You've been in your job for a few years now. Maybe you recently broke up, or are fed up with the dating scene anyway. Your lease is up in a few months. You have a bit of money saved up. You just kinda need a break. Travel sounds good. But what about your career? Is it irresponsible to give up your decent job (even if you're ready for a change) to go travel? What if you don't really want to burn through all your savings? And will it be hard to get back into work and find a new job when you return? Will you be unhireable because you took time off to go sip mezcal in Mexico City and heli-ski in Hokkaido?
The short answer is: If you feel the travel bug, you want a change, and this seems like a possible financial and life logistics thing you can make happen, you should go for it.
Minimize Career Impact
To make sure time off for travel won't impact you negatively, there are a few considerations you can put in place. First, try to have at least 2 years in your current job or with your current company before leaving to travel. Shorter than that and you may come off as a bit flakey and prone to jump when you look to return. The good news is that it'll probably take a few months to fully plan what you want to do for travel and how to do it well, so if you've been in your job for less time, use the coming months to plan and get excited while you stick it out at work.
Second, maintain a good reputation and professional relationships with your boss and colleagues as you prepare to leave. You want to leave on a high note to maximize your opportunities while your'e away and when you come back, both so that you'll have good references but also so that you could find work back with the same company if you want it, or using your network contacts at your current job. You never know who you'll be able to be connected to later, so keep your relationships positive and strong.
When you give notice and explain what you want to do, keep it positive and enthusiastic. Your boss and employer is much more likely to be supportive if you share your travel plans as something you are super stoked to do, a bucket list item, or a golden once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can't pass up. You might choose to share your personal reasons for doing it, or you may choose to keep your inner workings to yourself, but stay positive as you explain that you're headed off to do a thing.
There are many ways to help ease your transition back to the working world when you return from travel, and if you've laid your groundwork well in advance, you likely won't have to worry.
First, if you like your company, you can consider asking for a leave of absence or sabbatical rather than a full resignation. Know that it's not typical for companies to guarantee you a job when you return, particularly if you'll be gone for months on end, but if you're a valuable employee and are well-liked, you just might find that you have the option to return. This is worth exploring if you have a great relationship there and would want to come back.
You can also consider working while you travel. This could keep your networking contacts fresh, your professional reputation as a contributor intact, and can help you earn money while you're away. You have a few options for how to do that - consider asking to do a portion of your work remotely (or some new work entirely) for the same company, look for remote-based contract work while you're away, or consider freelancing on a site like UpWork or Fiverr or a consulting marketplace. This could also be a good way to test out a new type of work if you need a break from what you were doing before, or if you think you might want a career change.
Third, don't check out. Send updates to professional contacts you'd like to stay in touch with, consider documenting or sharing your travels via social media and adding in your professional contacts who might be interested in seeing what you're up to. Network while you travel. You never know who you'll meet on a plane or at a hotel or restaurant, and your next opportunity might be found while you're in the middle of your adventures.
Make It Work For You
Travel can actually be a professional advantage. It increases your awareness and cultural understanding, demonstrates curiosity, it can spark innovation through exposure to new cultures, norms, and problems, and if it's done well builds soft skills that contribute positively to most professional roles. It can also simply refresh you as a worker, bringing you back more enthusiastic and clear about what you want to do next. When you do return, own and celebrate the time you had to travel even in a professional context. Put the travel period on your resume and Linkedin. Talk about it in interviews. Document what you learned or did for others to see. Most people will be nostalgic or jealous or happy for you when they hear about your travels, rather than judgey. Be authentic about what you did during your time and why you did it, how it mattered to you and what you took from the experience, as well as why you are happy to be back and returning to work.
Travel is hugely valuable, both personally and professionally, and can enhance your career if you put some effort into planning it mindfully and transitioning smoothly in and out of work. If you need help with how to propose your time away, planning your return if you're ready to come back from traveling, or what to do for work while you're gone, I'm here! Just get in touch.