Consider the possibilities if you were Jeff Jung.
One day four years ago, he upped and left his cubicle and set out to see the world. He learned to ski, improved his Spanish to the point where he speaks it fluently and gained a perspective that has considerably altered his life.
“I met people and did things that I never would have done had I been focused on my career,” Jung told me when we spoke recently. “It affected me profoundly.”
Since taking that “break,” he’s turned into an entrepreneur who encourages people to pick up and go. Recently, he was on a tour of Canada as part of an initiative with Gap Adventures, the outstanding Toronto-based travel company owned by Bruce Poon Tip. Jung’s website, CareerBreakSecrets.com, was created to guide individuals who want to do what he did. (And, really, how many don’t?)
A survey conducted by Gap Adventures and Harris/Decima this year showed that 74 percent of Canadians would take a break from their careers in order to further their personal development through travel. (The surprise may be that it wasn’t 100 percent.)
“Once you give yourself permission to do it, it’s amazing how fast things come together,” Jung said while speaking by phone from Edmonton.
He planned his break for six months, figuring out how much he spent on a daily basis — “it was a lot more than I thought,” he said — and then cutting that total down to a level that allowed him to travel with minimal financial worry.
According to Jung, there are three parts to a career break budget:
- Preparation: During this phase, career-breakers figure out how much they can spend and perhaps make initial purchases such as airline tickets
- Initial time on the road: Paying for food, lodging and tours, and figuring out exactly what you want to spend on, where you want to splurge and what you can do without
- Re-entry: Setting aside money for when you return home and need to pay your bills until you find another job (in the event your boss wasn’t kind enough to keep yours on hold while you gallivanted around the globe).
Besides the obvious financial requirements, there are other keys to being able to pull off a career break. Jung wasn’t married, nor did he have kids when he took a leave from his job as a marketing director for a health-care company in Texas.
“When I decided to take my career break, I knew I wanted to make it count,” said Jung, who now lives in Bogota, having followed a love interest who he met on his travels. “I aimed to do things that I had wanted to accomplish. So I learned to speak Spanish to the point where I now speak it fluently and I learned to ski at age 36.”
Jung started his website shortly after his travels to the Nile River, Turkey and South America ended. Along the way, he decided to ditch the cubicle altogether in a desire to inspire others to do what he did. He’s managed to turn that passion into an income-generating activity.
“When I left for my career break, I knew only a few people who had done it. But when I was on the road, I met a lot of people from the U.K. and other places who were on long-term travel. It wasn’t foreign to them,” he said. “I wanted to show that real people do this.”
He said the success of his website shows the popularity of long-term travel is growing for workers in the midst of their careers.
“Everything I’ve seen tells me this idea is moving much faster into the mainstream,” he said, adding that taking time away from a job would have been “career suicide” in the 1980s. However, after he announced he was leaving his job to fulfill his travel dreams, he said a vice-president of his company approached him for tips on how to do it. “When I talk to career breakers who go back after their trip, they’re not reporting that they have big issues with re-entry into the workforce. In fact, some of their potential employers are curious about how they can do the same thing for themselves.”
The plan is part living-for-the-moment and part practical outlook on life and work. “If you look at an entire career of 40 years, if you leave for three months it’s not that big of a deal.”
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