

That being said, a big obstacle to achieving your career break goals are people around you saying it's not possible. You need to find a support system of like-minded people who have done something like this and you can see it's possible. There are already some great stories in this thread alone. And I started a website just for the purpose of offering inspiration and advice to Americans wanting to take a traveling career break.

I know it's been more than a year since you first posted, but I hope your plans are well underway!
Michaela Potter
Briefcase to Backpack | Twitter:CareerBreakHQs


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Squat Toilet Professional
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  • Added on: February 26th, 2010
I headed out for a six month trip at 31. Any age is a good age to take off on a long trip.


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Holds PhD in Packing
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  • Added on: March 3rd, 2010
At 33 years old, my boyfriend and I both quit our established jobs (in California), sold everything we owned, and took 7 months off to backpack through Western & Eastern Europe. Upon our return, it took about 2 months to find new jobs (this time in New York.)

We both work in advertising which I feel is a pretty forgiving industry for sabbaticals and taking time off. Not really having many possessions (or owning a home) allowed for an easy transition moving to an entirely new city. In this economy, I think you do have to be a bit more aware of the risks involved in leaving a steady job... but it seems like everyone who has taken off and traveled never regrets it.

Approaching 36 years old, we're about to do the same thing again... hopefully making a 1-year RTW trip. Whenever my nerves start to get the best of me, I'm reminded by this quote:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” —Mark Twain
Europe travels
South America to SE Asia travels


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Lost in Place
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  • Added on: March 3rd, 2010
Almost 30. Do it, I'll say.
I and my husband closed down our apartment, removed most of our possessions unless a few that we kept in a small rented storage room. Each of us now only has a backpack, that's it.
I have to sacrifice my study for this: taking only a MSc degree instead of more prestigious PhD. My husband managed to stay working with the same company remotely.
So there are really plenty of option you can do here.

We have no regret at all. We been out since April 2009, and we love it! Us and our 2 backpacks, wherever we feel like.
Dina at VagabondQuest


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  • Added on: March 3rd, 2010
This is the best site for encouragement on a gap year. I am 2 months into a 6 month (or maybe more) "career break".

Lets see...I'm an American from Texas. I'm 33 and my husband is 42. I'll start by saying that people from Texas dont do this type of thing and everyone thinks we are totally nuts. The short answer is DO IT.

My story...I quit a well paying but mind numbing and stable job as an IT project manager. We rented the house out for a year (so if we come back in 6 months we will be homeless...maybe we will stay gone for a year...yeah, its that great). We are traveling Central America which is pretty cheap and easy. So far we have completed Belize and Guatemala. Both are great! Guatemala is cheap and full of backpackers. We are not the oldest people and not the youngest. We havent had a problem meeting other people in our age range and maturity range to hang out with. There are lots of single girls traveling around, some couples, some groups. We've taken some spanish classes to help communications and to fill some time. I cant speak to what life will be like when we return to the real world but the current situation is amazing. I left with the hopes of finding myself, figuring out what career would really make me happy and mostly just escaping the drone of my life and job. I'm trying to think if there has been 1 minute in the last 2 months that I have regretted this decision....nope, I cant think of 1. The hardest part was planning...I drove myself crazy obsessing over every detail. While it was unavoidable, it was completely unnecessary. The hardest part was the house, which I own and the only thing I would have done differently. I rented it out myself using craigslist, took out a home warrenty and between my parents and a friend who has rental houses in the neighborhood, it seems to be ok. If I could do it again, I would use a management company. Other than that, it is all easy. Quitting the job...god, super easy. Garage Sale...pretty easy. Packing up and putting stuff in storage...what a pain but worth it. Packing...easy, guess what, they sell everything I need here (besides 100% cotton underwear, I should have brought more).

Long story short, I'm loving life, loving the traveling lifestyle. I dont miss anything at home. My entire perspective has changed. We are staying with a family right now, watching TV...FOX News, MTV...I used to be able to endure it, now, I realize that the things that used to seem important are not remotely important. Sure I have fears about job, no health insurance, no home. That can all be handled. I've gotten jobs before, its not that big a deal. I require a lot less materially now so life should be simpler. Now I'm wondering if I will be able to deal with the trivial bullshit that used to seem important. On the US news today was a story about drinking coconut milk after a yoga workout.....really????? Thats important????? It makes my skin crawl thinking that someone decided that was important enough for the national news. I happened to meet a cousin here that I didnt know existed that works with children who have no access to doctors...ever. We are staying with a volunteer firefighter who has to provide every bit of equipment that he uses...down to the bandaids. Hmmm....I have a feeling that I have been changed forever. I am so freaking lucky.

If you are lucky enough (and smart enough) to have made it to your 30s, with no debt, some savings and no long term responsibilities (ie kids) DO IT. I have been saving for 10 years for a retirement that may not even exist. Even if I do live that long, will I be able to travel like this at 75? I hope so but should I wait 40 more years????

My mantra in making my decision was "Why not?" and it has served me well. To anyone looking for encouragement, I suspect that you wouldnt be on bootsnall if you werent the kind of person who should be doing this so I know that what you need to hear is do it. You wont regret it. Life is too short to be stuck in a box.
Follow our continuing travel through Central America here:

Left 1/8/2010; Home 8/5/2010; Back on the road 9/15/2010

Haci Richard

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Jackson's Dad
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Location: Jackson Heights, Queens

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  • Added on: March 8th, 2010
I did it at 30, but my gap year turned into a gap decade -- didn't make it home until I was 39.
"Suppose you're thinkin' about a plate o' shrimp. Suddenly someone'll say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate o' shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin' for one, either."


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Guidebook Dependent
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Joined: August 17th, 2009

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  • Added on: May 30th, 2010
I'm with the last poster. Started out in 2001 when I was 30. Now almost ten years later I have my own business in one of the last unspoiled parts of Thailand. Life has never been better.

Perhpas one of the most interesting aspects of this change in lifestyle is that I am increasingly confused by how & why other people live the lives that they do. I come across so many people in the UK (where I visit each year to see my family) who seem so dissatisfied with their lot in life yet so incapable and afraid of changing it. I find this frustrating and sad.

The irony is that even if you show these people that there is another way to live, that maybe just a few months somewhere unfamiliar can lift their spirits and self confidence to levels they had never considered, they then get all defensive and try not broach the matter again.

Nowadays, I generally don't waste my breath with such conversations. Just get on with this one amazing life I have gifted.

Good to luck to all you intrepid travellers :D

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: May 30th, 2010
I didn't even begin a career until I was 32, because I had travel I wanted to do first. I'm 34 now, and have been building my career around my strong value for travel and geographic novelty. When I just just out of law school, I tried countless different ideas, trying to fit my personality into a mold that just wasn't right. Now, I am in the process of building an immigration practice that will allow me to travel a great deal, possibly base myself in foreign cities (Colombia, Panama, elsewhere in Latin America and other parts of the world) for a good part of the year. I still have no idea how it'll all turn out, but so far it's exciting.


Holds PhD in Packing
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Joined: September 18th, 2008
Location: Nepal!!!!

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  • Added on: June 3rd, 2010
This is a great thread!

I am not sure I have too much to add, but I think that there will always be good reasons to embark on or not to embark on a long trip.

My wife (27) and I (31 when we leave) will both be leaving (or taking breaks from) solid careers when we take off in less than a month (holy sh** that is really close me goosebumps and happy tears). I will be quitting my job, but am already starting to line some work up for when we return. My wife will be taking a leave of absence and will return to her current job as soon as we get back.

I guess my point is that if you are qualified, hard-working, motivated it shouldn't be too hard to find a job when you return. I don't see taking a long break to pursue one's dream of travel as career-suicide-not at all. Indeed, I would consider long-term travel a wonderful attribute if I were in the position of hiring a new employee (as I have been several times over the past few years), and I speculate that many potential employers would feel the same way. I think there are many ways of selling a world trip to potential employers as an act of personal development, education, skill-building (of course this depends on your profession).

As far as selling a house, personal possessions, etc-I really can think of few good reasons to own a house or loads of stuff (I know that people will disagree with me on the house issue). I love the flexibility that renting allows. I also love the freedom of getting rid of a bunch of our stuff-the piano walked out the door this morning and the car goes on Craigslist next week. The whole process of planning for our trip has been liberating.

Lastly, it has been said many times before on this forum, but you only have one life and each day that passes is, well...gone. There is no telling what the future might bring-if you have a dream-live it! Non, je ne regrette rien!


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Thorn Tree Refugee
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  • Added on: June 4th, 2010
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?

Traveling alone?
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?

Carpe diem!


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