Sabbaticals, Career Breaks & Quitting – What to Do With Your Job When Traveling

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If you’re young, free, single and fresh out of college/university, going traveling is easy as you’ll have very little commitments.

Once you have a full-time job, however, the thought of traveling will become far more difficult, and although you might have a burning desire to spend 6 months going round the world, you’ll inevitably feel tied down and restricted by your job.

If you do want to go traveling and you have a full-time job, there are several options available to you. These include taking a career break/sabbatical, asking your work for a leave of absence and leaving your job altogether.

Taking a Sabbatical or a Career Break

What is a sabbatical? A sabbatical is a hiatus or a rest from work – often lasting somewhere between two months and one year. The word ‘sabbatical’ has its roots in the word ‘Sabbath’ – in which God was said to rest on the seventh day.

Sabbaticals are unpaid, meaning that you won’t be paid at all while you’re away from work.


What’s the difference between a sabbatical, a career break and an ‘adult gap year’? Taking a sabbatical usually means that your job is still there for when you get back, whereas most people who take career breaks leave their job meaning they have to find a new one when they get back.

A sabbatical is often seen as a chance to do something you’ve always wanted to do (but have been unable to because of work commitments), whereas career breaks are often taken so that a person can take stock of their life and assess where they’re going and what they want.

More and more companies seem to be opening up to the idea of sabbaticals (presumably as they don’t want to lose valuable staff members), and some companies actually offer their employees sabbaticals after they’ve been there for a certain period of times (usually a few years).

Even if your company doesn’t actively promote the idea of sabbaticals, there’s no harm in asking about it, as you never know how they’ll react to the idea.

It’s also worth noting that when taking a sabbatical you don’t necessarily have to go traveling. Taking a sabbatical gives you the time and space to fulfill a goal or achieve something (such as writing a novel).


While the poor economy means that it’s harder to find jobs, it also means that companies are continually looking for ways to save money (and potentially downsize).

Companies don’t like laying people off (as it can be extremely costly on their part), so don’t be surprised if they jump at the chance when you offer to take a year’s unpaid leave from work. By taking some time off from work, you could be saving someone else’s (or even your own) job.

How to Negotiate a Sabbatical

The way you negotiate your sabbatical can very much make or break whether it is granted or not (especially in companies where sabbaticals are uncommon).

Beforehand you even suggest the idea, make sure to do your research so that you can prepare a solid argument/proposal. It helps if you already know what you want to do in your time off, as it’ll make your case seem far more legitimate.

Seek the advice of others who have been on sabbaticals, and find out if your company already has a sabbatical leaving policy.

What Your Proposal Should Include
Your ‘sabbatical proposal’ (i.e. what you’ll show your boss) should include:

  • How much time you want off of work
  • How your work will be covered for while you’re away (if possible)
  • Why you deserve the time off (list your achievements/accomplishments at your company)
  • The benefits of taking a sabbatical (e.g. what skills you’d gain, how your motivation for work would increase, etc.)

Taking a sabbatical can sometimes be as simple as going to your manager with your proposal and getting a year of unpaid leave for ‘personal reasons’ approved by them and by human resources.

Leaving Your Job

What if you want to go traveling around the world, but your employers won’t allow you to take a sabbatical or a leave of absence from work? What if there is no way you can keep your job AND go traveling?

leaving your jobSome companies won’t support your thirst for traveling, and as a result you might be forced into an ultimatum – keep your job or go traveling.

Leaving your job (especially in such uncertain times) is something that’s extremely difficult to do, as humans are biologically wired to favor certainty (i.e. the certainty of a monthly paycheck) over risk and uncertainty.

If you do decide to quit your job, then make sure to be as polite, respectful and professional as you possibly can as you don’t want to ‘burn your bridges’ with potential future employers. Chances are you’ll need to get a reference from your employers, so make sure they have something nice to say about you!

In addition to this, make sure to save up enough money before going away so that you’ll have something to live on when you get back (as it might take you a while to find a job).

You’ll never know what might happen when you go traveling – who you’ll meet or what opportunities will open themselves up to you. Traveling the world allows you to get some rare perspective on your life, and it allows you to assess what it is you enjoy and what you really want to do.

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  • Lifecruiser Travel

    Wise words. I actually would recommend many people I know to take a sabbatical, because they are so stressed out nowadays and really aren’t well enough to work as they do. They could need a break for sure, even if they’re not keen on travel like me!

  • Lifecruiser Travel

    Wise words. I actually would recommend many people I know to take a sabbatical, because they are so stressed out nowadays and really aren’t well enough to work as they do. They could need a break for sure, even if they’re not keen on travel like me!