If you’re a young professional, chances are you want to travel. But how can you drop everything to see the world when you’ve just started building your career? There’s nothing wrong with putting off your travel dream for a few

If you’re a young professional, chances are you want to travel. But how can you drop everything to see the world when you’ve just started building your career?

There’s nothing wrong with putting off your travel dream for a few years to gain some work experience – so long as you don’t let that dream disappear. It took me three years of working as a reporter before I felt comfortable taking off to backpack solo through Africa, largely because I wanted to have enough experience on my resume to land a new job when I got back.

Even if you don’t know when you’ll take your big trip, putting the gears in motion will help you keep your goal in sight and make it easier to take the leap when you’re ready.

Here’s what you can do now to prepare yourself for a career break down the road:

Tell your friends about it

Saying your dream aloud helps make it real. Even if you haven’t slapped a date on your departure, sharing it with others adds a level of commitment. And if you’ve surrounded yourself with the right people, they’ll help you follow through because they want you to be happy. Which brings me to…

Surround yourself with people who support your dreams

This is easier said than done, because even the nicest people in your life might look at you like you have four heads when you tell them you want to take more than a week off work to travel. Some people won’t understand these choices, because it never occurred to them that these options were choices at all. (They could take a career break, too, of course; they just don’t realize it.)

But all you need is a few people who understand your pursuits, a few people who encourage you without that twinge of resentment in their voice, a few friends who are figuring out how to live their lives in their own out-of-the-box ways. These friends will sustain you, and you’ll become closer for it.

Study a language

Knowing how to speak another language will make you want to travel even more, because you’ll want to use that skill. And having it will enrich your travels, helping you connect more with locals and learn about the culture. Enroll in a continuing-education course at a nearby university – if you’re lucky, your employer might even cover the costs – or, if you studied a language in college, freshen up those skills by joining a Meetup group.

Save money

I love Ask a Manager’s post about what she learned from quitting her job during the recession because she says having savings helps us act from strength, not desperation. It’s not just the money we need, it’s the feeling of security. Feeling secure financially helps us take leaps.

One way to save money is to live more simply. Or, rather than skimping to put aside a buck here or a buck there, figure out how to make more money.

Start getting rid of stuff

It’s far easier to wrap your head around leaving a place if you don’t have to take a huge moving van of stuff with you. And it’s easier to make freeing choices when your physical life doesn’t feel cluttered. Give away things you don’t use or need, rather than piling them higher and higher in the attic.

Brainstorm a mission

What will be the purpose of your trip? Think beyond traveling and seeing the world; what do you want to learn or accomplish? It could be a new skill, a volunteer experience or exploring a certain topic. Having a mission will give your career break meaning and turn it into a resume-builder that will help you land a job when you get back. (For example, my mission was to improve my French and work as a reporter overseas.)

Remind yourself that it may never be the “right time”

I’m all about laying the groundwork and making your own luck, but the truth is that it’s never the perfect time to take a leap. It’s so easy to say afterward, “I was ready for a move and all the pieces fell into place.” But while you’re making the decisions to take that less-traveled road, the pieces feel more disjointed. And when we’re scared, it’s easy to use one challenge or obstacle as an excuse, as the piece that won’t fall into place. Figure out how to make that piece fit or put the puzzle together without it.

Let yourself dream. Because once you’ve started laying the groundwork, it’s no longer just a dream. You’re turning this into reality. Pat yourself on the back, and let that dream grow.


Alexis Grant is a journalist and social media coach who’s writing a book about backpacking solo through Africa. She blogs at The Traveling Writer and tweets as @alexisgrant.


  1. Rufus Evison

    I did this and feel that telling people about it and attaching a date is the most significant piece of preparation. To start with people assume it is a pipedream but as the date gfets closed and you are still saying that is when you are going they become more and more supportive and helpful. Like having a baby it is never “the perfect time” but it boosted my career rather than hindered it. Braoder experienjce and understanding can have more applications than you would imagine.

    Rufus Evison (rufus.evison.com)

  2. Jenniferdelaneyfogarty

    I took off 2 years and traveled through Asia, Africa, and visited friends in Europe, after spending 7 years working in Tokyo for a concert promoter (I was the only non-Japanese in my company). I was 31 at the time and people could not believe I was turning down pretty great job offers in NY. In a nutshell, you just save up enough money and do it. Don’t be too planned, just let the trip lead you..you never know who you will meet or where it will lead you. While visiting a friend in Nairobi, I was asked to do some pro bono work on AIDS prevention education/entertainment which led to my next career in working on issues for children in Africa from Washington DC. You miss so much if you are too planned; and focused on seeing every sight so you can say you’ve been to X, and if you have a mission, for the love of God, don’t mention it. It can be anoying/ “soooo American” to your fellow travellers. Also, be street smart, be aware of what’s going on around you, don’t wear any flash or expensive jewelry. Keep your cash in your bra.

    Learning the language is BS. Know a few phrases. Having spent 10 years living abroad,there is nothing more silly (to the locals) is visitor who thinks they are down with the locals. The best advise I have is to treat people no matter what culture like human beings. Be polite and nice and know something about the culturan norms, but don’t act as if people are so different b eacuase they are from another culture. For the most part everyone wants the same thin in life no matter what coultry. Also, people are people, ome are very good and some are very bad. When you set out to have a “cultural experience” with someone – it kind of devalues them as a person. The best immersion experiences I have had is when I was just part of something – not trying to have a certain kind of experience.

    Good luck and just go for it!

    • PlanOpen

      Loved your reply. I am planning a one-way ticket trip to Australia after chasing phantom career goals for the past two years. I decided I need to find out who I am and what more life has to offer outside of the professional-middle class boxes I was desperate to be packaged in right after college. And you are totally right about the travel mentality. I traveled quite extensively throughout Asia, South America, and Europe during college, and was(is) the “soooo American” let me participate in your culture so I can log it in my travel log tourist. It was a lot of BS and very little “immersion”. Hopefully this trip will help me get over myself and get on with being me.


    • Roadless

      I’m with you, I went to Brazil, couldn’t speak Portuguese. I didn’t even try. I went to El Salvador and tried my Spanish and looked like a fool. Someone told me to stop and they went to find a translator. LOL! I went to Korea and I was laughed at on the boat ride over by the locals who thought my pronunciation was too funny. Now I’ve been in Japan and I still can’t really speak. I can get around and I do think I need to learn more. I have been here longer than 2 years so out of respect I should keep studying, but I wouldn’t let language hold me back or be a way to motivate me to go somewhere else.

    • Rufus Evison

      I set off with $300 and a single ticket to Venezuela and came back nine months later. You do not need to save up too much money! I went with three sentences of spanish and a Spanish English dictionary. I leaned most of my Spanish there from a rather lovely colombian girl. I doubt there is a better (nicer) way to learn.

  3. Onuora Amobi

    Funny, I just took time away from blogging to go on an amazing trip to Mexico.

    Really good recharging of the batteries…


  4. JESS Kalinowsky

    Life is all about setting priorities, not just waking up everyday and doing the same old same old! I tell my clients all the time, everyday, save a little bit of money for travel! Open a special savings account just for travel! Everyday put the change from your pockets, plus a little extra, into that savings account. OK! Maybe going to the bank every day is not practical for all, but most can do it with a zillion teller machines all over the place. Instead of going out for expensive lunches or dinners, or cocktails with your friends, take that money and put it in your travel account. It adds up faster than one might think! Then. here is the real goody! Make your travel plans a year in advance, pay on them monthly BEFORE you go, then you have no credit card bill, at 15-18% interest when you come home! We do this for our clients as a FREE service! No handling fee! Then when you are ready to take your trip, it is all paid for and you just have to control your shopping when away!!! World Travel so enhances your resume`.
    JESS Kalinowsky Professional Travel Consultant Friends Travel LLP Google/Bing/YahooSearch us!

    • Alexis Grant

      Love your first line! Yes! “Life is all about setting priorities, not just waking up everyday and doing the same old.”

  5. susan

    Great comments above. I agree. It’s a thrill to take time off to travel. Getting out of the comfort zone is challenging and can be a highly rejuvenating experience. Personally, when I go exploring my mind is alert and the ride side of the brain is activated –creative side, less organized and anal. I took a month off to visit South America a few years ago. I was in between positions at an old job, so they were fine with me taking the time off. It was lovely.

  6. Tonya

    This article and the comments were right on time, what I needed to hear. I have been saving a lot of money and really wanting to travel while I live here in Asia and always use the excuse that I don’t have the time to travel. Also, I save as a back up just in case I have to return to the states with no job. Life is too short. I just need to go for it.

  7. Roz Bennetts

    These are all probably good things to do but I do feel there’s an element of risk with taking time off to travel. I’ve done it myself (about ten years ago during the recession) and while I did get a job fairly easily when I got back people still raised an eyebrow. That’s not to say that people shouldn’t do it, I just feel that you should be aware that it’s unlikely to count in your favour, more likely the opposite – and definitely build up a track record and great references before you go.

    • Rufus Evison

      People always raise an eyebrow at something unusual. They also remember someo e who has done something unusual. After twenty interviews being ther one that they stuill remember is an advantage. No one I know has found it a problem to get a job afterwards. You say it does not count in yoyur favour and it doesn’t count directly but it does practically speaking make getting a job easier.

  8. Roadless

    Your last tip, there “may never be the right time” is so true! When I decided to move to Japan I had to just do it. I couldn’t wait for a better opportunity. After I made the decision to move I worked hard to get rid of all consumer debt and extraneous things like, my car. I started to say goodbye to the U.S. before I left it.

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