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Authored by Gemma Orrock

To those looking in, Craig and I are living the dream. Partying a SXSW music festival in Austin, trekking to Machu Picchu (Peru), discovering Colombia’s street art scene, diving in Cuba; at almost 30, we packed up our past lives as teacher and tradesman to backpack the Americas and Europe for 18 months, and our first five months on the road have produced incredible memories.

Though we’re often asked why we get to do it while many others have to settle for sitting at home dreaming about it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to settle for living vicariously. How to take a career break.

We hope the following helps explain how to take a career break to travel. We imagine young ‘ins are as excited about spring break as we are about our career break! How to convince my boss to let me travel

You can hover over these (or any image) to quickly pin it!

Do You Really Want It?

The first thing to decide when considering to take a career break to travel is if you really want it. I mean really want it? It’s all well and good to dream about taking a break to travel the world, though you have to truly want to make it happen. What happens to my job if I travel the world

For instance there might be a $30K wedding in the pipeline which holds you back (we’re eloping). Or the need for the pitter patter of tiny feet which has started to pull at your embryo. We’re both 30+ (good genes), and time is ticking as they say, so taking a career break is a big decision to make.

Before you begin your research, before you start looking at destinations and flight paths – decide if you really want it, and doing that means figuring out where your priorities lie. Ways to take a career break

Yes,You Really Want It!

After you’ve decided that you really want it, start looking into the company guidelines of the place you work. Do they have a policy for career breaks? Some don’t, though many do. Take a career break to travel the world

I’m a teacher, and after three years of service with my council I was eligible to apply for a career break. Craig, on the other hand, is a self-employed tradesman and he left his business in the hands of his brother. Sound it out with your line manager or a confidant. Iron out any technicalities, and consider different options like if you can work remotely whilst on leave.

You will most likely have to write a personal statement detailing why a break is justifiable and how it will improve your skills and benefit the work place. As I am a Teacher of Politics and Current Affairs, I discussed how my experience in developing countries would bring the textbook to life my students when I return. Can I come back to my job if I take a career break and travel

You may need to do a bit of soul searching here; siting on a beach and sipping a mojito probably isn’t going to cut it for this type of statement (not to say you won’t do that though!) How long can a career break be?

Can You Afford It?

Travelling isn’t actually expensive unless you need to purchase a Mulberry handbag with every paycheck to keep you happy. Craig and I have a daily budget of £22.50 each; this includes accommodation, food, drinks, transport and ice cream. What to do to get a career break

We don’t drink as much as we did before we were saving, though why would you opt for booze when you have trails to hike or beaches on which to relax!?

We definitely don’t eat tuna out of a tin for every meal, no chance of eating like this with Craig the meat lover. We do sometimes stay in dorms, though mostly opt for private rooms; you have to make some sacrifices. We would always choose a flight over a 22 hour bus journey, so I’m sure there are travelers who spend a lot less, though as you get older there are some luxuries which you’re not willing to forgo! Can I afford a career break?

Getting to the other side of the world however is the expensive part – the flight, jags and travel insurance. There is no denying that. We sold everything we owned; the car, the couches, even the out of date Megan Fox calendar which had been sitting in the garage. How much will a career break cost?

Selling our belongings and getting back to the basics was surprisingly therapeutic, and we raised £20K in total. Not quite enough for our 18 month career break but there are a huge range of options for making money while you’re on the road. Can I travel and still come back to my job?

Alternatives to a Career Break

Your work may decline your application, in which case it may be time to consider leaving and looking for a position that allows you to travel. Perhaps you could even look at taking a job overseas.

Think about jobs that are needed all over the world, where your experience, education and skills can translate. For instance, teachers are needed all over the world and especially English teachers, you could perhaps do a TEFL course online or what about an accelerated bsn online as nurses are needed all over the world too. 

Think outside of the box.

Consider things like if you can work remotely for a certain period of time and put in your work days overseas. Or if you get an extended holiday with no pay. Craig did this for our five week trip to South East Asia in 2013 (he worked for The Man at this point.)

Final Thoughts

Craig and I are currently living on the Sunshine Coast in BC, Canada where it is sunny most days and we clean for our keep. I volunteer at a local yoga studio and in exchange for my time I get access to drop in classes, an opportunity I could not see happening back home. I probably wouldn’t have had the savvy to even ask in Scotland. What do I have to do to take a career break. 

The point is, that taking a career break to travel will open your eyes to so many experiences and opportunities which you wouldn’t have guessed would exist. It empowers you to find new hobbies, new goals, and offers a completely new perspective on life. It saves you from the monotony of 9-5 office life.

Our blog, Two Scots Abroad, wouldn’t exist if we had not taken on a career break. It came about as a result of having felt empowered by a new focus, and having met a very supportive group of talented writers and photographers along the way. Help me organize a career break

Who would of thought that at thirty you could meet a potential new career? Another benefit of a career break. Who knows, it might just conclude in a career change! want to take time off from my job to travel


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Two Scots Abroad (Gemma and Craig) have downed tools as teacher and tradesman and are traveling The Americas on an 18 month career break. They are currently living it up on the Sunshine Coast of Canada after four months in North, South America and Cuba.

Catch up on their stories of trekking to Machu Picchu; parting at SXSW festival (Austin) and discovering that Colombia is safe, friendly and not full of druglords as the Western media would have you believe at Two Scots Abroad. And never miss a tweet through Twitter!



  1. Hope to inspire those tinkering with the idea of a career break! Any questions? I’ll do my best to answer. Thanks for featuring our story, Megan, 9 months to go!

    • Thanks again for sharing your tips and advice. You have an inspiring story!

  2. I’m sure there are many people that will be reading this with a close eye. Congratulation on your decision to take a career break. Many people think about it, but not everyone actually does it. Your story is very inspirational.

    • Hopefully their story helps to open people’s eyes to the fact that it can be done, and that more and more people are making a career break happen! I think a lot of the time it just comes down to seeing and hearing from someone else who has done it too :)

    • You’re right! One of my colleagues said ‘well done for actually doing it’ and that always stuck with me Jen. Thank you. It has been worth it, nine months still to go!

  3. I think that travel opens your eyes to many experiences even if you don’t take a career break and just go when you can. We love discovering new cultures and countries and we always learn something new even if it’s for a short time.

    • I totally agree with you Lesley. A career break may not be possible for everyone out there, so in that case short travel is the next best thing. And you absolutely take back the same lessons and experiences from travel regardless of whether it’s a longer or shorter trip :)

      Travel safe!

  4. I’m currently on a career break myself. I worked in education (high school counselor) and my leave of absence (career break) was denied, so I quit! It’s definitely a leap of faith, but it’s something we wanted to do. My husband and I are both 30+ as well and feel a little bit of pressure to start a family, so this is what we wanted to do for the time being and we’re loving every minute of it! :)

    • Congrats on having the courage to quit! Their loss! When it comes down to it, the memories you’re creating now are the ones you’re going to cherish for the rest of your life. We shouldn’t be so focused on making a living that we forget to make a life.

      Congrats on choosing to live the way you want!

    • That takes strength – well done! We’re in the same age bracket, definitely have those pressures too.

  5. Anyone wanting to take a career break really should follow Gemma and Craig’s blog, who do honestly tell you how it is, and how to live to a budget and still max out your experiences. I have great respect for these two travellers/writers.

    • Absolutely Paula – highly recommend everyone inspired by their post to jump on over to their site for further tips and advice.

    • Thanks Paula (and Megan), appreciate it!

  6. Very inspiring guys :) We get so many emails from people who are scared to drop everything to travel, but they REALLY want to. So, good for you for just going for it, it takes courage, that’s for sure!

    Also, your budget is very reasonable as well, good job! I love how you said you’ll take a flight over a 22 hour bus ride – this is our mentality now for the most part, but it never used to be…man, some of the buses we’ve been on…. haha.

    Thanks for inspiring you two!!

    • I think the bus rides are fantastic when you’re younger, though I’ve found as we’ve gotten older we just can’t hack it anymore. Lol and if I have to take a 22 hour bus ride I’m leaning towards the thinking that it’s not worth making it to that destination!!

      Have had one too many long bus rides in my day too … only so much you can take lol!

    • It’s taken 5 month of slow travel in Canada to get over those bus rides – we are not ready to move on again! Cheers guys!

  7. We did it during our last career break…retirement! Perfect time, I think. The question is how to get to retirement as early as possible. It is a good thing we are both frugal and saved a lot!

    • Congrats on retirement Carol! Hey, if you can turn your career break into full on retirement, that’s an amazing plan!! We’re aiming for it as early as possible too! Will see how long it takes us to get there though, we’re 30 right now so probably got a few more years to go :D

    • The dream!

  8. The “do you really want it part” is an interesting one. :) Many people will say they really want it, like some people I know, but when it comes to making sacrifices to get to their goal… they don’t wanna make them. Good that you made this choice! Njoy your travel

    • Absolutely – I’ve found that people love the idea of taking off to travel the world, though when it comes time to actually doing it nothing gets done, because priorities actually lie elsewhere and the necessary sacrifices are too much.

      Not that that’s a bad thing – people just need to recognize what their priorities are and what’s not. Because it’s not worth putting in the time researching if you’re never actually going to make the move :)

    • Thank you Yvonne, it’s not for everyone and I don’t want to enforce it on people but we have no regrets! Have a lovely festive period and thanks for reading.

  9. I took a career break at 28, went to India as part of my RTW trip and 10 years later I found my way back to the US with a husband, a toddler, two cats and a cargo ship full of belongings! We have been stationary in the US for 3 years now, but I’m aching to get out and explore the world for a year with my son. He loves travel as much as I do, but its much harder now I find to uproot him. As much as he enjoys travel, he likes to come home to his cats and his friends and his toys. I’m thinking maybe in another 5 years we might be able to take a break to explore the world!

    • I’ve found that different stages in our lives mean we travel differently. We’ve just returned home from 3 years of full time travel and are now really enjoying having a home base. Having somewhere to return home to after we take a trip somewhere.

      I’ve found it swings around in circles, you travel one way for a few years and then you need a change of pace. So there may be a time soon where the timing will be right for another year break for you guys – so many amazing short breaks you can take from the US in the meantime too :D!

    • We are hoping to return to Canada once we’ve had out first child but I’m sure it won’t be an easy move when that time actually comes around. He’s very lucky to have a mum that gives him the experience of travel!

  10. Gotta have that money for ice cream! Haha! I loved that part! I’m doing the same thing, but I don’t think I’ll be going back anytime soon. The bug has bit me, bit me hard.

    • There are some things you just can’t scrimp on! Congrats on taking your own career break – travel for as long as you’re happy doing so!

    • It’s going to be hard hitting this August Joe!

  11. Great post! Totally agree–I think that if you really want it enough you can do it too. Find a way to work on the road, save up money and prioritize and you won’t have to live vicariously through others. Hopefully this will give people the push they need! :)

    • Glad you enjoyed it Jenna – it really does come down to priorities – if you want it badly enough giving up things like new clothes, eating out, smoking and alcohol to save the money you need won’t be that painful knowing it’s for 12 months + abroad!

    • Well said Jenna. So many people say we’re living the dream but as long as you avoid the shops it can be a reality for most people!

  12. Stoked that you guys took the leap and are doing what you want! It’s not the easiest road to take, but it’s so worth it if you want it!! My husband and I left the USA four years ago to try out teaching in China and we’ve been living, working and traveling in Asia ever since. You just never know what might happen when you open yourself up to the possibilities travel brings. Cheers to you two!

    • Congrats on following your own dream path too! Happy to hear Asia has worked out so well for you Jen :) I like to live by the notion that you never know until you try, and even if you get somewhere and you decide it’s not for you, you’ve at least tried it, and you’ll never be wondering “what if”.

      And if you get there and it turns out to be exactly the thing for you, I’ve found people often wonder why they didn’t take the leap sooner!

    • 100% Jen. Not only the blog aspect but I’ve volunteered at a yoga studio, Vancouver Fashion Week and now wrapping Christmas presents for charity – you never get the chance to do these things at ‘home’.

  13. What you prefer the best, career break or make traveling career?

    Anyways, Very inspiring writing.

    • I think each person will have different preferences. For some people a year away is enough to satisfy their urge to travel and see the world. Though for those still want to keep going after that I can highly recommend starting something like an online business to make traveling a career. It’s very possible these days and more and more people are opting for that path every day!

    • Good point! And maybe after a year back at work I’ll be like – what am I doing?! Thank you for reading, have a great Christmas.

  14. Inpsired

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Meg :) Sounds like a career break is in the works for you?

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